It was in seventh grade that I learned that I am horrible at poetry. There was an assignment which required me to write two poems: one had to be about the Bible and I believe the other was a personal poem. I put a lot of effort into my poems and was very proud of the results. My content was superb and my rhyming skills most excellent.
We all had to read our poems in class, and after hearing several of my classmates’ work, I knew my poems would be the best. When it was my turn I proudly stood, ready to bare my soul as I shared the poem that had come directly from my heart. A very strange thing happened as I recited my poems; every couple of lines one or several of my classmates would laugh. “What are they doing?” I thought, “This is serious stuff.” I began to blush and would chuckle nervously with the other students in an effort to fit in with the group. As I read the lines “John the Baptist lost his head / Jesus died but didn’t stay dead” I came to the realization that what I had written was patently absurd and in a moment of brilliantly quick thinking that spanned the intake of breath from one line to the next, I made a decision that I now believe shaped much of my adolescence: I owned it. Because all of my classmates thought it was funny and they liked it because it was funny, I decided that it was funny and that that had been my intention all along.
I believe that may very well be the moment I decided that I must be the funny guy, a class clown. Being hilarious was my invincibility because even if you put your heart and soul into a project, if the final product was stupid or a total failure, you could always laugh it off. Comedy is the invisibility cloak of baring your soul gone awry. I held onto this identity until my senior year in high school.
It is amazing how thoroughly a person can trick one’s self. Somehow, at the time, I never felt disappointed or embarrassed by that terrible poem. It took me a while to remember that I had written those poems in all seriousness but I think of it every time I consider writing poetry, or reading poetry, or when things rhyme.
I have almost never attempted poetry since junior high. In fact, I have hated and avoided poetry for most of my life, and it was only in the last few years that I came to appreciate or understand poetry at all (this is hard for an English major to admit) and this was mostly due to a love for Aesop Rock (I have no problem admitting this).
I am currently going insane. Working in finance is antithetical to everything I want to do in my life and I have been forced to put a shit-ton of energy into work lately by working the odd ten hour day and some Saturdays (I typed "work" so many times in that sentence that I nearly gouged my eyes out with highlighters). I have had almost no time to sculpt or write and the little bit I have written of late has been steaming piles of shit. This has brought me to a decision: I have decided to own it. I am going to take my horrible scribblings and poorly worded rants and make them worse by turning them into poetry.
I am pretty sure my brain isn’t working very well right now because this seems like a good idea.
Am I reaping the results of a youthful indiscretion or am I simply growing older?
I pierced my nose seven years ago.
Ever since then
My nose hair has grown wild.
It may very well be the natural course of things
Growing hair in odd places
Losing hair in others,
But I like my explanation better.
From time to time
I have to pull my nose hairs out.
If I do not do this,
My nose gets irritated
And I sneeze a lot.
And my sneezes are pretty violent.
People at work,
Two walls separating my office from theirs,
Will call to say “Bless you.”
I no longer pick up the phone when it rings after I sneeze.
I did not sneeze very much today;
I plucked nose hairs before showering.
The pleasant pain conjuring nascent tears
Was better than a pot of coffee to wake me up.
And when I looked down
The sink looked as if I’d shaved off an eyebrow.
*The magical wordsmith behind Toothpaste for Dinner, Drew, is responsible for this excellent phrase. If I was a doppelganger, I would definitely eat his soul and assume his identity.