I had originally intended for this blog to be a diverting collection of random thoughts—whatever struck me at that moment—much as the first one was. Indeed, I have several drafts of posts written in this spirit: one about the Los Angeles bus system (why is it that when waiting for the bus, regardless of what direction you are traveling, there is always an infinite number of buses going in the opposite direction?) and one about “Toddlers and Tiaras” (a horrifically mesmerizing TLC show). Recently, it seems, this blog has become more a constellation of memories. I’m not entirely sure of the reason for this. Perhaps transitions make me nostalgic. Nevertheless, I thought I would embrace this. After all, when, besides a memoir, do you have such a tidy and charmingly detailed record of such recollections? I, for one, do not have the patience for journaling. And Virginia Woolf, with her extensive correspondence, multivolume journals, and twelve hundred novels will continue to make me feel bad about this…
This post is devoted not to memory exactly but to poetry—the art that single handedly transformed me from an angsty teen to the slightly neurotic but generally well-adjusted person that I am today. Poetry was my first love in literature—before I really fell for the British modernists (they were just so intoxicatingly weird) or the 19th century Americans (what can I say, I’m a sucker for self-made manhood). Believe it or not, it all began with Edgar Allen Poe (I told you I was angsty). In 8th grade we read “Annabel Lee,” and I was not only enamored with it, I discovered that I was able to see things in it that my classmates did not. And although I wavered in career choice up until about 11th grade, it was then and there, really, that an English major was born.
I had always written creatively (I would read stories I had penned about a fictional family on the Oregon Trail to my third grade teacher Mrs. G—she seemed pretty impressed by them) but it wasn’t until middle school that I began to dabble in poetry. It was truly dreadful stuff but my Mom was nice enough to humor me when I read it to her. I only started to become moderately okay at it when I reached 10th grade. It was also around that time that I was first introduced to Sylvia Plath. My 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Asklar, I think, sensed that I was somewhat talented and kind of moody, so even though he was teaching Brit Lit, he handed me volume of Modern American poetry one day after class and advised me to leaf through the section on Sylvia Plath (at the time I was flattered and grateful and looking back on it the gratitude remains but the flattery wanes slightly—what the hell does that say about me at 15 that a teacher was prescribing me Plath’s poetry?). But nevertheless, Sylvia Plath really and truly did understand 15-year-old Wendy. And I steadfastly believe that she made me a better and more uninhibited poet.
I was and still am rather conflicted about whether or not to include my own poetry in this blog—for the very same reason that I was initially conflicted about having a blog—it just seems so utterly narcissistic. Like: look at me, plebeian, and marvel at my talent and general magnificence. I would hope that you would do this regardless of my soliciting. Also, there was something weird in the “terms of agreement” of this blog cite and I want to eventually collect royalties on my poetry…
But since the only people reading this are either family members or good friends, I will ask that you humor me as my mother once did, and that you also, as Tina Fey phrases it, let me be amazing at you. I have included a little poem that I wrote today for my Polish grandfather. He passed away this January at 92 and I think of him often.
this—is the word that was spoken—
that rattled the hornets' nest in the gables—
that fled frantic into the clefts of the orchard—
that left me jilted and darted from.
this—is the boughed heart of the orchard—
that spilled out its words of broken polish—
that beats as black as a magpie’s eye—
that left me bereft and muffled.
this—is your embarrassed shroud of tenacity—
that slipped like the spiraled ribbons of a citrus peel—
that recoiled in the embrace of blue ceramic tile—
that withered and writhed and vanished
and so it was dziadek dziadek—
with clemency and strewn poppies—
and so it will be dziadek dziadek—
I will look for you on the horizon.