Tag Archives: poetry

30 Ways to Measure My Life, and Maybe Yours Too

You might be familiar with the poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot. If not, you should read it here or listen to me read it here (yes, this happened.) It’s a beautiful poem, and one that might make you think. This is an excerpt I particularly like:

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.

On a related note, I recently started taking calcium every day in the form of a chocolate chew. I take one every morning, after I drink my coffee so my mouth is warm and it makes the chocolate flavor taste better. Every day a chew, every day a wrapper – a little trace of my life. It got me thinking – what else could I measure my life in? What are the other little traces? So you can read them below, and some are measurable and some are less so. As an added challenge, I drew some of these things.

I have measured out my life with:

  1. Calcium chew wrappers calcium_chew_wrappers
  2. Empty coffee cups 
  3. Used strands of floss
  4. Birthday cards
  5. LinkedIn connections
  6. Pounds gained and lost over the past yearsscale
  7. GPA
  8. Salary
  9. Facebook friends and tagsfacebook_friend
  10. Words written
  11. Email drafts
  12. Journal entries
  13. Ink stains on the bed
  14. Kitkat wrappers found in bed.
  15. Boarding passes
  16. Ticket stubs
  17. Number of pimples popped pimple
  18. Number of emails answered
  19. Protein bar wrappers 
  20. Burned matches
  21. Takeaway boxes
  22. Onion peelsonion_peel
  23. Shopping bags
  24. High fives
  25. Hugs
  26. LaughsIt's laughter, though it looks like vomit
  27. Belly laughs
  28. The kind of laugh where you laugh so hard you cry
  29. Minutes spent living. 
  30. Minutes spent like, actually living. 
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When My Body Comes to Rest Beneath the Willow Me

Photo credit: Emily Drevetes

Photo credit: Emily Drevets

Let’s start with my sausage fingers and pie-dough hands. It seems like an appropriate place to start. Many things start here – the words I’m writing right now for example, or a properly tied sneaker.

My pinkies can’t even stand out straight. I’ve always thought it was because of the hump of fat my body put on them when my thighs were full, but now I think it’s because one of my sisters chewed off a tendon in the womb.

My fingers are the primary way I experience face grease and t-shirt texture. They’re seldom at rest – sometimes they do the thinking for me. I’ll be in a meeting at work, and before I know it, I’ve completely covered an entire page in flowers that look like they were screamed into being in a mad house. Problem solved, everyone. Let’s get coffee together.

But they can also be nosy little bastards, these fingers. Like, do you really have to pop every pimple on my right cheek, or frantically take off and then replace my ring while having a conversation with someone of high status, or scratch the back of my neck to feel that weird mole, just to make sure it’s still there? And seriously, playing with food is just not okay. So don’t do it, because we’re serious about the food we waste.

These hands don’t seem to understand that they shouldn’t obey every whim that fires through my synapses, like maybe they shouldn’t reach out and snatch the celery off Daryl’s plate at wing night, because he wants that celery. He really does.

When I’m watching closely, my hands do as I say, but if my mind is occupied elsewhere, it’s out to pasture and away they go, poking and prodding, fidgeting and snacking. How much do they know about each other? How much do I really know about them and their concerns? Maybe they wouldn’t hate having a stress ball around or another pair of hands to socialize with. Maybe they want to shake more hands or be part of more hugs or high fives – or maybe they just want to see the usual hands more often.

Maybe they’re tired of saying the same things over and over again, or want to give more instead of taking. Would they steal? Would they permanently lodge themselves into my ears? What would they do, if I let them do anything?

The body is one thing, and it has a life of its own. George Washington taught us that, right before he pulled the very first cherry tree out from behind his tutor’s ear. Without me inhabiting it, maybe my body would spend more time outside by the water, or go hiking in the redwood forests for a couple of months.

And then I could inhabit something else – a willow tree. I would whisper in the wind and tickle the necks of lovers as they made my roots uncomfortable. My body would come sit one day beneath the willow me and it would breathe in its oxygen and we’d see that things aren’t so different, after all.

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An Overly Poetic Account of a Trip to Coastal Georgia

st_simons_island_georgiaWhoosh….whoosh…..whoosh…..that’s the sound the earth makes as it spins through space. We’re spinning around with it too and that’s the sound I make every day as I chop apples for my gallon of lunch salad, check emails for typos, and rush to post-work activities. Whoosh. Whoosh. One day, one night, and the Lord said it was good.

I finish opening up my Christmas gift cards and then it’s July 4th, 2013, the fourth anniversary of when I celebrated the Fourth in Boston for the first time, and two years since I graduated from college. In the whirlwind of numbers and dates and earth-whooshing, eight friends have committed to spending the Fourth together this year, and to caravan to coastal Georgia for three nights.

Down, down we drive from burbian Atlanta, through the forests of shapely Georgia pines and kudzu, and the atmosphere grows thicker as we become farther removed from our day-to-day lives and cross into St. Simon’s Island.

The office kitchen answer to the typical post-holiday question is, “Yes, I had a good 4th of July  – you?”

But the long answer is rife with poetry as my heart bursts from my ribcage and sings hours and hours of loud, overly dramatic music.

“We laughed, but it wasn’t like normal laughter. This laughter was the wine of the gods. We spoke, but it wasn’t like normal words. It was like Homer himself, blind though he was, were composing our interjections and outbursts. We ate, but it wasn’t like regular food, it was like food we threw together in an amateur fashion but because we did it with a pure heart and clear mind, no one complained.

“And on the night of the Holy 4th, as we tore ourselves away from Harry Potter to go watch fireworks and a man wished me a happy freedom, I knew he spoke the truth. Accented by friendly interactions with strangers, and beverages that could slake even a horse’s thirst, we wove our own Southern Gothic, and I don’t know what that means.”

You can see why I don’t give the long answer.

Sunday was goodbye day and the day of three separate trips to the airport. After the dust settled it was just me left in Marietta with a cancelled flight, wondering what to do next.

I know the world is still whooshing around me, and in an alternate universe I would be too, getting sucked back into my usual orbit and looking at the backs of the same people. But for some reason, I’ve been spat out and I’m looking at the blur from a city that’s not my home, in a home that’s not my home.

Here in my orbit-less state, I can almost see the time passing. I’m being allowed to take a deep breath before I go under again.

From this perspective, I know something of the meaning of life was contained in our trip, in the wine of laughter, and in the night walk we took on the beach at low tide, the Milky Way out there clouding everything up and us all trying to catch the first shooting star.

With no moon, you couldn’t tell where the sand ended and the sea began and the air was the same temperature as blood. I know that’s gross to think about, but it felt natural. On the sandbars, it felt like you could walk forever into the ocean, black as night. And now I’m thinking that maybe, in another universe, we’re still walking into the ocean forever, the world whooshing around and we are holding hands and singing and laughing.

So yeah, Georgia was pretty great. Sorry I didn’t bring you back any BBQ sauce or home tattoo kits.

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What Do You Do When the Coffee’s Gone

Is there anything sadder? Besides the poem, that is.

When the lamp is on, and the chair is warm, and the coffee’s gone, what do you do?

Where do you go when there’s nothing there, not in your cup, not a drop to spare?

What can you pray, to take the pain away, to smooth the rough edges of another rough day?

What do you know that can whisper to your soul, the way the coffee does, when you’re feeling so low?

And the loneliness is pressing, the wind whipping round, the chill to your bones, the stale coffee grounds.

The dry brown ring, the sad coffee stain, the slight dampness mocks you and your coffee-addled brain.

Oh sweet Lord in heaven

Oh red Devil in hell

I don’t care who I pray to, as long as it breaks the spell

This endless white emptiness, the crushing heartache, the yearning and hoping as I’m lying awake.

For a cup of coffee. Hot. No sugar. Just milk. Please.

Then we can have conversation and pass the pleasantries

And thoughts will float between us, as they do between old friends. That is, as they do, before the coffee ends.

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Twas the night before Ramadan

Some Ramadan decorations…not the most impressive, just the closest

Twas the night before Ramadan and all through the flat,

No one was stirring, not even the mat

In front of the bathtub in spite of its mold,

Not to mention the pile of laundry to fold.

Emily was curled next to her laptop with care,

Playing too much with her freshly washed hair,

As she wondered what sights the morrow would bring,

The possibilities all in her head turning.

She had seen sprucing up for the past several weeks,

Lights and lanterns appeared and people clogged up their leaks.

She saw tapestries hung all full of colours bright

Pleasant figures in Alpha Market’s window one did spy,

The buzz in the air causing life to blur,

Evidenced by families buying twenty kilos of sugar.

“But,” she wondered, “how will this affect me,

I who have not yet embraced muslimery?

When will stores be open and how should I eat

if I cannot slaughter pigs on the street?

And what about alcohol, if I may be so bold?

Where will my 8th rate beer be sold?”

Oh life without urine-like drink did sound foul,

And just when she thought of giving a howl

She remembered the wonder of Ramadan here.

The streets, they say, be they far or near

Fill up with people as the sun departs

From sidewalk to sidewalk citizens satifsying their hearts

And their stomachs with delicious iftar vittles,

Not being shy, or taking too little,

Dates being thrown into the car windows of those

rushing home from their shops after they’ve just closed.

“Oh I wish,” she thinks,  “to eat with these folk

and though I’m not fasting I will hardly croak

at being invited to such a magnificent feast

where I will chow down on all kinds of roast beast.

“Until then,” she informs, “I still do not know

at what hours for my peanut butter I may go

to Alpha Market and for that matter

I remain clueless as to types of Ramadan clatters.

So please stay tuned as I absorb more culture

and I will pass it on to all of you for sure;

less facts than feelings as is my wont

But at least you’ll know all my favorite haunts.”

No complaining.

A few notes: I’ve noticed people buying food in ridiculous quantities at all the supermarkets, which have set up special Ramadan sections with all the necessities for having a proper iftar (break fast, occurs after sundown). One of the most important foods are dates, which are traditionally the first food one eats after fasting all day. Apparently people hand out dates to those struggling to get home in traffic or on the metro before the iftars. Water is also distributed since people fast from both food and drink.

I have been told about big tents that are set up all over town where rich people will prepare huge feasts for the less fortunate, and entire streets are full of those breaking the fast together. If this is real, I will take a picture of it. I will then post the picture onto this blog.

No alcohol may be sold to Egyptians during Ramadan (I think. This might just apply to bars.) and so you have to show your passport in order to get a beer. The hours for liquor stores are especially weird, though other places of commerce also have reduced hours during the day. At night, however, things get crazy. People stay up really late and feast and then sleep during the day. Unless, of course, you’re employed, and then life is a little harder.

More Ramadan madness to come!

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