This is the first of I’m sure a million posts titled “What Am I?” because it’s something I’m constantly thinking about and it’s something that’s constantly changing. So it’s fun. And…there are so many ways I can actually express myself this way.
But how I choose to phrase my “I Am” poems is a little bit different. I choose to use negative images not because I hate myself (I don’t) but because there is a secondary image behind them that I relate to.
Let’s look at August 15th’s Instagram post to see what I mean.
The first phrase I’ll mention is this:
I am the wilting rose.
Now, this doesn’t seem like a good thing to be at first glance, right? I’m a dead flower? How awful. Except it isn’t!
First off, it’s not any flower. It’s a rose, a symbol of love. And the rose in my poem, that I was thinking about, was about love. Second, to me a wilting flower that’s in a vase is a flower that has lived. It’s been seen, noticed, loved. It’s existed to its fullest until it’s sucked everything out of the water and air around it. It has made it’s impact and when it gets back into nature, it’ll decompose and give its life to something else. That’s how I see myself. How I see my life.
Moving on. The first stanza of the poem, the part immediately preceding that lone line we already covered goes like this:
I’m dancing in the dark of my words,
Fucking beneath the light of
Cynical observations leaking through
With most of my poems that do center around my perception of myself, I tend to give a disclaimer. First line here is just that. My words will do what they do, tell the stories they want to regardless of whether or not I approve. To write honestly, for me, means not censoring myself when I’m writing. It leads to some uncomfortable poems or paragraphs, but always honest ones. So that first line is saying just because I’m writing it now doesn’t mean that it’ll hold up to my new truth ten years from now. I am always changing and my words know that.
“Fucking beneath the light of cynical observations leaking through tormented prose”…that’s quite a sentence, isn’t it? It’s visceral. I’m juxtaposing sex, love, and euphoria with pain, self-hatred, and anger. Why? Because those are the building blocks of humanity…kinda.
But it’s also something else. Lots of something elses but I’ll only tell you one.
It’s my biggest hint in the poem that clues the reader into my voice throughout the rest of the poem. It says that even though it my words may seem to cast a negative light on myself, I’m actually using those words to show happiness, euphoria, and love.
But it also means other things too.
I really like the next stanza.
I dream under the safe cover
Of pulled, satin sheets.
My legs dangle off the edge
Tempting the devil within me
To take me.
So, I love comparing myself to the devil. Or to a possessed person. Or both! Not because I see myself as evil but because I see myself as very, very far outside the standard idea of wholesome, holy, and “normal”. I’m an out of the box thinker who writes horror and proud of it.
This whole stanza is saying how I’m reckless within safe margins. I’m under satin, not silk (frugal) sheets. I’m not looking at shadows. I’m not forcing myself into a place of fear. I’m just upping the ante a little bit. Raising the stakes. Getting my heart rate going.
I’m also dreaming of things but yearning to break free of my conventional dreams. My safety. I don’t want to be stuck fulfilling a role that isn’t me. I don’t want people to think I’m someone that I’m not, that I’ve pretended to be for a long time. So, I’m begging the devil inside me (the part that most people condemn) to set me free. To take me, in a more sexual sense. I want to make love and peace with the person I am. If that makes sense (hey, this isn’t easy).
Then we have another stand-alone line.
I am unclean water in the desert.
I am dangerous. But still wanted. I am dirty, tainted but still clear and beautiful. I those things. I’m not mud. I’m not unhelpful. I can help but it’s not my job to save you.
At this point, we start seeing the cyclical nature of writing. We have action verbs dreaming, dancing, fucking, tempting. And we have simple “to be” verbs. Am. This poem utilizes this format of verbs to rev the reader up and slam them back down. The action verbs move the story forward. They heighten the emotion. And the to be verbs cut sharply into the narrative and bring a clear, concise point that ties in with the previous stanza.
This means as readers we have to keep our eyes open. When a writer establishes a pattern, if and when they break that pattern, it means something important.
I laugh under the lid to my coffin,
Scream behind the joy.
I cry atop silk pillows,
Mountains of money the dead earned.
This one is special. It’s significantly darker than the rest and explains my fears. It addresses that I want to die happy in the sense that I’ve milked every last ounce of creativity, joy, and wonder from the life I have. But the second line hints at my desire to stay away from typical ideas of joy. I don’t want heaps of cash, silk pillows. I don’t want to make money that’ll kill me. I don’t want to be motivated to live like the rich. I don’t want anything besides the life I create for myself. When I talk about mountains of money the dead earned, I’m specifically talking about money that people sacrifice their happiness, calmness, or sense of self/identity for.
That’s not what I want from my life.
I am the ugliness of a precious stone.
Ready for another contradiction? No, this doesn’t mean that I’m the ugly parts of life. Not in the sense of appearance. This line does mean that I’m not “conventional” again. It also means that because I’m unconventional, I am not as appreciated or revered (if we want to use those words). I may be beautiful, wise, whatever but ignored and unseen by most because I’m not the traditionally appreciated parts.
So at this point in the poem, I have a stanza that goes:
I hoot and holler far away
From the reach of the full moon
Knowing damn well its pull
Can’t alter my tide.
I am the cocoon around a butterfly.
And I’m not going to explain it. I want you to look at it, think about it, and maybe even comment about what you think it means. I can’t reveal all my secrets (even though I’ve only let you in on a small number).
Then I close off the poem with this:
I am what I want to be beneath
The shade of a different day.
I am what I want to be,
I am what I want to be.
At this point, I’ve broken the typical cycle/pattern that I’ve established with my verb usage which means this stanza is the important one. I also throw in a bunch of repetition to clue the reader in more and emphasize what I’m saying which is this:
I decided who I am today based on how I want to live tomorrow.
And sometimes it’s hesitant (line three) but if I say it enough, if I work hard enough I’ll be able to say that I am exactly who I want to be right now because of my previous statement.
After this lengthy post that has done nothing to clarify my actual words (or should have done nothing to clarify my words) I feel the need to explain why I write these types of poems.
Part of it is to track myself, who I am today. It’s to note what metaphors and images I see myself reflected in on this particular occasion. Because that’s a pretty useful tool. When you think about yourself, what do you see? What images can you relate to? Jot it down. In a few months, a year, maybe even a day that might change. You might see yourself in the rambunctious energy of a squirrel but, due to the death of a loved one, the next day you relate to an uprooted tree, broken and struck by lightning. It’s cool to record that, note it, or even just remember it. It gives solidity to our everchanging person.
But the other part of it is to explore myself, learn about who I am today. It’s so easy to go through life living as we are without ever knowing who we are. Having the ability to use my words to explore who I am at this exact moment is something I will use. I want to know who I am, how I operate, and what I love.
And you should want that too!
Try taking some time, quiet time, to study yourself. Learn about yourself. Who are you?