Musings from My Younger Self: Somewhere Along the Way

I intended to share a different “musing from my younger self” today, but cannot remember where I placed the sassy poem. As I was looking through one of my poetry notebooks, I happened across the short poem below. It was hastily written on a sheet of paper from a yellow legal pad and was dedicated to one of my high school best friends and her sweetheart. They were inseparable and shocked all who knew them when they ended their relationship.

You ask of me what you cannot give,
and I do not understand.
I walked with you.
I held your hand.
You became a part of me,
and now,
it’s over–
not because I stopped loving you
or because you stopped loving me
but because somewhere along the way
you forgot who I am. 

I do not recall the details of the breakup, but the line that ends the poem is telling. I’m sure my friend and I talked about the whys and hows of the relationship’s ending, and the point of his “forgetting” must have compelled me to write the short poem.

I wrote this when we were teenagers. I am slightly awed by our youthful understanding of the complexities of love. What really strikes me is that my friend–as young as she was at the time–realized the soul-damaging potential of remaining in a relationship with even a man she loved when he no longer valued her.

Musings from My Younger Self: New Orleans Mornings

“Crossing the River”

I just returned from New Orleans (NOLA), so I thought my first official “Musings from My Younger Self” should be a short description I wrote about NOLA mornings when I was 16:

The street fills with activity as the city rouses itself from sleep. Cars speed from every direction. Vehicles flood the highways and bridges, making it almost impossible to get to work on time. People line up at street corners, waiting to fill buses. Doors are opened and people “swim” into department stores, toward their various occupations. Dogs howl, whimper, and scratch at the back door. It is morning in New Orleans.  –Age 16

I grew up in Algiers, the part of the City of New Orleans that is on the Westbank (of the Mississippi River), and being a Westbank girl, I was (and am) always aware of the River. It was what we crossed over to visit practically all of our relatives. What we ferried across for music and excitement. What we walked to. What we were mesmerized by as we stood on the levee. We knew its power. Should it spill over, as stories of Hurricane Betsy taught us. Should we fall in, having been warned about the unforgiving currents that pull people under.

As with just about all my “younger” writings, I cringed when I first (re)read this paragraph. Oh my gosh, I thought! Did I have no other verbs? But use of the words filling, swimming, and flooding suggest just how deeply the River flowed through me. That is what wrote this paragraph.


Note: I appreciate  your input and suggestions regarding how to handle my earlier writings and musings on my blog. One way or the other does not feel right, so I’ll just do what the individual posts call for–with “mature” commentary or without “mature” commentary.

Gwendolyn Brooks: In Her Honor

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), detail of The Furious Flower Portrait Quilt, 2004. Mixed media collage on canvas. Artist: Malaika Favorite. Card from my collection.

Like the Rita Dove piece I blogged about several months ago, the Gwendolyn Brooks portrait above is part of a 24-poet/panel masterpiece by mixed media artist Malaika Favorite which honors the history of African American poetry. The work was commissioned for Furious Flower, a conference held every decade (since 1994), that celebrates, stimulates, and encourages African American poetry and poetic voices.

Brooks (1917-2000) was a prolific writer with one novel and more than 20 volumes of poetry to her credit. She was the first Black woman to serve as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, now called U.S. Poet Laureate (1985-1986), and the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize. Her book Annie Allen won for the best volume of verse published in 1950.

Sometime between the ages of 13 and 14, I fell in love with the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Nikki Giovanni, and Gwendolyn Brooks. I gained access to these poets (and many others) through the book collections of my older brothers and sisters.

Gwendolyn Brooks was my favorite. I still know by heart “To Be in Love,” the first poem I read by her:

To be in love
is to touch with a lighter hand.

In yourself you stretch, you are well.

You look at things
through his eyes.
A cardinal is red.
A sky is blue.
Suddenly you know he knows too.
He is not there but
you know you are tasting together
the winter, or light spring weather.

His hand to take your hand is overmuch.
Too much to bear.

You cannot look in his eyes
because your pulse must not say
what must not be said.

When he
shuts a door—

Is not there—
Your arms are water.

And you are free
with a ghastly freedom.

You are the beautiful half
of a golden hurt.

You remember and covet his mouth,
to touch, to whisper on.

Oh when to declare
is certain Death!

Oh when to apprize,
is to mesmerize,

To see fall down, the Column of Gold,
into the commonest ash.

I was “mesmerized” by the way she crafted language. I recall being moved by particular phrases–

you are the beautiful half/of a golden hurt

free/with a ghastly freedom

the Column of Gold/into the commonest ash.

And I was intrigued by how she used opposites and negatives to convey the beauty and pain of love and evoke a powerful sense of loss.

My own (early) poetry was very much influenced by Brooks.

Brooks would have been 101 on June 7, so in her honor, I invite you to read about her contributions to American literature as well as some of her poetry. To get started, see the links below:

Vote: New Blog?

My hubby recently uncovered a treasure trove of writings, photographs, and journals from my early life. As I was looking through everything, it seemed a waste to just have things sit in folders and notebooks, unread.

I enjoyed revisiting younger me and reconnecting with her, so I’ve been thinking about starting another blog to allow her to speak–without the intrusions of “present” me.

It is absolutely insane for me to even consider another blog. I have to steal time for this one.  But summer always makes me feel like I can conquer all–including time.

So what do you think? Should my early musings get their own blog? Or should I make it a regular feature–twice monthly, maybe–of my current blog? Or leave it alone altogether?

Vote below.