13 Ways of Looking at a Poem | Teen Ink

13 Ways of Looking at a Poem

December 6, 2017
By maeve15 PLATINUM, Brooklyn, New York
maeve15 PLATINUM, Brooklyn, New York
27 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -Oscar Wilde

I. The words tremble on the pages beneath her, consumed by the white, blank space. Her eyes struggle to find the title, her lips whimper as she tries to form the sounds. “I-” she falters, staring out at the eyes before her. Strength begins to pour from her mouth and out to the crowd, filling the room with gentle poetry. “I am nothing but snow on a weary winter evening…”
II. He sinks down to the kitchen tile floor, sagging under the weight of the world, and begins to write stanzas on his blue jeans. “Pain breeds pain,” he writes, breathing heavily. “But so does hope…”
III. The woman smiles. It has been a long time since she has smiled like this, a smile overflowing with only joy and nothing else. She unwraps her vows, smoothing out the crinkles in the looseleaf. “I was always terrible at prose, so I thought I’d write you a poem,” she tells him, smiling again. How she adores this feeling. “‘Love rests in the soul, between the lungs and the mind…’”
IV. She crumples another piece of paper between her palms and sighs. The words are coming out stale and overused, too generic to hold meaning or eloquence. She scribbles her pen against a clean sheet, creating a blue tornado on the lines. Inspiration appears between her nonsensical thoughts, and she writes in a fury, trying to form the poem in pace with her mind. She mutters as she works, repeating rhymes and counting syllables. “The blue-inked storm uprooted the world…”
V. “What’s this?” Andrew asks, snatching the notebook from the boy’s hand and holding it up into the air. “Let’s see. ‘I wish I had enough words-’” The boy tries to grab it back, but Andrew only laughs. A crowd is gathering around them now, making the world around the boy spin. “‘I wish I had enough words,’” Andrew continues, his voice falsely warbled and high-pitched. “To tell you what resides inside my mind…’”
VI. He starts tearing apart the papers, trying to erase time and old memories. The shattered remains of the poems lay discarded on the floor. He is on the last paper now, and he stares at the doodles and cramped stanzas in the margins. “I know I will spend eternity with this girl,” he reads aloud, tears streaking from his eyes and staining his cheeks red. “But eternity seems a forever away…”
VII. She stares at the magazine, running the smooth pages over in her hands and staring at her name. Her name. Her poem. Her thoughts, tangible and alive. She whispers the words to herself as she walks home from the train station. “Power is draining from my bones and pooling onto the street…”
VIII. The little girl waves the paper in the air at her mother. “Look, momma, I wrote a poem!” She cries out, pointing at her blocky letters and misspelled words. “Purple is the color of the sky, but only sometimes/Purple tastes like oreos/Purple smells like the soap my older sister uses…”
IX. The man stares at the gray wall, then at his pencil, then at the sunshine seeping through the barred windows, then at the gray wall again. “The six-hundredth day,” he writes at the top of the notebook, the words shaking. “The outside world is slipping through my fingers like water…”
X. The sun is setting, and the girl wants to capture this moment on paper before it fades away. She sees a couple at the edge of the pier, their black silhouettes intertwined, and begins to scribble down, “On nights like these, the sun kisses the earth with burning lips…”
XI. “Grandmother?” He says, tentatively taking a step towards the old woman with fading skin and a vacant glaze shrouding her eyes. “Who are you?” She asks, and he touches the edge of her withered hand gently. “Jonah? Remember me? I wrote you a poem. You- you used to love my poems,” he tells her, and although she nods he knows she doesn’t understand. But he clears his throat anyway and recites, “My grandmother wears armor and refuses to stop fighting…”
XII. The fire is growing, warming the woman’s hands. But it is fading, and she know that the cold December night will take her away if she does not feed the flames. So she uncurls the poem from her pocket, the poem that she wrote long ago. Before she tosses it into the orange and red beast that is keeping her alive, she reads the memories of a time when she had everything- a home, a family, a job- off the page. “It is easy to forget my name, sometimes…”
XIII. The gravestone is unweathered, the ground to harsh to blanket a soul. The girl forgot to bring gloves, so she shakes her blue fingers to keep them warm. “Dad…” she begins, opening her notebook to the newest page and biting her lip until blood trickles down her chin. “It has been thirty-six days since you’ve seen the sky/and I keep believing that every poem I write/will bring you back to me…”

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