how writing feels some days

how writing feels some days

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Here's a poem I wrote for my friends and readers who are hearing from colleges and feeling, well, too many things:





They are not oracles, only people

Working with necessarily limited information

They can’t see the whole of you

The way your smile lights the room

When a friend succeeds


The way you tried again

When the less humiliating tack would’ve been to walk away


The way you put your soul

Your heart your thoughts your work your hopes

On that form

In a list


Spread them out like jewels on the diamond merchant’s black velvet tray


Here I am, you said to them;

This is me

This is what I have done, accomplished, achieved

Here is what I have to show for my seventeen years on the planet.


Asking, silent but full-throated,

Do you want me?

Am I enough?

The most marrow-scraping questions a person can ask

Telling them why they are your first choice

A great fit

Convincing yourself, in writing the words, that it was true.

Maybe the first love letter you’ve ever written.


And then you may hear back: no thank you.


It will feel like all the air is sucked out of your lungs

Like the world itself is turning you away

Passing judgment on you


People will tell you, Don’t take it personally

As if what you had put down wasn’t personal


People will say, It wasn’t meant to be

As if there is some rational, overarching plan

That includes you getting punched in the nose by this

Hideous horror of NO.


Some will say It doesn’t matter.


But the feeling, the rip, the punch to your heart?


Because you matter.


You aren’t a baby anymore, though you’re still pretty new here.

You aren’t all pudge and drool and blank slate, all giggly delight in a shaft of light

This is one scar among probably more than a couple by now on your

Still somewhat smooth self


But here is what you can do with it,

after you rage or cry or eat your sorrow down,

Today, and maybe tomorrow:


The next day, say, “Their loss,” and pretend to know that is true.

And then begin to rebuild.


Like a practitioner of the Japanese art of kintsugi will hold

The pieces of a delicate broken cup in his hands,

Gently seeing the beauty within brokenness

And then will set about fitting the pieces back together,

Not trying to hide the seams but filling them with bright gold or platinum

Exposing the perfection revealed by the imperfections,

The loveliness of the cracks and the fissures themselves

And the beautiful power of fixing his broken cup himself


You are the artist of your self

You are the creator of your life

You will hear NO more than you will hear YES

And neither answer will be the final verdict on you


You are awesome

You are loved

You matter

You are enough


Get through these crappy days

With courage and hope

Because what good is crap?

It’s just stinking poo except when it is


To help young things grow.


Rachel Vail




Read all the news;

The crossword is done;

Took a short snooze;

Texted back everyone.

Popcorn’s devoured;

The sheets tucked in tight;

I’ve worked out and showered;

Might as well write.


(h/t Dorothy Parker, Resumé)


(c) Rachel Vail December 2018 


I used to watch the nested birds

The awkward little ones, feathers still unsmooth

Those were always my favorites: the balky peri-fledglings

As their parents nudged them toward the nest’s edge


I imagined the thoughts of those unready unsteady

Little ones

Peeking over the edge of the nest

Looking down down down

And out into the unfathomably vast world


“Do they hate me?”

The little birds must be thinking, I thought

And “What did I do wrong?”

Or worse, maybe they are realizing that their parents believe

In them

A horrible apprehension


Because, we awkward little ones know

Our parents are wrong

They believe we can fly

We know we can’t

We know we are the one who can’t

And our parents will suffer when they discover

This truth


But now I am thinking about those parent birds

Pushing their baby toward the edge

Believing he can fly

Despite his never having flown before

And despite wanting to cuddle him back down

In the too tight coziness of the nest

Just a little longer


But nudging him anyway toward that edge

Knowing he can fly

And must

Still so little and not smooth but still, it’s time;

They can feel it gradually dawning


Maybe it’s their hope and belief or love that will keep him

from hitting the ground hard when he takes to the air


But even this comfort they know is untrue

It will be his own wings

He will find his wind current

And float on the joy of his own devising

They know this


So now I will look up in solidarity at those wise parent birds

Whose hearts are breaking but also bursting

Who nudge their baby bird to the nest’s edge


He was born to fly