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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 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.
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
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
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
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
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