Various and Sundry Poetry


I'm at the tipping point, the magic hour
that ends one day and begins
another, and I'm thinking how
not even as a kid, when all you had to do was
BE a kid, get driven places, act your age,
keep yourself at the barest minimun of decency,
slide between grocery aisles with stolen
candy in your teeth and not get caught even once,
I'm thinking, not even as a kid
did I ever really, and I mean really, feel normal.

Instead here's what there was:
the constant, nebulous sensation of
being awkwardly too far in front or behind, yet
strangely invisible to those I wanted most to please.
I was not the exotic demure creature the boys
would swoon and vie for,
not the "it" girl who could gather, in seconds,
a coven of breathless, wide-eyed devotees,
not the brown-eyed beauty next door with the bounce
and the curls and the perfect, pristine A-cup

I knew, in my bones, that no matter how much
I tried to skate through the trends,
stay in tune with the pinkish hues of girlhood,
no matter my devotion to best friends or bullies,
I would fail at the grand disappearing act. Or
I could just be really, really good at it,
staying alert but silent,
normal-seeming because I wasn't the Outcast
and I wasn't the Rebel and I wasn't
the Trouble Child and I was never the one to make waves,
blaze trails as far as labels were concerned,
kept myself presentable enough to be picked for teams
but it would be lying to say that what I felt
was normal.

What I wanted,
even though no one could have possibly known,
what I wanted, ever-so-desperately, was a single caesura
in the system, the tape looping to the point of breakage.
I wanted all eyes, for once, on me.

Not at all costs, but for the best cost,
for whatever I could fashion from my own mind's plumbing -
perfect spelling and thorough lab reports and whatever goodie
I could come up with. Last-second free-throws,
a solo for the chorus - small acts
of specific and tortured courage. I could wound myself
for this, for the possible reward,
for the light at the end of all my narrow tunnels
I would crawl through the mud of school for this,
I could punish my body on the court
I could lose sleep, all for the reward.
I knew it, believed it, somehow
a moment of sheer brilliance lay waiting for me, a whiplash
of sudden and thorough discovery.
I'd turn the bend one morning and...shhh!
something would be whispered through the school halls, then confirmed,
later, through an overhead announcement,
the headmaster's deep bass booming.
Then ferocious twittering after class,
a feeding frenzy. Have you
heard? Have you seen? Can you believe it? It's...her!

I may have been wrong. The hours I stayed up
seeing the science experiment to its anticipated conclusion
merely led to exhaustion and a hatred of physics.
A rigorous push to the top of the heap
earned the grades and the college degree
and the normal things one gets when one puts in the time
but it wasn't like lottery, like splash or explosion,
it wasn't like out-of-body-cataclysm or overnight religion.

I wonder, where is the fulcrum of the pendulum swing
that exists between wanting all that's normal
and aching, in secret, for all that is extraordinary?
I yearned for that, I know it, for something
either beyond or inside
myself, the fibrous muscle of who I could become -
a superlative of all my favorite adjectives -
I wanted it, a glimpse at whatever magic
I was capable of exacting through my own
long fingertips, I wanted to feel on the verge
of the big flex, the letting loose and letting fly.

If I'd known to listen for it,
would I have caught the subsonic hum in the darkness,
the slightest atmospheric nuance of one day
turning into the next? Would I have known
what a simple and astonishing act
midnight is?