i’ve been encouraged a lot recently
to share this part of my story more.
but this part doesn’t really
show the frilly. [or make
my attitude look too pretty]
which explains why it’s been locked
up in my google docs for years &
shared only when prodded by a few that promised
they would remain in the forever-love-me-anyway
club after reading it.
well those few + a college poetry class
full of strangers, really.
but i’ve been nudged that
it does show the deep & important
processing of experiencing broken-ness
& then deeply wallowing in it.
& then choosing to release myself
to find the freedom in hope.
yes, in the vulnerability of believing
in the sweet purity of hope,
i have found great peace
in this part of my journey.
so it’s now become unlocked &
an excerpt from chapter four.
all written circa 2007.
but first, a few author notes:
a) i may have starred out some ugly words
because i believe in keeping it classy
& well, friendly.
b) but i left the symbolism (#$!!*&)
because i wanted to keep it real
about words said & feelings lived.
c) i want you to know that the elephant & i have since fallen back in love for all new reasons. i suppose that’s what was bound to happen once i quit letting him traipse around in my conversations & relationships & prop his feet up in my living room all day long. yes, elephant is now welcomed in much of my decor and accessories. and we spend time together in articles and documentaries where i always learn a new-something-fascinating about him. & he lives deep in the fond part of my memory where my heart remembers the first time i rode an elephant in india.
my first & only poetry pillowbook.
(poetry class & i didn’t really get along)
I used to like you, Elephant. I used to like that I could see tear-like secretions from your eyes, making you seem like you were the only mammal other than a human that could cry. I liked that your trunk could move a tree trunk and then pick up a penny. I used to want to keep you penned up in my backyard.
But I didn’t know how to get you home from India.
And then there I was. Flying back west across the Atlantic, and you were sitting next to me on the plane. How did they let you through customs. And how much was your last minute airfare. I didn’t give you permission to eat my cookies and peanuts.
But there you were. Sitting next to me in coach, just looking at me. The same look you gave me the day I first noticed you in India. You have this way of looking into my transparency.
So I didn’t page the stewardess to ask who let the elephant on board. Because I found you large and comfortable. And I wanted you to hang out with me back home in Tallahassee.
Elephant, I even let you sleep in my bed. I let you inside my dreams. And walk around with me inside my head. And play on our hand-carved swing in the front yard. I didn’t tell anyone about us. I played games with you. I wrote letters and journals to you. You hung out with me when I had my Indian parasite. I closed my mouth and only peeked through my eyes.
Then fall was gone. And spring was there.
And Poetry Professor Barbara called me into her office and said, Angela, I accepted you into this workshop because I saw a glimpse of promising writing in you. But so far, your writing is s**t.
Well, she would write s**t, too. If she felt my headache. And had an elephant stomping around her words all the time.
Why haven’t you written about India. That’s what got my attention about you in the first place. The only reason I accepted you into my workshop. I want you to write about what you saw, smelled. What you touched. Write about your time in the orphanage.
Okay, yes. Professor, now about that – I don’t remember. [Not everyone can have the memory of an elephant, you know.]
Your midterm pillow book assignment is to write about India. Your words will not work on paper until you open this up & let it breathe into flow.
Oh no, Barbara. I met an elephant over there. And he is shy. He doesn’t like the spotlight. I can’t write anything Indian. So I’m going to need another assignment. Besides, the rest of the class gets to pick their own pillowbook topic. I want equality.
No, Angela. Your current work is boring and awfully cheesy. And the class can’t take it anymore.
Poetry Professor Barbara said I could write poems about India. Or fail.
So I wrote about you, Elephant. About our days together after we came home. And then I found you traipsing around in my letters I wrote to the friends back home while I lived in the orphanage. And I remembered how we met. So I completed my pillowbook assignment & forced you to write your elephant-truths on paper.
Poetry Professor Barbara called me back into her office a few weeks later to personally return my graded assignment back to me.
There were no marks throughout the poems. No corrections.
The only mark was written in red cursive across the top.
Now that is writing Poetry, Angela.
She didn’t necessarily believe the same faith as me. But she told me that by sharing raw & wrenching honesty like that, it would inspire others to hope. & to want to change their world.
Then graduation came, elephant. I took pictures with my diploma, and put you on a direct flight back to India. Beginning the process of feeling grateful to have both met you and then to have left you, I pursued the new in New York and bought a one-way ticket.
[i've posted the pillowbook here if you'd like to read it. do know ahead of time that there are sections that are a bit graphic and may be hard to read. but that is an important part of the reality that i experienced while living in romania and india. & it has been an important part of my journey to redirect my wallowing to learn that yes, it's not light & pretty. but yes, hope continues to win.]