Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When I Threw Up Onto the Street in Front of Grace Lutheran Church [poem]

When I Threw Up Onto the Street in Front of Grace Lutheran Church

I was four years old and didn't know
that this would become my life's work --
spewing all my inner-most secrets, always
standing just outside some holy place.
I had been spinning on a tire swing.
I didn't know that this is how life works --
that the world will revolve so fast
it will make me dizzy, that I'll want to shut
my eyes and make it stop sometimes,
that I'll think I can't last one moment more,
that my hopes over the years will become
simple, that I'll pray for stillness, for mercy,
for peace,
that at some point the last thing on earth
I'll want will be a windmill cookie.
It's hard to imagine at four years old --
your life's work, the world, something
sweeter than a bit of sugar.


The Episcopal church I've been attending lately had a service this morning, a healing service where the reverend blesses and prays and there's laying on of hands. It was an intimate service, just a few older ladies and me in attendance.

During the sermon, I could hear the children that attend the church's day school, and it brought up a memory, and it gave me this poem.

When I was very little, I attended a day school at my local Lutheran church where we were members. My father was actually a deacon.

On the playground one day, I joined some other kids on a spinning tire swing. About five seconds in, I wanted off, but it's difficult to stop that kind of inertia, especially when you're a small kid.

Somehow, though, I flung myself off, then promptly stood up. The tire swing does what it does - it swung back around. And hit me in the head.

Well, the ear, actually.

I went crying to a teacher, but she didn't really pay me any attention.

I lined up on the sidewalk with the rest of the class, ready to walk back inside.

Standing in line, I threw up into the street.

So, thinking about that, I realized that that event is sort of metaphor for what I've done the rest of my life with my stories, poems, and of course this blog. It's also a metaphor for how I've experienced life so far. It's been a bit like getting spun on a tire swing, then knocked upside the head.

When I first wrote the second stanza, I used "you," but as I did with another poem I've discussed this month, I decided to make it personal, to use "me" and "I." I think that was more effective, and less presumptive. I think I try to use "you" to bring others into my poem, into my experience. Maybe it's because I don't want to feel alone in my experience and feelings, so I try to say, Hey, you feel this way, too. This is universal. Or maybe I'm just a narcissist? Either way, I keep catching it coming off as presumptive and arrogant.

I think I've learned the value of presenting my experience to my reader as solely my own, and let them decide whether they relate or not. 

This poem was written on October 15, 2014 as part of Tupelo Press's 30/30 Project.

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