QUESTION: You write about so many different topics. From gender to cat-calling to tandem bikes. There are so many possible things to write about that sometimes I get overwhelmed and it makes me feel like there is actually nothing to say at all. How do you choose what to write about?
ANSWER: Something catches my attention. Say a strand of holiday lights catches my attention. I get stuck on the word “catches”. I can’t take my ears off of it. I notice my attention is not caught with a hook or a net or a trap. It’s caught the way a ladybug is caught when it flies into my hand. Is there a word for the opposite of effort? Webster could have made a different world if he’d made different words. Is Webster god? Is that the poem?
When the ladybug lands I don’t close my palm. “Don’t ruin love by wanting it so bad,” I remember my friend Derrick saying. Don’t ruin the poem by wanting it so bad, I whisper to myself, and right when I do the ladybug crawls up my wrist to the vein I once wanted halved. What I know is the ladybug would spend her entire life on that vein if it would keep my blood pumping. That’s another way of saying I believe poetry saves lives. Anyone who thinks words are just words never felt like the junior high lunchroom was something to survive. Is the poem a story about junior high?
If so, I should start with the day I patted Tammy Thomas on the back in the lunchline and her bra unsnapped. Whose bra unsnaps because of a fricken pat?! I’ve not managed to unsnap a bra with one hand while trying, ever. Two hands is a challenge. Is that the poem? I wasn’t expecting a funny poem. Is it a sad poem hiding behind a funny poem? The lunchroom couldn’t stop talking about how I unsnapped the bra on purpose [the gay inside of me losing its invisibility cloak in one day] and so I organized a militia of 6th grade girls to convince the bullies I was straight. What do soldiers feel like when they learn their president is lying about the reason they were sent to war? Is that the poem? Good lord, I really don’t know if I can write that today.
If I say “good lord” does that mean I believe there is also a “bad lord?” Is the poem about what it would look like to punish god? ‘God doesn’t make mistakes’ I’ve heard people say while searching for a holy way to be transphobic. There is no holy way to be hateful. Is that the poem? Or is it this––whenever I see someone not know they are wrong about something they are wrong about, I get really freaked out by how many things I must not know I am wrong about. What if I’m wrong about something the world might be needing me to get right? That could be the poem but I don’t currently feel equipped to write it.
A teenager once told me she didn’t feel equipped to write poems because her life hadn’t been hard. I told her if she writes one million books about how beautiful the world is I will read every single one. It’s a promise I intend to keep. Burn down everything that is teaching the youth to root for their own pain. Burn it all the way to the ground and I will dig through the ashes to find the reason I never felt fully comfortable saying how gorgeous I believe this world to be until I got cancer. Oh look, I just uncovered the answer——Cancer helped me be sure I wasn’t looking away from grief to see love. Maybe I should have told the teenager, “as long as your life is gentle because you’re not turning your head from the world’s pain”––Is that the poem?
This strand of holiday lights is still very much catching my attention, and has been this whole time. This particular strand has not had a good year. It’s gotten a lot of things twisted. The bulbs don’t understand what will happen if one bulb breaks. They don’t know it will mean lights out for all of them. My careful and clumsy hands are the gods of the light strands. Someone is gonna be angry with me for saying there are two gods. Is the poem about how many people on the internet get angry with me for writing my thoughts down instead of theirs? It would be such a funny poem that my haters would laugh and then what would we be–nothing to each other? Maybe they don’t want us to be nothing to each other. Maybe I too would rather stay in touch. Ok, I’ll let them have their anger. Anger is the one emotion that needs expression to move. May it move.
I have a heart tattooed on my middle finger. If I flip you off it means I love you. Once I wrote this song lyric: “I have to love you to be mad at you and I’m not mad at you anymore.” Why do we get more angry at the people we love than the people we don’t? Because we share a light strand. If you burn out I will too. If you’re not bright I won’t be bright. Let’s be smart about this. Let’s do the math. Wow! The math says the light strand is almost eight billion bulbs long. That’s the poem, I found it. That’s the beginning of it, right there.
Love, Andrea 🖤
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