routed.

The paper airplane never landed where we pointed to. Submitting it’s course to the whims of unseen drafts and some laws of aerodynamics that we could not calculate, no matter how crisply we creased its paper folds and sculpted its wing tips we ever failed to account for some slight shift in balance that rerouted our efforts for naught.

And how, I wondered, could I have ever presumed my own path lay in the hands of my design, when no matter how carefully a balance set could be redirected, as I swiftly learned to realign myself with the wind, or be capsized by its force.

real estate.

Build me a house made of paper
that I may not learn to love it long
before the rain melts it away,
that I may not learn
to live within walls
built to keep others outside,
or forget the light of the
stars guiding my dreams
above my head.

Build me a house made of paper
that I may not rest
against its walls,
but learn to stand straight
as a pillar
on my own foundation,
feeling the shifts and sighs
of the earth
below my feet.

Build me a house made of paper
that I may write on its walls
the truths of these days,
leaving smudged fingerprints
and crossed-out metaphors
where words fail to see beyond,
and speak in shadow-puppets
where hands becomes wings
that lift me away.

titled.

I had written honest once,
or so I was convinced,
but words beautifully arranged
can make liars of us all
with symbolic intentions
So now I shy from allusions
and emblematic turns of voice
and notes that linger in the air
quivering with significance.
I rise early now
with the sun
uncloaking shadows to dust
I live simply
speak plainly
and pay visits to visions no longer.

although still,
still they surprise me in dreams.

For the Telling

How amazing is the power of stories.

Today in my training session we touched on the idea about the power of example in imparting positive behavior in the kids that we work with – this is true, and it is almost a silent teacher that speaks louder than words, as so often the tone for the group is set by our own example.

But we also distill the example of an action or an experience – at least a certain perspective of it – in the stories we tell of them.

Often we relay stories almost unconsciously, as a mere discursive act, but today I paid a little more attention. I noticed that in a few moments I related stories of my own and others’ experiences working with their kids. At another instant, I relayed a story from a book that I read yesterday. I later found myself in a conversation about an obscure BBC documentary I watched last week, which my strange coincidence this friend had also recently seen.

Interestingly, I found those stories from my own experience to be most helpful to people to others, and likewise I was eager to hear their own. They stood for the crystallization of hours and weeks and months of effort and striving to do something that we are all striving together, and reflected back to us all in a mere few minutes – not in fragments, but reconstituted artfully into a coherent whole.

In the telling, it struck me that what we immerse ourselves in rises most closely to the surface of what we have to share with the world, and in fact, it often comes out as if by its own will. It is almost as if we are impelled to share it as a means to process our own reflections and observations on our experience, as we integrate it into our evolving conceptual framework.

And herein lie two reflections.

First, we need to be conscious and conscientious with what we surround ourselves with every day, and also recognize how quickly we can learn things. If I fill my days and hours with advertisements and television shows and empty consumption, that is all that I will have in me to share. But if I really want to become a part of something, to know more about it, to master it, by making every effort to surround myself in it, it becomes part of me.

Second, these are stories worth telling, even if only for our own expression. And always in the process we discover much more, as the very structures of thought appear to transmute under the grounding weight of new words. While my reason keeps refuting this simple assertion, I keep finding my way back to stories, and they to me – because every time, something is found.

Said.

do you remember how we used to be able to tell the difference without even trying? before the line of reality began to blur and we knew without a second thought where we stood. now it is harder to tell and we question one another while still stubbornly refusing to show any vacillation ourselves. but this too is temporary and soon our own words will become so pregnant with nuance they will pause for a moment to wonder if we just said what they think we just said, or if there is something hidden under the surface of those sounds and letters. but before getting too far into this query they will grow impatient and move on to the next idea that hangs before their noses, ringing with cold clarity, and not notice as we sigh and shake our heads and we fumble with stacks of carefully-articulated proclamations as we slip quietly out the side door.

What We Don’t Know that We Know

Before she started her writing career, Amy Tan sat down and wrote a story about a little girl who plays chess. Amy Tan didn’t play chess herself, and so clearly this wasn’t a story about her, right? But as she wrote, what unfolded was an intricate and intimate account of the struggle for power between a mother and a daughter, which Amy was shocked to realize

So, did she write what she knew, or what she imagined?

My take on the whole “write what you know” vs. “write what you don’t know” debate in fiction is that is sets up a dichotomy between supposed “authenticity” and “pure fiction” that is, in fact, artificial.

A writer could write a piece of fiction about someone far away from the writers’ experience – perhaps in another time, or world, or perhaps just leading a completely different life with entirely different motivations than the author. Yet her very ability to put herself in another’s vantage point, to imagine the thoughts and emotions of another being in another world, depends on exposing some truth known to the author through her own world.

“Imagination is the closest thing to compassion,” Amy Tan once said. And I think this is the crux at which the line blurs between truth and fiction.

Of course we can do express what we imagine well or we can express it poorly, and it is often in the details where the authenticity of the voice can begin to unravel.  That’s where the benefit of writing from one’s lived experience can come in, or the need to immerse oneself so deeply in learning about another time and place that ultimately becomes part of us. It becomes our experience.

Tennyson once wrote: “I am part of all that I have met.” We project ourselves into our experiences in order to make meaning to what would otherwise appear to be a random collection of isolated experiences. It is through thinking, reasoning, and meaning-making that the conceptual construct of a process is borne. And in turn, all that we have met becomes a part of us.