The Poetry Flip

the poetry flip graphic 2

It’s rare that I sit down to write and poetry comes out. In many ways, prose is more aligned with the nature of who I am — someone who wants to illuminate a clear path to what is most meaningful. To that end, I mostly find poetry a difficult medium through which to communicate meaning while maintaining clarity.

And yet, from time to time, poetry flows out anyway. It tends happen at times when my feelings on a subject are so strong that the ‘clarity’ possible in prose feels reductive and unsatisfactory. This was the case three weeks ago, when I found myself both mourning the death of a dear friend and impacted by children and teens around the nation marching for their lives. The grief of the funeral as well as the images of children proved to be an overwhelming experience of tragedy and possibility, despair and hope, death and life. I found it hard to not only process, but also to articulate anything without the nuance and shape of poetry. And so, poetry is what came.

The hardest part of writing poetry for me is my inevitable judgment of the output. Unable to judge it versus my typical rubric of meaning and clarity, I often don’t know what good looks like. Today, as I share my poetry with you, I put it into the world lightly — less concerned about the quality of the thing and simply grateful that I can flex into a different form when the necessities of life call for something else. Whatever the form, what matters most is that there is simply a way to share the most important things.

With love and hope,

Many Are Here

I. The Way
From the darkness I saw this place inside and out.
I saw all the ways to perform and succeed.
The world, complex but clear,
was peopled by structures and traditions,
roles and expectations,
cues, routines, rewards.
This was the way.

II. The Invitation
Slowly, the crack.
First one jumped, and then two more, and now dozens at a time,
as if jumping for their lives from two towers high above.
Falling men. Falling women.
Cashing in on an invitation that,
if brave and foolish enough,
they might be able to create
out of the deepest and truest inclination of their souls.
We thought they were silly; we knew they were right.

These were the first holes in the firmament,
water drip-dropping through them.
If you didn’t know better, you’d say:
“A leaky faucet, call the plumber.”

III. The Exhortation
Exiled and out of the parklands, now
invitation becomes exhortation.
Postdiluvian but preapocalyptic.
And no one is left behind.

And so, a new creed in our crisis,
one unhinged from books but floating in the ether,
in bits and bytes around us,
and prophesied by the voices of little children
wiser and braver than you.
If you open your ears, you too can make out the words,
echoing the call of a civil rights anthem:

 We must and we must now
abandon sins of commission, and
walk to truth and reconciliation.
Radical accountability is the higher call.
What have you used? Who have you used?
And where did you discard them?

 We must and we must now
throw out our lawn signs and let the grass breathe.
Instead of arguing the point of the point, we must
strengthen ourselves to be wildly wrong.
When we find we are not only victim, but perpetrator,
we cannot be surprised.
It was us all along.

 We must and we must now.
Not create from what we know first,
and not birth from self,
but unearth what lies
beyond the me, beyond the I, beyond the mine.
We must recover the better instincts of our souls
and become brave on their behalf.

IV. The Giant
There is no other option;
you already knew there was no white knight at the gates.
But there is a giant with a flaming cloak,
a gentle shepherd to help find the other side of this,
allowing you to do something right
without letting it go to your head.
In his fire you are incinerated and embraced.
That is the start.

Many are here, I am here.
And soon, you must be here.

When I Flunked Out of Harvard

When I was about twenty-five, I took on the first extracurricular of my adult life. Every Monday, I hurriedly left my spreadsheets and analytics, jumped on the one bus, and followed Massachusetts Avenue over to Cambridge. There, I swallowed my Yale pride and took the only Harvard class of my life: an introduction to writing poetry. While I found the content interesting, I quickly realized that producing new content on a weekly basis was 1) a faster pace of production than my insight generation warranted, and 2) tough to do with a more-than-full time job. Collectively, this meant that, while I learned a lot, I didn’t have the breadth of a portfolio required for the final exam and withdrew from the extension school class. In some ways (my Cantabrugian friends will laugh to hear), after graduating with honors from Yale, I flunked out of Harvard.

I still like to write poetry, but only when it comes organically. And weirdly, after a long hiatus, poetry started coming back over these last few weeks. And so I give you my first work for a long time below.


Lightly Tied
Here I am: a balloon in Macy’s parade,
Connected to my people through thinner and thicker cords.
They hold them each lightly, though they hold me tight.
Wiry relationships bend and twist in the wind.
Every tie made manifest in the sparkling parade lights.

Sometimes I want to rear up
(I think “CIRCUS ELEPHANT ON THE LOOSE!” though I am but an inflated mouse)
and float/stomp away – a line of
relational carnage
in my airy path. More often
my ties are friendly; I snuggle into my bindings.

This is what happens to all old balloons:
They lose their anchors.
One-by-one their ties are clipped.
If they do not find new handlers, they float away: lost balloons.

If they have found their helium brightness, they take to the sky.
You think they narrow to a pinprick. You use physics. You are wrong.
They expand away!
They become
the all-encompassing blue
of the firmament.

If they have found no levity, you know the answer too well.
They bump along the ground and impale upon a stick.
A child happens upon the rubber carcass and shrugs as he adjusts his bindings.
It makes no sense anymore.