A Thought on ‘Beautiful’

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word ‘beautiful’ lately. It’s such a tired word– you hear it everywhere. It’s been used by billions of different people for billions of different situations, and as a result it has lost its weight (when people tell me I look beautiful, the word bounces off. When I tell other people they look beautiful, the same thing seems to happen). If everything is constantly being described as beautiful, then it seems that nothing is actually beautiful. ‘Beautiful’ has been losing its meaning since the beginning of time, and is now this blob of a word that tries to stick to anything we throw it at, with virtually no success.

What even is ‘beautiful’? A sweet nothing, passed down through the centuries like a pretty heirloom with no functionality? Nothing more than a product of an individual’s psyche? A marketing tool, used as fodder for aesthetic products so humans may achieve the definition of the word? It is true that the commodification of ‘beautiful’ has been around for a long time: you’ll be able to find jewelry and the beginnings of makeup in any ancient civilization. But ‘beautiful’ has to be more than just that, right?

Like so many others, I’ve fallen into the habit of using ‘beautiful’ far too frequently. You could show me a flower, or brainwaves, or the void of space, or parallel bodies, or poetry, or my friends, or divinity, or connection- all of these are beautiful. Heck, the way I wrapped a bandaid around my finger today was beautiful (I usually have a lot of trouble regarding bandaids and fingers).

I think I’ll always be searching for the ultimate meaning of ‘beautiful’, but at the same time, I’ll be presented with it in every waking moment- a paradox. Which is also kind of beautiful.

Static Electricity

This is one of those poems that gets written really fast with no editing. Some of them work, most of them don’t – but for better or worse, this one’s published.

When it gets to this time of winter, everything is dry
And every time I lean against a wall
My hair sticks to it
Because the static is everywhere everywhere everywhere
When I pull my sweaters off I see a bajillion sparks
Pop pop popping against my cheeks
Sometimes I wonder if this is what the Big Bang felt like
Sometimes I imagine if this is what being kissed by stars feels like
But mostly I cringe
I do that a lot when gets to this time of year
Another thing I do is punch:
I start punching everything before I touch it
Because getting shocked is easier to deal with when it’s against your fist
Instead of your fingertips
I am not joking–
I punch the light switch
Punch the keyboard
Punch my toothbrush
Punch doors before opening them
But I can’t punch people
So every time I have to shake hands
Or take something from someone
Or just touch in general
I am cringing cringing cringing to the alarms in my head
There are some things you just can’t avoid
Or protect yourself against

It’s always easier to go at things with your fists
Instead of your fingertips
Avoid avoid avoid
When I was younger I would have to leave the room
Until after the toast was done
Because the toaster was far too startling
Avoid avoid avoid
Nowadays I hate being somewhere with balloons
If I have to stay with them I will cringe
And curl away from the potential loud
Until I am nothing but human-sized fist
Avoid avoid avoid
When I was younger I would make friendships without ever unclenching
Because my hands were far too afraid of the electricity of connection
Maybe that’s why I hit so many people in the third grade

They say there’s a reason your heart is the size of your fist
You need to fight with it
But I have spent enough time punching
To know I would rather offer my heart as an outstretched palm
Everything is more startling that way
But I want to feel this life with my fingers instead of my knuckles
The joy pop pop popping against my cheeks
The shocks gathering at my fingertips like traumas
There are some things you just can’t avoid
Or protect yourself against
Like handshakes in the middle of winter
But I will take your hand
And you will take mine
Despite the shock
Despite the ache
(Despite that I feel like a lizard because it’s the middle of winter and I don’t moisturize)
I want to feel the press of your fingers and be reminded
That there will always be soft among the jolt
There will always be things I will not have to punch
Things I will not be afraid to touch
Things I will not have to avoid
And I will say to myself

Weekly Weather Forecast for December 29th to January 4th

MONDAY: The falling snow will remind you of the passing of days. Be careful as you shovel your driveway– sometimes we clear memories away much too quickly.
TUESDAY: Partially cloudy, with a 30% chance of sudden longing. It is unclear for what or whom.
WEDNESDAY: Something will burn. It will leave you light, or ash. Maybe both.
THURSDAY: You’ll carry yesterday’s heat with you.
FRIDAY: It’s cold. Be warm. Hover near chilly people.
SATURDAY: You will sit down. Then you will tell yourself it is too early for exhaustion.
SUNDAY: There is a gentleness in endurance. There is a ferocity too. Remember there is little good in a half-lit life.

Large Talk

I do not enjoy small talk.
Comments on how much snow is on the ground
Only makes me want to fall to the ground in boredom
Don’t ask me how my day is going
I don’t want to ask you how your job is

If anything, share a fact about yourself
Me, I somersault into pools a lot
Which means I get disoriented easily
Maybe it’s because I’m always trying to somersault into people

So let’s forgo wading into pleasantries
And dive into the deep end together
Swim in our pasts
Then come up gasping for air
Wondering if we’ll ever touch the bottom
We’ll brave the ripples and tsunamis alike
Just let me get my pool noodles
And empathy first

Oh, and if you’re scared of swimming, that’s okay
We can start small:
You can tell me about the bruises on your thigh
And explain how you’re convinced the corners of desks are out to get you
I’ll chuckle along,
Then ask you why you ever gave up art
Because I know you’d much rather have bruises from
Bumping into your easel
While painting candlelight in the dark

Or, you could describe the person renting the space above your heart
Even though you told them beforehand that
“The plumbing is fickle,
“The AC is broken,
“And there’s dust
“And daydreams lying all over the place”
Tell me about how they smiled at your ramblings,
Then hung cut-out stars from the rafters
Saying that they can’t wait
To start singing along to your heartbeat

Tell me about the panic button in your back pocket
And the time your surgeon hands shook
Speaking of surgeons,
Did you know they write the word ‘no’ in capital letters
On the leg they’re not supposed to amputate?
It just goes to show that everyone has made some pretty big mistakes
So forgive yourself for the broken things

Tell me about what is leaking into your chest
Through the holes you tried to patch up with bubble gum and awkward laughter
Tell me about that one time the dams broke
And how your friends showed up at your doorstep in rain boots
Offering buckets and industrial-strength compassion
Then tell me about monsoon season,
And how you rode your umbrella door-to-door,
Trying to return the favor

Maybe you could mention the marks on your arms
And explain how the cat wasn’t responsible
And that it’s been months since you last drew that cello bow across your strings
Thinking maybe the music would stop the earthquake in your bones
After you finish, I will tell you
There is nothing wrong with having mountain ridges on your skin
They say mountains are caused by the shifting of tectonic plates-
Friend, you may be made of fault lines,
But so am I.
And so is everyone else.

I guess what I’m trying to say is
Don’t be afraid of the burdensome:
Tell me about the growing pains, the phantom pains,
The heaviness you carry within you
Because you do not know a place to set it down
Show me the open graves in your tombstone mind,
The battlefield inside of you where bodies fell,
How the cannons sounded when they broke open the sky

I know some days, it feels like the bloodshed never ended
So I’ll ask you to tell me about the healing; the rebuilding;
The things that came after the war.

I want to know about the way the sunlight followed you,
Instead of the other way around
I want to know about your holy lightning storms
And the chalk-white ashes they left behind
And the way you sang gospel in the dark
When the power was out

You have so much depth to you.
It would have been a shame
To just skim over the surface.

10 Things I Should Have Learned by Now

  1. Waking up early to do homework feels a little like dying inside.
  2. Balloons and toasters really aren’t that scary.
  3. Don’t write impermanent things in permanent ink.
  4. Things are better than they seem.
  5. People are kinder than they seem.
  6. My perception of the sky is affected by my mood, not the other way around.
  7. How to write lists.
  8. Leaving things to the last minute doesn’t create inspiration, it forces panic motivation.
  9. Speaking quietly doesn’t always mean speaking gently.
  10. Sometimes, trying new things has less to do with adventure and more to do with necessity.
When Sarah Kay (go watch her be awesome on YouTube!) does poetry workshops, she assigns lists for people to write. ‘Ten things I should have learned by now’ is one of the lists she often uses.