June’s Poem of the Month

This is going to be a sad one, so brace yourself with plenty of tissues. I remember first discovering this poem, listening to the writer recite it himself at a poetry slam. By the end of the poem, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. The journey that he takes us on is unbelievably heartbreaking and delivered in such a clever format. He counts down from his current age, 21, to when his mother was pregnant with him, recalling all the major events in his life, most of them revolving around his father. This is one of those poems that left me thinking about it for days, months and even years later. Hopefully, it will have the same effect on you.

21 by Patrick Roche

“21. My father is run over by a car.
He is passed out in the road with a blood alcohol content 4 times the legal limit.
I do not cry.

Four months later,
The nurses lose his pulse, and I wonder whose life flashed before his eyes.
Rewinding VHS tapes
Old home videos

20.

19. I haven’t brought a friend home in four years.

18. My mother sips the word “divorce”.
Her mouth curls at the taste like it burns going down.

17. I start doing homework at Starbucks.
I have more meaningful conversations with the barista
Than with my family

16. I wait for Christmas Eve.
My brother and I usually exchange gifts to one another early
This year, he and my father exchange blows.
My mother doesn’t go to mass.

15. I come up with the theory that my father started drinking again
Because maybe he found out I’m gay.
Like if he could make everything else blurry,
Maybe somehow I’d look straight.
15. My mother cleans up his vomit in the middle of the night
And cooks breakfast in the morning like she hasn’t lost her appetite.

15. I blame myself.

15. My brother blames everyone else.

15. My mother blames the dog.

15. Super Bowl Sunday
My father bursts through the door like an avalanche
Picking up speed and debris as he falls
Banisters, coffee tables, picture frames
Tumbling, stumbling.
I find his AA chip on the kitchen counter.

14. My father’s been sober for 10,
Maybe 11, years?
I just know
We don’t even think about it anymore.

13.

12.

11. Mom tells me Daddy’s “meetings” are for AA.
She asks if I know what that means.
I don’t.
I nod anyway.
10. My parents never drink wine at family gatherings.
All my other aunts and uncles do.
I get distracted by the TV and forget to ask why.

9.

8.

7.

6. I want to be Spider-Man.
Or my dad.
They’re kinda the same.

5.

4.

3. I have a nightmare
The recurring one about Ursula from The Little Mermaid
So I get up
I waddle toward Mommy and Daddy’s room,
Blankie in hand,
I pause.
Daddy’s standing in his underwear
Silhouetted by refrigerator light.
He raises a bottle
To his lips.
2.

1.

0. When my mother was pregnant with me,
I wonder if she hoped,
As so many mothers do,
That her baby boy would grow up to be
Just like
His father.”

I recommend you listen to Roche recite this himself, which can be found here. To find out more about Roche and his work, find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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May’s Poem of the Month

It was hard to pick only one of Shane Koyczan’s poems since all of them have their own unique charm that I adore. The first piece of Koyczan’s that I heard was arguably his most popular one, titled To This Day. It made a thirteen-year-old me cry in the middle of the dark auditorium as it was played during an assembly. From then on, I began to explore more of his poetry and he did not disappoint. The one I’ve decided to share with you today focuses on the ominous place that is the internet and all the cruel individuals that lurk among it. As always, his words are so beautifully written and eloquently presented that it never fails to take my breath away. If you aren’t familiar with Koyczan’s work, I highly recommend that you take the time to explore more of his poetry beyond what I’m about to show you.

Troll by Shane Koyczan

“Once upon a time,
You and all your kind lived underneath bridges,
Had ridges for ribs that dropped off into empty chests as if your hearts were all stolen treasures,
As if an excavation crew were hired to dig up and remove the part of you that let you feel.
And while the world above you invented the wheel, you stayed put,
Knowing it would one day need to roll over top of you to get to where it’s going.
You had an endlessly flowing supply line of food.
You began to brood over humanity and made meals of our hope,
As if crushing our spirits would make your mirrors cast better reflections than the ones they gave,
As if the only way you could save yourselves was to make the world ugly so no one would notice you hiding in it.
You learned to knit pain into a kind of camouflage,
Treated hope like a mirage that you could use to lure in your next meal.
You lived off of our fears, as if you could taste what we feel.
And every night, as the moon read bedtime stories to sunlight.
You took darkness as an invite to head out into the world,
You curled your hands into wrecking balls, your breath became squalls, you made rocks rumble, you made land shiver
You made boys and girls pray that someone would deliver them from you
We told them you aren’t real.
Then one day, the world changed, but you all stayed the same.
Just migrated from living underneath bridges to living underneath information super-highways.
Days and nights became meaningless, each already deepened chest became an abyss that no one would ever find the bottom of.
Concepts like love fell into your gravity, we turned ourselves into live preservers, hoping to save as many as we could,
But the fathers who stood guarding closet doors and the mothers who secured the floors underneath beds,
All shook their heads not knowing how to deal with you.
You, who crept into our lives with tongues like knives stabbing your words into our skin.
You began to begin uploading yourselves into our homes you had computer screens for eyes, and software for bones.
You turned your hate into stones and hurled them at beauty,
As if you couldn’t bear to see anything other than ugly, anything different.
You had fingernails like flint, and scraped them along decency hoping we would be the ones to all catch fire.
You all had smiles like one-way barbed wire not meant to keep us out,
Meant to keep us in
Voice like a firing pin, you spoke in explosions
It isn’t cute. It isn’t funny.
You’ve talked strangers into death, and laughed.
And as each family learns to graft skin over the wounds you gave them, you hem yourselves into the scar.
You have coaxed the sober back into bars,
Handed out cigars at memorials,
Offered nooses, cliffs, and pills to those who unfortunately found you before they found help.
You have praised suffering,
Waltzed in between tragedies,
Gracefully dipping misery as if we would somehow be impressed with the dexterity of your animosity.
You have cheered on rape, dashed through police tape as if it were the finish line in a race of who can be awful first.
Even now,
You somehow see this as an invitation to turn your keyboards into catapults,
Wondering which of you can be the first to hate this best.
Your loathing, already dressed in riot gear,
Ready to incite rage,
As if each message board is a stage,
Where you recite hostility,
Turning freedom of speech into freedom of cruelty.
We are stuck with you, the same way you are stuck with you.
Your mind is glue, and it keeps malice fastened there like cheap wallpaper.
We were once upon a time told that none of you exist, we dismissed you as make believe or myth.
Now armed only with resolve, we can no longer afford to tell ourselves that you aren’t real.
We will not let you make your dinners out of the things we feel.”

You can listen to Koyczan himself recite this poem himself here. To find out more about Shane and all his work, you can find him on his website, Twitter, or Facebook.

April’s Poem of the Month

I’ve wanted to add another element to this blog outside the realm of book reviews for a long time. My love for writing expands outside fictional novels, and poetry specifically holds a special place in my heart; it only makes sense that I start to share some of my favourites with everyone!

So once a month, I will post a poem that inspires me and leaves me breathless, as well as a short personal commentary explaining why I thought the poem was worth sharing. They will most likely vary in length, but I can guarantee they’ll be consistent in quality. So without further ado, I present April’s poem of the month.

I’ve had this poem saved for so long, and whenever I come back to read it I fall in love all over again. It always leaves me with a warm feeling of hope and a strong sense of will to keep going. I also love how meta it is since the author takes an introspective look at the stereotypical poet and mercilessly dissects it. It’s beautifully written as if a friend sitting next to you giving some wise advice. I think everyone struggling with problems of self-worth or hopelessness should read this.

Save Yourself by Lana Rafaela 

“let me tell you something:

no one is going to look at you, broken and shattered 
and think –
damn, you are beautiful.

no one is going to come pick up your broken pieces off the floor and
assemble them into a beautiful whole.

hell,
you won’t even look at yourself and think – 
I made broken look beautiful.

you know why?

because all those writers lied to you.

yes,
all those with their poems of scraped knuckles and 
blood dripping down chins,
pomegranate songs and loves that ripped through you like
hurricanes.

liars.

so you and i,
we are going to make a plan.

you are not going to romanticize days when your brain tells you to smash that mirror,
you are not going to romanticize the lover who doesn’t understand you 
but still writes about you.

here is what you are going to romanticize instead:

you are going to romanticize the first day of spring,
its gentle hands all over your body,
lifting you up until you are as light as a feather.

you are going to romanticize the tea and honey kind of love,
no hurricanes,
but sunshine that builds you up from within, 
that helps you make it through the worst days.

you are going to romanticize gentle hands of a friend
in yours,
telling you that it is going to be okay.

because it is.

and don’t trust poets,
we’re no good,
we love pretending that our jagged edges tantamount to a beautiful disaster, but in reality- 
there ain’t nothing beautiful about shaky hands holding a cigarette and
empty eyes staring at the cracks in the walls.

you know what is beautiful, instead?

the days when you can look at yourself in the mirror and smile,
scars and all.

music that makes your soul flow like a river,
books that offer comfort,
families flocking together like overgrown birds to keep you safe and warm,
friends that give you strength when you can find none,
lovers who make you laugh through tears.

baby, 
from now on
you are going to romanticize healing;

honey dripping down your fingertips,
August nights that stick to your skin,
the day you find your purpose,
long car rides and singing so loud that no one can shut you up now.

bad news:
no one is coming to save you.

good news:
you can save yourself.”

If you want to read more of Lana Rafaela’s writing, you can visit her Tumblr or website.