I read “Dear Me” at the 2015 UUCS Jazz Poetry Slam on Saturday. Being a slam poem virgin, I was pretty happy with 3rd place. Performing was fun; think I’ll keep working on this form. In hindsight, my piece was a little long.
Had a few requests for the written version, so adding that below the video.
To my three-year-old self,
Mom and Dad’s divorce is not the end,
more of a starting line, drawn thick and defining,
the beginning of your latchkey life.
No idea why
they chose to live 2,384 miles apart,
frequent flyer by five,
collecting little plastic wings.
Even with Grandma’s goody bags
stuffed full of Uno cards and m&ms,
layovers will be torture
to your tiny, young mind
whose concept of time
doesn’t understand why
Dad couldn’t drive
the 90 minutes to LAX, but makes you wait
four long hours for a connection.
Don’t take it personally when big sissy lashes out at you
so afraid of being replaced by Dad’s new family.
Just make her laugh, like only you can.
Don’t worry sissy,
he’ll treat them like shit someday too.
At the airport,
Mom will sob, big uncontrollable “will they ever come back?” tears.
She worries you’ll forget about her
and the modest life she provides by nursing nights.
She can’t afford the Mercedes Benz or the avocado trees
or shopping sprees for izod tees.
She can only afford to plant seeds whose roots will grow deep,
in quiet safe, Rochester, Michigan.
To my twelve-year old self,
welcome to womanhood.
Remember this time
because someday you’ll be a mother
and your baby girl will be twelve
and she’ll be talking about tampons and boys
and this girl said that and that girl did this
and you’ll need to remember what it was like.
Being tall will be a good thing, eventually,
I know it doesn’t help now as you tower like an oak
over boys who have yet to sprout.
Wash your face more, wear sunscreen always.
And don’t be afraid to shine that big brain like the sun,
schooling everyone else in the room.
Feel the midwestern breeze
as you ride that yellow Schwin banana seat bike, no handed,
to the Dairy Queen
and the park to feed the swarms of pigeons.
Do NOT cut your hair
into that Dorothy Hamill cropped cut
that looks so cute on her,
but not so much on you.
By the way,
I know you are worried about a lot,
But just remember
boys are stupid
and you aren’t fat.
To my nineteen-year-old self,
Way to go,
Venturing outside the womb,
moving to the palm tree lined superficial streets
of Newport Beach, California.
Yes, you hurt your mother
in the process of leaving,
an open wound she will hold onto for years, so beware.
But to grow, sometimes you must break
from chains and obligations and guilt
to become who you need to be.
Follow the urge to enlist to learn Chinese
just read the damn fine print
so you get that signing bonus AND the GI Bill.
Learn Army discipline
and the many benefits of getting up before the sun.
That man-child you meet, he may seem like a good idea,
just trust your instincts,
that you know the truth
beyond a shadow of a his lying eyes.
He will be the father of your baby
and for that one thing alone you can be thankful.
Travel beyond your four walls,
discover your strengths, and see how you fit
into this enormously small world,
so when it shatters, you are ready.
He is stupid and you are not fat.
To my thirty-year-old self,
years of struggles,
and sharp needles in the ass
filled with toxic hormones plumping your ovaries to produce
when they weren’t quite ready.
She is here now and
you’re better, richer, vulnerable, worried.
She is worth every stretch mark and moment of lost sleep,
of which you won’t have many,
because she is an angel baby,
an old soul with furry ears
and big feet.
He is beyond stupid and you might be a little fat,
but hey, you earned it with nine months of
Taco Bell chicken soft tacos,
building that beautiful, precious life.
To my thirty-two year old self,
welcome to the big top,
an upside-down circus of newness.
Your divorce is not the end,
more of a starting line,
drawn thick and defining the rest of your
empowered, I am woman, hear me loud and clear life.
Goodbye feeling like you aren’t enough (SASS)
and that you are the crazy one,
driven to checking phones and reading his emails.
Day jobs come and go so
feed the writer’s fire in your belly,
what makes you you,
a specularly unique bird of paradise in a world of carnations.
You’ll meet a man who isn’t stupid, not at all, just afflicted with demons.
Support him and love him
and that love will come back to you
like a boomerang of warmth
washing over you
making you a better woman.
You aren’t fat.
You might even be a little too skinny now,
as if you thought that was ever possible.
Your breastbone is poking out like an old timey washboard.
Eat more chocolate, drink wine and enjoy life,
because that proverbial bus is particularly unpredictable.
To my 39-year old self
hold tight to that crossbar over your lap.
You’re about to climb a hill no one wants to climb.
life wound down
in hospital gowns,
hair in the brush
little baby, Momma can’t buy you nothing now.
No one to call
when all you want
is to feel that someone stands between you
and the ugly, barbaric parts of the world.
What you’d give for a brief taste of sympathy
or a single drop of her unwarranted advice.
Well, steel that backbone dear one
for the time has come to lead your herd, matriarch.
That searing edge of grief will
dull to a pulsing daily ache,
part of you now,
just as you were once a part of her.
It doesn’t matter if you’re fat
when you’re dead.
To my 42-year old self
Just like Stella, found your groove,
finally knowing that confident plus discipline
equals not a number on the scale
but whatever the fuck you want it to mean.
Bottle up that feeling and hold it tight,
like Gollum with his precious
because a day is coming when
that skin at the corner of your eyes will show creases
like that cracked African earth you just traveled on.
When it happens, don’t fight it.
Don’t be that suburban, angry Ashburn mom
who tries too hard and eats too little.
Her drawn face lacking any hint of a smile.
And try not to think about all those seconds, minutes, hours, days
wasted worrying about whether you were fat.
Time gone, floating by
like dandelion seeds
on the summer wind.
To my future self,
if you are lucky,
someday you will write to your 49, 53, 61-year old selves.
When you hit 67 you’ll have outlived your mother.
And if you’re really lucky, you’ll hit triple digits and
double digits will be only a memory.
But none of that is guaranteed,
only today, only now.
So keep trudging on that winding path of reinvention.
Be a teacher.
Be a poet.
Be a mentor.
Share your truths and
write your book.
Love even when it is hard.
Love your kids and your kids’ kids,
Even when they step in shit time and time and time again.
Love the man who is sometimes stupid
but adores you and will hold your old,
withered, veiny, not-so-delicate hand in his.
And love you,
Even, and especially, when you think you’re fat.