I recently found myself deep in the archives of Frédéric
Chopin, a Polish-born pianist and 19th century composer.
One of the last true Romantics, Chopin poured out his soul in
sonatas that remain as moving today as they were a century ago.
He also wrote hundreds of letters. These letters reveal a man
prone to melancholy and illness. For Chopin, the piano served
as a reprieve from his life as an expatriate among the French
bourgeoisie. Music had the power to elevate humble melodies
within a cacophonous world. I like to imagine Chopin wrote
music as a kind of meditation.
This past April (2020), I woke up each morning, read a poetry
prompt, and listened to Chopin. Then I went about my day
until I was ready to write how I felt. My routine calmed me,
and grounded me like good meditation. Represented here are
poems distilled from my memories. Others are dark ruminations
or dreams, vacillating between mania and depression. These
poems became a reminder that no emotion, however extreme,
is permanent. As a poet with bipolar disorder, middle ground is
always hallowed ground.
I quickly became immersed in this thirty day project, but
I also began to wonder if it was selfish to write such personal
verses during a pandemic. For many, there is no comfort to be
had except in remembering who we have lost, singing their songs,
and bowing our heads in reverence for the music of the dead. To
write a poem is an attempt to capture the truth and share it like
an honest eulogy. As I write this, America is experiencing one of
its largest social movements in recent history. My deepest wish is
that these poems may find a place in the communal heart, as we
bury, reform, tell our stories, and rebuild.
Selection: April 12th, 2020.
Every day I walk a mundane sidewalk, trusting the trash to guide me deeper into the city. Graffiti curls like vines under the bridge, invisible to cars. This past winter I found a dead cat, with black and white fur, peeking out like a fossil in the snow. Stiff as a landmark, never rotting in the freezing cold. I could see a hoodie draped across her, as if a parent had hurried outside, desperate to hide the household pet. Grabbing blindly from a laundry hamper and driving up to this non-descript hillside, where the tall grass was ideal for hiding a small body. Now, the carcass guides my way.
This poetry was fostered in the shade of honey-locust trees. I
am so grateful to the Salt Lake Community College Community
Writing Center for providing the contest. Many thanks also to its
director, Melissa Helquist, and Heather Graham the publications
coordinator, for working so hard to bring this chapbook into
I am also grateful to Utah Valley University for supporting
their students, like myself, during quarantine, and for the
wonderful librarians at the Fulton Library.
Thank you to Matthew, Cynthia, Auna, and Allie Brooks
who came together virtually and helped me stay sane. This
chapbook would be incomplete without the keen editorial input
of Courtney Heidenreich, thank you again, my love.