Perusing Poetics: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ’til it’s Gone

“A degree from UC Berkeley will never change the fact that I cannot understand my grandfather when he asks for more coffee” – Esther G. Belin

This isn’t actually a quote from the direct reading this week, which was selections from Genocide of the Mind, but its the one that connects most directly to what I want to talk about, so here we go!

I’ve discussed before that I’m a grandchild of immigrant grandparents. They came from Germany after World War II. They had two daughters at the time, but my dad was born after they landed in New Jersey. He grew up speaking German, but he didn’t live in the country himself. I’m told his New Jersey-German accent was something to behold, though. (He sadly doesn’t have that anymore. Now he just can’t say “Mississippi” right.)

Actual things I did in “school”

My mom’s family was also of German descent, but a way long time ago. She was still super into the culture, though, and I’m pretty sure she’s actually the reason me and my brothers have such super German names and also were put into a Waldorf school to, among other things, learn German.

I grew up being babysat by my Omi and Opa, and as a result my German teachers would tell me I didn’t have an American accent. I had started saying the guttural German sounds so young that they came naturally and I didn’t have to reshape my mouth for them. I spoke German pretty okay for a while, but then I had to switch schools and got put into Spanish–and stopped learning German. I lost a lot of the ability I had learned to string together my own sentences. I had the sounds but not the speech.

Now, right here this story could take an uplifting turn where I say, “And in order to honor my Omi (read: make her stop yelling at me about forgetting my heritage), I picked up German again and am now fluent,” but it doesn’t. But the important thing is that it COULD. The fact that I don’t speak German is self-inflicted, not societally inflicted.

That is what struck me so strongly about the Genocide of the Mind readings. It’s never comfortable to be reminded of your own privilege, but it’s a damn good thing. My Omi is still with me, but when she isn’t, German won’t be lost to be. It will be there, accessible to me, in as many different forms as I want it. I can watch German films, listen to German music, read German books. I CAN.

No, I’m not saying anything that isn’t common sense. I know that. But that’s also why I consistently am staggered by comments like Carol Snow Moon Bachofner being told that her Native American recuperation attempts is her “little Native American project” (146). It well and truly is a “cultural genocide” that not many people see besides those that are being gutted from the inside out (146). It will not be seen until someone realizes some profit is being lost unless things are radically changed.

They need to be changed.

Tick Tock

(No, this isn’t a Ke$ha song.)

Tick Tock

Tick tock
Tick tock

Seconds race around the clock
But minutes drag on by
Yet in an hour things change so much
In a day the world’s brand new
A week can be like
A month or
A million years

Tick tock
Tick tock

We dance to the beat of seconds
Step in time with the minutes
Spend an hour laughing
Revel in a day full of fun
Because who’s to say the week will be full of the same
Or that the month will remain unchanged
That next year we’ll all be here

Tick tock
Tick tock

Death can happen in a second
Laughing can change to tears in a minute
An hour can bring enough pain to topple you
A day can stab you more than once
Weeks can be trenches of endless despair
Months can be pits
A year can spell your end

Tick tock
Tick tock

So what will you do with your seconds?
Your minutes?
Your hours?
Your days?
Your weeks?
Your months?
Your years?

Tick tock
Tick tock

Time

Time

Years
Of your life can go by
As you wait for that
One special moment

Months
Can be wasted
With procrastination
And worry

Weeks
Are lost
When you sit
And ponder the ifs and buts

Days
Gone by
When you blink
And so much is missed

Hours
Given up
To tasks that
Aren’t worth your time

Minutes
Fly by
As you stare at the clock
And hope that your adventure will start

Seconds
That can be washed away
In the sands of time
Or they can change your life

Why I’m Here

(FYI, this piece was written off a prompt for “Why are you here?” and to make it as crazy, bragging and laugh-inducing as possible. It’s a wonderful thing to do when you’re feeling down, I promise!)

Why I’m Here

Because I am 16
And I haven’t lived yet
I’m here because I have just self-published a book
And I want to sell a million copies
I haven’t seen Japan yet
I haven’t learned to ride a motorcycle yet
But I am the manager of a 50 person dining room
And the editor of a magazine with 3,000 people who read it
I haven’t seen all my friends face-to-face yet
And no one’s able to fly
And I want recognition
Happiness
Love
And peace
But I’m still trying to figure out what all that means
I’m here because my brothers need me
I’m here because my parents want me
No one can fix broken bonds yet
But I want to be the first one
And I want to see a world of peace
With no pollution
War
or greed
And I’m going to make that happen
I am here because I haven’t signed an agent
I haven’t found a publisher
But someday I want to see my title be a NY Times bestseller
I am here because I want to live
And my dreams have stopped the darkness in my heart
I am here because I have something to say
And I haven’t said enough yet

Crack in the Wall

Crack in the Wall

There is a crack in the wall
See?
In the corner!
Its minute fissures have spread like vines
Wanting to grow
Begging me to water them
Will I?
Once there would have been no question
But now–
Well
Life, my friend, is not an easy game to play
Let alone master
But…
That crack is taunting me
Calling me
Pleading
“One easy smash,” it says
“Will shatter the wall to dust”
“And it will be like it never existed–”
Be silent!
Leave me be
Let me stare in silence
At the light peeking through
Maybe the sun will be a kinder persuader or
Better
It will leave me in peace
For it’s hard to justify the crumbling
Of a wall I built
To keep life out

Brick Wall

Brick Wall

I suppose you could say
I hit a brick wall

Well
I didn’t just hit it

I rammed into it
With the force of a bullet

Then I shattered
And fell to dust at its base

Don’t worry about me
I’ll be okay over time

I can pick up enough pieces
To create a semblance of me again

Don’t think this is a bad thing
I never do

Because if I was broken enough
To smash and burn

Then it’s time I recreated me
To be more than I was before

Who said those brick walls
Have no use?

September 29th – Songs on the Radio

Songs on the Radio

So you listen to the radio
Singing your heart out
Wishing with all you’ve got
That person in the song was you

You sing a little louder now
Trying to block the tears
The world in the lyrics sounds perfect
Why can’t you live there too?

You want to believe
You want to find love
You want to live your dreams
You want to discover yourself

Hold on to your faith, your hope
For I have faith in you
One day you’ll hear a melody and smile for
That person in the song is you

August 9th – Knowing Myself

Knowing Myself

When did I go
From the one
Always trying to fit in
To the one
With her foot in her mouth
Who couldn’t care less?
I always used to be the one
Molding myself
To fit whoever’s ideals
So I could be in the middle
It’s a little confusing
Because
I still have no idea
Who I am
But it would seem
Now I know
Exactly who I’m not

July 30th – Mediator, Traitor

Look, the poem that was supposed to be here days ago!

Mediator, Traitor

They call me the Peacekeeper
The friend in the middle
The sibling in the center
Holding up the caution flags
Mediating a truce
They tell me that I’m wonderful
That I’m a true friend
But I don’t feel the same

I don’t want to be the one
Sorting out the facts
I don’t want to be the one
Taking all the blows
I don’t want to be the one
On whom you unload all your crap

I hate to break it to you
But I’m not bulletproof

I love you
I love her
I love him
I love them
But after all this time
Somehow I’ve lost my love of me

You say I play the mediator
But I call myself a traitor
Because I’ve lost my own sense of justice
Trying to appease you all

I tell you I think the same
I tell her I think the same
I tell him I think the same
I tell them I think the same
But what I really think
Has been lost
Because I much too afraid
Of losing
You
Her
Him
Them

They call me Peacekeeper
The one with all the patience
The one who sees it all
But someday I’m going to lose it
And find myself

July 23rd – Back Then

Gueessss whooo! Yeah … I am aware that the date of this poem and the date of today is ridiculously far apart. Life is CRAZY for me in the summer and I haven’t had quality peace time in a while. I’m always going to get up to date though, I promise! I never meant to leave it off this long… Anyways, one thing you need to know about this poem and the next two is that they were written for a school project on To Kill a Mockingbird. I had to do a sort of response journal and these are some of the entries I made.

Back Then

I remember the days
When it was you and me
And we were young enough
That not much seemed
Impossible
And our imagination knew
No limits
You smiled and laughed more
Back then

We acted out
A thousand adventures
That we were sure we’d have
One day
And we played pranks
And we built forts
And we caught toads
Because I didn’t mind that
Back then

Two years between us
Didn’t matter
Unless I pulled rank
(Okay, I did that often)
And the fact that
I’m a girl
And you’re a boy
Wasn’t a barrier
Back then

I know we couldn’t
Act like kids
Forever
Because times change
And we
Change with them
But sometimes I wish
We hadn’t changed so much
Back then

You don’t laugh as much
Anymore
I don’t touch toads
Anymore
We don’t play make-believe
Anymore
Sometimes life doesn’t seem
As fun as it was
Back then

But we still have the memories
And we’re still you and me
I can’t stop being
The big sister
And you’ll always be
My little brother
Even though things will
Never be the way they were
Back then