Garthia Elena Burnett: Making sense of the world through poetry

June 4, 2010 1:58:00 PM

Garthia Elena Burnett -


A coworker challenged me once, to write a poem every day of the year. 


Though I tried mightily, I didn''t quite make it. But it was a lesson in self discovery. For every day -- for every emotion I felt and days when I felt what seemed like nothing at all -- the tone and color of the poems would change. The topics were usually random, but the tone reflected my day and, sometimes, the time of day I was writing. 


Just after meeting the man who would become my husband -- riding that initial roller-coaster high and planning to move to Murfreesboro, Tenn., 260 miles away from my new-found friend -- this is what came out: 




I have to say. .... 


And I don''t know if it''s right or wrong, 


Don''t care if it''s right or wrong really 


But I just have to say... 


And I don''t know if it''ll stop you from leaving, 


and you''ll unpack your bags; 


Instead, pack away all those Pipe Dreams 


And be content here with me ... 


Or if you''ll resent me for it later 


and say I''m pulling you down by the wings 




But I Have to say .... 




And I don''t know if you''ll smile 


and kiss my cheek before you board that plane -- 


(I''d never wash that cheek again) 


and live some glorious life fit for the angels, 


Sipping cocktails with the Bourgeois 


and never think of me 




But I Just Have to say ... 




And I don''t know if I''ll have the nerve 


and I''ll stop dead in my tracks 


and be resigned to a simple "Goodbye." 


Or if I''ll be content here in my parlor 


Imagining you there 


and Whispering to the shadows: 




I have to say ... 




And I don''t know if it''s right or wrong 


Don''t care if it''s right or wrong really. ... 




But I Just Have to Say ... 




I love you. 




I never did tell him I loved him -- at least not before I moved away. (He later would bring me back home as his wife.) 


One day, I felt like being someone else, like becoming all the things everyone else wanted me to be. Even in childhood, I seemed to have one of those love-me-or-hate-me personalities. This day, I suppose I was dwelling on all those who felt the latter: 




"Don''t spit. It''s not lady-like, you know" 


He told me to smile more. 


"What man could approach such a sour face? 


I had other things in mind --  


Work to do, places to be. 


And who can help it if they need to spit? 


I''d wear a dress once in a while. 


"A man-catching dress, that one is." 


His eyes would light up. 


A dimple appeared on his left cheek; 


His lip curled. 


And the mole beneath his right eye 


Disappeared into smile creases. 


I rolled my eyes, 


Smiling on the inside. 


Crazy old man. 


Who knew he''d die one day? 




If anything was left of him, 


I would smile more 


And curse less 


And wouldn''t spit; 


It''s not lady-like, you know. 


But I had other things in mind -- 


Work to do and places to be. 


And who can help it if they need to spit? 


Sometimes I sit and remember him. 


Dimples. A mole, somewhere. 


He did some funny thing with his lip. 


And he would sit in his recliner, 


Staring off into space, 


Babbling to himself. 


Crazy old man. 


I knew he''d die one day. 




I don''t curse or spit, and I don''t know any crazy old men. But my mom often has told me to pretty it up a bit more. And the world, to me, can feel like a raging old man -- either he''s going crazy or you are -- trying to force you into his idea of who you should be. What would we look like if we let everyone else dictate who we are? Would we be the better for it or the worse? 


Once I moved back to Columbus and reality set in, I wondered why things seemed to be so hard for two people who loved one another so much. Sure, we had only met months before we jumped the broom, but we loved each other. There had to be something more -- some force that just couldn''t stand to see people in love: 




What is it that doesn''t love love, 


That wears down on its bearings, 


That challenges it at every turn 


And dances on its nerves? 




Every piece we pick up, 


It breaks apart 


And tries for all the rest. 




Every hurt we mend 


It tears open 


And aims to make some more. 




That something that doesn''t love love 


Works harder than lovers can love, 


And it threads the screws that bind, 


Letting it fall apart. 




And even for all its trying 


Lovers hold fast 


In love with their love 








Crying and screaming 


And raging 


And humbled 


For that something that doesn''t love love. 




Every day I wrote, my mind, subconsciously, would try to capture my day, my thoughts, my feelings and put them into something that made sense. When I realized this, I thought it was fitting, especially in a world that doesn''t make much sense at all.