Expat

The day poetry saved me from myself (and why I love pillows).

I didn’t want to ask for man-help because I couldn’t figure out how to put the ink cartridge in my new printer. But that was just the beginning of a day of little disasters, and by disasters I mean doing nothing right, and basically feeling like a stupid fool.

Books have been known to save me from myself. I can go through a list of when the right book levitated into my sight at the right time, and I grabbed them and they have become like points of light along a smudged life line.

But poetry is much more elusive, much more intimidating and misunderstood. I fell for poetry in high school English, attracted to the writers who wrote the unexpected like Carl Sandburg’s Chicago and Edgar Allen Poe, who soothed my melancholic spirit. Obviously he made an impact because the Tell-Tale Heart is the story that my blog was named after.

Okay, back to stupid fool day. I went to Good Morning Chiang Mai café for my poetry class. You see I have met an amazing group of women though the all-women’s writers group, and Sandra is one of them. Her poems are – just damn good. So when she told us she wanted lead a poetry workshop, I danced at the chance.

Because if you look under the tag “poetry” on my website, you will see that I’ve puttered with poetry before.  I fear I’m not very competent. Poetry to me is a much more raw form of communication and I have been rejected by literary magazines before, so all this to say, I assume folks cringe when they read my stuff. This is okay because I try to have fun, and I don’t consider myself a poet.

At the urging of the ladies, I read my homework, my “I am” poem:

I am a pillow

and I have always

been

one

soft

form.

 

I like to be held

crushed

carried

cushioned

and cried into.

 

I like to wear

different

covers

colors.

 

Talk to me

practice kissing on me

take me on holiday

and let me hold your dreams.

 

Just

don’t put me in a corner.

You can

admire me from a far

but

hug me close

everyday.

 

I am a pillow

and I have always

been

one

soft

form.

I’ll tell you why I chose a pillow. I started keeping a diary when I was 14 years old. My first one said, ‘Crusin’ and it had a 1950s Studebaker on the front, and it was silver and pink and blue. It had a little key too so I could lock it, which I did.

I knew I was supposed to write ‘Dear Diary’ but that seemed impersonal and unnatural. So I started to think what or who would be a more suitable person-object to address?

Who comforted me? Who listened? Who was always there? Who did I go to? My pillow, of course!

A couple of years ago, I was checking out the art galleries on Charoen Pratehet by the river. I remember stepping into one of the bigger shops and making my way through the gallery when I saw it – an oil or acrylic painting of a pillow on a bed. I laughed and laughed.

I’ve never had that happened before. I’ve smiled at a painting, but never laughed non-stop. I asked about the artist. He’s Thai and he has done other pillow paintings which I saw that day, but I don’t think the gallery is there anymore and I certainly can’t remember his name. But that is the gift of art, I think, to give.

The poetry group ladies gave me an excuse to step away from that blasted printer, so I could return to it and realize I was force feeding the ink cartridge the wrong way. (I am brilliant.) And playing with the poetry exercises and reading the different forms was just the extra oxygen that my brain needed to feel semi-functional again.

I don’t care what everyone else thinks, living abroad is not unlike living in your passport country. You need art. You need to reconsider office product purchases. You have bad days. And you certainly need a god damn pillow.

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8 thoughts on “The day poetry saved me from myself (and why I love pillows).

  1. I don’t know what came over me, but I threw my pillows off of my balcony last night and locked the sliding glass door in a hysterical fit of paranoia! I thought they had, er, feelings! They seemed pissed that they only get generic white cases, and I always just leave them in the room and never take them out anywhere.

    Those cartridges can be a tad tricky. You’ve probably got the hang of it now. Once you figure out which way it goes, then there’s the whole thing about snapping it in, and knowing what trajectory and when to change it and how much force (not) to use.

    Your poem is sweet, but I kind of think of you as more of a durian fruit = all spiky and abrasive on the outside, and stinky on the inside.

    Joke. Don’t get mad. (Durian make formidable enemies!)

    Oh crap! The pillows are at the door. Better let ’em in before they go ape shit.

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    1. You amuse me greatly smeagol.

      It’s interesting you chose durian because when my mom was pregnant w/ me she ate nothing but durian and corn. This I feel, explains so much – the yellowish pall, the stink that won’t go away, and as you delicately put it, the abrasive abrasiveness.

      But let’s talk about you smeagol, if you were an “I am” poem what would you be?

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  2. I don’t think I could do an “I am” poem. If I were forced to, however, I might start it, “I am an alien autopsy,” just to see what weird, disgusting, and otherwise crazy shit I could come up with to fill out the rest of the poem. Lots of room for blood and gore, plus all the tragedy of coming in peace and crashing my ship, then being rescued by humans who then interrogated me for technological secrets they could use to annihilate their enemies, refusing to comply, then being subjected to ruthless information extraction techniques… Finally, I think my splayed organs would release a toxin – which I TRIED to warn them about – which would cause an epidemic of massive proportions the likes of which our Earth has never seen before.

    Or I could just be a lizard, which is my favorite animal, as everyone knows. Or a potato. Or a french fried potato dipped in catsup. I don’t know why.

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    1. A lizard then. You do seem to adore them so. But interesting you choose alien autopsy, psychologically interesting 😉 Thanks for reading potato smeagol.

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  3. Hello Lani,

    I recently found your blog and LOVE it! Your sense of humor and candor are very refreshing. I enjoyed your Pillow poem very much and remembered when I was in High School I used to love to create with words.

    You sparked my imagination by asking smeagol what his I am would be. I finished mine. Don’t need feedback, just wanted to share.

    I am rain
    splashing into a babbling brooke
    gently float on sunshine
    I am the babbling brooke
    stretching and swelling
    Bouncing off rocks
    jumping over the precipice
    crashing to the bottom
    I am a giant river
    fast and deep
    excited
    anticipating home
    I am the Ocean
    caring for species unknown
    I evaporate
    become the clouds
    I am rain

    Thank you for all the work you put into your blog.
    Lin

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    1. Thanks Lin. And thanks for sharing your poetry. I really like it. You create a very clear picture with your words and that is GOOD writing. When poetry class starts up again (and if you live in CM), I could let you know. In other words, keep writing! 😀

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  4. Oh! I would love to join class when we arrive. It will be many months yet but I will continue to follow your blog and maybe see what lessons you are given that I can practice with.
    Thank you for your encouragement and kind words.
    I hope you receive clean air soon!

    Like

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