Numbers dominated my life.
Twelve schools. Ten years old. Six states. Two brothers. One sister. A mother. Zero dollars. No home. On paper, they’re small numbers but they ruled my life. I counted every new school, every year bisected by a summer relocation, on a new nail-bitten finger until it was burned into my mind. I was so preoccupied with my numbers, I hadn’t realized the words creeping into my blood like a holy virus, infecting me, keeping me in quarantined from my peers if only in my mind.
From the beginning I thought I was different, and not in the millennial inclination of superficial superiority, but in the tangible differences I saw every day. My teeth were darker and weaker, braces were a foreign idea and deserved solely by the higher classes, — just like clean clothes, bathrooms that aren’t shared with thirteen mentally ill women living on the street, or food. I was shamed into marginality, into self-consciousness that weighed down the childlike joy I had managed to keep safe through my home life.
I carried it through those twelve schools, across six states and it wasn’t until my family and I had been on the move for eight years that I finally felt my virus, the words that kept me separate, stir under the pressure of poetry.
Mr. Van Pelt was a mustached man, older in the dignified way, and everything I’d wanted in a father the way he sat down anyone willing to listen and talk about his passion: literature and poetry. He explained poetry as an extension of the soul, and sometimes it wasn’t a beautiful soul. It was then, in that classroom dressed in the front for academics and in the back dressed in dragon posters, that I knew I had to put my words down. My first poem, “Helping Hand” was published in a book my family couldn’t afford to preorder, so it went without applause since the only proof of my work was a letter with more numbers. Yet still, I kept writing.
“Loyalties to the Womb”, to be published in 2017, is my tribute to my mother, to our relationship and how I was when I finally left her house after graduating high school in 2012. It’s my soul on the page, and it’s not beautiful. It’s my real life, a painful admission, but the catharsis of laying it onto the page helps me keep working.
I’m not predominately a poet, but an artist in general, and a filmmaker to be more precise. I have nothing to show for my passions as a filmmaker, considering I work almost full-time as a barista, but just as I was loyal to my mother for giving me life, I will forever be loyal to film and art for saving my life.
Surviving as a child, and being the eldest of four, doesn’t leave a lot of time for dreaming or believing in hope when meals are scarce and saturated in sugars or the poor man’s nutrition of potato starches or bread. Animated movies, those handed to children to shut them up while parents fight, pushed me into the escapism I desperately needed. I was given the freedom to dream, to draw and create, and I saw my dragons personified in those onscreen, and then witnesses their defeat.
Maybe I could stop my own dragons with a pen in the stead of a sword.
I owe so much to the life I left behind in my childhood. Still, I struggle with poverty, with living on my own on minimum wage, but I’m no stranger to it, nor the danger of being alone as a young woman of twenty two.
Numbers dominated my life, but words saved it.