(This 750 word essay was written 3/14/17 with the prompt, “Why I Write”. I was then challenged by a writing coach to focus on the 1st sentence and rewrite it from that awareness. You can read v.2 and tell me what you think).
I was born hungry! Living in my fifth decade now, I still chew on curiosities, wrestle with chaos and swallow courage until I fall swollen with exhaustion! Wide open, I see beautiful and tragic poetry everywhere. The Human Spring is gushing high, demanding to break free of noise and nonsense, war and worry. My awareness turns to spurts of journaling in an effort to understand our resistance our painfully slow conscious evolution. Without writing, I am lost in anxious thought! My “idea box” consists of filing cabinets full of journals, songs in yellowing notebooks, poems typed on linen paper, sketches and transparencies ready for mural paintings. My Mother often said “you were born to write, just write”.
I was the third child in a field of five, born during a howling, winter storm just before Christmas, in Connecticut, 1960. Our parents were just kids themselves. My first decade taught me to listen deeply, ask for nothing and when nothing made sense, just run away. In the forth grade I ran away while everyone was still asleep. I gathered peanut butter, bread, warmed my cozy sweatshirt in the dryer and headed straight for my beloved Teacher’s house (as if I knew where she lived) through the grey, wet woods. At one point, I became terrified of a distant barking dog and decided to go back up to the street. Either way, I knew I was vulnerable but I was free! Strangers stopped and asked if I needed a ride home or to school. At some point the old woman said “I know your Father”. I remember how strange that sounded to me but I didn’t press for any clarity. I was respecting my elders. I did get into that car and they did get me back to the house. I felt like a fugitive when I walked in. My Mother didn’t speak to me. My Father seemed strangely relieved but I could not understand why. Just a few days earlier, he beat my older Brother with a ripped out lamp chord, punched a mirror on the basement wall and threw my older Sister onto the shards that fell onto the bed covers! I always froze when he became violent. Why didn’t I have the courage to stand up to him? I stored all of this in the journal of remembering.
In my second decade I craved connection with anyone who would listen. I found it with words that flowed without apology. Whenever we went to “church”, it was on a Sunday morning at a Church of Christ held in a little school on North Main Street. I wrote my own baptism promise, My Child My Friend, at age 11. At 13 years old, I wrote, Lose and Gain, taped it to my headboard and ran away to the McConnell’s house, up the hill, closer to the lake. They seemed “normal”. I called home around 6pm. It was dark. I didn’t want anyone to think I was kidnapped or worse. My Mother’s Italian bully, alcoholic, live-in boyfriend retrieved me after about three hours. He let me drive home! My Mother never asked me why I left or showed any compassion for the concerns in my poem or the constant anxieties so evident in any of her five children.
I felt safe writing and drawing in my room or in the scraggy woods behind the projects. I learned that writing could write itself and that kind of writing felt like a beautiful gift with a power that I could honor. I ran away to a small Church of Christ College in the summer of my 16th year. I only had a few poems, drawings and paintings to share during my interview but I was accepted for Early Admissions under their Talent Search Campaign. I remember the journey; my tattered, pink suitcase, my stiff grasp, and taxi ride to the Greyhound station, downtown Waterbury, CT. I pressed my forehead against the window, processing the humanity, block-by-block, and a poem, City Kid, was born in me. I felt fierce walking through the Port Authority bus station in New York! I marched my way to the transfer bus headed to King of Prussia, PA. Northeastern Christian Junior College was glorious for a run-away; an inspiring campus in Villanova, PA. I wrote to feel “present” and My Playground, was published in Pegasus, National Poetry Press, 1978. I graduated with an A.A. Degree,1979. Ten years later I was a devout agnostic, living wide-open, still, and so I write.
© Reneé Marie