January 18, 2014

The Dangerous Game of Should. ~ Tammy T. Stone

I’m not going to lie.

The first line of what became this poem was inspired by a Facebook status update. I wrote that we can’t become trees, but we can certainly try.

Around the same time, I wrote a version of the second line of the poem as another status update.

I was filled with such an overpowering feeling of yearning that I knew I needed to think about it some more. About why we experience nostalgia, spin up fantasies and spend so much time reflecting on the way things should be instead of the way they are.

This poem doesn’t so much answer these questions as much as tries to give them a heartfelt voice:


Life in Shoulds’

(why do we always dream about living in trees? why isn’t being around them enough?)

It should always be a Sunday morning and snowing outside and we are five years old and mom is making pancakes and cocoa in the yellow kitchen and we’re watching cartoons and there’s no tomorrow and everything outside the house is kind of magical and it kind of also doesn’t exist.

(colder is a reason to make things warmer than we ever knew)

We should always do it like when we started writing soap operas at age 12 with loose-leaf paper and Bic pens and how a few years later we didn’t care that we had a Biology test the next day and drove for five hours to catch a Paul McCartney concert and fell into his spell and drove back home in time for the test, which was about the body parts of cats and which I think we passed.

(remember when i identified a part as ‘the biological dot’ because i didn’t know the answer and even our teacher laughed?)

They should always build beautiful dreams like when Tarkovsky depleted his whole movie budget to film a house burning down in The Sacrifice but the camera jammed and he went into a deep depression for weeks while his crew surprised him by making another house for him to burn.

(i sat huddled in my tiny postgraduate bedroom on a dirty beige carpet smothered in books watching a documentary about this and i cried and cried and tarkovsky died a few months after he managed to burn the house down so momentously that death managed to transcend itself)

There should always be lines like the ones in Frosts’ delicious poem, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’. I recited the woods are lovely, dark and deep/ but I have promises to keep/ and miles to go before I sleep/ and miles to go before I sleep over and over on long midnight city walks in my favorite red hoodie and could never make it past promises to keep before breaking down at the galaxy of loveliness in a few words.

(i didn’t compare the promises he and i had to keep and i never actually recited the poem in the woods or even under the great tree next to the church i used to sit under at night, hidden from the busy street, where I would cry or think up stories or wonder about my failings in love)

And while I’m choosing, who else should still be alive so I can talk to them? Kerouac and Plath and Nin, under whose words I have collapsed over and over again? Pollock, Lennon, Gandhi?

(kerouac especially i admit while i’m in this state, the way he searched for god everywhere and looked for himself everywhere and made meaning with stark, mad joy like mothers make babies, and climbed to the top of desolation peak to look for fires and drink coffee in tin cups and meditate in the warmest sweaters and socks before coming back down fearful and enraptured, i have sat with him for a long time)

Can I have the time back when you flew up on down on our little spring horsey and on your way down your hair would fly up and you looked like a ghost and terrified me! And when we used to think, wandering around those great shiny museum hallways all over New York and Europe on those amazing childhood trips, that it was weird how ‘Oil on Canvas’ was the title of so many paintings!

And I forever want all the ways in which love fuses body and soul way up there in the stars that die so slowly…

It should be all these things, then and now converging just for me, the way it should always be Autumn when death calls on all beings to be what they are and should’s destruct in the perfect face of now.


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Assistant Editor: Cami Krueger / Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives


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