To be a poet, you must taste the sweetness of living not once, but a thousand times before the words fall from your lips.
You wear the words on your skin like a tattoo of a compass that will lead you home on those nights when you’ve walked too far in the city—unsure of the way back—trying to recall if you should’ve taken a right or a left at the street with Banksy’s graffiti on the wall.
You touch—softly, and slowly at first—like the way your fingers caress your lover’s chin before a kiss, or as you dip your toes in a cool mountain river.
You write and write in the moments where there are no signs of hope, except at that edge of the paper where the tip of your pen hits like lightning, again and again, bursting flashes of brightness in the dark.
And then you must edit, and edit and edit again, cutting out words with razor sharp precision.
You blush as desire whispers in your ear, sharing words meant only for you.
You read Pablo Neruda’s poetry out loud in Spanish before reading the words in English:
si cada día,
sientes que a mí estás destinada
con dulzura implacable,
si cada día sube
una flor a tus labios a buscarme,
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
~ lines from If You Forget Me
You sip elixirs of delight, and turn the sweet liquor into words that move in rhythm with the universe.
You pause—observing the what ifs—as if they were signposts, leading you to a foreign place—a destination you’ve always hoped for, yet never imagined to be real.
You’ve learned to know self-doubt is climbing up your arm like a red ant, and you gently pick it off—set it on the lawn before it bites your flesh.
You awake earlier than everyone else, so that first burst of sunlight is for your eyes alone, greedy, and lavish in the wanting of something new every day.
You clear out the clutter, recycling the bits of poems on old receipts after you’ve transcribed them into your moleskin.
You lose yourself in the flow of the moment, so much that you find yourself.
You know that being a poet means to be fearless in touching—reaching out—and embracing another’s soul, so you stand together for a few brief moments under the stars, knowing love is as infinite as those sparkles, yet as fleeting as a shooting star.
You ask uncomfortable questions, knowing that, sometimes, you have to sit long enough if you want the answers.
You capture words with your imaginary butterfly net while you wipe down tables, deliver the mail, typeset data, answer phones, shelve books, change diapers, bag groceries, edit copy, or design buildings.
You slow down, listening to—even if only for a second—the song of the hummingbird, a metallic ting, a zing that wakes you up.
You taste late summer in one single blackberry that crumbles between your fingertips as you pluck it from the vine, thorns poking your wrist, but you hold it together long enough for your lips to lick the sweetness off your fingertips, leaving the purple stain as a reminder that lusciousness is not found just between pages of a book.
You figure out that the best time to let go of words is in that magical space between sunset and darkness because you’ve finally found the place, the breathing room to be a poet.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emily Bartran