Of this one thing I am quite certain. Every person needs a poet in her life, preferably two or three.
Poets take time to love beauty. They see and feel everything. They notice the rustling in the trees, the dragonflies skimming the surface of the pond, and the sound of the rain dripping down the cold window pane. Their lives are full of sights and sounds. They remind us to stop and pay attention.
O’Angelina is one such poet. She granted me permission to call her Angie, but she could never be so ordinary. She sees the world in bright, technicolor rainbows. She lives in a “little blue house” with a “black cat named Trouble” where she loves to eat “all the orange food.” The grownup version of my ten year old daughter -- everything she says is announced with jazz hands.
When I walk beside her through campus, her messy ponytail flips in the wind as her fox-themed computer bag bounces on her hip. “You have to let the poem talk to you. Just listen to it.” As if it is so simple. Still, she pushes me along. And when I text her after a breakthrough with my therapist, she needs no explanation. “Aww. You are exactly a memory foam mattress.” I have come to listen for her voice. It is her soul that speaks to me.
Amidst all the beauty she captures with a keen eye, she also feels the darkness. Every poem cannot be a happy one. Moments of high tide sweep us off our feet. This young poet (so very young) was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Her hands, the fingers she uses to carve her heart onto the page, are now a source of constant pain.
“I’m going to get one of those dictation software programs.” I feel the light seep from the room. This will be her battle to fight.
I want to absorb this pain for her (memory foam mattress that I am). I long to help her swallow this bitter pill. I am enraged at the thought of her heaving into a porcelain bowl from the poisonous medications intended to heal. I grieve for this thirty-one year old creative spirit strapping her hands into braces every night at 8 pm. Netflix and orthopedics? This is not fair.
“Well, I’m just happy that you’re there to be positive all the time outside and sad inside with me.” Her words light up my phone and press down on my heart.
Yet, I pay close attention and learn from her #soulfight. This tagged torment offers hope. There is no running from the pain; my poet has taught me to stare it in the face. Feel it. Embrace it. Then, set it free. As on a bear hunt, “We can't go over it. We can't go under it. We've got to go through it!”
The world can be wondrous. We can bask in the sunshine and look for the magic around every turn. We can pull over to save a turtle crossing the road and then write a haunting poem about roadkill with “guts spilling out like pomegranate seeds.” She does this masterfully.
But we can also feel the heartache and share our pain. Sadness is inevitable, but we don’t have to dance alone in the rain. O’Angelina has taught me to listen to all the poems. Some happy and some sad. Some whole and some yet to end. We pick up the pieces and carry our lot one fragment at a time.
Read about her journey and follow her dog’s blog here.