Poetry as a snapshot / 100 days to go

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Emma’s and my London themed leaving party, July 2013.

Today marks 100 days until I leave Vietnam for good. The thought is bittersweet: I’m flying home to family and friends and flying away from a life that will never exist again. Things happen too fast.

Recently I’ve been scouring the internet for the poetry of Robert Hershon because he is lovely; his poetry never feels pretentious and always manages to capture snapshots of experience with precision and simplicity. I’ve attached two of my favourites to the bottom of this post; the latter one makes me cry every time I read it which is absurd because it’s the feelings of some old dude from Brooklyn that I’ve never met and the comparisons he makes are all to a place I’ve never been (New York). The power of words, maaan.

First though, one of my own poems, which I wrote in a VinaSun taxi around a year ago and which fits with the themes of snapshots. When I wrote the poem I was really fixated on the life that I had left behind and how far away it seemed. Now it’s coming back again. I wrote it because Pete had given me a hoody to remember him by and I could no longer smell it and remember what he smelled like.

Also, I think it is disconcerting that I get through more peanut butter than shampoo, considering the sheer volume of hair that I possess.

So the poem on the surface is about endings in the form of break ups, but really the basis of it is what I learned about endings (mainly to relationships) when I moved out here: they never have the satisfying firework finality of a BANG that we see on TV and, instead, tend to just fizzle out into non-existence.

Emily x

Goodbye London, July 2013.
Goodbye London, July 2013.

Oh, lonesome me

Today marked one full bottle of shampoo
since I last saw you.
I’m one and a half tubs of peanut butter down
and the song that was number one
is just leaving the top forty.

“The worst thing about the end” it’s said,
“is that they get inside your head.
Everything reminds you of them:
every song lyric,
a film you’d planned to see,
their favourite brand of muesli.”

He used to love that muesli!
Sob.
Well I don’t think so.

That’s the kind of loneliness I can get behind.
That’s the kind of loneliness I can fill my day with.
The hopeful kind of loneliness which is never lonely.
‘Emily and your old hoodie are now in a relationship.’
It’s complicated.

No.
That’s not the worst part.

The worst part comes
when I can’t remember
how many bottles of shampoo it’s been;
when I don’t know what you eat for breakfast
and the hoodie that used to smell of you
has begun to smell
like the back of the cupboard.

AND NOW FOR SOME ROBERT HERSHON WHO IS WAY LESS SENTIMENTAL THAN ME BUT IN BEING SO SOMEHOW MANAGES TO EXPRESS INFINITELY MORE SENTIMENT.

Sentimental moment or why did the baguette cross the road?

Don’t fill up on bread
I say absent-mindedly
The servings here are huge

My son, whose hair may be
receding a bit, says
Did you really just
say that to me?

What he doesn’t know
is that when we’re walking
together, when we get
to the curb
I sometimes start to reach
for his hand

Superbly Situated

you politely ask me not to die and i promise not to
right from the beginning—a relationship based on

good sense and thoughtfulness in little things

i would like to be loved for such simple attainments
as breathing regularly and not falling down too often

or because my eyes are brown or my father left-handed

and to be on the safe side i wouldn’t mind if somehow
i became entangled in your perception of admirable objects

so you might say to yourself: i have recently noticed

how superbly situated the empire state building is
how it looms up suddenly behind cemeteries and rivers

so far away you could touch it—therefore i love you

part of me fears that some moron is already plotting
to tear down the empire state building and replace it

with a block of staten island mother/daughter houses

just as part of me fears that if you love me for my cleanliness
i will grow filthy if you admire my elegant clothes

i’ll start wearing shirts with sailboats on them

but i have decided to become a public beach an opera house
a regularly scheduled flight—something that can’t help being

in the right place at the right time—come take your seat

we’ll raise the curtain fill the house start the engines
fly off into the sunrise, the spire of the empire state
the last sight on the horizon as the earth begins to curve
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