Every year each senior creates their own thesis, which might be a play, long-form fiction, or a collection of poems based around a single theme. I began writing last September, working to create content within or at least somewhat related to my theme— the city of San Francisco. I chose to write poetry because I have only published poetry before, and I love how I can break and blend existing writing structures. Last week we had to turn in our first drafts of our complete thesis, which felt like a relief but, at the same time, a reality check. I realize people will actually be seeing this and reading it, and I will eventually have to narrate these poems for audiences. It’s scary to think about, but at the same time, if I want to be a writer, I’ll need to do this plenty more. Writing so many poems and then reading them aloud and editing them several times takes focus, and it is easy to get stuck, but that’s the writing process. Working on the thesis has taught me many things besides what it’ll be like to live as a professional writer. Like discipline when attempting to finish work before deadlines and eradicating procrastination. Also, I’ve honed my style and voice, my writing style has become more distinct. In my freshman year, I was writing about things I had never experienced. I thought poetry was a race to explain profound ideals and abstract concepts with verbose and articulate descriptions. Now I’ve learned to describe the world I move through and make my poems accessible through the simple language I use, and through humor. My thesis is me trying to express to people that poetry doesn’t necessarily have to be about love and nature; it can be gritty, dirty, and honest. It can be about an unhoused man insisting on buying your mask or a death in the subway station you pass on your way to school. Many descriptions are concrete and accessible. Sometimes I read poetry and think, “if I wasn’t a writer, I’d have no idea what this means.” I find it sad because, in a perfect world, all people can enjoy poetry. Here are some of the rough-ish drafts included in my thesis:
Can I Buy Your Mask?
The collarless puppy nervously circles its own turd like a dreidel
It’s eyes quiver with each rotation, searching for its owner,
you follow it to two men.
One rocks back and forth on the curb sucking his thumb,
a small pool of red blood
colludes within the creases of his forehead
and slithers down his nose.
The other shuffles in a puffy parka,
hands in pockets
he whistles some canary song.
Seeing you pass
compliments your x-ray skull mask,
before asking Can I buy it?
A swift refusal, given your need for it on the bus
Rosie! The dog springs forward as if only
having one merged leg in the front and back,
She gobbles up his hand with her tongue
he lets his soot darkened fingers be ingested by her sable fur
He remains solitary like a bronze monument, before his face crinkles
and he begins screaming prices as if it were an auction:
HOW boutta FIVA! NO, a TENNA!
Various colored crumbs hop from branch to branch
Within his forested beard
You firmly decline, your hands pats your own
imaginary dog. The man’s petaled eyes close
as if regressing in the blooming process.
He fires again,
Fifteen! Or final oFFer, TWENNY!
And at this point even if it would just be easier to
give in and get the cash.
you continue to say no,
Still, he persists like an alarm clock on the first day of school.
He steps one booted foot forward, as if two people in a
coordinated tango, you step one back
His somber curb friend then rises to join in the uneasy dance,
As if suddenly possessed, you run
They lurch forward like a stealthily stalking wave
Their hands seems to ever reach towards you like
heatseeking missiles, lurching through the feathered breeze
In the nick of time, a silver Prius swerves behind you
Kissing the curb, it fires a barrage of honks,
The men fly backwards as if flung by a hunky leaf blower,
Before fading into their darkened tents.
You nod your head to give a brief bow of gratitude to Prius,
Before sprinting to the possessive but safe embrace of the bus stop.
Bart Night Casket
It wasn’t urgently in-your-face like emergency teams on tv shows
The ambulance wasn’t wailing like a newborn in the early morning
The stretcher didn’t speed down the escalator like businessmen at rush hour. The men gathered together, whispering ‘someone died, someone died’
There weren’t any rushed panicked yells like in a house on fire
The trains weren’t on time as if in a high class secretary’s position
The stretcher wasn’t full like a swimming pool in the Summer
The tracks weren’t clear like a freshly washed car
The tracks wasn’t crammed like trains in rush hour
The stretcher didn’t rush back up as if a bomb threat had been called in
The ambulance wasn’t blurry out of focus in the water like a picture in movement
The EMT’s didn’t smile and laugh like it was their birthdays
They remained solemn, faces indifferently clear as if they were at their own funeral,
In the casket.