15.

Nearly twelve summers ago, I was 15. I was free, crazy, had just decided no way to the Mormons, had just left the confines of a mental institution, had my first serious boyfriend, and I was living. I remember those days pretty well (despite the fact that I had to seriously think about how old I was when this memory occurred).

That summer, my mom and I couldn’t handle each other. I think it is always a product of me working my program (I am a PTSD sufferer) and realizing that she is not working her program and also is a shitty mom (if you’re reading this, I hope you and I have already talked about this stuff, Ma). It was also the first year my favorite sister and brother-in-law moved to Seattle…far from my home pastures. So, for several weeks that summer, I was shipped to stay with them. I remember how warm Seattle was, how beautiful West Seattle was in particular, how much I loved spending every day gardening and running with my Akita. I remember LOVING Seattle. Sigh, I fucking love West Seattle even still. It was a great time.

My sister sucked even more than my mom or maybe about the same (they have the same issues), but she opened the door to the awesome, amazing human being she married. Before they had kids, my brother-in-law was super cool, and he wanted everyone to know it. He was an executive chef in a gorgeous location downtown, making great money, and loving every second of the city life. And boy do I also love city life. He loved anime, which he also exposed me to (note to self: get Key on Netflix again), he exposed me to the wonders of Netflix, he loved cool music, and he loved local before loving local was cool.

That summer, my brother-in-law took me to all the things my sister never wanted to go to with him: blues festivals (we had tickets to John Lee Hooker’s last ever on Earth concert), amazing food (we drove down to Portland to eat at the “up-and-coming” Higgins restaurant), tax-free Oregon shopping!!, wine (I tasted my first flight of red that summer…and I am eternally grateful), art house films (we saw Magnolia), and poetry. Actually, we saw the world championships of slam poetry at the Paramount Theatre.

At the Paramount Theatre, I met a college kid, not much older than myself, from San Diego, CA, named Jonathan Yaffe. Jon is now a very successful entrepreneur living in Japan, and I have since lost touch with him. But that’s neither here nor there. I am convinced that Jonathan changed me. To this day, I still read his chapbook on a yearly basis. Why? What’s so special about this guy who no longer slams poetry? Well, first off, Jon admitted, through Slam, that he attended the same mental institution I did. Then, he rapped off a rhyme a little like this (this is by far my favorite, but I’d let you decide for yourself):

Parentheses

I love you–Period.

(Begin Parentheses

And it’s not a cute little pooky wooky love

It’s not muskrat love

We’re not kittens purring at each other’s meows

But my love isn’t a tiger either;

My love is an Emu.

It’s kind of weird looking

You’ve probably never seen a love like mine before

And it’s really hard for me to define in terms of animals

But give me some time and I’ll try.

–Rewind

In 3rd grade I was called on to read a story out loud

about Johnny Appleseed and when

I got to the part in parentheses

which was going to explain:

where he was from

who he was

why he traveled endless meadows

planting seeds in the ground

I STOPPED.

I had no idea what to do.

People always told me parentheses were a subthought

A more subtle statement

And I don’t want to read it aloud

Teacher said:”Read what’s in the parentheses Jonny”

and I protested:”parentheses were supposed to be silent”

I wasn’t going to read the parentheses

And it still is silent…

And now, I love you.

Look, I’m not obsessed.

I don’t faint when I see you

I don’t want to marry you just yet

I just love:how I feel around you.

I just love:like an Emu.

I just said “I love you” and left out all the rest.

I wanted to explain that I would be good for you

I’m not just a tease

That yes, I’m madly in love with you

But I’m not saying any of this:

Because it’s all in parentheses.

You are the cure for the love blues

the constellation reds

the insomnia nights covered in white

You tattooed my skin into a flag

And it was not enough that you became

Prime Minister of my Heart

I needed a dictator of my soul.

You taught me to love the moon

when there were no stars in the sky.

I wanted to tell you all of this….

Where I’m coming from

Who I am

Why I traveled endless miles

Just to tell you how I feel about you

You see, A lot of things don’t make sense

when you don’t read the parentheses

Details give meaning to Democracy,

they add colors to monochrome literature

parentheses let you better understand emotion

they allow philosophy to become more stable.

But because I didn’t read between the parentheses in 3rd grade,

I never realized Johnny Appleseed was just a fable.

And here’s the distinction,

If meaning without parentheses fails

Then love can’t be Johnny Appleseed

and emotion can’t be fairy tales

I wanted you to realize that your love is a purple unicorn

dancing with Cinderella on the heads of the 7 dwarfs

emus and fairytales singing in unison

but I never read parentheses out loud

and all that comes out is…

stop

close parentheses)

I love you.

That night, I fell in love with not only love or the potential fairytale-like idea of love, I fell in love with the art of slamming. It can be funny, it can be witty, it can be dark, it can be profound. My poems stayed dark but also sometimes got more tangential, and that is all because of this wondrous night. Thank you to my brother-in-law, thank you to Jonathan Yaffe, thank you to Big Poppa E and Brian Andreas….

Speaking of Big Poppa E, I have to give him a shout out. He has been my true idol, my inspiration, my favorite ‘N’, the reason I started blogging in 2002, the reason I hid my blogging for years, the reason I kept journals…oh, Eirik, YOU…thanks for giving me a rebirth at 15. Because now, I know when someone loves me before he EVER says it. Poetry saved my life. Poetry changed my life.

Blonde

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