Dear Mr. Francis,
I stopped by the Go Dog Go Café the other day and thought it might just be the place I need to meet other writers and share my poetry. My shyness kept me from going in, but all the people laughing and sharing with one another sure seemed inviting. See, the other day, I wrote my first “poem” while writing a note to my friend, Laura. It is called “Always Remember” and feels like it meets the basic requirements for a poem, four-line stanzas with a pretty basic ABAB rhyme sequence. Is that what a poem should be? I read it to my Mom and Dad and am not sure how to read their reaction other than it didn’t match the enthusiasm I had bounding down the stairs to read it to them. I am not sure what to do.
So, can I ask you a few questions? Would it really be okay for me to come to the Café sometime? I mean there are adults of all ages from around the world there, are teens welcome?
About the poem, I really wanted it to have that nostalgic feeling I had writing Laura. We had the most amazing summer, her, me, our gang of swimming friends. Each of us adopted the name of a character from the Wizard of Oz; Laura, naturally, took Dorothy and really seemed to enjoy being the center of attention. My skinny bones took Scarecrow. The older kids on the team surely thought we were big dorks, but maybe they were just jealous. Who knows? I don’t much understand that kind of stuff. Like any other summer, I had my unrequited crushes, maybe you could give me some advice on that front, too? Ha ha ha. I’d ask my sister, but she’d just tease me, “Steve’s got a girlfriend, Steve’s got a girlfriend, Steve’s got a girlfriend.” Dad’s laugh would just encourage her, and mom would bristle at my reaction telling me I was too serious. Really, though, I am just totally confused about all these feelings and hardly know how to talk about them. The teasing just makes me want to hide in my room.
The poem captures the nostalgia alright, though. It really was a special summer. I discovered the band, U2, heard of them? Some of the kids in school have their name written on their paper-bag book covers, but when they performed at Wembley during the Live Aid concert, I totally got it. Wow! Bono sang this powerful song called “Bad” and then jumped into the crowd to dance with a woman. Totally cool, I am thinking about bleaching the tips of my hair… I think that would make the teasing worse, though! Later in the summer, I bought their cassettes and played them over and over again; my friends must be thrilled I have moved on from Rick Springfield! Still, Bono sings about things that connect with me, somehow, even I am not sure just what.
Oh! Swimming Championships… may I brag a little bit? I won the state championship in 100m Breaststroke after Nicholas from the Portsmouth Swimming Club DQ’d for his kick. Dad was timing a couple of lanes down, and when I climbed out of the pool, I saw him looking at me and he just gave me that proud fist pump of his. Talk about a moment. The medal went to my niece, who was born earlier that month. Not sure what makes me prouder, winning or my friends now calling me Uncle Steve. Actually, I think we both can figure out the answer to that riddle eh?
After Champs, Mom and Dad sent me to meet my best buddy, Jimmy and his family who spent the summer in Cambridge. His dad had been on sabbatical for the school year, and J. missed out on the summer fun back home. He wasn’t complaining when he picked me up, though. We all went on quite the adventure as soon as I arrived: to Paris, Rome, and Florence by train. Our first meal in Paris was cheese, bread, and wine, naturally; Jimmy and I had Coke Classic, of course.
Okay, I better wrap this up, I know you must be busy. What am I supposed to do with this poem? Do boys even write poetry? Shouldn’t I be outside wrestling with my buddies, talking about girls and stuff? Jimmy has started to really obsess about drinking alcohol, and I am not interested. If I had my way, I’d never drink. But what if Laura doesn’t really like it, I mean she seemed pretty stoked, but Mom and Dad seemed bored to tears. Which is right? Should I keep writing? Should I share it more?
Thanks for reading, Maybe in time, I will get over the shyness and walk into the Café. No coffee for me, though… gross!
** This is the first letter of a young poet, Steve, to his older self looking for advice about writing and other things. Some names and details are changed for privacy purposes, but the basic facts remain true to the events. This restarts the Into My Own series of personal reflections, letters, and juvenilia that has been a part of both Sailor Poet and Fullbeard Lit. Some of the past essays will be republished in upcoming weeks. I hope that this series serves to encourage young writers who are afraid to share their work or feel discouraged by the response they are getting from friends and relatives. I also hope to develop some themes about toxic masculinity and the challenges young, sensitive men have fitting into a world where sensitivity is shamed and toughness is rewarded, even if one’s constitution is more towards the former. Finally, it will also provide me a forum to talk sense back to my younger self, telling him the lessons I wish he never had to learn. What this young man became, I am no longer and now move forward recovering the man that youth wanted me to be. **