On my walk today, Young Poet, I reflected on your letter to focus on something different than the world falling apart around us. Be grateful for all of these opportunities and those lives that have been woven into your own; be grateful for fist pumps and even for the indifference. Someday you will lose your father, and others whose mattering to you won’t truly be known until the memory of their last smile becomes the source of tears that seem from nowhere welled. Someday things will happen that you would and should never imagine. Store up the best memories to get you through the times when you must be isolated from others.
Grief will arrive like a monster, an Everyman monster, but your Everyman, unique to your character and hungry for your soul. It will be worse than any imagined under the bed or in the closet or lurking in wait for the nightlight to fade.
You will reckon with monsters. Your dad’s life’s meaning in yours. Your brother-in-law’s life. Your grandmother’s life. And the life of a baby who was never born, its heart burst from a virus before it could be. All of these lives will surge up again in yours like a giant, overwhelming question.
What are you doing? Why haven’t you taken this gift and made of it what was meant to be made? When at last will you do this?
Now about your poem, I can only echo what Rilke wrote his first letter to a young poet friend: “You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now… I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now.”
You will do all this, too. Don’t start, and if you have, I beg you, stop! None of that matters.
That poem has opened a door to a room you did not know existed inside you. What you must now do is explore that room like a child explores a treasured hideaway in his grandmother’s house. Go inside, dust the shelves, knock down cobwebs, read old books, play warped records, look at yellowed pictures, and get to work. Inside, you will learn what you must learn, so be brave and face those lessons, some will not be easy just as some will bring you a blissful joy others won’t even know enough to wish for.
I will be here waiting for you. When you are ready to emerge and believe in the difference you are called to make, I will be pumping my fist.
Written in response to The Young Poet’s Letter and the Go Dog Go Writing Prompt Challenge for Tuesday, March 17.