Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I tried to name this post, but they all sounded like Nicholas Sparks book/movie titles...

(Seriously, I tried to come up with a good name for this post, but they all started to sound like Nicholas Sparks book/movie titles..."a walk in their shoes", "a mile in his shoes", "a walk to remember", etc.)

So, there is that famous saying, "until you walk a mile in someone else's shoes," or some variation thereof. I have done that. Literally.

Many moons ago, my baby brother outgrew a pair of Chuck Taylors. He outgrew them in less than a year so they were still in pretty good shape. Being the kind and gentle giant he is, he gave them to his big sister. At the time, he was 10 and I was 25.

Now, I'm 31 and the shoes have started to quite literally fall apart. The bends around the toe area (you know where they crease when you walk?) have split apart. Threads are coming undone at the seams and are starting to fray. The black trim around the shoes has left for parts unknown. Every time I take them off, I need to dump out the little pieces of rubber that brake off in crumbles from somewhere in the heel area. It reminds me of shaking the sand out of my shoes after running around on a playground.

"The" shoes.

Another shot of "The" shoes.

...and the required pic of me and my baby brother. We're at a Husker basketball game. GO BIG RED!

The point I'm trying to make is that these are more than "just shoes". They are happiness wrapped in memories. I remember the first time I put these on my feet. I remember my brother being so excited that we wore the same size shoes. It was one of the few things we had in common at the time. Believe me when I say it's not always easy to find the middle of a Venn Diagram for a 10 year old boy and a 25 year old woman. I tried the shoes on, they fit, and I didn't take them off - - just continued to wear them even though they didn't match my clothes and were not the best shoes for riding horses. (Our activity of choice on that particular day.) I remember thinking that these shoes jumped from playgrounds and P.E. to working in an office and standing in line at the DMV. But that didn't really matter. He liked the shoes, I liked the shoes, and the "hand-me-up" made us laugh.

For the last six years, these shoes have been a constant reminder of my baby brother, and have made me smile each and every time I put them on my feet. (I feel like you should know that my baby brother, as of right now, is 16 years old, 6'5" tall, and wears size 15 Nike's.) It was much harder than I thought it was going to be to put them aside and say goodbye. Seriously, it's just a pair of shoes, right? Wrong.

Well, I did just what you would expect me to do. I stewed on it, felt all the feels, and then wrote. Here's the beginning of a rough draft of a poem you probably guessed was coming. I don't really like it, but it's what I've got right now. Poems come in fits and starts and sometimes I really suck at writing them. Anyway, here's the "poem" as it stands:

Yours, then mine. 

Shit-kickers, Mile-high heels, Jesus Joggers, and Waffle Stompers.
It's not the shoes that make the man, but where he goes and how he takes care of them.
Right? Right.

All shoes can be dancing shoes with the right music.
All shoes are created equal. Just like the people who wear them.
Right? Right.

Hand-me-downs or up-cycled.
Thrift store bought or Saturday night swap between girlfriends.
When I put your shoes on my feet, my toes curl into the grooves you made.
My heels are cradled by your indentations.

Your indentations, but my intentions.
Your old shoes, but my new journey.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

If I've said it once, I've said it ten times

I found a writing prompt generator on the interwebs and the prompt it spat out at me was, "write a poem of 10 lines, each line starting with I say". Sometimes it's just as simple as that. (When I say "simple" I actually mean the exact opposite.)

This took me far longer than it should have. I just couldn't seem to make the words fit together on the page. It's was like trying to solve a tangram with one of the shapes missing. (Don't know what a tangram is? Google it.)

So, without further ado, here is my "I say" poem.

I say things that make you laugh
I say things I don’t mean
I say that sometimes life is plain shitty
I say that sometimes life is as shitty as you make it
I say what I feel more often that what I think

I say white lies are contagious and necessary
I say I won’t be mad, but I really will

I say you listen but you don’t hear me
I say I love you every morning and every night
I say you are my favorite person because I mean it

Here's the deal. I don't love this as a perfect solid and whole poem. It's not great and it doesn't "hang" together like I want it to. However, there are a few lines I'm particularly enamored with that might make for a pretty good piece after it rolls around in my brainspace for a little while. It needs to marinate in melancholy song lyrics and memories of sad after school specials.

...sometimes I need to scribble and doodle. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Upon remembering what it was like to be 18

I literally just finished reading Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. Seriously, I read the last page about 15 minutes ago. I'm not going to launch into a review of the book here (BTW, I thought it was fantastic) but I can tell you that it made me feel all the feels. It made me remember what it was like to be 18. Made me remember all of the horror and glory. So now that I've got the feels and caffeine coursing through my system - - here's the start of a poem. I'm sure there is much more to this buried underneath 13 years of brain stuff, but this is what I've got right now...

Golden Delicious

Feeling my way through the pieces of yesterday. Some of them are smooth like a worry stone in your pocket. Others are jagged and painful like a chipped front tooth. My voice is singing old songs. Lips and tongue moving on auto pilot. I can smell the second hand smoke. I can taste the cold Pad Thai mixed with lukewarm coffee.

Makes me think of all the times I wouldn't take your hand. Wouldn't return your winks. Wouldn't let you know that my heart was speeding up. Couldn't look you in the eye for too long. Just because you looked at me. Just like that. Because I couldn't tell if it was me that was special, or you.

I hear the Talking Heads and remember how we thought we were so sophisticated, listening to their greatest hits on repeat. Drinking our wine out of the gallon jug. 

Up floats the memory of kissing you for the first and only time on your sun porch.
I remember wanting directions despite the short and direct climb up and into your lap. I remember laughing at how skinny you were; not less of a man, and not that it mattered in the least.

Your hair was perfect and your smile was not and that’s what did it for me. To me.
Your stupid Elvis smile that wasn't really a smile. More of a smirk.

Either way, it tasted delicious. 
Not in a Golden Apple way, but in the winning and approval sort of way.

You swallowed me whole. Heart and soul.
Fingers and toes. 
I didn't want to lose myself, but it certainly seemed that you found me quick enough.

Because you've earned it - - here's a photograph of me during the summer of my 18th year. Heaven only knows why I was laughing in a bathtub...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Well, it was so nice, I did it twice!

Yup. I did it again. I put my poetry in the UNL Staff Art Show. AGAIN.

I know that last year I was a nervous wreck at the First Friday reception for the university staff art show, and this year wasn't any easier. It was almost worse because I knew what to expect this time. I knew there would be a guest book where strangers could leave notes about the pieces on display and there was no way I could not look at the book. Like a moth to a flame I started flipping through the pages to see if anyone had anything to say about my stuff. Well, they did. AND IT WAS LOVELY!! I was beyond elated. These two folks took the time to jot down their thoughts and it made me feel so good inside. Totally worth the nausea and sweaty palms.

There is no need to reiterate to you all that I am by no means an artist by definition. Sure, I like to make things and try new artsy stuff that I see on DIY blogs - - but I am a writer. That's my sweet spot. Sometimes I like to display my writing in a way that is visually appealing in hopes of getting more folks to read the words I wrote. Sometimes it looks like this when I'm done:

I titled this one "House of Cards". Copyright Jennifer Klein 2014. 

I don't have much more to say about this experience other than I will keep entering a piece into the staff art show every single year. It will continue to terrify me, I'll always be a bit shy about it, but hopefully it'll keep surprising me at how awesome it feels when I get to see my poetry hanging on a gallery wall. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

In the middle of nowhere, but I have everything.

Occasionally, my emotions are so overwhelming it seems like I could stop time and actually touch my feelings; like they are tangible things I could hold in my hands and rotate, look at, and dissect.

This weekend we (me, my husband, and my daughter) loaded up in our old Chevy truck and drove out to my mother's house in rural Nebraska for dinner. It was early evening, the sun was bright, the breeze was cool, the windows were down, and the radio was up. The three of us didn't have to talk to fill the gaps between us on the bench seat. We were comfortable just singing along with the Top 40 country songs coming through the speakers.

As we drove along, I felt...well, I just felt. I felt strong, loved, and perfectly perfect. It was one of those rare moments-in-time when all is right in the world. There really wasn't anything extra special about the day, the drive, or the song. We've driven that stretch of highway countless times together. But that moment was special - the quiet smile from my husband as I sang too loud and the giggle from my daughter as she spotted a few deer in a field - it's mine and I'll keep it stashed away in my brain for a good long while.

This is me. I'm in the middle of nowhere but I have everything.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A picture is worth a thousand poems.

Though it pains me to admit this, there are times that I get insanely jealous of those people who can draw and paint and bring things to life in that way. Instead of letting jealousy eat away at my insides, I do what comes naturally and use my words to tell a story. I give a voice to those people captured in portraits and paintings. And you know what? There is merit in that, too.

Take this as an example of "art skills that make Jenn jealous":
You can buy this. You should. It's stunning.
How could I not get lost in her? How could I not think about what she's feeling and what put that look on her face? After I waded through my initial reaction to this piece, I took the next logical step and told my version of her story. The words came pouring out almost faster than I could write. (Thank God for computers, auto-saving, and spell check.) Admittedly, there is a little of my story in there. Maybe a little of my friends' stories in there. Maybe you'll see a little of your story in there. But that's the most amazing thing about art - whether it is a painting, photograph, or poem, there's a good chance you'll recognize a piece of yourself in something beautiful.

Here is where I need to give credit where credit is due: I am humbled by the fact that the artist who created this gorgeous piece let me post his work to this poetry blog. Obed Raimundo is a ridiculously talented (and an all-around wonderful) guy. You should check his stuff out immediately (here or here or here ) after you finish reading this blog post.

Alright. You've come this far. Here's my poem:

See Me

While rocking myself to sleep, I hold my heart tight and force the tears back down.
The words are burning in my stomach, scratching my throat, and clawing to get out.
You stare and I reach for the flashes of contempt, but drown in a sympathy I don’t want. 

There is nothing I wouldn't gladly give to have my eyes and gaze haunt you.
My ghosts following and wordlessly demanding you to recognize the here and now.
The maybes, what ifs, could happens, and mights. 

Must you live in the whys and hows of history?
How can you set my lively spirit aside to make room for the dead ones in your past?
Can’t you give me just a few days of your present? Tuesday evening will do.

What are you seeing when you look through me?
I want to know the things you’re searching for on the other side.
My body feels hollow; your gaze is sharp and it cuts through flesh and bones. 

Focus. You must see me. Perfectly flawed, but willing and wanting you.
Would it help if I touched your face? Ran my fingertips over your lips?
These hands are not the cold ones from your nightmares. These hands are warm and curious. 

This is me begging. Look at my face and deny the truth living there.
I dare you to read my goosebumps like braille.
You’ll find all of my secrets rising up through this skin. Given to you freely, but with consequence. 

Are you afraid that these straining muscles will make you come undone?
That these eyes are mirrors; reflecting the thoughts you’d rather not think? That the words you are scared of hearing will fall out of my mouth? Drip right off my tongue like the sweetest honey. 

My lips won’t tell you lies - - they will show you the truth.
My dreams are dancing on the edge of reality - - can you trust me to take the lead?
Hold my hand and know that I can’t and won’t do this or be this for anyone but you. 

In the darkest part of night, when you try to forget me by pushing your face into pillows and blankets, remember that we pray to the same God but are simply asking for different things:  
I ask for strength and guidance. You ask for protection and healing. 

Such a thin veil between my dreams and your reality.
My happily-ever-after and your worst-case-scenario; the devil is in the details.
I live with ghosts and you fight demons. 

Why is it that this love haunts me, but terrifies you?

(Thanks again, Obi. Muah.)