I’ve been writing poems since I was twelve. I still remember the first few lines of the first poem I’ve ever written:
“I’m not as fortunate as I used to be
It’s not because of a sting of a bee
It’s not because of my family tree
It’s just because of a dream
It used to be as sweet as cream
But now it seems, those silly dreams
Are just a lie, an eye for an eye…”
Even at the tender age of twelve I was writing of fallen dreams! Oh the woe that was my pre-teenaged angst! But in all seriousness, let me share what prompted this ache. It will grant my readers a nice perspective of my psyche and why I focus on the bitter-sweet in my works.
This particular pre-teenaged dream was not really a dream at all, but a hope. A hope that my family would finally move into a house, which my parents were exploring at that time. It might seem like a strange hope for such a young one, but to an immigrant child who spent most of her childhood in an immigrant-ghetto, it was a true deep longing. To finally feel established in the country that we sought haven in after being religious refugees from the Soviet Union–this was an immense desire of mine.
Back in the motherland, we were sold the idea that America was a country of golden opportunity. That there was produce in the stores year-round, no matter the weather, no matter the season. And to my child innocent mind, I envisioned apple trees growing on sidewalks and pedestrians picking them at leisure as they strolled down sunny boulevards. Nothing but peace and cordiality everywhere.
Reality was very different, as it often is. Yes the opportunity was technically still there, but, my oh my, did we need to hustle to even get the smallest glimpse of it. No one really warned us about the difficulties to come. At least not to my childhood person. To avoid detailing the grim life of those first couple of years in America, I’ll simply summarize them as: dashed hopes of peace, struggle for fresh produce and a mad clash of cultures (not just the American culture, but the various other immigrant cultures surrounding us).
So that home that my parents were considering on buying was an out. An escape. The land of milk-and-honey, so to speak. We were wandering in a desert and a home was our promised land. And it didn’t happen. Our bid was not accepted.
At that moment the built up joy that I had of the prosperous horizon ahead plummeted. And it crashed so beautifully, so perfectly that words came spilling out. It was the first time my spirit bled in prose. Apparently, I liked it so much, I never stopped. Poetry became my self-soothing, or therapy, in modern terms.
Here I am, years later, still writing on subjects that inspire me. Often times, the themes are bitter-sweet. There is pain in life that we can’t ignore, but there is also beauty. Neither can be brushed aside as if it doesn’t exist. We live in the duality of night and day, darkness and light, hate and love. And so I write to help me process the emotions I feel regarding this striped existence of ours.
For those wondering, yes, my family did eventually purchase a home. In fact, it was very soon after we lost the bid of the original house. And the place we bought was a much better investment than the first one. So it all worked out, teaching me the valuable lesson of not despairing after an opportunity falls through.
We never know what awaits us around the corner of tomorrow. For after a dark night, the sun always rises and brings us light anew.