Hi. This is me writing a blog post after a long period of no blog posts. Hello out there.
It's April, and it's National Poetry Month. A poem of Edgar Allan Poe's recently came back to my attention. I cherish this poem as one of my early enjoyable experiences with poetry. More importantly, it is a poem I love because of how it ties me to the sweet early days of friendship with a cherished friend.
This dear friend of mine died in early December 2020. It's now four months of grieving and learning to be in a world without her here. In recent years this has been via video chat, text, social media. Our friendship began in things handwritten in 1994 and in one of Edgar Allen Poe's poems.
Jess and I met our freshman year of high school. She was gorgeous, brilliant, funny, endlessly curious, and had many natural talents including being excellent at ping pong.
Jess and I had the same English Literature class, but different hours--so we didn't meet there. We shared the same gym class the following semester, at least that's how I remember.
Our English Lit teacher had us students find and memorize a poem, and then recite it in front of the class. I remember feeling a bit terrified, like my classmates who grumbled about it. She had many years of experience giving this assignment, "Don't worry, it will be fine. Years from now you'll look back and be glad. It'll become your party trick."
I remember all the ways I practiced and came to memorize this poem. Writing the lines over and over again. What a way to get intimate with a poem. Many times I spend mere seconds with a poem. My relationship with Poe's poem is still going strong.
I still know this poem by heart even though my brain and memory have taken many hits. I remember it like a prayer. I remember what it felt like to stand at the podium and recite it, heart racing. I remember using it as a party trick. I remember one boy in particular who told me he fell in love with me when I recited this poem to him on the sidewalk of a campus far from here. I was 19.
This is how Jess signed my yearbook at the end of our freshman year:
"I still can't believe we picked the same poem for lit!"
We got to talking in gym class and discovered we had, independent of one another, chosen the same poem. Of all the books of poems in the library, and all the poets and poems on those pages, we had chosen the same one. We were pretty impressed with ourselves and this coincidence.
Me neither, Jess, I still can't believe it's true. It's Poe's poem, and belly button pulses, and lots of laughter, where our friendship began.
She drew that piece of corn on the side with a dash Y. Yes, Jess, it was a bit corny, this thing we shared. It was also really, really sweet. And now, bittersweet.