the reason I wrote this book

The words of the poems in the book my heart poured out were a lifeline to me, lifting me up into beauty and light when I felt like I was drowning in the dark ugliness of this world.

I was working for a non-profit at the time, talking with young people about the painful circumstances surrounding abortion. I heard story after story of the traumatic events leading to unplanned pregnancies, the heart-wrenching choices surrounding the fate of those pregnancies (whether terminated or not), and the throbbing pain that continues long after those choices were made. I came home and cried. Then I turned to pen or keyboard and wrote.

The poems I wrote aren’t about abortion. Only a few flowed directly from any particular story I heard. No, these poems were simply how I kept myself from thinking that this abortion-centric world that my work steeped me in was the only world there was. They reminded me that there is beauty that transcends pain.

I'm sharing them now in the hope that they will do the same for you. Pain screams and demands attention, but there is always a quiet beauty somewhere behind it. Always, even when it’s almost impossible to see. Maybe some of the words that helped me to see it will help you to see it too.

did I write that?

These months of compiling and editing poetry that I wrote years ago have been interesting. Going back to that time when I wasn't who I am today is disconcerting at times and laughable at others. It's like meeting up with an old friend I hardly know anymore.

Maybe that's part of why I've been dragging my feet a bit when it comes to actually releasing this book. Maybe I'm afraid you'll think I'm still the girl I was when I wrote these lines that were lifelines holding my life together. Maybe I don't know how to tell you I was once the author of these poems, but I'm no longer the same person who wrote them.

Once upon a time I wrote these poems because I needed them. I don't need them in the same way anymore. Today I prepare to publish these poems not because I need them, but because maybe you do. Certain people have already read a few and already begged for more. These friends have become better friends because of these words I once wrote.

And so I cannot regret those words I once wrote. I choose not to regret even the sloppy phrases dripping with hurt that never became full poems because they helped to shape the words that did make it into this anthology. I choose not to regret the pain that drove me to my pen and my keyboard because now I have something beautiful to share.

Perhaps my only regret is that I haven't shared them sooner.

remember, even when you'd rather forget

I almost stayed home that afternoon. A feeling of not-quite-right gripped me, pulling me back toward bed to worry and ruminate. Instead, I rode along while my love ran errands. I filled the air with prose as he drove and the quiet focus of reading aloud calmed me.

Turns out something wasn’t right and I spent a fair amount of time in bed those days that followed. I slipped into the soul-numbing abyss of online videos, trying to forget the pain in my gut. Forgetting. I did a lot of forgetting that week. Over and over I forgot what really comforts, what really provides peace.

Ironic. The chapter of the book I’d read while my husband ran errands was all about remembering. Had I heard the words? Curled up in bed, my husband echoed them back to be sure I had. Remember. Remember and be thankful, even in the midst of pain.

It’s easier to forget. The farm wife who wrote the words reminding us to remember doesn’t deny it. Her whole story is about learning the hard work of remembering the good, writing the everyday gifts on paper with ink — a physical reminder. I used to keep a list myself, modeled after hers. My gratitude journal sits on the shelf next to old records of teenage musings.

Now that I’ve remembered, I take it out and add a few lines. I choose to find something beautiful to write down. I choose to see and take note of the gifts, and in creating a physical, black-and-white remembrance, the memories solidify.

Funny how the simple act of writing helps a thing to materialize.

on reading, choking, and remembering to breathe

We started reading One Thousand Gifts while on our honeymoon. Cuddled in bed, I would read aloud until tears choked up my throat and my husband would have to take over.

We started another book too — The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson. Hodgson’s voice is as unique and expressive as Ann’s, and the story is as intense in its own way, but the experience wasn’t at all the same. See, we read an eBook version of The Night Land, and as wonderful as this story is, reading from a phone screen is not nearly as beautiful as reading from a book.

The tactile sensation of turning pages and weight shifting in your hands as you near the end of the book; tattered paper cover or hardback wrapped in shiny sleeve… Why have we forgotten this joy?

We read from screens more than paper. Even if we aren’t sitting in front of computers, we have smaller versions in our pockets — or more likely in our hands.

I used to carry a book in my bag so I would always have a way to fill the moments-in-between. We don’t have moments-in-between anymore. We have filled the cracks that used to let in light and make it easier to breathe with a digital glow that is slowly suffocating us.

I feel that choke-hold when I take a walk in the fresh air and try to breathe deep. I swallow hard, trying to loosen the noose that pulls me home to check email and social media.

Next time I think I’ll take a book.