I had jury duty this month. Not just that I went in for the day, mind you; I got selected to be on a jury. My first time. It was actually a fascinating experience, but it did leave an awful lot of space for waiting.
On Monday, I felt melancholy. Didn’t know why. I took out my journal and wrote out my feelings during our breaks between jury deliberation. Journaling did not help. I remained melancholy. Then, well into the evening, I decided to change tactics. I went outside in the cool air of sunset, when the sky was purple and the moon was out. I relaxed and felt the stillness of the air.
This made me feel better. Sort of.
Actually what I felt like doing was writing a poem. So I went back inside and scribbled one down. I reread it. I decided I liked it. Not because it sounded all great and poetic and mysterious, but because it genuinely captured what I felt in that moment.
* * *
Who do I think I am,
Some princess, trapped in a tower,
That I shall be forever
“I have nothing,” I say.
But when I breathe in the dusk,
The glowing moon a sliver in the purple sky,
Then “nothing” feels like lightness.
No troubles, no burdens, just
Still, I yearn. For what?
For you? For love? For that fairy tale wish
Of being chosen by someone I myself would choose?
Why is what’s so easy for others,
so hard for me?
I want to feel you.
I want to feel I am yours.
Hope is but a gauze blown in the wind.
Will you leave me? Will I be alone?
Are my fiercest desires to be held
Just outside my grasp until I learn
To stop caring?
Will I shrivel like a dying rose?
Or drop like the crimson husk of a
pomegranate blossom, flower giving way to
Round, ripening fruit?
Am I waiting or merely wasting
And stillness is the greatest luxury.
In stillness, I am content.
If I wish to love you, I can.
No one can stop me. Not even you.
But I want more.
Stillness and waiting, so intertwined,
That one might be the other.
A breath and a wind.
A heartbeat and a howl.
A prayer. I am here.
I am here waiting.
* * *
The next day, I decided to bring Sarah Kay’s book of poems called No Matter the Wreckage with me to the courthouse. I read it while sitting on the hard bench in the brown-bricked halls, waiting for the bailiff to take us to our room.
My cousin’s girlfriend (his fiancé, now) had given me the book all the way back in 2021, as a birthday present. I had started reading No Matter the Wreckage shortly after receiving it, and I liked the book, I did. But 2021 was the year I went on a reading fast, so I wasn’t really in the mood to read, and thus, I never finished it.
Well, maybe the reading fast wasn’t the only reason. Maybe I sort of envied Sarah Kay. I would read about her experiences and wish I’d had those experiences for myself. Felt I should have had them for myself. Kicked myself for not having them. Also kicked myself for not being able to express the experiences I did have in a way that was poetic and interesting.
As I writer, I have a lot of envy. I am trying to get better about it, though.
But on this Tuesday, I picked the book up again. I read through the love poems and felt a pang for my own perennial singlehood, which never used to bother me, but had been starting to itch up these last few years. One poem, called “Grace” ended with the image of the poet and her boyfriend tucked into a hammock, and that image stuck in my head. I continued reading and surmised a break-up had occurred. In “The Call,” the poet imagines calling an old boyfriend to congratulate him on his engagement to another girl. That poems hurt, I had to say. Imagining how perfectly in love an old flame is with someone else.
Responding to poems, I wrote a poem of my own.
* * *
We Might Be Friends
Been sharing heartbreak with a girl
I only know by the poems she writes.
If I met her, I think we might be friends.
But I would envy her, a bit.
Not because her poems are better than mine (they are)
But because she had the chance to write them at all:
Lying in a hammock, pressed against the boy she loved.
She had that moment, if only fleetingly.
* * *
I was hoping that August 31st would be my last day of jury duty. We’d been in deliberation for over a week. It turned out that it was, but I didn’t know that when I woke up.
What I did know—what I saw on my phone—was that my (much younger) cousin had given birth to her first child, a girl. A video of the infant had been added to the group text. I looked at it and sent my congrats. Then I went to eat breakfast. As I did, I found myself staring at the pomegranate tree in the backyard.
I’m not really a poet, and I don’t typically write poems first thing in the morning. But as a stared at the pomegranate tree and its round, reddening fruit and thought about pregnancy and babies and people going through all the milestones of life that I had either missed out on or opted out of, a poem came to me. It started with an image, but I took a lesson from Sarah Kay and linked that image to a feeling and then to a different feeling and a different image—tying it all into a single poem.
This is what I came up with and it may be my favorite of the bunch.
* * *
Out the window, I see
Huddled in the shade of leaves,
Round pomegranates, scorched red
Like the sunburnt bellies of
Two months ago, when I painted the tree,
The fruits were olive green,
And some still bore the slender forms
Of crimson flowers, clinging to the orbs like
The flowers are gone. I cannot find
Even one upon the tree,
Even one upon the ground.
All that is left is the spot they once hung,
The star-shaped navel of the fruit,
Filled with pollen.
My cousin just gave birth today.
In the video, I see the newborn’s head,
Round, nose big in the center,
Eyes squinty, mouth shut,
My shirt is red, too. Not an orange-toned flush,
But a cool winter berry. The same shirt I wore
On my first day of jury duty. Three weeks, we have sifted
Evidence, turning the same old facts. We do not hope
For a new answer, we hope
Someone will change her mind.
I changed my mind about pomegranates. Years ago,
I asked my dad to plant a tree so I could suck
The tart red juice from the fruit. Then I learned
I did not like the way the seeds stuck in my teeth.
Dad asks me now, “What should we do with the fruit?”
I have no answer.
My mind has drifted to my high school crush,
Saying he had a crush on another girl.
I compare myself to her.
She’s pretty, I think. And normal,
I add with a note of despair.
It is normal to get married and then watch
your belly swell. Normal to tuck your
New baby girl into the crook of your elbow.
Something must be off with my calibrations
That I would prefer to write a poem
About a pomegranate tree than fill my belly
Up with seeds.
* * *
* * *
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed the post, please consider giving it a like or a comment.
I’m not typically a poet, though I do get inspired every now and then. I prefer to write fantasy stories, and if you’re interested in these, please check out my website: rebeccalangstories.com for more information. If you are interesting in writing poems, I do have a post (or two) about “How to Write a Poem About a Weeping Peach Tree” and about “How to Host a Poetry-Writing Excursion”