I am no expert on magic. Yet, I know it can be easily lost—especially under the pressure of drastic change.
Ever since I was young, I’ve been threatened by my family and friends that my optimism and love for this world and the people in it will eventually dry out and erode under the pressure of circumstance. After breaking a leg and a subsequent surgery, I was worried this might finally be what they’ve always warned me about. This might be the time I lose the incandescence that warms my stomach since so much has changed and keeps changing.
Because of this, I am grateful for the many folxs who have turned this worry around with: “At least you have time to write.” And, yes, I do. I’ve been writing and reading. Letting the magic of others draw me into their lives, which has become a reprieve from my own. The first book I finished was Carmen Maria Machado’s collection of dark short stories, Her Body and Other Parties. Reading this hurt. In almost every story, Machado reminded me of all the ways woman are trapped and haunted: mentally, physically, socially, politically, amongst others.
Having spent two weeks in the house, many days spent unable to go outside, this theme bit me. Yet, I savored each of Machado’s words. I’d limit myself to only one short story every night in order to preserve the exploration and self-realization as long as I could. A student showed me the term “benign masochism.” This is a phrase that means we’ll torture ourselves as long as we won’t actually be hurt. And, this is Machado for me. This is every devastating movie I watch that rips my tear ducts open. This is eating too-spicy food but enjoying it. I, we, love pain as long as it isn’t dangerous.
To continue this self-infliction, I’ve been writing prose poems about my childhood, about my mom and brother. My masochistic goal for each of these poems is to make myself cry. I want to ensure vulnerability, and this is the only concrete criteria I could think of. Tears become the main ingredient for these poems’ magic. Each poem is a potion, which should do only one thing: Be so vulnerable it helps the reader see themselves or their lives in a different or better way. Tears are my offering to my reader, the poem an altar. (No matter how far I move away from religion, I find new sacred beds.)
Sometimes I wonder why I’m even telling these stories. Since, now that I’ve started, I can’t stop. But, like many things in life, the feeling of importance is there even though the words haven’t settled. As long as I’m able to pull these stories out and shape them into words, I don’t care. The pain feels good. The pain is real and unreal. The pain is old pain that reopens but is no longer dangerous. Sometimes, the pain is so overwhelming it feels newly dangerous, which outweighs any ache my post-surgical nerves can conjure.
As I’m writing this, I realize I’m writing these poems to understand myself better. The use of “the reader” earlier was a reluctance to reflect. A move away from vulnerability. An unwillingness to flay myself raw. All of which is the key to magic. All of which can be done from a bedroom with a casted leg balanced on a tower of pillows. All of which can be done in the hazy state of Percocet.