“I honestly just don’t get it Matthew,” my English teacher sighed. She settled further into
her chair and took in my complete lack of concern for this intervention. “You are such a talented
student and I love hearing how you engage in class. I mean it. I love the way you get involved
and ask questions.”
“Here it comes,” I thought to myself. “They all say it.”
“What is it going to take to make you successful in this class?”
She did it. She dropped the bomb. They all do it, every single year. I can direct this whole
conversation. I could make a movie about it and it would be there. All of it spot on. The only
thing is, I could never write about it. I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t even put the effort into it. If I
was bored in class the day we were working on it then I would throw together a primitive outline
and then sit and stare at this emaciated piece of scribble. I would not even try CPR on my
writing. It was gone. My paper’s lips are blue and there is no glint of light in those eyes; the
washed out haze of lifeless skin is permeating.
I don’t understand it to be honest. I love writing. I don’t even think I am that bad at it. At
this teenage point in my life, I just can’t bring myself to care. I want to rebel. I want to fight the
system. I don’t even know what the system is or how it works, but I hate it. There is nothing
about it that can convince me that it is good. You will be receiving no grand thesis from me with
regard to US History, the solar system, or how I can relate to Holden Caulfield. I refuse to
produce. The only thing that will make me smear blue and black on the outside of my left palm
is poetry; angsty, raw, and unapologetic poetry. I write for no one.
I look up from my faded black jeans after gazing at the sunlight reflecting off my tired old
wallet chain. I realize that I am easily distracted by metal and happen to be accessorized by a lot
“I don’t know.”
That’s all you get from me lady. I don’t have to explain myself to you. You are caught in this
system and you can’t even see that all of this homework is pointless. I wish you would just get
frustrated and give up so we can both go on with our lives. I want to go home now. You wouldn’t
even understand anyway. Poetry is the only form of writing that is honest. It bleeds onto the
paper and cuts deep into the mountain of lies that people tell. I write poetry to scream at the
world because it is not listening. The world is preoccupied by the system and you are in it as well.
This is my writing and you are not granted to partake.
Fast forward to the past. The past is what I have discovered on the dawn of my twenties.
The past has revealed the future to me. This light is revealed in a writer-prophet of culture, Jack
Kerouac. Be free. Write, but don’t write while you’re doing it. This man knew what I was trying
to say all these years. I felt it in my joints. I could sense myself settling into beat poetry. This was
where my voice lay. I remember the tingling as the hairs stood up and the skin on my
arms turned into a gravel driveway. He showed me Ginsberg. He showed me Ginsberg.
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”
This grizzled and disheveled mystic of a poet was the key to my voice. He would mumble
onto the page in his Jewish tongue and it would come out universal. If you could not feel the
words he was saying, you were dead. He changed me. More importantly, he changed my writing.
He had the house-key dangling around his neck like a young boy walking home from school. This
was his power. He slumped onto the stoop of my mind and fumbled the key into the lock. Click. I
understood what I was trying to say as a kid. My writing was free now. I was not trampled by the
grandiose tensions of adolescence. I was liberated and he was my liberator.
I was ecstatic.
However, I could still not write a paper to save my life. I didn’t even bother
with college at this point, because I still hadn’t even graduated high school. My girlfriend at the
time had become my English teacher. I could hear that voice whenever she spoke to me about
“the issue”. I looked at her across the kitchen, across the vastness between us.
“What is it going to take to make you successful?”
That’s probably not even what she said, but that is what I heard. I’m sure it was something
about how I need to graduate high school if I ever plan on going to college. This and how was I
supposed to take care of us without and education and a career, ect., ect.? I knew there were
many research papers and tests and quizzes in my near future. I needed to get out, maybe go for a
walk and grab a coffee and think all of this over. The image of school was daunting in my
mind. There would be so many papers. Why couldn’t I just write free-verse? Hell, I would even
write classical haiku for them if that’s what they wanted. Why papers? Why did they need such
dictation and logic spewing muck?
I grabbed my copy of “Collected Poems” and headed out to the cafe. This was the only
thing that made sense to me. This was my voice and I refused to be a politician with my writing.
It was my only outlet and I didn’t want to lie to it. I wanted to be free to write until my hand
ached and then I would read Ginsberg or Whitman or Burroughs; anything but US History, or
the solar system, or how I related to Holden Caulfield.