(From Dec. 13, 2018)
There is a cozy ambiguity in words like love, pain, and vulnerable. We wear them out like an oversized sweater, content to be frumpy and featureless in order to stay swaddled in the familiar. People can see just enough of us – our faces and fingertips the only flesh exposed to air and eyes – for us to feel understood and to think they understand. And they do, in a way. They wear sweaters too.
But I can hardly see myself underneath all of that fabric. And I am ill-defined when I wear words like “love” and curl up in the assumption that others know precisely what I mean by it. I don’t always know precisely what I mean by it.
So, I tug at the sleeves of “love” and “pain” and “vulnerable” and try to write poetry. I pull the words up over my stomach and past my chest to get to what’s underneath. I get my head stuck in the neck hole, stumbling and struggling with the ocean of language around my head. I finally strip those ragged, rippling yards of cliche away, and I am naked. Perhaps not understood, but definitely seen – my outer boundaries, what is flesh and what is put upon. I am a canvas uncovered, and the stories of my life are on display in every curve, divot, spot, and scar painted on and sculpted in my skin. There’s a lot to study there: birthmarks I didn’t know I had, bruises of unknown origin, Funderburgian and Watsonian leitmotifs found in the shapes of my hands and nose….
But I can’t be naked all the time. More often than not, it’s inappropriate, unapproachable, and it’s simply too cold outside. Exposure is exhausting. So I put a sweater back on, covering up my unadulterated details. But I choose my outfit more carefully this time, wearing phrases more fitting to my form and present company. Sometimes an old, oversized sweater like the word “love” is just the right attire.