An Afternoon With Canals

I find a quiet nook in the sun near a bed of roses and let the ink sink into an ugly puddle on the page. We’d just been sitting in class, analyzing an essay set in Amsterdam, and I had felt that irritating pulse beginning to push on my tear ducts. All the sudden it is imperative that I find somewhere secluded so I can sit down and cry. Anywhere on campus will do. Never mind the fact that my eyeliner and mascara will stream down my face. There is too much happening in my head. Too many thoughts. Too many ideas. Too many words floating in and out so quickly I can’t possibly reach them in time to put them to paper. IT’S TOO MUCH. I can’t breathe. Or am I breathing too heavily? I can’t even tell. All I know is that I have to get the words out – it is not a good feeling. I don’t feel poetic, or at the very least creative. I feel something stuck in my stomach that isn’t meant to be there and I don’t know how I am supposed to get it out unless I write it down.

I turn the corner and see a bird flying repeatedly into a wall. I don’t know what kind of bird. A small bird. A small grey bird, and it has cornered itself. I pause, long enough to recognize I can’t help the damn thing without getting pooped on or pecked at. It’s the shortest 30 seconds on the planet. I laugh to myself. Is this what writing is going to be like for me? Having drought after drought until suddenly I get “struck by lightning,” six times in a row?

I’m forever cornering myself. Desperately wanting to fly towards the sun but continuously getting stuck, running into the wall thanks to my own stubborn stupidity. Icarus made it farther than I have. But I wouldn’t pretend that is a compliment to my abilities. I say that acting gives me the chance to be vulnerable, but the reality is that I leave the stage thirsty. I’m thirsty, the stage is thirsty, the audience is thirsty. I write and leave myself thirsty. I leave my journals dry on the shelf. Too scared to sing, so the words stuck in my head and throat are left unsaid. If I can’t say the words aloud so they have at least one chance to carry their full weight, then should I bother writing them at all…?

(How do I write so you know that I’m screaming?)

I don’t cry for Amsterdam.
I don’t cry for the classroom that’s half empty.
I don’t even cry for the bird.
It’s for me.

I’m crying for myself. For needing to look for somewhere to cry in private. For being terrified that another might see. Scared for another to know. For my hopeless heart. For desperately wanting the ability to string words together so that they might read like lost poetry. I’ve never cried over a broken heart, save my own.
And that was only because I felt like I didn’t have the skill to describe it.


This entry is a short piece of writing I did for my writing class in the spring. This was one that I wasn’t ready to share quite yet. I wanted to let it sit for a moment. I wrote semi-recently about a panic attack I had, so here is another. The essay referenced is called Afternoon with Canals by Paul Lisicky, and its very good. He has a way of writing so that he doesn’t give you all the details promptly, they’re hinted at. The color of the scenery tells you the time. The reference to the lights tell you where they are. He doesn’t give you the story, he makes you work for it a little. And that was something that I greatly admired and wanted to find a way to emulate. A story that doesn’t give you all the details, but leaves you with an understanding.

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