This coming month, April 2022, I am planning to participate in National Poetry Writing Month, and I will be writing a poem a day in response to prompts posted online. This is my first time participating and I am excited for the challenge. I will update this post with my daily poems.
*The italicized text gives the context and prompt for each day
DAY 0: Emily Dickinson Inspired Poem with Humor/Irony
To be in a room full of people yet still alone – The warm closeness coexists with frigid emotional distance.
DAY 1: A Prose Poem that is a story about the body
CW: Eating Disorders/Body Image
Last year, when I saw her approach me, I examined the way her flesh bulged above her hips, the way her breasts draped over her ribcage like the comforter over the side of my bed. “Moti ho gayi. Khao mat,” I commanded, and she complied until she was back home at night after all her friends had left, and without the judgmental eyes looming over her, she headed right for the stash of protein bars and sugar-infused cereal, and she sat in a corner on the tiles of the bathroom floor and devoured bite after bite until it was time to throw the empty boxes into the recycle chute, and she cried and cried until the veins bulged in her eyes like raisins, and the salt-water stained her smooth, flushed cheeks, and I told her “Nikaalo.” I stared at the disgusting bulges on her skin, the fibrous white marks on her arms, thighs, belly, under her armpits until the nausea was too much for me to take, and she retched over the toilet and coughed until the smell was no longer bearable, and there was nothing left in her throat but stomach acid. Then, she glanced at me with eyes glistening and fresh tears streaming down her cheeks, and I nodded approvingly, and she rinsed and repeated, day after day. But this year, when we meet, I notice, instead, the glint of curiosity in her eye and the dimple in her right cheek and the cascade of shiny waves of her mermaid hair flowing down past her hips, her strong legs that allow her to run and her sturdy shoulders that allow her to bend the water she swims through, and the soft curves that could beget a new life if she so chose. I could have zeroed in on the bulges or the stretch marks, but this year, I am learning to be more kind.
DAY 2: Poem based on the definition of the word funny: FUNN-Y: “The -Y at the end of FUNNY is an old English suffix meaning full of or having the qualities of.”
After it happened, I stopped laughing. I still went through the motions of opening my mouth and deliberately letting out sounds that mimicked the involuntary expressions of joy from people around me, but the sound never reached my eyes.
I used to tell jokes, loads of them, just for fun, simply to make others around me laugh, to see the crinkles in the corners of their eyes and feel the warmth that I had spread to them. But I stopped telling jokes and stopped receiving them – they bounced off my ears like light hitting a mirror because the world no longer felt like a fun place. Because I didn’t see the purpose of fun anymore.
When she asked me how things had changed after increasing the dose of my medication, at first, I hesitated. I knew there was a change, a new spring in my step, a new air of lightheartedness, and less time spent wallowing in my own tears, but when I finally found the words to described the change, it came down to simply this: “The pills’ve made me funny again.”
DAY 3: An Attempt at a Glossa: A Poem that responds to another poem
This poem uses each line in another poem as the last line of the stanza. This poem I wrote is in response to the following lines in the lyrics of the song “We’ll Never Have Sex” by Leith Ross:
You look perfect, you look different
I don’t wonder about your indifference
If I said you could never touch me
You’d come over and say I looked lovely
Day after day, I listen
As you compare yourself to other women
You don’t think you measure up to their standards
But I think you’re enough because you are you
You look perfect, you look different.
You’re there for me through thick and thin
When you say you’ll be there, you’ll be there
Your affection for me is steady, safe
When you’re busy, you tell me you’ll be a while
I don’t wait by the phone; I know you’ll be back
I don’t worry about your indifference.
We can sit in silence devoid of tense awkwardness
Between moments of closeness, we also carve out space
Before lovers, our friendship was the foundation
And I don’t doubt that you would stay
If I said you could never touch me.
You are the standard and I refuse to compromise
Because I know it’s what I deserve
So for now, I wait and rejoice in solitude,
Learning to self soothe, so that when the time comes,
If I ever manage to want you without needing you,
You’d come over and say I looked lovely.
DAY 4: A Poem in the Form of Poetry Writing Prompts
- Go into the kitchen and turn the gas on the stove.
- Put out a frying pan and drizzle some olive oil.
- Finely chop a clove of garlic.
- When the pan is hot, drop the minced garlic into the sizzling oil.
- Write a poem about the sounds and smells that fill the room.
- Write about how your senses and emotions process the anticipation of an unrealized meal.
DAY 5: A Poem About A Mythical Creature Doing Something Unusual or Unexpected
Today, she floats deeper in the sea, watching her sisters from a distance as they lure men from the ships to the water with their irresistible, saccharine melodies. She swishes her tail back and forth, glistening eyes bobbing up and down above the water as she holds herself in place. She finds a pocket of warmth in the endless expanse of saltwater, cups her hands and leads it to her mouth, tilting her chin up as the water floods her dry mouth. She lets out a stream of gargles, before spitting it back into the ocean, expelling the virus that causes her throat to form a coat of mucus and makes her voice so hoarse that no sailor would ever come near her. She rinses and repeats for as many days as it takes for the raspiness to escape her tunes, and then she can return to her sisters, COVID-19 antibodies in tow.
DAY 6: Acrostic Poem with the First Words of Each Line is Part of a Phrase
IT’LL be a miracle if I ever
HAPPEN to find the love of my life
WHEN the era of meet-cutes seems over. Today, as an adult, if
YOU want to find love, especially as a queer person, you have to go on apps or at
LEAST make a conscious effort to leave the house if you
EXPECT to meet single and available, interested and interesting people, but
IT can be exhausting and hard, especially during a global pandemic that oscillates between complete and partial lockdowns.
DAY 7: A Poem That Argues Against a Common Phrase
“If they wanted to, they would.”
Sometimes, I want to,
But I’m too tired to get out of bed,
I’m too busy with responsibilities I can’t avoid,
I’m too bogged down with existential dread,
I’m barely able to remember to eat,
I’m worried that maybe you don’t want to,
That I’m burdening you with my presence,
That you’re only keeping the pretense of our connection
Because you’re afraid to say “no.”
DAY 8: A Poem About My Alter Ego
My alter-ego is a leader,
Someone who isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind,
Not concerning herself with being perceived as kind,
Someone who is social and eloquent and loud,
Someone who doesn’t hesitate to let you know they’re proud.
I AM HERE, she declares as she enters the room.
Heads turn and the voices of others drown out.
She is assertive, vivacious, and the life of the party.
Her energy commands you as if to say: ATTENTION ON ME.
DAY 9: An Attempt at a Nonet
Nothing made me realize my own growth
more than arriving face-to-face
with just what I used to crave
but instead of yearning,
choosing to turn
DAY 10: A Love Poem
Platonic love is the true romance
ignored by poets and movies,
because it’s much more exciting to describe a rush
than a slow-growing fondness,
much easier to describe the intensity of a crush,
the spike of anticipation of all they could be,
rather than the stable, even boring familiarity that blooms over years
of sitting together and doing nothing.
But there is something so beautiful and pure
about genuine platonic friendship and its characteristic comfort;
your friends, who have nothing to offer,
not the spike of adrenaline, not sex, not exclusivity,
but just the space to be authentic, messy, and untethered
to the anxiety, uncertainty, and inherent ephemerality
of attraction and romantic love.
DAY 11: A Poem About Something Large
My dog weighs just under twenty pounds,
The smallest member of my family.
When I first picked her up from the shelter,
she was just four pounds and quieter than pindrops,
and yet, when I carried her into a coffee shop,
a man approached me and said,
“That’s a tiny dog, but she has a BIG heart.”
And over the past seven years, time and time again,
living with little Lily has confirmed
the way she bounces to the door when I come home,
even abandoning treats in favor of a greeting,
the way she curls next to the bathroom door until I come out,
or the way she senses my sadness and licks my tears away,
nothing is as unquantifiably large and limitless
as the patience, loyalty, and pure love of a dog.
DAY 12: A Poem About Something Small
The smallest atom on the periodic table,
One proton, one electron, no neutrons.
Add one neutron to get deuterium,
and add two to get tritium,
both isotopes of hydrogen itself.
Adding or taking electrons gives a charged form of hydrogen,
and adding or taking neurons changes the mass.
Only adding protons changes the identity of Hydrogen,
and adding one yields Helium.
Hydrogen is present in many compounds,
including water, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
So strange to think something so small
makes up the glue that binds
everything as we know it.
DAY 13: A Poem About Optimism
I think the key to optimism,
contrary to what one might assume,
is not to have faith that everything will go according to plan,
for the expectations built to the point of distance from reality are often the root of our pain as they crash down.
Rather, the key to optimism is the conviction
that whatever does happen,
regardless of whether or not it is what we envisioned,
there is something to be gained from it.
Thus, one is not tethered to any unreliable, everchanging circumstances,
but rather the conviction that whatever our circumstances are,
they are nothing beyond our capacity to either endure or change.
DAY 14: A Poem About the Opening Scene of the Movie of Your Life
The opening scene of the movie of my life
starts with a pan above the 5-freeway in La Jolla,
with the vibrant turquoise and white freeway signs showing the exit,
La Jolla Village Dr,
and on the bridge running across, above the freeway, reads:
University of California San Diego.
My alma mater, a few hundred miles and hours from where I was born,
it was here that my life began, along with the grieving process
of over twenty years spent pretending to be someone else.
DAY 15: A Poem About Something You Have Absolutely No Interest In
A seemingly innocent exchange begins
a few hours into the process of downloading a dating app,
uploading the usual collection of my most flattering five photos,
setting my preferences to “interested in women” and swiping.
The matches start to come in
and I feel a hit of validation at the thought
that these women I find aesthetically pleasing upon first glance
are interested in starting a conversation with me too.
“Hi, gorgeous,” a message pops in my inbox,
followed by a string of heart-eyed and fire emojis.
But after a few innocuous exchanges,
the inevitable surfaces:
“My boyfriend and I are looking for a third. Are you down to play with us?”
The high from the validation drops like the steepest waterfall,
and I resist the urge to reply
“There is absolutely nothing that interests me less.”
To be clear, I’m not opposed to something casual,
Something with a man or even polyamory.
What ruffles my feathers is the disrespect,
the assumption that my sexuality alone
determines how willing I am to lend my body
for the consumption of a man and a woman,
roots of heteronormative society’s ideal nuclear family,
simply to be discarded when they no longer have any use for it.
DAY 16: An Attempt at a Curtal Sonnet
I long to live a day without worry
A day devoid of deadlines approaching
A day where all the tasks are completed
An hour, a minute, a second, just one,
Where I don’t have to answer anyone.
I long to clear my list of tasks today,
But as the clock approaches the PMs,
The list seems to only grow even longer,
To-Do’s swirling around, vortices in my head,
Haunting me, even when I go off to bed,
For now, it seems endless.
DAY 17: A Poem That Is A Stream of Consciousness Starting With Dogs
Lily is my best friend in the whole wide world,
I might go as far as to say the best dog in the whole wide world,
But some might, understandably, protest that I’m biased.
She is a dog, but she behaves like a cat;
Rather than clinging to me, her attachment is more subtle,
She often protests when I attempt to give her a cuddle,
And yet she never strays far from my side.
There are times when she gets in a playful mood
And her eyes have a laser focus as she zeros in
At the ball, the bone, the toy, or the treat,
And she completes any task you throw at her,
Propelling herself forward or upward, her legs four coiled springs just released,
Hurling her long body in the direction of the target without a second thought.
Sometimes, I wonder if there is something to be learned
From this laser focus on an object,
Whether my unending questions of What? Why? How? hinder my progress,
If people who are motivated to continue in the rat race of capitalism
Simply by the anticipation of the carrot it dangles,
Growing further and further away as you approach,
Just as zero seems to grow further away each time you divide epsilon,
The endpoint is merely a concept, but not a tangible, achievable reality.
But perhaps it is easier to deal with the strife of chasing
Than the agony of questioning whether there is anything to chase.
DAY 18: Five Answers to the Same Question
I’ve always wanted to go the academic route, and nothing has changed.
The market sucks right now, so I might settle for any teaching position I get.
I’m actually looking at scientific illustration or intersections of science and art.
I’m open to literally anything.
Do you seriously think between the pandemic and climate change, our society is even going to survive the next few years?
DAY 19: A Poem That Starts With a Command
Please don’t talk to me:
I saw you
and I know you saw me
and I know you saw me see you
but we haven’t spoken in over a year
and even when circumstances brought us
in close proximity in the past,
we were never close,
never exchanging anything beyond
I have things to do
and places to be
and you likely do too (though I wouldn’t know),
so please, spare me the emotional energy
from a fake “how are you?”
and a false promise to “catch up”
on a friendship
that never even crossed the start line.
DAY 20: A Poem That Anthropomorphizes Some Kind of Food
Chips are that food that I don’t particularly crave;
Clearly they aren’t quite the paragon of health,
But even the taste isn’t one that particularly entices me,
And when offered the choice between chips and crackers, my answer is clear.
But when there is a plate of chips sitting on a table in my vicinity,
Or a general bag of chips thrown in an event’s complimentary mealbox,
I will inevitably chase chip after chip with another chip down my throat,
Devouring every last morsel.
If chips had the ability to scroll through therapy infographics on Instagram,
If they came across some overused misattributed spiritual quote such as
“Never allow yourself to prioritize someone who treats you like an option,”
I imagine any self-respecting bag of chips
would make the executive decision
To stop allowing themselves to be consumed
By someone who only chooses them out of boredom.
DAY 21: A Poem that asks you to recall someone you were once close to but no longer in touch with, a job you once had but no longer do, and a piece of art that is stuck with you over time, ending with an answerable question.
Sometimes, I wonder if you ever think of me, if you dare to google my name and see all I’ve done since that Tuesday afternoon in March 2013 – how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown, but then I remember that if you cared, you would have reached out. You would have never let me go, You would have never abandoned me without a word after telling me, unsolicited, that I could tell you anytime I needed support when I felt suicidal, that I could count on you. That we were like family.
That monotonous, painful summer of 2013, I drove to my 9-5 babysitting job, choosing surface streets over freeways because I’d just gotten my license, stopping at every traffic light along Moorpark Street, turning a twenty-minute commute into an hour, with nothing to fill my emptiness but the scorching sun and the blaring ratio, 104.3.
You didn’t have to cut me off.
You treat me like a stranger.
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know.
The lyrics of Gotye’s Somebody that I Used to Know stuck in my mind like a tough stain on a white shirt, They pounded on my brain, forcing me to acknowledge the feelings I didn’t want to accept.
Gotye was likely singing about a messy breakup with a girlfriend, and you weren’t my girlfriend…and maybe that’s why you felt justified in leaving me without the closure that a romantic breakup would provide. I can acknowledge that there are reasons that I’ll never understand, why you chose to cut me off despite our close relationship – you have every right to, and you don’t owe me any explanation. But as someone who was my best friend, my sole confidante, my shoulder, my trusted listening ear – and also, I thought, an open book about your own fears and insecurities – I know with time and distance, after high school, our bond wouldn’t be the same, wouldn’t be as strong, but I never expected it to end up like this, leaving me reflecting on the past three years, ruminating on every word I said, wondering exactly what mistake I made that made you change your mind about how “special” I was to you.
At the age of eighteen, you taught me everything I knew about love, friendship, acceptance, and pain, both by what you said and what you didn’t say. The lessons you told me about resilience and bouncing back from mistakes, about not expecting myself to be infallible, but using those mistakes as a springboard for growth – I had to apply those very lessons to the pain and shame I felt of losing you at a time I most needed the friend that you promised you’d be. I blamed myself that the one person I’d poured out my heart and soul and vulnerabilities to – and you assured me that I wasn’t “dumping” too much – was the only one who couldn’t bear my presence enough to tell me why you couldn’t talk to me. It made me question whether there was something wrong with me, if all my other friends would leave the same abrupt way you did. Scared to trust, scared to open my heart to someone new in fears that I was too high maintenance, too needy, too clingy, that my mental illness would scare them off – that they would go from being just a text away to blocking me on all social media in just a couple days with no explanation.
At one point, I’d have been dying to know what you’d think of me now that I’ve grown, now that I’ve found the will to live and I don’t need you anymore, whether you’d want to be friends again. But as I’ve taken the role of being the confidante, the shoulder, the friend to many others who depended on me, I realized that what we had was never true friendship or love, because I would never treat someone I love that way. I’ve realized that boundaries can be kind and that it’s better to be honest about any limitations in my ability to provide support, to learn to say “no” than to say “yes” to someone who depends on me just to avoid the discomfort of telling something that they might not want to hear. Ultimately, the lack of respect and communication hurts more than a loving “no.”
I’ve learned that closure can never come from the same person who made me seek it; it has to come from myself. And for me, closure came from realizing that I didn’t need closure from you to go on.
So I don’t care whether you google my name, whether you’d be proud of the person I am now. I’ve mustered up the courage to forgive myself, and to open my heart again to new friendships, knowing that there’s no way to guarantee that they’ll last, but choosing to risk it anyways.
Is there any way to avoid pain, loss, and disappointment? Will I continue the pattern of subconsciously seeking out friends and partners that remind me of you, that remind me of my mother, just to relive the trauma of being emotionally abandoned by someone I trust and depend on and hoping for a different outcome? I can never know for sure, but what I do know is that I used to seek people like you, to fill the void in my heart that the loss of our friendship left, and now I’m making an honest effort to seek people more like me. Because I know that genuine friendship is worth the risk. And whether or not you’d be proud of me, for that, I’m proud of myself.
DAY 22: A Poem that uses repetition
When I was young, I used to question everything.
Every phrase uttered by my mom, dad, grandma, or aunt was followed by “How come?”
“How Come?” was so notorious that my aunt donned me with the nickname “Ms. How Come.”
For every “How Come?”, my mom seemed to have an answer – a deceptively simple one.
I thought the path to adulthood would be like the driving test at Legoland- linear, with clear instructions, and easily transferable knowledge from parent to child.
I carried “Ms. How Come” to my high school Chemistry class, questioning everything we learned until my teacher admitted that once we got to college, we’d learn that most of what we learned was a lie anyway.
“They’re just lies to make things simple enough to learn at this stage,” she explained.
In college, I first learned the phrase “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”
Could it be that all I’d been taught in school was just a model, just an attempt to make sense of things beyond comprehension? A desperate search for patterns within utter chaos?
As an adult, I’ve realized that the distinction between childhood and adulthood is yet another useful lie to make things simple – while the official cutoff is eighteen years from birth, the real boundary is murky, fuzzy, and variable.
As adults, we eventually come to accept things as they come to us, settling into an easy familiarity and answering children’s questions with deceptively simple explanations.
But it’s not clear whether adults are closer to knowing “the truth.”
Sometimes, finding “the truth” requires questioning the useful lies we’ve been told to keep things simple, and doing so requires the wisdom to ask “How come?”
DAY 23: A Short and Snappy Poem
to call others
our friends and family
seemingly sucked into
cults and MLMs,
failing to recognize
how we were so
that seeing the
that tether us
back to us:
groupthink and hierarchical corporate structures,
and we invent
that we tack onto others
and not to ourselves.
DAY 24: A Poem with a “Hard-Boiled Simile”
When I started taking antidepressants,
I learned I couldn’t drink,
which for some might feel like a death sentence,
but for me, it was an excuse not to pretend to enjoy
downing clear liquids
that taste like the smell of nail polish remover.
DAY 25: A Poem in which a woman appears who represents or reflects the area in which you live
Every day I spend
shut up in my apartment
telling myself I will work
and failing to do so,
not only for not doing the work
but also for not taking a conscious, guiltless break.
The woman of the waves comes to visit me in my dreams,
Blowing from the Pacific,
over the sand of the beach,
up the flimsy, sandy cliffs,
through the park and the grass patches soaked in dog urine,
across Main Street,
past the British gift shop,
through First, Second, and Third Street Promenade,
and past the library,
all the way up to my patio glass window.
She knocks on the glass,
the cold of the night spreading remnants of air that fade in seconds.
“You forgot to visit me,” she mouths through the glass.
Another day and night of my eighteen-month lease passes
without taking advantage of my proximity to the beach.
DAY 26: A Poem about an Epic/Extended/Homeric Simile
My mind is like a planet,
Orbiting around the sun,
Only there are many suns competing for the same planet,
And the planet jumps from sun to sun,
From orbit to orbit,
Sometimes staying longer and sometimes making a quick transition,
Each time returning to the same, familiar, repetitive path around each sun,
Unable to break free from the cycles
Of cycling around a center outside itself.
DAY 27: An Attempt at a Duplex
The scariest thing to learn
Is that you are the only one you can rely on.
On days, someone might let an ear,
For years, you might share space with another.
Another day might come when that connection ends,
And you learn to reclaim the space as yours.
Your life, your body, your mind, your memories,
You might share them with others, but they’ll always be yours alone.
Alone is how you’ll spend most of your life,
Even when you live with others, there will be moments of distance.
Distance from some might drive you closer to others,
And one day, you learn that there was never “the one.”
One person will never truly fulfill you in every way, and that, for me, is
The scariest thing to learn.
DAY 28: A Concrete Poem
like pears because
all the particles of liquid
are rushing to reach the center
of gravity, but they can’t all be at
the same place at the same time, and
and there are intermolecular forces th-
at bind the molecules to one another,
forming a smooth surface, but there
are a few that fall behind, like strag-
glers in a race, forming the cone-
like protrusion on top.
DAY 29: A Poem about a Gift and a Curse
is both a gift
and a curse.
Sensitivity allows you
to see past people’s smiles,
to ask them,
“How are you, really?”
To actually care about the answer.
It allows you to be attentive
to the most minute of details,
To craft the most compelling songs,
to compose the most vibrant paintings,
by capturing the essence of human emotion.
Sensitivity also makes you vulnerable
to the most disproportionate anxiety,
rendering you reactive
upon detecting the most minute change in tone,
the most subtle shift in energy,
the quietest cry for help.
Sensitivity can drain you,
and the only thing that helps
is setting boundaries,
while taking care that they don’t turn into impenetrable walls,
preventing you from receiving the very information
that is the source of your energy.
DAY 30: At Attempt at a Cento: A Poem made up of lines taken from other poems
Today I don’t feel like doing anything,
My room is a tank, I’m a fish
The muscles in our legs aren’t used to all the walking
I’m laying on the floor
All day, staring at the ceiling, making
friends with the shadows on my wall.
Feels like I’m buried yet I’m still alive.
Some kind of madness swallowing me whole.
Sometimes I want to disappear.
Hold on, feeling like I’m heading for a breakdown.
Tomorrow might be good for something
Because there’s beauty in the breakdown.
The lines in this poem are taken from song lyrics in The Lazy Song (Bruno Mars), Strangemirror (Shyamala), Waste (Foster the People), affection (BETWEEN FRIENDS), If I Ever Feel Better (Phoenix), Unwell (Matchbox Twenty), Madness (Muse), Houdini (Foster the People) and Let Go (Frou Frou).
And that’s a wrap for NaPoWriMo 2022! I’m glad I was able to finish the challenge and respond to all 30 prompts on time (though it took much longer for me to type them up here). One thing I found myself having trouble with at first was trying to water down my individual experiences to make my work more relatable for those who may or may not know me or share my identities, but I think I ended up preserving at least some of my individual experiences, and I will continue to unlearn this as I find my own voice! I also would like to get better at meter and writing poetry through more imagery rather than writing ideas literally, but I think this was a good start and I’m glad I tried this!