Alright then, Rabi. I’ll see your four pieces of (debatably) bad teenage poetry and – against my better judgment – raise you my (less-debateably) bad teenage poetry website preserved in all of its framed glory, directly imported from Geocities.
Behold: Synonyms for Damage. Even the name is bad teenage poetry!
Honestly, I only reinstated it for the novelty of having it there – I wouldn’t encourage you to surf through it, as I will share the chief passages of note below.
So much of it is completely terrible and formless that I can’t even justify sharing it for this exercise, so I’ll stick to things I can at least offer an excuse for writing.
Oldest to newest, then, shall we?
First, one older than that site: “Without You I Cry” was actually both my first poem and first song, written in my freshmen year of high school.
As words on a page it comes out a little trite, but with the addition of Gina’s simple and bluesy accompaniment as context it holds exactly the tone I originally meant for it.
Sadly, I don’t have any recordings of it as an example. It’s presented here with /s in lieu of over-abundant teenage linebreaks.
Without You I Cry
i scream so silent/ i cry so dry/ i wish on a star/ that’s not in the sky/ i’m so happy when I frown/ and for fish who tend to drown/ in water so hot it’s cold//
and you aren’t like putty/ in my hands/ with which I can mold//
so numb until you feel/ it’s not all quite for real/ and it’ll do you no much good/ and i’ll still cry so dry/ and wish not to the sky/ and you’ll never be with me//
i can’t control you/ and I can’t console you/ so what use can you be?/ you’re so independent-needy/ and unscathed-bleedy/ emotional and otherwise…//
we’re not meant for each other/ i’m more like your brother/ so with you I’ll never be/
so i’ll wish my last wish/ say goodbye to the fish/ and drown into the sea…//
Now, to the “Old” section, which covers sophomore and some of junior year.
At the time I was enamored with writing poetry that was smarmily self-aware – juxtaposing self-mocking teenaged angst with inane punchlines – mostly to drive my English teacher crazy.
This one is about being dragged to Burlington Coat Factory by my mother to try on winter coats – probably my most dreaded retail excursion of any given year.
I wish I had stuck the ending a little better – it’s not as hilariously deadpan as the ends of the prior two stanzas.
Nylon Monsters of Death Live Near the Mall
By you, and your words and opinions
Staring at me with wordless, eyeless, lifeless glares
Hundreds of them, worth millions to the world
To me they are nothing
To me they are simply torpid things, floating inches above the ground, motionless
And they’re in my size
Creeping closer, one by one
Endlessly parading past me,
A showcase of toxic neon colors
They fit just right
They drag me to the floor with their unbearable warmth
And low, low bargain prices
Look, there’s one for me
Wrap it around me
It sucks me in… swallows me whole
Now just my head awkwardly juts from its angry maw
But before it digests me, metal teeth unclench, and I shed the horrible thing from me like so much dead skin
I am free.
Here we move to the “Inbetween” category of the site covering junior and the beginning of senior year. This is where I begin to get comfortable enough with poetry to unleash teenaged angst completely free of self-awareness and -mocking, complete with random indentation and pointedly artistic line breaks.
Rather than give you the worst of this bunch, I’ll provide the one that has endured the most, which could have easily carried the subtitle “By the way, have you noticed yet that I am an anorexic? Let me list all of my body-dysmorphic symptoms for you.”
If They Were Wings
“shoulder-blades like wingsprouts” like i can fly away
stomach like canvas drawn out taut and plain
arms’d seem like branches if they’d reach to heaven
but ribs clench like claws wrapped tight so i’ll stay
legs fall like tree trunks to feet flat like plains
calves give to ankles rounded and pained
hips slide to knees like curves on a barnside
but waist’s slowly shrinking to sizes like mate
if only they were wingsprouts i’d float from the ground
if i had claws inside me they’d let demons out
if arms were like branches they’d cry in the wind
if stomach was canvas white’d get painted in
form like a ghost without any name
lacking from substance pale and unchanged
truths fall like shadows here then all gone
body like nothing
bodies all wrong
watch me turn and see my heart pass by
At this point I added a section to the site called “Scrawlings” to house dozens of unfinished snippets organized by date, extending from junior year through the start of college.
In retrospect it’s intriguing how many of them wound up as pieces of songs, either verbatim or just in theme.
This one, puzzlingly, stayed untouched.
i feel like inside my heart
the light switch
has been turned off but i guess
that’s what i get for giving
you the key without telling
you exactly what you were
This one seems to be finished, but I suppose it didn’t pass muster enough to warrant a title.
looking around i’m in the ruins
papers strewn down on the floor
guitar up against the wall
the lock turned on the door
i’m just trying to protect myself
no more caution to the wind
out there people rise and fall
and i’m just trying not to
empty glasses from the kitchen
books lined up crooked on the shelf
my head in my hands and
the company of myself
if i let myself out
i’d would not know what to do
and staying in here
i’m learning nothing new
isn’t it time for an open door
time for a change
cause i can’t take it anymore
locked in my cage
I inadvertently cribbed this one in a few different songs half-a-decade later:
you’ve been running away from me for months now
is it my stability that bothers you so much
do you like it now out there in your smoke filled rooms
is life better with a flaming midas touch
i asked you how you’ve been and you tell me of adventures
is your life just a battle with losing out of the picture
why can’t you believe that i have been there too
do you know how it felt when i was losing you
Appropriately, by the time we reach the “New” and “Newer” sections (covering the latter half of my senior year) I had almost entirely eschewed actual poetry – probably since all of the self-hate and drama were now being preserved especially for actual rock songs.
Instead, I stuck with shapeless blocks of non-lyrics and semi-rhythmic tone poems. Happily, I was incredibly prolific here, so there is lots to mock.
(It might be worth mentioning that this entire period is in some way or another connected to a single girl and our shared obsession with Tori Amos.)
Possibly the worst one I’ll share in this entire post.
Blood In the Desert
hippy dreamboat pacifist bastard
or maybe just my aspiration
but who needs to give peace a chance
when i can rip into you with the flip of a tongue
and you can stand and bleed it out
and you can stand to lose some
or just one. Funny how pacifist bastards cry
over all the milk they spilled
with their open hand.
but the open one hides nothing
and can’t hold on
Vying for that same distinction, here is “Blanket,” the topic of which I still can’t actually speak to, aside from I know that the title was meant as a verb rather than a noun.
From context I can confirm that It’s part of my critically-ignored “I am probably not actually gay, but since you think I am please feel free to construe this as a piece about coming out, instead of being about whatever obscure and insignificant problem I’m harboring this week (other than my anorexia)” collection
as clumsy as a child
shut out the sun
i want to
but the blinds won’t close
can’t pull so far down
and even still light shines through
so it’s red like a womb
without the comfort
sore and angry
eyes clenched like fists
i can’t use
and they hide
i’m coming out of here
without the fanfare,
and then maybe
i can walk
with the dark
Wait… this one might be a little bit worse than that…
your room holds my memories inside of it as much as it does your too-high bed and rock and roll stars. pictures spread out on the floor; skin like navy blue; afternoons that might have been spent better fucking like a metronome; the last story ever told. Every day when you walk in you must brush past one, on your way to bed, as you get dressed. They are scattered around, like dead bodies, and you can’t even see them anymore.
Safely clear of my most angst-wracked period (i.e., the torch I was carrying for that girl finally extinguished), I settled into a narrative voice similar to the one I’m still using almost a decade later.
This is more proto-blog than poetry, and I still love it as much as I did the day I wrote it.
I don’t understand anything.
I do know that English is not the primary language of America’s taxi drivers, but as hard as i concentrate on the radio i can’t make out what they’re saying. Something about 95th & Pine.
I didn’t think it went that high.
Clutching my wallet through my jeans. I don’t understand that either. As if i decided to walk home instead. I blame it on the inbred paranoia. That’s from my mother’s side.
Smoke makes your throat hurt. I didn’t really believe that before. But when you sit with those people for two hours of your life that could’ve been more meaningful than the back room of the coffee place, your throat hurts. I thought it was some strange disease at first; they were all dirty. Everything is dirty. I get that from my mother’s side too.
What did my father give me? Two hundred dollars and procrastination. Spend it all in one place. That’s the message every year.
After that I returned to poetry a few times, under more consistent scholastic direction. This one still holds some charm for me.
standing at the top of the highest rooftop
i can’t peer into basement windows
i can’t see through city haze on top of pigeons on top of cars
the only place to look is up
because, here i have the power to crush any dome or spire
but still i cannot touch the sky
and the power to touch is the power to hurt is the power of fear is the power of possesion
which is why i cannot hold onto joy
the way i can sink my fingers into the skyscrapers stretching off into the distance
standing on top of the highest rooftop
what can’t i mold like clay
whan i am higher than every man on the street
when i can look down on ledges, edges, pavement pounded
relentlessly by businessman after businessman looks
like ants marching to and from a picnic basket
standing at the bottom of the canyon of upstretched apartments and office towers
and i cannot see into anyone’s eyes
they should be as simple as glass, as mirrors
and mouths should be as simple as doors
open and shut
not mumbliing humbly under breath or shouting at the top of lungs
everything should be as simple as sky
but we can be more complicated than a fifty percent chance of rain
standing up above the soles of my shoes
i can see through anything
bathroom stall walls and tinted windows and thinly veiled attempts at attention i can see to the highest rooftop
through dirty basement windows
into sewers or imaginations
i can see the horizon
Out of Words
I knew that eventually i would run out of words
I did not expect to like it
I did not expect to
I knew that eventually i would run out of words
I laid myself down to rest with thoughts of finite stars
“And if the stars are finite,” i thought
“Then so is everything else”
And it was then i knew
How would it happen?
One day, midsentence, mouth agape?
‘Reached my limit,’ i would think
One unavailable here, unpronounceable
Rolling around my tongue and never escaping
Then another each hour
Each day that passed
Can i tell you how it was?
I opened my mouth and had nothing to say
I’ve still got all of these words
But i’ve run out of phrases to play
I knew that eventually i would run out of words
I did not expect to like it
Little did i know
That i would always have words
Just nothing to say
Had enough yet? One more? Okay.
This is actually my favorite. I plucked it out of high school obscurity to recraft it in college. It also has the distinction of being the last poem I completed before turning my attention entirely to songs. Literally; it was for a college poetry class and after revising this for an assignment I resorted to turning in demos rather than poetry assignments (much to my teacher’s delight).
(Incidentally, this is situated firmly in the blog-era, as the class in question was the same one that produced “Atlas.”)
In comparison to the original it tangibly proves that deliberately vague and meandering teenage prose can be sharpened enough that its point gets across.
You have accumulated battle scars
headed off to war, or some other battle.
You have accumulated tears
hidden behind long distance train rides and dark sunglasses.
I have accumulated stories
like rock stars
hanging on your wall, and I will dole them out
like hit singles,
while your eyes widen with every play.
You’ll watch me spin the tales
like a web,
like a record,
where I get caught on that one skip…
that one skip…
We start again.
You turn, and be for the camera. You are
like a rock star;
with every haircut you leave me further behind
while I still have all these questions
about where you’re going to be next year.
About who has been leaving
stale rock and roll breadcrumbs
at your doorstep
right under your nose
dull, white, and crushed.
And will you follow that trail
skipping into another rabbit hole?
Every single time you do.
(I might too)