Poems by New Yorkers in Massachusetts

Sunday, May 25, 2014

When my brother and I were in Massachusetts this summer visiting my parents, we decided to take a hike one day on Monument Mountain. Monument Mountain is a beautiful piece of Berkshires landscape that is famous for having inspired writers. "On August 5, 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville enjoyed a well-chronicled picnic hike up Monument Mountain. A thunderstorm forced them to seek refuge in a cave where a lengthy and vigorous discussion ensued, inspiring powerful ideas for Melville’s new book, Moby Dick, which he dedicated to Hawthorne." 

Alexander and I climbed while we chatted fervently (as is our style) about writing. On the way up the mountain, he told me about the novel that he has been working on and his excitement about being dedicated to a project outside of academia. He listed off all the books he has been reading to help him focus on the task of actually writing a novel. On the way down the mountain we talked about the memoir I have been struggling with for the past year, and how I really want it to be a story I tell on stage, but am having the hardest time finding "the story" within my life. He suggested I make fun of myself a little--and the first thing I thought of was my embarrassment about my secret and shameful desire for fame.

We tend to lose our connection to our surroundings when we get deeply in a conversation, which is what happened, as we neared the end of the 90 minute hike. Suddenly we had no idea how to get back to the car where we had parked. Luckily, we saw a hiker walking confidently down the path and asked her for directions. She pointed us in the right direction, and we chatting breathlessly with her as we walked back to our cars together. She told us that her trail name had been "the happy hiker" but was considering changing it. She asked us for advice--we tried, but we were unable to offer anything useful. She told us she was doing a project called 365 poems by new yorkers, where she asks people on the New York Subway to write a poem, which she then she publishes on her site. I was immediately drawn to her. She, like us, is a born and bred New Yorker in Massachusetts visiting her family. She asked us if we would participate in her project. We agreed. When we got to the bottom of the hill--we each wrote a quick poem in a little notebook. She took a photo of each of us, and we exchanged email addresses. She is also a filmmaker and writer. And teaches children and has twin daughters. I found her utterly compelling.

The day after the hurricane, she emailed me letting me know she was ready to publish my poem alongside Alexander's but she had lost the second page. She asked me if I could re-write the second part of my poem. I had no memory of what I had written, so I added what came to me on the spot. Unfortunately, our poems are not side by side as I was waylaid from internet because of Odile (which my friend Holly Mae told me is the name of the Black Swan (the shadow of the Swan Queen from Swan Lake). Here are the two links to the poems and the project:

Poems by New Yorkers

Alexander's Poem

Zoë's Poem


Here is my poem (with the newly-fashioned ending):


I am famous to the trees

who look over me 

who have known me 



I was born


the terrible 

act of birth

before the DNA

fought for its right to be seen.


Under their patient arms

I grow

and let go

of the need

the pressing



To become 


beyond the destiny 

of trees.