I want a friend
to draw roses on my hips
and tell me with her arms
that the silence at 5:30 is okay—
for the heat spreading
from my neck
to my back
and the snake in my stomach
to be gone.
When the moonlight creeps in
and nestles in my hair,
ruffling up my thoughts and
flinging them around the room,
I need someone
to wrap me in shared breath.
I need you
because of the words biting at my chest,
as I look at the clock
and see it rage a rant of red
dripping with “what if?”
I miss the voice
of the boy I've yet to see
who will tell me
that the nighttime is nothing more
than the hazy part of the day
and hold me
until I find sleep.
Pacific Standard Time
Where are you hiding in my mind? I saw you
last night as you kissed me in between dreams.
And before that, two months ago you held me
and built a dam around my lungs, caressing my tears.
Sometimes you cloud my eyes,
and for a few precious moments, I hold you
in the hollows around my body. You hold me
together when parts of me can’t help from spilling out.
I hear you in my own voice; I heard you in the wind
so one night I opened the windows
and tried to pull you into my bed next to me--
wrap myself in the night air
and as dawn opened her eyes, you were still there.
I wear you between myself and everything else.
With you I’ll cry, with you’ll I sing, with you I’ll--
where are you within me? This morning
I felt you lift me out of bed and brush my hair.
We smiled our way through the rest of the routines.
But I can’t touch you. Not the same way you hold me.
If I look for you too long, you fade around the edges.
Your laughter explodes, a supernova, telling me to look away
so you can creep back to me in silence.
To hold you in my mind is enough tonight
but not tomorrow. Reach your hand across the sky
and let me properly greet you.
Love and a Coming of Age
Gertrude Stein was one of my main influences when creating Daisy Crown and I still find her undeniably enchanting. The form she created and that she inspired me to explore has been freeing for me in that its hyper-abstraction creates a safe place to play around with various things. Traditional poetic forms can create safety too; a sonnet for example allows the poet to explore their subject while also offering the strength of a given structure. And as wonderful as poems with such a set structure are, I have yet to experience an overwhelming urge to write them. And so I leave myself with writing free verse.
Structure is still important in free verse, but when I write in it, I do not experience an overarching awareness of meter, rhyming, etc. Instead I feel more conscious of the place where the poem comes from. Stripped of outline to fill in, I have more space to experience the content that fills the poem. This is terrifying for me! And the very nature of a free verse poem invites the reader to connect with the poet’s vulnerability in a much more direct way than I offered in Daisy Crown.
And yet as I’ve grown over the past two or so years, I’m becoming more comfortable with that vulnerability. One of the beautiful things that YALDA solidifies for me is a safety to connect and explore anything and everything through writing. The acceptance within YALDA as well as the passage of time are leading me to push down some of the walls surrounding my poetry--ones I didn’t even know I had. I’m having a sort of a poet’s coming of age. It’s not the first and it’s certainly not the last, but it’s still special to me. I’ve found the courage to not only write about more personal things but also to share what I’ve written.
I’ve been writing a lot lately about love. Not just romantic love. Love for places, love for feelings, for history, for the present moment--any sort of love I can find in my thoughts. “Hypnagogue” and “Pacific Standard Time” are two of those and some of the favorite steps I’ve taken when writing with love. To me they represent a new chapter of my poetry that I’m very excited to write for myself.
Malia Maxwell lives in Seattle, Washington. She attends the Northwest School full-time, and the Stanford Online High School part-time. Malia continues to experiment with metaphor, biography, and repetition as she does in Daisy Crown, but is also branching out and exploring new topics and styles to embrace herself as a poet. She is currently reading Sylvia Plath’s Unabridged Journals. Read an excerpt from Malia's chapbook Daisy Crown.