MALIA MAXWELL

Hypnagogue

 

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,

sloshing around

 

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.

XOXO,

Malia

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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.