people have begun to ask me
“What is it that you want to be?”
Simple in composure and projection,
it’s a question I have yet to find an an answer to.
I’ve been asking myself the same thing
since I began counting the stars clustered together in
since I could see words in the way the waves
crumpled against burnished shores,
since I noticed the similes and stanzas
hanging from willow trees and
the ones sitting beneath
squeaking swings on sun-dusted days.
I guess I could please them by saying
cardiology calls to me
just like it did for my father, his brother,
and my papou.
I could lie and say the way
hearts contort and beat,
simply trying to keep us and our
optimistic dreams upright and existing,
but in reality I’ve only ever been able to see
the poetic symbolism in its contractions and pulsations.
I could claim that medicine sparks a need
for more knowledge and learning in me,
a thirst for intuition and understanding,
but I'd always be lost in the brain,
in the way it creates contorted similes and
poetic irony in our already circumvented beings.
people have been asking me what I want to be.
How can I explain the way poetry calls to me,
the way I see potential stanzas blooming in the wrinkled petals of
magenta azaleas and
in the linings of scalloped palms
stained from countless afternoons pressed against
Once upon a time,
I wanted to be a doctor, an inventor, an engineer,
wanted to be a first, a legend, a woman of science.
Fascinated and invigorated by the mechanisms of the physical world and
the multitude of ways our bodies are tethered and held together,
all my desires, hopes, and dreams were held in the belief
that I would be a Madame Curie, a Montessori, an Anning.
I’ve lost myself in a love of words and their origins,
the way they slip from my tongue easily, effortlessly,
how they stain countless untarnished pages,
the way I can simply step into a world of another’s creation,
forgetting the scars and worry criss crossing and corrupting my mind.
When people ask me
“Well, what do you want to be?"
I ache to tell them that if I could be anything,
I’d be a constellation,
a sea of cosmic beings illuminating a need for poetry.
In a world with countless possibilities and
without terrestrial limitations,
I would be a collection of well-worn pens
or a furrowed sheet of unused paper,
the lines waiting to be filled with thoughts stemming from
lazy May days or
clever comparisons conceived on evenings
watching heat lightning arch and scream across skyscraper clouds.
When I think of the rest of eternity,
everything I hope and wish to be
lies in the pages and pages of poetry
littering my bookshelves and
In the way book pages fill me with a sense of fulfillment yet to be found
in any other aspect of my existence.
I always seem to feel the antiquated words against my raised skin,
the centuries of history and possibilities encapsulated in their print.
I want to be them,
want to leave this earth
even if it was just for a thimble of stolen moments,
to cease being a tarnished collection of decaying supernovas and exist
in the words of others’ stories and poetry.
When people ask me what I want to be,
I want to scream at the top of my indecisive lungs and describe how
I want to be the words Dickens, Collins, and Neruda painted on
I want to be the similes buzzing beneath
moonlight as it's cupped in puckered palms.
I want to be the metaphors and symbols synchronizing with the prayers of young girls
still yearning for a sense of security and prosperity,
want to be the novels carved from a need for reform or
people have begun to ask me
“What is it that that you want to be?”
Instead of lying and claiming a false love for cardiology or neurology,
instead of walking down a path well-worn and trodden by the
family of doctors who raised me,
I want to be the words
slipping form muddled tongues,
the letters penned in the wavering liquid light of dawn,
the dialogues and soliloquies consummated between star-crossed lovers.
If I could be anything,
I would be a poem.
is the only thing I’ve always believed in.
- emily johanna