Behind the poem "I Thought Of You Today"
I thought of you today
the strange / bittersweet sensation
crashing through my hippocampus
I thought of you / but didn’t / choke / the memory
didn’t / slice / its way through my sternum
like it used to / didn’t tickle / my nose / like horsehair
didn’t buckle / my knees / at the menisci
I saw / a bunch of flowers / today
and my thoughts / they scurried right back / to you
like / children / running / from the rain / and the pain
was a dull ache / that didn’t ricochet
throughout / the depths of me / didn’t erode the
tired / ends of me / didn’t curl / my insides /
into a knot / I thought of you / today /
and for once / it didn’t have me / by the throat /
I thought of / you / today and / for once /
you didn’t have me / by the throat
The poem “I thought of you today” is the last poem in my debut collection “Cajoncito,” and one of my very favourites.
This poem was a very late addition, I wasn’t sure it quite fit anywhere, when a good friend and fellow poet suggested it close out the book, like some sort of epilogue. Reading through the pages of love, loss, grief, anger, frustration and madness, I realised he was right – that the book needed, deserved even, to have some kind of closure.
Many of the poems in Cajoncito were written from a point of frustration and grief. Before writing the poems in the collection, I had been through a series of very painful losses- 3 close family members and a dear friend all passed away within months of each other. I also suffered a miscarriage in the midst of it all, all of which is a lot of grief to be dealing with in a very short period of time. No time to process any of it, or even say goodbye.
Later on in the year I reconnected with an old friend, and that connection was intense, and brought me some relief from it all. Unfortunately the friendship ended abruptly, and in very complicated circumstances, with my friend believing I had behaved in a very terrible way when I hadn’t, and never giving me the chance to prove my innocence. All contact was lost, and I was unable to defend myself or tell my side of the story, which also left me hurt and frustrated (I also talk about this in my poem “Context”).
Something about the loss of this last friendship somehow broke the dam of all the grief I had been carrying before, and that is how most of the poems in Cajoncito came to be- sifted like sediment from the waters that flowed from all the love and loss I had stored up for almost 2 years.
Grief is a terribly, unwieldy beast. It does what it wants. In my case, it became poetry.
In all these instances I was not given the luxury of closure– a chance to tell my side of the story, explain what really happened, what they really meant to me, to say one final goodbye… so I was grateful for this poem that was written in an instant when I was reminded of those I had loved, and lost, and how I had managed to come through it all.
At the time I braced myself for impact, expecting waves of nausea, tears, clenched teeth and all the usual symptoms of grief, and was surprised when none were forthcoming. No, as the poem says, the memory was a gentle ache, a soft recollection of the knowledge that I had loved, and been loved, and that was all that matters. That what once felt like it would choke me, didn’t hold such crushing power over me anymore.
The poem itself came to me rhythmically, almost like a song, which is why it is punctuated as it is. The repetition of /didn’t/ in the first stanza; the division of the two verses with /I saw a bunch of flowers…/ ; the internal rhymes / rain / pain / today / ricochet / me / me /. To my mind it is a dreamy murmur of a poem, said more like an incantation, as the soft realisation of freedom dawns upon the reader. I imagined the poem being exhaled in a single breath or two.
I think I really wanted to capture how physically a feeling like grief can be. In my case it truly did feel at times like the pain and loss were ripping themselves through my torso. I've heard people describe it as a crack in the planet, or their legs giving way beneath them.
The last two lines came to me as a surprise. Suddenly the poem references things from a very long time ago, but I think this is because the pain of grief felt somewhat similar to recovery from physical violence.
I knew the last line needed to be repeated, but wasn’t sure why until I read it several times out loud to myself, and realised that in the first / today / was emphasised, and in the last, / you /. Because perhaps I may be suffocated by other circumstances, but the / you / (and many / yous /) in the poem no longer hold that power over me.
You can order a copy of Cajoncito here.