I was particularly moved by Audre Lorde's words: 

 

“The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt.”

 

Motivated by the texts that I studied, I seek to shine my own light on what it means to live.

 

Blood-stained snow seeps pink, then brown, as air must.

Blood-stained snow seeps pink, then brown, as air must.

Here and there, now fairer than ever, pure as the snow who now mourns tenderly.

Unblemished as the day they were plucked, the ripe fruits of the body, tempting in innocence,

alluringly sweet and cloy,

a devilish ploy,

tempt those based appetites to warmer climes after death

I am not there yet, I am revenge, I am the nemesis till they cease to draw breath.

The me I hate is the me I am, and the me I was

The me I hate is the me I am, and the me I was

It is the voice of me that whispers in the ear of me

Sinisterly, lovingly telling me the worth of me is less than it ought to be

As if deflation applied to the currency of my worth

As if i were analyzing numbers and charts,

Trying to search for a pattern, an algorithm, like predicting today, this week or month

How high i can soar before the inevitable crash?

I fear the --pop-- of that bubble popping.

Sometimes i get real quiet because some part of me is listening

Anticipating

Pondering the fateful decision that is to be made-

When do we dump stock? when do we sell?

This growth is unsustainable we tell myself.

Cut your losses.

*pop* *pop*

*pop* *pop* *pop*

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This is step 2 of Alcoholics Anonymous.

This is recited, chanted, dutifully memorized at every AA meeting.

A room full of addicts and misfits and doctors and CEOs

A level playing field of fallen angels addicted to the dopamine releasing fruit of our choosing.
Fighting, struggling to shut up the serpent whispering into our minds,

To take that first bite, to let the juices run down our chin.

To let the failure within seep on our skin.

Is addiction a sin?
If I admit it, will you help me?

With you share this burden?

 

They say this disease is cunning, baffling, powerful

They say that if I fail, if I give in to the omnipresent hiss within my mind, my heart,  soul

That I am fundamentally incapable of rigorous honesty

But if I were to be honest, I would tell you,

I’m an atheist

I need proof

I would tell you that I OD’ed twice

That my mom found me dead

And I would tell you I had no visions,

no bright light to blind me

No sudden epiphany

No angels to find me

Just darkness

And my family’s tears

And the nurse's tired smile

while listening to my denial

My feeble explanations of how my pot must have been laced,

or something

 

Can I fight this without you?

I feel like I already am

Are those two years and nine months in spite of you or because of you?

Or should I say “Y’all”?

Because my friend Travis only believed in one of you and I miss him

 

Sometimes it’s so hard to distinguish between the disease and the man

Because the man has humanity and aspirations and a past and ideas

And the disease cares for nothing.

It possesses the man with parasitic intent and covers the body in writing like a receipt of transactions

Sacrifice the gift of life for the least unhappiness, for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to muffle my own voice

The disease possesses me.

Is that why I need you, higher power?

For an exorcism?

Is recovery acceptance or is it erasure?

Can I learn to love myself and hate the disease?

Fuck the disease, I exorcise you.

I banish you

I banish you into a tree- may your roots take hold and you never be free

I exile you from body and mind

With love, I’ll replace you

With my pen and paper

I’ll immortalize you, then forget you-

No Thorazine required.

Just me, and my higher power.

I was told I ought to be good at math

I was told I ought to be good at math

A wizard at science

A master of the violin

Usually the piano too

Between me and you: they’re idiots

 

So I drank

I drank because they were right and drinking made them wrong

Except I was still too smart so to fix that, I smoked.

If I smoked myself numb then the idiots are wrong

So to fix that the helicopters swooped from the sky with all-encompassing view

And locked me in a cage with books and calculators and teacher conferences.

Thanks, mom and dad.

 

I think that is what made the cocaine smell so good.

The white lines defined me,

And by obliterating them, I erased myself

Ha, take that

For a while, I thought there was nothing quite as poetic as getting recreationally retarded.

But really, nothing is quite as poetic as my anxiety.

It is loud, it buzzes, it will not leave

I love my poetry, and so does my depression.

The voice compels me,

the meter, the rhythm,

the inner heartbeat.

All day and night,

we thump together living life.

True beauty lies between the dark and the light

Poetry hides there too.

Forever cherish it

Forever cherish the moment

Live day by day

Forever cherish the day,

Like the day I fell through a wormhole and entered the upside down

The upside down was eerie but mostly it felt like home

I tried to travel back, finding nothing novel here

When I got lost,

Suddenly somewhere else, somewhere new,

And I discovered new colors

Wait, did I have colors back home?

There is a discordancy of sound.

A buzz that used to be in my head now grew louder,

And out of my ear flies a purple bee.

It thanks me for returning it home,

And then it stung me.

Now I am home.

Now I am in school.

Now I am sitting in my glass box, listening, looking outwards, seeing my own face inwards

Intently, placidly observing the noise within

 

Do you hear the sound of pity?

The gurgling is deafening

They concoct their “I couldn’t imagine’s” and brew their “I feel so privileged’s”,

Hoping to achieve true alchemy

The sympathy boils over and stings

I wipe off the condensation, or is it white smoke?

Peering at the fools gold we are so happy to achieve

Comfortable outside in the astral plane of understanding

I smile at the effort.

Masks

The most essential part of my wardrobe:

my morning routine

List of essentials that I pack

in order to most comfortably exist

is my stack of masks.

 

On a normal day it is better to be safe

and pack two or three

Just to feel free to be me

the best me I can conceive

for the situation at hand.

I pat my pockets before I step out onto the stage

Phone, mask, inhaler, backup mask and

the liquid courage flask—no wait,

I go to AA meetings now—

Shoot. Almost forgot my

“hi my name is Phil and I’m an alcoholic” mask

Phew.

 

There are entire days, stressful days

where I’m in such a rush I forget to put one on

and walk around in a daze a dreadful daze

wondering will anybody even recognize me

if I don’t wear the correct mask.

It’s like I’m naked or walking around with my zipper down

and unable to rectify the offending fly

desperately hoping deep inside

people don’t see how much I try.

The moment passes,

the anxiety passes,

time passes.

 

I pass too.

I pass as very infinite versions of me

like a lady trying on dresses

trying to find something that is eye-pleasing

but not too revealing,

something memorable but not vulnerably so

But importantly,

I must pass as being comfortable

calm and suave

just enough of a “I don’t give a fuck factor”

to put people off the fact that

God damn—this mask itches the most.

 

Sometimes I envy her and her strong mask of bark

it’s nice to have a place to hide

when you feel like you’re wandering in the dark

Pseudo-science

 

Pseudoscience is real.

It is the tingle in your cut,

after the pain simmers,

but only when your mother blows on it.

The band-aid is produced

you peel off the sticky layers

and seal it on your past.

Your mind has a mind of its own,

and you are back, outside.

Watching your shoes swallow up

small blades of grass, stubby legs churning,

as if the destination were real,

somehow realer than the cut you

used to have,

the cut that used to hurt:

Did the cut hurt?

All you remember is the tingle,

the healing breeze of mother’s lips.

They told me it was a disease.

They told me it was a disease.

Symptoms include only feeling healthy when there are sufficient artificial chemicals creating the most authentic artificial emotions within myself

Symptoms include emptying the closet of my heart and soul of any warm clothes and braving a blizzard like that vain emperor and his new clothes.

Except there is no room for vanity either,

For vanity has been tossed out with self-love

Threadbare, but still not unsalvageable.

You hope your little sister can use it as a hand-me-down so she that will never feel so devoid

 

Symptoms include losing all agency.

Permanently on an operating table unable to move, unwilling- no- unable to speak out while I watch my guts being torn out

As I watch the lobotimation of my own humanity

As I witness open heart surgery on an empty cavity

Unable to move, but able to feel.

Able to feel every incision,

To relish the tidal wave of pain that advances on my shores knowing the sweet anticipation of relief soon to come

I clutch it to my shivering chest

Trying to dry my sweat sodden body with a single flame of a match in the dark

 

Sweet flickering warmth

But the damp remains, and it rots

Little bits and pieces of you being to slough off, and you either don’t care or won’t care.

For how can you when you wallow in numbness like a pig in the mud?

 

They told me it was a disease

I think that’s fair to say,

But may be better put as a war

For a disease is kind of like a war anyways,

It is just fought on a very, very small microscopic level

This opponent however, feels bigger,

It feels intense and palpable and nebulous and so, so smug in it’s superiority

 

To fight it is to wrestle a bear every single day back into its cave,

Covering the entrance with a stone only to discover that it has rolled aside by the next morning

To fight it is to be atlas, to hold the immeasurable weight of your reality upon your shoulders

To be both god-like and mortal at the same time

 

And well, that means your shoulders get tired

Time puts no distance between you and your ruin

I am no further or closer on Day 1 as I am two years and nine months later

To fight is to feel

Is to live day by day

Is to hope

Is to recover.

Poetry is manic energy.

Poetry is manic energy.

It is a race between your scribbling pen

and the gushing torrent of your spoken mind,

of your woken mind

the desperate attempt to harness

the turgid stream of consciousness

that rampages unbound through

the valleys and furrows of the impassioned brain

To capture in perfect form

To verbalize in verbatim

what has never been said,

but somehow echoes in the chasm

To get so lost trying to keep pace

with your musing voice that

you come across the same thought

that you thought you forgot,

and seeing it as for the first time

 

The uninhibited language of expression:

Half-song, half-picture of a world you know to be true,

but mournfully realize nobody else can see it too.

Let me show you how I exist.

Sometimes it’s so hard to distinguish

 

Sometimes it’s so hard to distinguish

between the disease and the man

 

Because the man has humanity

and aspirations and a past and ideas

And the disease cares for nothing.

It possesses the man with parasitic intent

and covers the body in writing like a receipt of transactions

Sacrifice—

the gift of life for the least unhappiness,

for a pair of noise-canceling headphones to muffle my own voice

The disease possesses me.

Is that why I need you, higher power?

For an exorcism?

Is recovery acceptance or is it erasure?

Can I learn to love myself and hate the disease?

Fuck the disease, I exorcise you.

I banish you.

I banish you into a tree-

may your roots take hold and you never be free.

 

I exile you from body and mind.

 

With love,

I’ll replace you

With my pen and paper

I’ll immortalize you,

then forget you-

 

No Thorazine required.

Just me, and my higher power.

A response to “Poetry is Not a Luxury”

(Version 1)

 

Poetry is smoke.

Thicker than blood but less dense.

The light behind my eyes can testify

that a flickering flame dances inside

this hollow shell.

The smoke dances and swirls,

occupying my consciousness,

and when they are one

expands.

It fills each nook and cranny

connecting me to what is hidden.

Sometimes there is a tingle.

In my experience,

exploration is abrasive

and my eyes will water

and my skin burns hotter,

Explosions.

Poetry makes dragons.


(Version 2)

Poetry is smoke.

Thicker than blood but less dense.

The light behind my eyes can testify

that a flickering flame dances inside

this hollow shell.

The smoke dances and swirls,

occupying my consciousness,

and when they are one

expands.

It fills each nook and cranny,

connecting me to what is hidden.

Sometimes there is a tingle,

in my experience,

exploration is abrasive

and my eye will water

and my skin burns hotter,

and I actually breathe fire.

Poetry is dragons.

Fear is here then fear is there

 

Fear is here then fear is there

Fear is in the waves, the sea is afraid.

The pill is bitter, the pill is large and red.

Ruby capsules filled with sand, too big to swallow- the lump in my throat will define me.

Break them up, half and half, but take care the trickling sands don’t spill a grain.

The sea is scared the sea is still.

But so am I.

So half for you and half for me.

 

Water frothing, salty anger, rejection,

We both projectile vomit. Rejection.

Strange shores, where is home?

The pill reappears, larger, harder to swallow.

The terror of the crashing waves pound within.

Like a heart.

Strange shores, where is home?

Thoughts from Moby Dick

 

There is a certain pleasure,

in being chased by fools;

to lead them to and fro at leisure,

swimming by the schools.

 

To run 'round sowing hopeful seeds

that grow big and strong and tall,

then cut them down when the mutts bay treed,

of a coon not there at all.

 

Aye to be free from Life's cruel jabs,

to descend like storm upon one's Ahabs.

In a race so devoid of rules,

it’s nice being chased by fools.

Traffic lights rule the world.

Traffic lights rule the world.

They dictate who may pass.

The royal green, if your majesty may see fit,

I only want to cross

for there is a flower

some distance away

I would dearly love to see

in better light.

That mocking yellow decree,

fills me with such uncertainty.

The royal guard dogs jumble and

growl  

ready to pounce

I see red. So do they.

Uncle Tom’s Callouses

 

Uncle Tom had rough, worn, calloused hands

Dirty nails rest on jeans as he surveys his lands

Master of 10 acres, his gaze is stern

He attends to the goats, the cows wait their turn

 

At night he eats alone and rubs aching joints,

cursing his trembling fingers with salve he anoints

To no avail, they heed his word no more.

The grip is weak, dismay fills Uncle’s core

 

He slams his rebel hands, yet those calluses once hard

split and bleed, betraying he that they used to guard

and all this time the prancing tigers gazed

Keenly aware of hunger delayed

Today I sipped a tea

Today I sipped a tea

that grows exclusively

from the Ziyah Tree.

 

The Ziyah Tea of the Ziyah tree

grows only on an isle

of calmest sea.

 

The swim is quite easy,

though I tire quite quickly

the Ziyah tea gives wild energy

 

The fickley sea turns ripply

A wind that always races

reminds me of her existence

with a gentle slap to my face

 

I hurl myself back in the sea

unable to swim, it takes me,

astride a tempest to where I don’t need to be.

Tomorrow I will circle round and sip

some more tea.

Open heart surgery, my blood is not mine.

Open heart surgery, my blood is not mine.

That which is not mine flushes to my cheeks, reddens my face

 

Open heart surgery, why am I awake

I trepidate, fearfully fearfully deliberate- deliberately hesitate to open up what is mine

 

Here. On sterile steel, so coldly firm and resolute,

How it attenuates me to myself, to bear witness to the lobotomization of me,

My body and my soul

 

I am still sentious, I am still conscious.

I think therefore I am

Strong, my own, oh my intellect you have not left me

Deserted, barren, most torporific, speech disjointed logos anointed,

The world must confide in me, for ethos is unchanged,

My name is my name, till this is unnamed.

How muscular my insides are,

How strongly they pump and breathe and run a marathon from here to the gates of death all to save me,

Save me,

Save me.

 

My heart is not polluted

My mind untainted

 

Direct thy scalpels to that organ in between,

you should see sutures in place already,

Beads so sweaty, messy,

All is well in purgatory,

Can I please you?

Subliminally, sublimate me,

No, sublime liminerally,

S - S -S, liminally.

Your fantasy is nice

Your fantasy is nice

How many times can I pick myself off the dirty jail cell

Yea, complexion’s not a contest

How many bruises collected have a context big as this country is,

There’s nowhere to go to

Acting like I miss my mom homecooking eyes to the piece of chicken and another one too

When what I wanna do is scream and consume what’s in my shoe

    “Need to stop spending time in jail

     That’s what you need to do

     I been trying to get away from white people for as long as I can remember”

Liberia and Sierra Leone- or maybe just another bender

To separateness as in inequality and that was what I cannot take

Forget it.

I’ll take some love even if it is fake-

This is me, you still want it

A tree knows it’s place

A tree knows it’s place

amidst the chaos of a storm

the tree knows that it bends

the tree knows it will not break

but the sapling knows not.

 

Knows naught about roots

and dreads the chaos of the skies,

cringing with the shadow of a

cloud.

Self-Identity

 

These days I am not myself,

or rather my self no longer

seems to be me,

the part of me is all.

My right index finger,

sometimes a thumb,

though I forget which hand

is now who I am.

 

Ones and zeros

My eyes still process yet no longer

see the sea of ones, the

tidal zeros of the vat in

which my brain marinates like

a meat you order and pay for

and indigest for fuel.

Long live the right index.

Oh writer of law

Oh writer of law, champion of justice, may I invoke you, noble legislator, to be my muse, my humble inspiration, my current muse? Oh yeah…

That’s a bit of a long story… you see he, wait is it a she?! No surely not.

Anyways, he is currently doing 8 months time for crazy crime-- he smoked some weed and even worse he got caught. Fool.

Apparently it helped him sleep.

Apparently if he lived 15 miles south or 2,000 miles north or 890 miles west his doctor would have wrote him a prescription. Imagine that.

A medical license to get recreationally retarded. What?

You really think this stuff helps you sleep?! Or cures nausea or headaches or any number of mundane ailments?

Pfft, you write the laws.

Next you’ll be telling me it cures racism or sexism and makes the world go round and tolerable for all end peaceful and just for all.

How can we, champion nation of freedom of individual sovereignty, let them get away with it?! Well…

You know their kind. Gotta lock ‘em up to keep us safe right?

Who are you? Where is my muse? What are we even talking about?   

A Dialog on Love

 

You must love me,

for I gave you life!

 

Nay, you gave me

naught but hate and strife.

 

You'll love me now,

else I'll pain inflict.

Now be good and bow,

love me or evict!

 

Sorry sorry!

I love you so dear!

(When I'm grown you'll see

I shan't be so near)

 

Phillip Wang – Fall 2010 Poetry Contest Grade 11

Moths fly silver…

Moths fly silver…

Shimmering in the starlit night.

Fire beckons,

fire sings, and singes

The fire, the liar,

she gleams and binges

Moths fly translucent…

Shivering in her light

Moths fly silver…

Shimmering in starlit night.

Fire beckons, fire sings,

and singes.            

The fire, the liar, gleams,

and binges.

Moths fly translucent…

Shivering in Harlem light.

Contact

© 2023 by Phillip H. Wang Memorial Foundation. 

The Phillip H. Wang Memorial Foundation

P.O. Box 1341, Brookfield, WI, 53008-1341 

​​​

Email philliphwangmemorialfoundation@gmail.com with any questions