16 to 23 and everything inbetween

Tomorrow’s my birthday!

I’m turning 23 and I’m not entirely sure what that means yet. I’m aware it won’t mean that I’ll wake up taller, wiser or more confident. I know your birthday is just a symbolic notion and that what helps you grow are all the days in between. However, like with New Year’s Resolutions, maybe birthdays can function as a day of reflection, a definite marker of another year passing. Not for everyone and not for the world, but in your very own timeline. What have you learnt since your last birthday? What have you figured out? What new people have you met, and what new paths have you travelled down?

To “celebrate” that today is my last day as 22, I’m posting this little video. It is a poem I wrote for the OctPoWriMo challenge, last year, about all the things I’d love to tell myself at 16. In the original post I wrote “this took a long time to get right, but I didn’t want to post it before I was happy with it. Felt like I owed 16 year old me that much.”

Filmed in my bed, with a comfy shirt on and a cup of tea waiting. It felt fitting to post this on my last day of being 22, as a symbol of all the things I’ve finally figured out, and of all the things I’ve yet to learn.

Here’s to making the next year a good one.

Have a wonderful day!
-Andrea

“I think I built you”

I think I built you, formed you and designed you,
drew you with green sharpie and the bricks of my pillow fort,
sculpted you from cheap coffee and H&M basics,
moulded you from a year’s worth of lazy Wednesday mornings,
desperate for something to be mine.

-Andrea

Spring Clean

Come spring, I want to write.
To sweep the cobwebs off of old ideas, place flowers behind my ears and pencils in my pockets. To make up dialogues that have laid dormant and put soul in characters’ eyes. I want to shake winter out of tense shoulders, to pull snow and sleep out of the tips of my fingers, I want to see new places and paint my nails.
Every winter it’s like the cold bogs me down, drowns ideas under the frost, lets fog and rain take a hold of all the things I want to do.
But come April, the sun starts to peek in through the window, like a shy child hiding behind the clouds. Bit by bit, it becomes more confident, and bit by bit, it dares peek out behind its mum’s skirt. And just like that, I want to write. I want to clean up my space, put on fresh bed sheets, air out my room, air out my thoughts. I want to open all the doors and the windows, put loud music on, move around and clear out my head.
I want to create.

-Andrea

“do you remember”

the night we hid our childhood memories
in drawers and cupboards and make believe-safes?

How we wrapped secrets and fairy tales
in the blankets our five-year-old selves
couldn’t sleep without.

Whispering, we gently placed them all in unforgettable treasure chambers.

Do you remember how the shoes that blinked when we walked
slowly faded,
greying like streets heavy with rain,
as electricity bills ate all our ice cream pennies.

Our hiding places got more secret,
and as we walked past them yelling Marco, they stopped replying,
as deadlines and invoices and parking tickets called louder
than memories ever dared.

If you do, then please let me tell you
how last night I found that childhood drawer,
and today I’m sat here on the floor, flicking through dusty sweet wrappers
wondering whether I should give them back or not.

I almost throw them away.

Stamps are expensive and memories are heavy.
I’ve learned it’s not cheap,
to wrap nostalgia up in polaroid pictures
and Royal Mail envelopes.

I won’t throw them away though.
I don’t think I ever will.

-Andrea

“In defence of Foreign accents”

(Draft of a work-in-progress poem)

The goal among the international students at my uni
was to completely drop our accents
to sound like we’d grown up with English birthday songs and ice cream floats.

We wanted to be able to go to any bar, to order any coffee
and keep any conversation going for however long a time,
only to be able to slip in an “oh, I’m not from England, actually”
and watch peoples’ surprise.

We worked so hard to lose our accents,
the sound of what we thought was “not enough practice”,
not good enough.

Oh, how wrong we were.

Accents are identity
just as much as names and clothes and the street corners you crossed on your way to school
Your accent’s where you’ve come from,
the journey to where you are now,
it shows the world you dared to try.

Your accent is your family traditions,
the lessons of your mum’s lullabies,
the laundry songs of your house,
a grandma’s lap,
and the courage it took to get on that plane alone.

Your accent is a road map of the people you care about,
those who took the time to sit with you while you were learning,
who let you spin wonders of the words you didn’t understand
and didn’t mind you trying on their pronunciations for size.

Your accent is your home away from home,
the amalgamation of all that you are and all that you’ve been.

So instead of dropping our accents,
let us celebrate them.
For all that we are,
and all that we’re yet to learn,
and every step along the way.

-Andrea

“Sophie’s Adventure”

In lack of proper wine glasses, we improvise with teacups,
and as the shutter of a Polaroid camera goes off,
she’s pouring rosé,
small, pink oceans, bubbles and light storms in our glasses.

We’ve made a cave of my uni room,
filled every nook and cranny with silly laughs and fairy lights,
hot chocolate scented candles,
and unfamiliar words in both our languages.
Words we hope’ll make sense
when English just doesn’t cut it as our middle man,
when the words of home become impossible to translate,
– so we let her German paint pictures in the air,
and Norwegian show off all the words it has borrowed;
we meet in the middle.

There are some things you just cannot learn in your home country.

Dreams are dreamt up tonight.
Plans for all the cities that are yet to be seen,
Northern Lights still to be chased,
the cross stitches of who we’d wish to be one day hopefully coming together.
Everything navigated in between sips of pink and the idea of fairy story cities.    

There are no thoughts that cannot be put into words,
no words that cannot be sown into these blankets,
and the four years separating us don’t keep our musings from dancing,
from twirling,
from harmonising to the same melody.

Because, in the strangest way, it’s like she is me three years ago,
just with a dollop more maturity it took me an extra year to obtain.
Alone in a new country,
figuring it out on her own.
We talk about being lonely;
we talk about that empty feeling of evenings on your own, beating yourself up for not living your adventure abroad to the fullest,
and of the nights that last forever, where you’re surrounded by friends and this new country feels like where you were supposed to be all along,
We talk about how that’s okay.

And we agree that on those days, whether the sunset reaches us before we’ve even gotten out of our beds,
or if 4 am finds us in the middle of a favourite song,
we’ll pour the rosé in our tea cups again,
raise a glass to ourselves and our empty rooms
and celebrate.

There are some things you just cannot learn in your home town.

Because there are so many people to meet,
so many friends to make, hands to shake, eyes to get to know.
So many languages to learn, so many wines to taste and teas to test,
so many pictures to take, that need their own space in an album somewhere,
or hung above a bed,
the memories of your own fairy tales lulling you to sleep.

So many stories, of the adventures that are waiting.
So let’s raise a glass to that.

-Andrea

“Old Harry Rocks”

Written on the 21st of October, 2018.

The hillside is full of sheep.
They graze the grass we walk on, they don’t mind the steep slopes
and the cliffs.

The villagers call it a mountain, everyone else calls it a hilltop.
I want to call it an adventure.
Everyone we meet are prepared with hiking boots and walking sticks,
we are armed with sneakers and half a sausage roll.
This wasn’t where we thought today was gonna lead us.
Four hours up and four hours down,
we scale steps carved into the hillside,
past trees that have grown into each other
to seek refuge in numbers
from the sharp sea air,
gusts coming in from the northern sea.

Beneath us, Swanage wanes away.
The bay grows smaller and smaller,
until you could fit the entire town between your thumb and ring finger,
lift it up and put it in your palm.
Maybe that’s what I’m trying to do;
Lift Swanage out of its little nook between the hills and the unforgiving ocean,
nestle all the teacups and barefoot walks along the beach
into the crook of my neck,
keep it there to remind myself of the times I’ve felt like I belong here.

I clutch your hand in mine,
feel your nails against my skin.
In front of us, the terrain evens out.
Two chalk rocks stand side by side,
broken away from the hillside, they hold each other up.
They’ve been standing since long before the town came to be,
just as the town will be here
long after I have left.

-Andrea

Pyjama Sessions – “I said there’s no getting rid of me now…”

Sometimes I feel like there is this notion that poetry has to be gritty to be good, that poems have to make you cry to be worth something. I agree that poetry is a wonderful platform to rebel, to be angry and to talk about stuff it feels like you can’t talk about anywhere else. Poetry is honest, it’s raw and it’s unmasked. But it’s also cosy and safe and comfortable. Poetry can just as well leave you feeling all warm inside, it’s just as valid when a poem makes you smile, makes you giggle, makes you let out that breath you’ve been holding for a little too long.

Poetry belongs where we’re feeling safe, it belongs before bedtime on a Monday, and tucked in under a blanket, hot chocolate in hand on a Sunday morning.

Welcome to my bed; welcome to floral bedsheets, a baggy pyjama t-shirt, my face with no makeup on. Have a poem I wrote a little over two years ago, a poem about all the wonderful tomorrows we hope will be granted us one day. Let’s all be so lucky.

I’ll let the video speak for itself, and if you want to read the poem before, after or while listening, here’s the written version.

I hope you have a wonderful day,
-Andrea

“To the woman on the bus writing music in the air”

The bus is quiet today,
with the breath of only a small dozen commuters fogging up the glass.

I’m catching up on some reading,
highlighter between my fingers,
taking notes in my head,
knowledge sporadically thrown into the compartments of my mind.

Next to me, a lady is scribbling on a piece of paper.
She hums and taps her fingers,
bites the inside of her cheek and narrows her eyes.
Her hair is falling in front of her face,
a pencil’s stuck in between neat lips.
Her fingers are writing out music the rest of us aren’t allowed to her
just yet.

She’s balancing sheet music on her knees,
only stopping momentarily to conduct the choir in her mind.
It looks like a big one.

I’m cramming last minute facts into my reluctant brain,
wars and names and dates long passed.

She’s creating something wonderful,
music a small dozen commuters can only imagine,
just yet.

-Andrea

Blue Psalms of All Hallows Eve

Today we celebrate All Hallows Eve, and for the first time I’m feeling the weight of it as more than just a holiday for other people to remember their loved ones.  This year I’m one of the one’s remembering, and that still hasn’t entirely registered, even after months have passed. Our days are so busy, our minutes too short, our steps too hurried, it’s so easy to wrangle that dark spot in your stomach into the back of your mind, to think grief is for another day. Except it rarely is, and it shouldn’t have to be.
Most days grief is for right now, most days grief has no interest in being pushed away, and on those days we should give grief a name.

I translated an All Hallow’s Eve Mass, for a service that was held today in the cathedral in the town I’m living in now. I don’t think of myself as Christian, but I’ve been working in some churches in my time, and I’ve been translating and live interpreting services in the cathedral for a little while now as work experience for my translation BA. This was a challenging one, though, just because the liturgy’s so heartfelt, the psalms so well-chosen and thus, the words just hit that little bit closer to home. It didn’t feel like work, more like hurting and healing.

The service was a beautiful one. Dignified, graceful and appreciative. It focused on relations between people, and what happens when we suddenly have to start talking about our loved ones in the past tense.
I must admit I’m still not entirely used to that part, yet.

For some, death may come expected, it may even be wanted, while for others it strikes abruptly and harshly, changing everything, taking people we cannot bear losing.
“Those who are loved will never be forgotten,” said the priest, a young woman who touched every heart in the congregation, who laid an arm of kind words around the shoulders of everyone in the church. You could see people needed to hear what she was telling them; that their emotions were valid, that grief takes many forms and that no one form is more correct than another.
Death is weird, it always has been and always will be, and we all react so differently when we encounter it.

This post is a bit jumbled, but I just wanted to share with you a paragraph from her sermon that I translated:

Those who are loved, will never be forgotten.
Many of us carry heavy burdens, we carry bereavement, loss and grief.
Today we think of those we love that are no longer with us.

We think of our community, of compassion and wonderful memories.
we are grateful for the days and the years we got to share,
for kind words, for warmth and for joy.

Many of us carry grief over everything that never came to be, 
for relations that were challenging,
for wounds that struggle to heal,
grief over what was taken too quickly,
over everything we never got to say.

We humans are so great at not saying what we think, at forgetting to remind people that they are appreciated; we often take it for granted that people know we love them.
But we also have a million tiny ways of showing that we care, and today I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all the ways the one I’m missing showed that she cared. I’ve lit candles and quietly sung songs that remind me of her. I’ve twirled her bracelet around my wrist, and I’ve consciously tried to name all the feelings that have bubbled up in my stomach, wound its way around my heart, up through my throat and that’s lingered behind my eyes. It’s been strange and a little bit scary, but it’s also brought a sense of calm.
I think I needed it.

I wasn’t prepared for today to be as heavy as it was, and I didn’t think I was going to write about it. I’m not sure what this even is, a little stream of consciousness, my mind trying to figure out what it’s feeling.
It’s been a good day, though – an important day.

I hope you all have had a good day today, too, and that you’ve had your loved ones around you.
Because those who are loved, can never be forgotten.

-Andrea