January 2020
by Caroline Hagood
Portrait of the Poet
as a Teenager
Inside me there is a skirted issue

beginning to bare leg, a measles of infrastructure
so vast and vat deep that I am beginning
to see earth worms ascending while I sleep,
the true knowers of the blackness.

I like to write like this.
I like to sit before my New York City

night window and cry for no reason,

I like to bask in the casualty of sorrow

I am sitting in my chair trying to make a decision
I am sitting in my head trying to make a decision
I am sitting in my decision trying to make a decision
and coming up empty every time.

My beautiful mistakes haunt me 
like the radioactive candy apple at the fair
that I never should have eaten.
As a poet, I have grown accustomed
to hanging my life on a signpost
so that I am always three feet away
from being exposed.

There is in me a leaving of home
mourned years before it happened.
I cry for a place I never had,
years before it was gone.

It’s hard to avoid filling the painful moments
where self is right up against
the sand paper tongue of experience,
or to put it in my own words
instead of bookish pram:

How difficult it is to feel pain come apounding
and not turn a deaf eye on it,
to drown out the dance of the vengeful fairies 
with a stout brew of human howling.

Afterwards, when things grow quiet,
there is a tremor on the inner side of my skin
and I expand and regrow in the forever
 of that one silent moment.

I never stop speaking and writing,
jitterbugging my mouth onward,
as though the more speech I release, 
the closer I come to expressing 
the whole of me in music
like the slurrings of the dylanous Bob,
an untuned tribute to the uneditations of my sound.

Sometimes I sit alone on city benches,
surveying the medicine cabinet of time,
without the glamour of moonlight
and say, "this is just so, this is just so."

Mornings, I awake to the sound

of urban outdoor humming and my own breath,
folding my arms like shortened stilts,
body loosened with sleep, and say, “this is me.”
Other times, eyes covered in scales, with a trembling from within,
the smoky shape of pain, I must touch hands to face,
whispering, “this is still me.”

Strained seams of sadness run through my body,
which would be a forest if these feelings were trees.
Pained laughter, summits of laughing gas sorrow, fills the air.
Yesterday I sat, chaired and loaded, sentencing,
warily dipping fingertips into mind,
giving coffee water to my soggy brain. 

Too much spinning leads to nervous laughter
and thoughts that must be kept from one another.
The mania and longing, the hair tearing late nights
distilled into words.

I am reddened, raw and tender.
I sit here with all this mangled light inside me,
coming to the surface, water swirling, inevitable,
froglegging to my world without end.
Internal swaying of reeds captivate more
than Manhattan’s sinking shadows, so I stay.

Cut me open and you will find words,
smoky, deconstructed sentences, a multiverse of language
that builds huge structures while I’m not looking.
Hunched on this rainy night, waiting,
window coated by light-discovered drops of rain,

suddenly, written water starts to flow.

The thought land uncovered tells me secrets.
Listening, I write them down obediently. 
I float narratively backwards, letting my fallen words
drift behind me. In me is the windmill of rebirth, 
reinvented wing-shadows unhinged.

These words are tiny sky-aspiring ink legends 
that know so well the skyscraper ballad,
but blind and tongueless, they know nothing
of the work they do. Sitting here, I can sense
my remembered hallucination-life.

Positioned towards so many memory-encoded moments
set to be reversed in sky-logic, I am drawing
pleasure and pain sketches in my ruled notebook.
These lettered entrances to my netherlands,
my recombined alphabet stew, make this fallen alien life
feel more familiar somehow.

I am walking through some thought forest,
my limbs beating time with the tentacles of trees.
these woods have become my night playground,
my inexplicable jungle gym, and I need nothing more
than tonight.

Weather vane points to the second chapter of memoir-to-be,
uncanny these summered texts so ripe with beginning,
wise with knowing their own illiteracy,
reading instead the unremembered lyric,
the wizard, the word.


Caroline Hagood is a poet living in Brooklyn, New York,