The ping pong ball of silence ricochets from wall-to-wall, reminding me that I am the Emily Dickinson of my time. By Julia R. DeStefano
The ping pong ball of silence ricochets from wall-to-wall, reminding me that I am the Emily Dickinson of my time. She, too, lived through a pandemic — tucked away in her space from an invisible pestilence and the sadness that engulfed her. In this, the umpteenth month of upheaval, my writing is braver than ever before. My once timid voice has become louder. I find myself languishing between depression and flourishing. Most days, I am the former with a story to own. An endangered species threatened with extinction, I am protected only by the words dripping from my fingertips. Demons threaten to steal the crown from my head. Endless is my fight against the silence that leaves tally marks on my soul. But words swaddle me in Hope’s blanket. Poetry is there, too. He never takes his hand from his Red Queen’s shoulder. He doesn’t mind if it takes me a while to find my smile, or if my crown is a little crooked. Because he taught me that there is strength in vulnerability.
I feel eaten alive by a mystery that is no longer tolerable, juiced like a citrus fruit. The world is hard enough. There is a big difference between loving a mystery and living one. I’ve always gotten a thrill when contemplating the unknown, but I become a sour girl when trapped in its quicksand. Desirous am I for a glimpse of the way forward, wishing my heart were a crystal ball. But this is the Devil’s Playpen of Disconnection, where the unknowns scald and the night terrors cycle. The fire in my soul, however, rages and I feel I could whirl into flame at any moment. The only constant in my life is the space I have created for myself to survive this pandemic unknown — my safe haven of a writing room. It offers me peace and understanding when generosity isn’t the world’s strong suit. I call it my Center of Feeling.
Time passes in this space. I count the days in tandem with the sand from an imagined hourglass. I become an expert at squeezing every emotion from saber-toothed hours, then proceed to write as if my very existence depends on it — and in many ways, it does. To dive so deeply into myself is to meet words that fill me with new life when I would otherwise wither. They flood the barren spaces where perpetual isolation, illness, dysfunction, and fear have dulled me. The romanticism of my words decimates the doom and gloom. Sometimes erotic, sometimes humorous but always contemplative, they burn through the dismal. It is in this space where I can reassert control. I can color my thoughts whichever way I choose, and paint myself a rose-tinted reality. Conversely, I can be productive about my pain and write on it — pumping the world’s pollution from my veins. Whichever path I choose, the intimacy sets off fireworks in my mind. My pen is an extractor, a purifier. My poems make suitable bedfellows, offer immortality, and in some miracle promise to love me.
To write is to experience newfound feelings of empowerment to Poetry’s resounding cheers. They rush through my body, reminding me of the gorgeous mysteries within myself that are yet to be unraveled. I am sensual and fluid as a jellyfish. My hand is my wand. My spells are my poems. The song within my supple breast returns — that wild parade of love, awash with renewed peace — and a smile gathers upon my lips in celebration of the limited edition woman that I am.