Wish You Boys Were Here
By Kelly Grace Thomas

Today I thought of you
Bukowski, Hemingway, Fitzgerald.
With a shaky hand
and a head full of doubt.
I know at some point,
in a similar dim-lit corner,
you had the same questions
I do.

Questions that won’t stop asking themselves
over and over again.
Like the Mondays on a calendar
or a record that skips in a deserted bedroom.
Questions that whisper
when a crowd falls into silent thinking.
I’m certain you once fought
an identical battle
even if it was years ago.

Our souls are somehow connected.
Your hearts beat with the same want as mine.
One that bloodies knuckles
and proves
that something is not over
merely because it has ended.
Somewhere in the definition
of what it means to be a writer
everyone around you smiled politely
and you could smell your own fear.
Tonight I can too.

You tried and
looked for answers
in the bottom of bottles,
in the arms of strangers,
in locked rooms,
where you slowly went crazy.
Word by word.
Syllable by precious syllable.
Doubting the decisive decisions.
Pushing prose or poetry into a phony plot.
Forced and fighting to prove to the world
your worth.

As a society we try so hard to make everything fit.
To show we are important.
Cram it in a box, slap a label on it.
That way the masses can try to understand you.

Writers, by nature, are a self-criticizing breed.
When did “not good enough” become a swear word?
It doesn’t mean we love our work any less,
it just means tomorrow we will push ourselves a little harder.
Don’t we all need that?

I, I will keep listening to those questions.
The ones that knock on my door
rapping and repeating their presence.
Well tonight I invite my fear in.
Ask it to take a seat.
Look it straight in the eyes
and show it that I am
the stronger one. I
have poetry to prove it.

You cannot proclaim yourself a writer
whenever you see fit.
It is only after the last word has left your lips,
or the final phrase has been placed on the page
and an audience sits, silently transformed,
stunned by your sentences.
Only after you have reminded them how to imagine
and your words have left a taste in their mouth
they can’t quite place.
After you have affected, advanced, evoked
their newborn thoughts and veiled emotions.
Only then you will know
that the fear has left your home
that your knuckles will heal again
and you can place your head down
and for once not hear the voices.
Somewhere you will find that light.

Bukowski, Hemingway, Fitzgerald,
my dear friends,
I sure wish you were here
to share this with me.
Cause tonight I feel at home.