This Used to Be My Playground

4 min read

Did ya miss me?

I know I should be posting more, but I kind of like doling out posts bit by bit. I need more discipline. It’s so nice to procrastinate though!

Today’s poetry theme is youth and childhood. I’m not surprised that this theme comes up a lot in my past work. Sometimes I feel like I’m living my life backward.

I behaved like an adult far too soon and far too young.

For one, I was responsible for taking care of my nieces through most of my high school career. There’s an 11 year and 15 year age difference between us. I don’t regret having them in my life. I know I was a positive influence on them. But I was forced to sacrifice my formative years to help my sister out.

I know that because I was their carer, I never prioritized motherhood for myself. I’m in my mid-30s. To me, mentally, I already raised my children. It’s time for me to reclaim MY time.

Another layer is that I put intense pressure on myself to be the good daughter, do the right thing, to be strong, to balance my introvert side, that I also sacrificed what it meant to be a kid. I already had major responsibilities. No time to goof off.

Rebelling was out of the question because that’s a huge time sink of my energy, and I was NEVER about that life, haha.

You may have memories of hanging out with friends after school and getting into trouble and hanging out at the mall on a whim. I was never given that freedom. The only time we really left was for school or church or family parties.

When you hear “no” enough, you eventually stop asking to do things. You know what the answer is going to be, so why bother?

I was never allowed to participate in after-school activities, volunteer, have a part-time job so I could have my own money.

My parents eased up a bit if it was school-related, but even then, you had to be home at a sensible hour and may God save your soul if you didn’t. I realize now that my parents had a lot of anxiety about the world, and it manifested in the way they raised my siblings and me.

I don’t know why they were worried. Compared to my extended family, we’re candidates for sainthood.

But that’s why I express myself creatively. To recapture a sense of tranquility in a sea of hopelessness.

And without further ado….

  • Pale Orchid: this was born out of frustration, and I hope you can tell it right off the bat. I like the subversion of the live/laugh/love trope.
  • Déchirure dans la lumière fantastique: I translated “trip the light fantastic” into French, my preferred foreign language. This is a poem about the writing process and how intrusive thoughts affect the final product. Mine are connected to my youth, if you couldn’t tell by now.
  • twenty-four: I was nine years old when the L.A. riots took place. 2016 was the 24th anniversary. I remember watching the news in fear. We did eventually get bangers in our neighborhood, but we lived in the ghetto, so that was to be expected.
  • Human Racing: I wrote this in the midst of grad school. My entire time there was a blur of going to work, going to school, studying, and commuting, and trying not to die from the pressure. So you can kind of feel that hopelessness in the words, the punctuated syncing of the words, like bullets.
  • page 337: another grad school poem. I embraced my creative side completely while I was there. It was so nice to dribble words on a page and not really care what happened to it. I created to create, not because I had some endgame in mind. I miss that so much! I took a poetry class, and we were encouraged to build on other people’s work. This was based on my Dad. I think his stories from his time in the service lend themselves to poetry better.
  • When I Was Naive: another poetry class creation. I like the haibun form. I was exposed to it briefly there. I keep meaning to revisit it. I feel like there’s always this chasm between “authors” and “poets,” and the haibun encourages you to use both.
  • When the Smile Was Genuine: I was feeling bitter about my childhood again. I hope you could feel the frustration in that voice.
  • To Be Young Again!: I like the triumphant opening and closing. I like the ideas of youth and childhood played out in the images. I hope you do too. Fun fact: that’s me at our house on Nevada Street in Union City.
  • Youth is a cruel mistress: I had obviously just watched “Brief Encounter,” otherwise I wouldn’t have name-dropped it haha. This is me confronting my getting old, in a way. I don’t know if I’ve embraced it though. I’m getting gray hair around my temples.

I hope you enjoyed this latest installment! I’ve got one more coming at you soon. Let me know in the comments below what your favorite poem was!

love, peace, & adobo grease, Guilliean

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