As someone who writes, and whose writings are read by other people, sometimes I face a dilemma. One of the most cliche pieces of advice given to writers is “Write what you know.” From my experience so far, I think this is good advice; when you write what you know, it seems to give your writing more poignancy, more power than when you write about something you’ve only imagined. Yet sometimes there are things I know, whether I experienced them personally or just walked beside people who experienced them, that I am torn about writing. They may be things the world needs to hear, but how willing am I to potentially harm my relationships if people read it and misinterpret it?
So a little bit ago, in the midst of reflecting on this quandary, I wrote this poem. I hope you enjoy it 🙂
“Write what you know,” they told me,
So I sat down and started to write
The things I knew, the big and small,
The pieces of my life.
I know the song of the rain
As it dances to the earth
In infinite tiny drops
That sparkle like precious gems.
I know the dance of the pen
Flowing across fresh, crisp paper,
Following the lead of lovely blue lines,
Leaving footprints of elegant curvatures.
I know the laugh of a child
Picking an orange from a tree,
And when the fresh juice is a shower
As she pries the moist fruit free.
I know the beat of the ocean
Hammering away at the shore,
Turning the rock shards smooth as glass,
Singing with a roar.
I know the hum of a crochet hook
Darting through loops of yarn,
Defying the law of entropy by
Making chaos into order.
I wrote these things that I do know,
And everyone took delight.
“Tis very good and wonderful,” their praises overflowed,
So I continued writing what I know.
I know the subtle amnesiac
Called technology, that slips inside
And dulls the mind
And lulls the soul to sleep.
I know the disgust of the hungry
Watching others gorge themselves,
But inside the stomach claws itself
And hope seems to disappear.
I know the tears of the loner,
A silent, unseen stream that
Tastes both of acceptance and
All that could have been.
I know the pain of a son
Wounded by abuse
That chills like liquid nitrogen
And turns the heart to stone.
I know the deep agony of a breaking heart
Discovering its beloved is forever out of reach,
Learning its wealth is worthless
To those who matter most.
“Oh no, not these,” was their response
To these other things I know.
“Your words cut deep—I did not know
I did these things to you!”
They don’t understand that writing
Isn’t about the pen being a sword
With which to punish those who have inflicted injury,
To revenge past unknown wrongs.
To write a grief for others to see
Both lightens memory’s burden for me
And strengthens the ones now afflicted,
And then healing begins.
I know the song of a heart
Touched by the hand of healing,
Purged of tarry soot and grime,
Filled with light and joy sublime.
I know the deep laugh of a happy ending
To a sad, sad story of hostility,
Of the reconciliation of a family
And broken relationships made whole.
I know the awe-struck tears
Of the hungry when help arrives,
The unexpected lavishing of
An abundant harvest from a dead field.
I know the warm embrace of
A group of minds in harmony
When everyone plays an important part,
And the sweetness of true fellowship.
“I don’t understand,” is their response.
“Am I the cause of bad and good?”
O! let me write in peace! not blaming you nor anyone.
I’m not writing of you, I’m writing of me.
Of me, and what I know.