This is Poem #1 in the Interview YOU Poetry Series. In this series, I talk to individuals over wine or coffee or tea and they share with me a unique story or representation of themselves. I do my best to honor those views through poetry. This poem is inspired by my interview with my friend, Kristina. (If you are interested in being featured, please contact me.)

 

The hum of the coffee shop

on Hennepin

cradled the recipient

of the oat milk latte,

frothed with quickened care.

Anxiety, she said.

It’s when

the body

shuts down.

I forget

what I am capable of.

Her capabilities stretched

beyond the gasping

on-stage breath

of her clarinet.

I used to think

everything I needed to say

should be kept

to myself.

And yet, here she sat

with me,

speaking,

clad in brightness

and warmth.

The pursuit

of the orchestral

clarinet career

(say that five times fast

if you’re able)

was a stage

to spark

and ignite

her fears:

The body

shuts down.

She forgets

what she is capable of.

Preparation,

alone in a small room,

playing over

and over again

the same notes

the hopes

that her perfect

was their perfect, too.

She leaned in:

When people heard

I was a professional

clarinetist

they said,

WOW.

She leaned backward,

straightened her spine

and opened her chest

in a proud

attentive display:

Now, I don’t say

‘that’

right away.

Her shoulders turned up and in

and her back rounded

in the slump:

Now,

I don’t own it

as my sole identity. 

The relationship

is casual today;

a childhood hobby

fine-tuned into talent

cascading into

a profession—

and back to a hobby

again:

I stepped away.

I stepped away

and gave myself space

to live a normal life.

Questions emerged,

as they always seem to:

What is this?

Who am I?

Is this an identity

Crisis?

No.

I only grow.

Sitting across from her,

I felt her grounded

presence

as she spoke.

My perspective shifts.

My mindfulness sharpens:

I have a better

understanding

of all of it;

it’s not worth it

to capsize this way.

Tell me, 

I asked,

what do you say

to those who feel

the grip

of anxiety

in their own way?

A smile:

Friend, 

try your best

to step away.

Take a step

back

and breathe,

like me.

Go,

find where your comfort lies

in the pillowed bed

of your life

and awaken her

instead.

And with comfort

I know:

I keep my heart open

to the future

performer

in me.

 

 

 

Photo credit to James Zimmermann. He is the admin of the Clarinet Jobs website and Facebook page, where this photo originated.

 

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