In my poem “Out of this World,” I explore the theme of oppression and the ways in which Leonard Peltier’s Prison Writings and Rachel Zucker’s “Paying Down the Debt: Happiness” evidence this central theme. As my poem progresses, I use my own life experiences and combine such experiences with thematically reinforcing quotes from Peltier and Zucker to juxtapose the hopeless nature of oppression with the human ability to remain resolute and find happiness in the most depressing and overwhelming of times.
My inspiration for this piece stems not only from Peltier’s and Zucker’s personal accounts, but from contemporary artists like musical group Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and poet George Watsky. These figures’ strong-willed, anti-conformity, go-out-and-live-life attitudes are evident in my work and its connotations. Merging the messages of all four of the above-mentioned influences allows “Out of this World” to reflect both my personal struggle and the ways in which my personal fight correlates with the fights of other, well-known human beings in the literary and musical worlds.
My fight is not only one of sadness, extreme stress, and hopelessness, but also one of perseverance, indefatigable determination, and hope. I believe it is this contrast that gives so much power to my poem. The human potential to experience such a wide-range of feelings is amazing. But, even more wonderful is the human ability to fight back; to continue walking even when it may seem like there is no path ahead; to endure; to carry on in the most trying of endeavors. This ability makes our lives holy. This ability is one of humanity’s most vital components.
Through the implementation of carefully calculated syntax, diction, alliteration, and extended metaphor, “Out of this World” makes a powerful statement whose intention is to leave the reader or listener feeling the intangible and ineffable sense of having just experienced something truly special. My hope is that this piece provides a very real sense of hope to the reader or listener – that although you may feel physically trapped, your soul knows no bounds.
I am quite satisfied with my final product. After days of brainstorming and more than four hours meticulously piecing together each stanza, I feel extremely proud of my creation. Never before have I so candidly opened myself up on paper. I not only feel a true sense of accomplishment in writing this piece, but also feel great relief in finally taking every emotion I have ever hidden away deep inside my being and getting those turbulent sentiments out of my system.
And, perhaps most importantly, through self-reflection, I learned happiness is a choice—a personal decision that can be achieved regardless of circumstance. As Macklemore so perfectly explains, “I don’t control life, but I control how I react to it.” “Out of this World” represents everything I have ever felt. This poem is every dark secret I have ever withheld; every twisted thought that has ever crossed my mind. This poem gives an explanation of true happiness; true hope. This poem is, simply put, me – in my most raw form.
I’m always on edge here,
Always apprehensive2 of time.
Time is a cannibal that devours the flesh of your years day by day,
Bite by bite.
And as he finishes the last morsel,
With the juices of your life running down his bloody chin,
He smiles wickedly, belches with satisfaction,
And hisses out in ghostly tones2,
“You will soon be mine.”
I know what it’s like:
To stand, lonely, while the wind blows still and calm through the air.
To be called gay for the shoes I used to wear by the vice ridden instigators of the gravest social perils.1
To stress so much I stay up through the night, thinking I have nowhere to go as I slip into the fourth mental breakdown of the week. Many nights I lie in my bed and let my mind, my dreams, flow free, conjuring up a future2 I will work indefatigably to reach.
To hold in so much hate I want to drown out the good side of my conscience and kill the people around me.
To feel out-of-this-world crappy. Happiness, that smoky potion fit for fools and rogues and those susceptible to vanity.3
To not-so-seriously contemplate suicide. Transcend to the other side, please listen up, hear my vibe.
Realize I’ve hidden away my suffering. I smile when I feel like crying.
Laugh when I feel like dying.2
So let go of every assumption you’ve ever had about me.
Please don’t think of me as some wise sage, my heart’s a book,
You just opened the preface and started the first page.
So clear your mind, tabula rasa, eliminate the mental cage
You’ve unknowingly created about me.
I work hard, but work hard foolishly.
Because I feel like I’ve been consigned to the dustbin of history.2
An insidious force, an aura permeated with strife.
I’m way too caught in the waving flow that is life.
And I’m captain of this ship.
Sometimes we hit some turbulent weather,
But whether or not we make it through it does not matter.
Because we gave it our best and, even when we’re gone,
The hull of our ship will continue to flow
Until it hits land, small granules of sand creating friction to slow it down.
Friction leads to stress, but it does not matter, because, to me, it seems like we
Have already drowned in the mental augmentation of societal predispositions.
A mood can be overpowering,
Especially on those days when the endless privations
And frustrations of life
Build and build inside me.2
Building, building, building up inside me like a rocket.
Starting in my bowels.
Working its way through over twenty feet of large intestine.
Up, through my throat.
I’m choking, dying with thirst
Because the fiery rage of this rocket blasting off inside me is about to burst.
Like MOTHER F—
Like mother, “Is that my destiny?”3
And I’m feeling under the weather.
It’s raining hard,
I’m in a dream.
I step outside my body and look at me
And see someone who feels outofthisworld crappy.
But I walk. Walk on. Walk through.3
Because I spit it sick, slick, surreptitious with this prose,
And if you don’t know what surreptitious means,
Keep it a secret,
Yeah, that’s my middle finger,
The knuckle covers my lips
While my nail brushes the tip of my nose.
So put ‘em up, salute the avantgarde indie bit
And screw the people who take sick satisfaction in holding us in.
So now, I have decided the time has come for me to write,
Not because I’m planning to die,
But because I’m planning to live.2
I know what it’s like:
To love a friend so much I’d give him my life in an instant.
To kiss soft, mintscented lips and let my mind flow freely.
To sit down on the couch and watch Alan go to Vegas and mistake that ecstasy for roofies.
To hear my mother say she loves me.
To hear the soft, sweet sound of the Mourning Dove sing to me.
And one day, Imma make it rain,
No longer under the weather because I’ve endured the omnipresent emotional pain
Permeating my skin, bones, and veins.
But take a step back, see these words through a different lens,
‘Cus success to me is not about stacking up those Benjamins
So some supercilious wife can drive her oversized Mercedes Benz.
Can’t you see? Open your eyes, look directly at mine.
‘Cus what we have here is so incredibly special.
Imprint it on your mind’s
Canvas with indelible ink especially when you feel like you’re on the brink
And thirty years from now, we’ll look back on these moments
And remember what it was like to truly feel.
Hopscotch down the thin yellowdotted dividing line of memory lane
And press your face against the windowsill.
Because we … we are so “in it” right now.
So grasp that which is positioned
So precisely on the precipice in front of you and hold it dearly.
But trespassers beware, be wary because nostalgia is dangerous.
And I hope these words make you feel something inside
‘Cus this world is so damn beautiful.
So next time you feel hopeless,
Or caged in,
Or outofthisworld crappy,
Or thinking that you wanna kill your kith and kin,
Or stay up through the night sinking into your brain’s twisted reservoirs,
Think of these moments.
Think of all the beauty and love present on this earth
And remember the context of the universe in which we exist.
Ours lives have meaning.
I refuse to believe that this existence is meaningless.2
What is the moral of this story?
Take my words into your soul and don’t be worried
Sixteen years old—onefifth of my life’s story.
Because I refuse to be consigned to that dustbin of history.
There is some greater reality that exists within each of us,
An infinite realm beyond reach of all pain.
I am undestroyed.
I know who and what I am.
I will never yield.
My body may be locked in here,
But my spirit flies with the eagle.2
And no one blame me. It’s my destiny.3
Because I am me.
I am outofthisworld happy.
1 Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. New York: Vintage, 1980. Print.
2 Peltier, Leonard. Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance. New York: Crazy Horse Spirit, Inc., 2000. Print.
3 Zucker, Rachel. Museum of Accidents. Seattle: Wave Books, 2009. Print.