A wonderful friend of mine recently pointed out that I should be publishing my poems here, as it is licensed and copyrighted, rather than on Facebook. This entry is dedicated to my fellow B-26’s – for these poems were written for us.
MSC Tribute to B-26’s
“And this one right here: This one is for the indiscriminate beer guzzlers because we all know the taste of Ariana. This is uh, is for the YD volunteers working with kids, and for the COD’s who do it all. This is for the TEFL’s who break up school yard fights, and protect the wimps from the childhood bullies that torment them. For the former beauty queens and for the milk crate ball players. For the nighttime cereal eaters and for the wonderfully wise, older Americans in Bulgaria, and I don’t just mean Mr. McPheeters.
Shake the dust.
This is for the benches and the people sitting upon them. For the bus drivers driving a million broken Баби, for the men who have to hold down three jobs to simply hold up their children, for the nighttime scholars and for the twilight bike riders trying to fly.
Shake the dust.
This is for the volunteer in training who cannot be understood because they speak half Bulgarian and half gibberish – shake the dust, for those who wear misprinted English t-shirts and enjoy the local fashion, shake the dust, for my ladies who are integrated enough to wear onesies, those disco-tech wallflowers and the eighty-something adults who had to learn how to use the toilet again, for the PCV who is always late because no one takes notice or mentions tardiness, for the past year in which we volunteered our lives, shake the dust. This is for the PC staff being strict with the rules, who know the value of tough love.
For the ones who the amendments do not stand up for, for the ones who were forgotten, for the ones who were told to speak only when spoken to and then are never spoken to – speak every time you stand so you do not forget yourself – do not let one moment go by that doesn’t remind you that your heart beats a hundred thousand times a day and that there are enough gallons of blood, to make every one of you, oceans.
Do not settle for letting the waves settle, and for the dust to settle in your veins – this, is for the loving teacher who keeps on struggling for the sake of the students, for the patient listeners, and the people who give their energy and time and tears to make a difference, for the sweat that drips off of Grafa’s lips, and for the shaking skirt on Kuchek dancer’s shaking hips, for the heavens, and hells, to which the Bulgari have lived. This is for the tired, and for the dreamers, for each of us who chose to actively participate in our worldwide community – because we saw a need and knew we had the ability to help create international unity – this is for the dancers, for the introverts, for the mountain hikers, and those who consider being med-evac.-ed by breaking their own femur (shout out to Leslie Duncan). The springtime that somehow, seems to show up after every, single winter… this is for you.
This is for you.
Make sure that by the time you return to your site, you take care of yourself, because just like the days – I burn at both ends, and every time I integrate and communicate, every time I open my eyes, I am cutting out parts of myself just, to give them to away, as I’m sure you do too.
So shake the dust and take me with you when you do for none of this, has ever been from me.
All that pushes, and pulls, and pushes, and pulls, it pushes for you.
So grab this world by its clothespins, and shake it out again, and again, and jump on top and take it for a spin and when you hop off shhh-shake it again… for this is yours. Make my words worth something – make this more than just another poem that I write – more than just another night that’s as heavy above us all – walk into it, breathe it in – let it crash through the halls of your arms like the millions of years of millions of poets coursing like blood, pumping and pushing, making you live, shaking the dust when the world knocks on your door… clutch the knob tightly, and open on up, and keep running forward into its widespread greeting arms, with your hands in front of you… fingertips trembling, though they may be.”
COS – Bulgaria is Home
“Bulgaria, you are, my place. The day I first met you, The way your hand landed on my back was, Ouch! Truth. It was the way in which, within hours, you recognized me. I gave you six months, a year, twenty-seven months to memorize what it feels like to have something to hold on to. I fell in love with the way your spring flowers bloom, and the fall settles in my bones.
I said hell no, when you sauntered up to my balcony window, All grey skies and banichka grease. Homeless people and narrow streets. You asked for change and I thought, “This is no way to sweet talk a lady,” But we struck up a conversation – I read you from cover to cover. There was hope in your tone. More punch than I’d have thought. Just like mine, your hands were sweating in free verse. And at that moment, I knew, leaving you would hurt.
That day I stood unsure that I’d ever show up. But I smiled back at you, secretly knowing, “I am no soul mate of yours,” And you smiled back at me, Revealing teeth that follow Sofia’s skyline. Your fist made of black rail lines, and you, With your cobble-stone brown skin, So aged and cracked, You, With a thrift store of a soul you collect your historical memories in. Your dreams belong in the heart and soul of every nomad, Scouring this earth, Looking to become the change we wish to see in the world.
The way you said hello, With that sweet, convincing, welcoming baba voice you’ve mastered so well, I love that. It made me want to start, Drinking rakia, Dancing horo, To speak Bulgarian, To learn. Who you are – what makes you tick and how we can find a way to stop time together, To enjoy the world surrounding us which has drawn us, Like water from the same well. So close together. You heard me cry out, I thought my strength was enough to carry me through this experience, My weakness and fragile self devastated me. So you held me, like a vafla in the hand of the child on the street, Never letting go – even when I pushed away. I built up a wall, A shield, To protect myself from the pain of vulnerability, But you showed me that a butterfly is able to fly precisely because it is so delicate, And you fractured my fears into mosaics clear enough to see through. You have been here for me, Through every step of the way. You always coaxed me back to you, To understand and adapt.
Flexibility they said. How was I to know I was to be flexible about my own soul? Shaped and molded, forged in the fire. Bulgaria, You were always right where I left you. You are a hidden entrance to paradise, And only a wink of your skyline can make me feel at home tonight. I came to know your scars because I undressed the spirit within. Felt your skin, strange and colder than I expected, Your fingernails more colorful and segregated than I knew could exist on one hand. I asked you if you wanted to hold hands on the way back from the poverty, Of life in this country and as a Peace Corps Volunteer. And through it all, you still found a way to discount romance me, darling.
I am selfish and stubborn at times, And I have been as lonely as only an American could be on your soil, Yet you gave me, So willingly, The brotherly love that was so daunting for me to seek out in you. Overwhelming poor neighborhoods and gutters dirty, Comforted and covered me in concrete. You let me know you at your worst, Loved me at my worst. Your eyes shining like the fickle shattered glass on the street at midnight under a street light. Overcrowded buses and railway stations littered with lines of impatience and stress. For many of us, July is the last stop on the train. But don’t be sad, Bulgaria, You’re the best long-term relationship I’ve ever had. But, I lied to you. I’m not an expert in any sense of the word. I’m good at wingin’ it when it comes to projects, ideas, and sometimes, the English language. As odd as it sounds, I am nothing more than a twenty-seven month one-night stand, And I’ll be singing my farewell like an anthem in reverse.
I’ll be breaking down soon, But before I go, Let’s do it one more time. You taught me how to undress my future, To wallow in the present with you. I climbed to the top of your many mountains, And you brought me that beautiful skyline capital view. I know we haven’t bonded in a while, But you let me know all your secrets, And I shared all mine too. In all the time we’ve been lovers, You never left me. But we’re both outgrowing each other. Old country, wild and wise, I’d like to stand beneath your streetlights with you, One more time. Bulgaria, I’m leaving before dawn. There’s no place like this home. I might be gone for a while, But I’ll be back before dusk. Leave the lights on for me, But don’t wait up.”
Until next time…