Discover more from Poetry Trapper Keeper
🪲 have you tried stopping the bugs from flying into your gigantic green eyes? 🪲
because every time I try to use I statements I end up blinking endlessly from here to De Pijp is a lifetime ago
hiii! so this is a new one for me. very much inspired by Eliot’s essay on the first-person and Larissa’s response, I realized after our conversation on book writing last week that I’d been keeping a first-person, location-based diary of sorts for the past couple of months. I never really intended to share it with anyone, but here we are, letting the plot unfold on its own…
also, I did get mildly blinded by a bug when I was trying to edit this. but praise be, my body rejected it and I can see again!
🪲 have you tried stopping the bugs from flying into your gigantic green eyes? 🪲
because every time I try to use I statements I end up blinking endlessly from here to De Pijp is a lifetime ago, from here to De Pijp is a parallel universe, from here to De Pijp is a grainy day where the tops of the just-budded leaves are making out with the mist on the eve after the King’s Day I skipped out on.
it’s still light out but time can’t compute the lateness because the temperatures are like February here literally I read an article this morning that said it was warmer on New Year’s Day than on this 28th of April the whole city is silent and littered as I cycle through Oosterpark on my way to the only place that makes iced coffees with a splash of oat milk and the best almond croissants this way of Paris where the baristas are only sometimes mean to me, only sometimes make small talk.
later in the evening, on a tour de wine bars below Sarphatipark, my friends tell me how they found out they were both at this Keaton Henson concert in Amsterdam years before either of them started dating or living in the same country. it was for his Romantic Works album, they say as I remark on the fact that the cosmos is always trying to place people who are supposed to be together in proximity to each other. I ask the universe to give me a sign and the waiter leaves us each with a small cylinder labeled “king”. every time you have a mint this week, my friend says, you’ll be reminded of the place in De Pijp with the great burnt leeks and the buffalo cheese.
I unlock my bike at Glou Glou and remember instead bringing my mom here on her first trip to Amsterdam. wait, are we in Holland or the Netherlands?! she exclaims as she steps out of the Uber and on to the Kinkerstraat. is anything a sign from the universe in this village-city where you’re constantly in a 10 foot radius of everyone you’ve ever met, kissed, ran away from, etc. I walk by G’s and remember the bloody mary’s after a week of binge drinking at work parties. I pass by the plant bar, the horse bar, the Irish bar, the flamingo bar and lol at the fact I ever thought these were the stages of a perfect Friday night.
looping back around the block, I stop at Kelly’s Expat Shop and load up on Cheeze-Its, Twizzlers, and Walkers Salt & Vinegar crisps. I snap a selfie in a window with a white clay hand. I take a pic of the street. I look up. you can tell it’s actually a nice day behind the clouds so I steal a triangle from the sky and think of green eyes flickering over candles and Chevys on cinder blocks and the concert industrial complex and ChatGPT bringing about the communist revolution and climate change and cute little dogs. Tik Tok tells me this mercury retrograde is a bad time to reach out to an ex. let them reach out to you.
I get back to Oost and I pull up an article my dad sent to me on April 7th entitled, “can we lose COVID but keep the new outlook it gave us?”. (interesting article, reminded me of you…). I read through it as I reflect on my morning researching how to establish Dutch LLC’s realizing every business is just a pyramid scheme for rich people who have figured out bureaucracy. I want in.
I see a white-winged angel wearing a suit in Centraal on my way to my secret trip. I grab a Starbucks shaken brown oat iced coffee that tastes like the cusp of summer in 2005 and the freedom of walking down to the plaza after school to do homework. as I wait for the train I think I see a rat but it’s really just the reflection of the light on the tracks. it’s slightly too cold for iced coffee, I think.
once I get into my seat, I finger through Clarice Lispector’s Agua Viva (life water?? no, jellyfish. I google). Pat gave it to me last night at Bak with the inscription, “may she still a bit of your hear as she stole mine”. a typo but to still a bit of your hear… to slow down what your ears take in. I wonder how one can slow down what their ears take in when they have a sensory processing disorder in the middle of that sentance I look up out the window and see these beautiful tall trees and want to know what they are so I google, “dutch birch trees'' and proceeded with the following multi-tabbed inquiries:
types of birch trees
birch trees that peel (like the one in my front yard when I was a kid)
tall dutch pines
I can’t find them. the wifi on the train is slowing and I remember my stomach is still digesting the falafel salad I had for lunch. I’m always uncomfortable after I eat and wonder what it means when one’s body reacts to satiation with pain. I know I should go to the doctor for this but they would never take me seriously and what would they even discover?? would I demand they do a blood test? would they demand I get a colonoscopy? I don’t want that.
I already want to remix this Lispector book with Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time and maybe a little bit of Glass Essay by Anne Carson. I never know if book titles should be italicized or quoted and I could literally open up a new tab and figure this out right now but I resist and think about what it means to microdose ignorance into your life when you have access to boundless information.
The Netherlands is truly just one big construction site, I think as I watch cranes covering pools of water on fields as I wait patiently for us to cross over the border. the thing about the train to Berlin is the constant interruptions: the clanking of suitcases. the anticipation of your next neighbor. I put on In C by Terry Riley because Lucy Dacus recommended it on a Youtube the other day.
I check my phone. Larissa and I are scheming to get Patti Smith to be an online friend of the poetry newsletter. It’s funny how much you can trust someone you’ve never met in real life like more than most of the people you’ve worked with who were always. physically. present. I wonder for a second if proximity breeds paranoia like, the further something is from you the more perfectly it can be perceived but then the closer it gets, the more clearly you see it.
on the flipside, I do notice that the less frequently I see people IRL the more often I project false narratives onto them. but that’s also what the human brain is made for. it fills in the blank spaces, it recognizes patterns, it’s constantly trying to predict what will appear when there’s nothing there. my phone autocorrects me to ostensibly listen. I don’t know what ostensibly means: as appears or is stated to be true, though not necessarily so; apparently.
In C by Terry Riley sounds like the inside of my brain.
there’s this mural on the wall in my room when I get to Berlin that screams in spray paint: SOCIETY. OF. THE. SPECTACLE. it’s clear some landlord thought this was an edgy piece of art that would push up the Airbnb ratings. I text it to Larissa and go to bed. (Guy Debord is shaking in his boots).
I love the mystery of arriving in a new place under the cover of darkness and waking up in the morning to wonder like, there’s a grande piano in this fucking place. I play Mary Had a Little Lamb on it aggressively as Dylan records me. I wish I could remember Für Elise but my parents never put me into any sort of activity that required sitting still except for that one oil pastels class where I drew my white bunny, Adventure Pink Eye (rest in peace). I remember the sweet grey-haired instructor lady and the giant rectangular tables we sat at in the open-aired room that doubled as a cafeteria in the old McGovern school. I cannot recall a single detail from any of the myriad softball, basketball, or soccer games except for doing cartwheels in the field when I was supposed to be playing goalie. but maybe that was someone else.
while smashing on the keys, I remember that one Christmas in the late-90s where everyone got those cheap electric keyboards that we all hyper-fixated on learning for several weeks then swiftly dropped our shared ambition to perform scores from 1970’s space operas we hadn’t even seen yet. I sit with the window open eating a fried egg and ham while continuing with Lispector as I hear Dylan getting ready in the background. her musings on time were ahead of her time. I wish there was someone here who could play this piano properly.
I leave the apartment (after all these years in Europe, I still haven’t grown accustomed to calling it a “flat”). there are so many parks in Berlin so I weave in and out of them until I make it to Mitte. it’s the morning of May Day so everything is quiet and closed. I find a park entirely dedicated to the camp-ification of snails and revel in it. when I get tired and need a toilet, I decide it’s time to cycle home and wonder why Labor Day in the states is in September and not in May. these Uber Lime bikes are too top heavy, I think, as I gingerly pull on the handle breaks over the bridge back to Wedding.
as I roll into the afternoon the smell of park barbecue starts to seep through the windows. I listen to Stardust by Hoagy Charmichael and consider a nap.
I need to remind myself that poetry events with poetry people are the worst, like everyone is literally and metaphorically elbowing each other and 70% of the pieces are about nature and written by some Gen X-er who probably paid off their student loans and was flown out here to read for 60 seconds so they could sit outside and drink a glass of wine with their friends until they’re allowed to take an Uber back to the NH hotel that’s by the train station and call it a night.
I hate how these events are designed for talking at each other instead of with each other like, I hate the pressure to “network” for my art form which feels incredibly wrong and also like I just ripped off one of the internal monologues from Connel in Normal People whenever he attended a literary event. I start to get the anxiety stomach aches I’ve been plagued with since I was seventeen and drinking in fields but it took me 2.5 hours to get here so I grab a glass of wine and sit outside by myself. I pass Ada Limón on my way and consider giving her one of our “hot people read poetry” stickers but I decide it would be gauche.
at sunset I leave and sticker the walkway with mine and Jamie’s work (she got sick and couldn’t come today). it’s windy and the big ones are sticking to themselves as I walk by a party of cool Gen Z kids sitting in a window chain smoking. one of them is checking me out. I want to join the party but I’m not 26 so I keep on stickering.
when I get to the train station I lightly panic in the Albert Heijn To Go because I’m hungry but also trying to be more discerning about what I ingest (hello gluten-free girly era). I pause to consider what it means to be more discerning about what one ingests and that autocorrects to invest (of course) so I think about the billions in kickbacks the Dutch government has given to Shell and the housing protests that happened in Rotterdam on King’s Day (geen woning, geen koning). I grab a pesto couscous thinking I’ll be good on my gluten avoidance but after inhaling it on the platform, I learn that it’s a common misconception that it does not contain it. I muse on what it means to hold a common misconception that one is free of something and realize this cous cous and I are a lot alike. I cancel out the gluten with a passion fruit kombucha.
the night trains are incredibly annoying. all drunk people, lost people, loud people. my “ADHD Focus” playlist can’t even drown them out as I try to read one of the poet laureate’s books on the way back to Amsterdam I think about how I used to be a late-nighter then I think about how I’m afraid to make questionable decisions after midnight anymore and read an article on my phone about the concept of accountability pods and how to address harm in non-carceral ways.
if I think about it, the happiest times in my life were always when I had that “thing” that thing which I know now is obviously, community. the pattern would replicate itself whenever I found a place I could visit on a repeated basis to build intimate relationships with groups of people who shared common interests with me - i.e. school, theatre, punk shows, fashion internships, toxic tech jobs, open mics. now I have no stress (because I’ve minimized my exposure to carceral institutions) but I also have no pod.
maybe I’ll join the orcas capsizing boats off the coasts, I think as I exit the noisy compartment and see all the trains to Muiderpoort are now canceled so I snap a picture of the front of Centraal and run to catch the 14 thinking I never should have re-invested in these Converse. True Blue plays as I pull out on my last leg and realize I sat on trains for four hours today just to put up stickers in another city and that I could have made it to Paris and back in the same amount of time.
as the tram passes through Rembrandtplein I get visions of myself stumbling out onto the square like clockwork at 4 p.m. every Friday - and on most other weekdays - to hit the bars with my coworkers. we pass by the New York Pizza and I consider grabbing a slice for old times’ sake but the anxiety cramps are hitting me hard because the late-nighters followed me onto this tram. I really got off on my own plot back then, I think, as the doors open and two girls stand there like they’ve been waiting for this moment all night: one is holding a glass of red, one is holding a glass of white, both are smoking cigarettes. I wonder where they’re off to at 11:39 p.m. and know that in another timeline I’m already blackout on my bike searching for my own home.
on the walk to my apartment, I think about co-regulation and how I don’t want to do things alone or be the first to take the training wheels off anymore. I can’t tell if I’m getting gassy from the anxiety cramps or the gluten being introduced back into my system so I start humming Last Nite by the Strokes to self-soothe because @indiesleaze posted a picture of their drummer this morning and he was surprisingly hot and I couldn’t exactly coregulate with the late-nighters. listening to this album always takes me back to the ten block walk from Times Square to that concrete Prada building in the West 50’s where people exclusively wore Italian leather shoes and stared at you. I always had severe tummy issues on the way there.
years later, the doctor confirmed for me that this came from ignorantly chugging too many iced coffees before putting food into my stomach in the mornings.
we live and we learn.
🖊️ Writing Prompt
Your poetry homework for the week is to try some first-person writing and share it with someone, like IDK maybe even comment it here??!
☕ Also, if you liked this piece…
Larissa and I have this new thing where you can buy us a coffee!! We each take a double pump caramel frappucinno with whipped cream no foam no dairy two sugar packets and a little bit of glitter please!! All donations will go to the PTK is Starting a Business and We Need Money Fund. 🙏🏻