Tiara Crites

Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.

[Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.]

Prayer

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I know how to fold my hands and beg air to keep my family safe,

but I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I know that the raindrops from the sky,

as they explode against my window,

sound like whispers

and I know that the leaves rustling above my head sound like soft Latin,

but I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I know that grass makes my skin itch for freedom

and mosquitos believe my blood to be their divine nectar

and bees just want to be left alone to make honey,

but I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I know that my instincts were damaged in my fall to earth

and pain is what keeps us alive

and heartbeats are what make people into music,

but I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

But I do know exactly what a prayer is.

A prayer is

plants struggling up from the ground like

the first words from a baby’s mouth.

A prayer is

a reminder of things past,

a photo album of memories,

like relics of what happened before you could see,

like history books of creation,

like redwood trees.

A prayer is

the last breaths of animals now extinct,

dire wolves and sabertooth tigers stepping aside

to let lizards like thunder inherit their earth.

You’re a prayer, too.

You’re a prayer like

chittering squirrels are a prayer,

like lilacs,

like paint is a prayer to the fingers of an artist.

You’re a prayer

like violins are prayers

like a secret is a prayer for loyalty.

You’re a prayer

like golden sun,

the sound of cherries bursting in your mouth

like red.

You’re a prayer.

A prayer is

the softness of the winds fingers on your skin.

A prayer is

pens smearing ink on pages to form words.

A prayer is

the light of the stars,

like streetlamps in space.

A prayer is,

a prayer is,

a prayer is.


Advice for Those Who Want to be Writers

The most important thing about writing,

or being a writer,

or even pretending to be a writer,

isn’t the words.

As a writer,

you’ve got to remember to take care of yourself.

I’m as guilty as anyone else when it comes to forgetting to stay hydrated,

but you will suffer,

and your writing will suffer,

if you don’t remember to take care of the body spitting out the words.

You have to nourish the garden growing the ideas

and the blood forming the words.

You’ve got to love yourself the same amount as you love

the worlds scratching themselves across your pages.

Even if your can’t feel love for yourself as you exist away from your pen,

go back and read the words that have managed to free themselves from your hands,

remember the way your heart beat as they fled,

remember the love you felt for them that day and every day since you let them go,

remember that

you

were the one that brought them to life,

remember that it was your hand

and your brain

and you

that painted that masterpiece of the written word.

Realize that it is still a part of you even if you no longer control it.

Realize that this is how you love yourself when you can find no other way

or no one else to do it.

Realize that this is how you soothe your soul and

realize that other people will love and hate these parts of you,

but you loved them enough to let them go.

So, the most important thing about being a writer is to love your words,

yours,

and no one else’s,

because loving yourself is important.

It opens to the door to love other things,

and that,

that loving,

is what writing,

being a writer,

or even pretending to be a writer,

is about.


Baby, You

On August 18, 1998,

the galaxy shook as the, ahem,

Crown Jewel, of the Crites family was thrown into this world,

screaming at the top of her lungs,

I AM NOT READY,

and everyone around her only heard healthy wailing.

If I could go back for a moment and tell her that she was,

in fact,

ready, I wouldn’t.

Because that would be a lie.

But, if I could tell her something, it would be this:

Baby, you are not ready, but that is okay.

Because, in just over three years you are going to be given a brother,

and you are going to name him yourself,

and he is going to be a little punk,

and it will probably be your fault,

but you are going to love him like God loved Adam.

You are going to love him like nebulas imploding,

and shells from tanks piercing the armor on your chest in an effort to demolish your heart.

You are going to love him like you have never loved anyone else,

like you will never love anyone else,

because you will watch him grow up to be a lovely young man,

and while he may not always be the precious little brother you started with,

and while he may not always be nice,

he will always be yours.

You cannot say that about anyone else,

and maybe that is why you will love him like the sky is falling.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, you will be rocketing through your twelfth year on this planet

when you realize that this new place will be good for you.

You will be unaccustomed to clean air and friendliness,

but you will eventually get over the need to have stare-downs with people for dominance

as you make eye-contact with them in Target.

You will learn to smile at strangers and detect changes in the weather using only your sinuses.

You will learn how to paint smiles on your lips and pretend you’re okay

when you can feel yourself coming apart at the seams and starting to fray at the corners.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, when you are approaching your fourteenth year,

death will fall at your feet in the form of your Abuelo dying.

You will have never had a blow from the Grim Reaper strike so close to your heart before,

and you will cry like you have Niagra Falls in your eyes

for a man who was more of a Grandfather to you than your real one and that’s okay,

because the moment you stop experiencing feelings like they’re natural disasters

is the moment that you are no longer yourself.

You will be able to feel his loss tucked underneath your ribcage, up against your spine,

every day of your life.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, you will be almost fifteen when you find what you are made of.

You will be sitting in an auditorium with a hundred other kids, and you will be starstruck.

You will be the only one starstruck.

There will be kids that you will come to know on that stage reading poetry from

the deepest, most hidden parts of themselves, and you will ask someone,

who, looking back, was probably Quinten,

for his autograph

and you will take a flyer from someone who introduced themself as Stacey.

At the base of your sternum, you will know that this is what you should be doing.

Baby, you will be sitting in a library with forty other kids, and you will be starstruck.

You will not be the only one starstruck.

This man will inspire you to pick up a pen and write your first poem, aptly titled,

This Poem Sucks.

Your blood will boil, and your bones will scream what your mouth cannot,

THIS IS IT.

You will perform your sucky poem and, for the first time in your life,

you will live.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, you will be a little more than fifteen when your Pre-ACT

starts catching the eyes of colleges from around the country.

Colleges will send you more mail than you know what to do with.

It’ll feel awkward throwing it away, like throwing away your future,

but it’ll feel just as awkward keeping it up in your room,

letting them taunt you with a tomorrow you cannot seem to taste or see or touch.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, you will be sixteen when your perception of yourself turns into

a kaleidoscope of terms that your parents do not understand.

You will hold each term, each color up to the light and then up to yourself.

You will look at them in the mirror and try to decide which of them looks best on your skin.

You will decide on one and then change your mind and decide on another.

You will change your mind again and again until

you settle on the palette you’ve been dancing around for three years.

This picture of you that you’ve been working on will finally seem to be in the right shades,

but this masterpiece will stay under your shirt until you think the time is right.

Accepting yourself will be the hardest easy thing you’ve ever had to do.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, you’ll be on the verge of seventeen when you find the answer you’ve been struggling for:

poetry is not about the frilly things.

Poetry is about the gritty stuff,

the sand crunching and grating between your teeth,

the stuff you poke at with toothpicks and your tongue and your toothbrush

but just slides in deeper between your teeth until you learn to live with it in your mouth or

it dissolves and leaves you with phantom discomfort.

That is what poetry is about.

Baby, you will be on the verge of seventeen when you dip your hands in ink

and forget how to write prose with your fingertips.

It’ll feel like your brain is baking,

and your head is full of yeast,

and you will rise and fall,

you will rise and fall.

You will be blessed by poet saint Stacey Waite,

and you will be cursed by the demon of writer’s block.

But,

you will be transformed into a raven to leave black ink marks on parchment with your wings.

Quoth this raven, this is your re-birth.

If I could go back and tell her all of this, I would.

I would tell her anything and everything that would make her life just a little bit easier,

but she’s a baby.

She would forget my words and it wouldn’t make a difference.

She still wouldn’t be ready for the world that’s facing her,

for the world that takes soft little baby girls like flowers,

and forges them with rough hands into women hard like diamonds,

because flowers are fragile and easy to crush under muddy workboots,

but diamonds can only be cut by other diamonds,

and that’s what it takes for a girl to survive out here.

So, she still wouldn’t be ready, but that’s okay,

because I am.

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