Most people learn to despise poetry in high school English class, when they are presented with these dense and impenetrable fortresses of unfamiliar language and unconventional grammar that sheath meanings difficult to empathize with today. And as an enthusiast of poetry, I can’t really blame them; William Cullen Bryant isn’t for everyone. But we’ve all been biased by the word poetry. Poetry doesn’t just exist on the confines of a page bound into a textbook. I believe poetry is in the staccato rhythm of a thunderstorm and the dewy scent of rebirth on the ground the next morning – it’s all around us every day and you just have to do a little digging to find it.
When I was younger, I never really enjoyed music. I would go into the forest behind my grandfather’s house and hear this magical chatter and rustling, lush fills of the wind-shaken leaves overhead. To me, nothing on the radio sounded remotely like it, but I could never understand why. This continued into my early adolescence, where I found myself wishing for an answer more and more. My grandparents had died and my parents divorced, and I knew an unspoken pact had been signed where I would never hear the sounds of those woods again. I was 11 when I first heard anything similar. It was, to anyone else, a short piano piece by Chopin. But to me, it exploded with a life and vitality I thought had been long surrendered to fate. It was not some ostentatious metaphor; I could close my eyes and see colors graciously dancing to the rhythm.
I discovered that I have a condition known as synesthesia. Neurologically, it’s a confusion of the pathways in the brain between sense stimulus and response, but those of us possessing it know it to be anything but confusing. As I began to reflect on this, it revealed itself in other ways. The number two was an alternating checkerboard of different hues of blue. Certain words sat steeped in manic reds, eternal forest greens, or guileless yellows. How could the gray-scale confines of pages ever hold the musical notes, numbers, and words they claimed to? These became the breath of my thoughts and the language of my wonder.
Even at 11, my life was, and would still be, a peregrine dynamo in search of meaning. We moved between states every few years. Friends, schools, and communities became interchangeable gears as I undulated between parents’ homes and my disparate lives as many children of divorce do, and they didn’t coalesce into any piecemeal explanation. But as the ephemeral world around me lost its shape, there were a few things I knew for certain. The number two would always be blue, and the wind would always thinly whistle in flurries of striated white, cyan, and gray, just like it did behind grandpa’s house.