My first poem just sort of came to me. I had no idea, at the time, the impact it would have on my life.
During a warm summer evening in Barcelona, I encountered a woman—the most beautiful woman I have ever seen—at a nightclub in the city’s Born district. She couldn’t help but catch everyone’s attention, including mine, having an almost regal appearance: Dreadlocs styled into a crown, flawless skin peeking beyond a cutting-edge gown, which covered her nearly six-foot, thin frame. Stunning. A fellow patron relayed to me that she visited from Belgium once a month to find someone to sleep with… Anyone. I know that we all make choices that represent our life’s path and that one person’s comfort may represent discomfort for another. But, what I felt wasn’t a judgment of her actions. This was about me.
In that moment, I couldn’t help but see the truth of my past, the situations I once placed myself into so that I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of being alone. How so many others described me as beautiful, yet I couldn’t see it myself. How I’d abused myself emotionally and sexually, through the hands of others – expressing an insatiable emptiness through promiscuity. My poem, “you, he & me,” spilled out the next day. With each word, past feelings of shame and pain poured forth, just like the tears staining the envelope that became my first canvas. More than two years passed before I had the courage to perform it.
I began composing more and more during that trip. A bad restaurant experience found me replaying the words “it really was no picnic” in my head on the walk home – which became the foundation of “an anonymous review”– a powerful expression of frustration with myself for using technology to disconnect from my spirit, choosing to follow the recommendations of others, instead of what I know in my heart. I found myself jotting down little verses in my phone and on the backs of napkins before graduating to carrying a full-blown notebook everywhere I went.
Something started to change within; I seemed to stop engaging in passive aggressive behavior. I wasn’t so quick to spark heated arguments, as I once did – and was quite known for. Instead, I wrote carefully chosen words to express the many emotions I’d kept inside for so many years, for so many reasons. Poetry became my personal therapist – available everywhere I went. It helped me to organize my pain into words that didn’t harm anyone else, nor did it make me appear to be a raving lunatic. It gave me the ability to explore life events that I’d hidden away and heal them by speaking about them. It freed me from feelings of shame, guilt, fear, anger… it goes on. Poetry became me.
The first time I stepped onstage to perform, some four months after penning my first poem, I was hooked. My first performances were of poems of a more political slant, as I found it easier to get the crowd behind my anger with the world, in general, and its various complexities. I didn’t have the nerve to stand in front of a crowd of strangers and share my vulnerabilities with some of the deeper stuff I’d written.
Two years later, something commanded me to perform “favorite sweater,” my most personal poem to date. Written as a plea for help from a lover unaware of my broken past, my lips quivered in fear as I shared what so many could relate to. The audience loved it.
And I realized my ability to not only heal myself through words, I saw how I had the ability to help others recognize and heal unhealthy patterns.
I returned to that same stage a month later and performed “you, he & me,” without hesitation or fear.
The night that I chose to share “you, he & me,” I felt a level of freedom that I’d not experienced before in my life. Two years of writing soul baring poetry will do that to you. Beyond the ability to share past shame and present vulnerability, I’d reached a new appreciation of sexual expression in my life. Each word spoken during my performance carried the power of a woman in complete alignment with her truth, including her sexuality – free to indulge in every experience that speaks to her soul, without judgment or fear.
rachel m. walls is a human being who currently lives on planet earth with her seven-some-odd-billion friends and family. she enjoys fresh air, healthy food, clean water, comfortable shelter, adequate clothing, and the occasional spa day. ms. walls is often found breathing, living, loving, creating, performing, and sometimes dancing. author of “all you need are seeds… a socio-political self-help memoir about organic gardening,” rachel is on a quest to inspire lasting social change, one person at a time. connect with her at: www.rachelmwalls.com.