Back in 1998, one of my favorite musicians was Jewel. She had just released Spirit, a brilliant coffeeshop album, and reflected a lot of what she was going through at the time.
That same year, she published A Night Without Armor, which was her first collection of poetry. As a huge fan of her songwriting, I was thrilled to read it, as she explored the fire of first love, the fading of passion, the lessons of betrayal and the healing of intimacy.
I didn’t know it then, but the reason I resonated with so much of her writing was that I had, and was about to go through, similar life experiences.
From the preface of her book, she writes:
“I’ve learned that not all poetry lends itself to music—some thoughts need to be sung against the silence.”
When I was younger, I considered myself an intellectual. The authenticity of Jewel and others like Henry David Thoreau appealed to me. It’s no coincidence I felt alone during those years as I purposely sought out isolation.
I thought if I was different from others, I would somehow be significant and find what I was looking for. I thought the road less traveled was the right way. And I was wrong.
A Night Without Armor
Back in high school, I found myself frequenting the bookstores in downtown Evanston, where I would drink vanilla cappuccinos and write poetry. For some reason when I was there, in the heart of Northwestern University, I felt alive.
There were many times I’d walk the streets just to take it all in—the city life, the atmosphere of smart people, and everything that came with it.
One cold, winter night, I met a homeless man named Gerald. We talked about his story, and it was truly amazing. He told me he had been living on the streets for over fifteen years, and he had developed a callousness about it.
I didn’t understand what he meant, but then he said something to me I’ll never forget:
“You see, every time I lay down to sleep, it’s like a night without armor.”
He went into detail about the fears and pains he felt being homeless, and how he lost so much—his job, his family, his friends. It really was one of the most humbling and incredible conversations I’ve ever had.
After our time together, I walked back to the Barnes and Noble bookstore where I usually hung out, sat down with my cappuccino, and started to write.
A Revelation About Life
I used to think writing poetry was merely therapeutic, and it was just me rambling in literary form. But then I think about my encounter that night with Gerald and the title of Jewel’s book, and it really started to make sense.
Our lives, at times, have the tendency to feel like a night without armor.
Poetry is the result of vulnerability and unprotectedness—much like Gerald described, and also what Jewel writes about in her book.
She used to live in a van. She married and divorced at an early age. She was abused and experienced things as a child that completely devastated her.
So you might be wondering why I’m sharing all of this with you, and the answer is simple. I have a past, and that past is pretty dark and certainly filled with pain. It did, however, help define who I am and what I became.
I’ve chosen to open a door in my life that has always been closed. It’s something I’ve kept inside and guarded for more than twenty years—my poetry.
In the coming days I’ll begin to publish it here. Please be kind, much of it is personal.