Now I See My Life with New Eyes: A Crowd-Sourced Poem

The Poetic Hill

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This year’s virtual Literary Hill BookFest featured a number of treats for poetry lovers: video readings by E. Ethelbert Miller, Teri Ellen Cross Davis, Dana Gittings, and many other local poets; an online reprise of our live event, “Poetry on the Patio,” hosted by Jonathan Lewis; and a crowd-sourced poem that Lewis shared publicly for the first time on May 2. You can still view it all at www.literaryhillbookfest.org.

Lewis, the award-winning author of “Babel On,” compiled the crowd-sourced poem from more than 17 entries. He also contributed the opening line. “I was thinking about how much has changed in the past year alone,” he says, “and even as we are returning to normalcy, nothing really is the same. In our Capitol Hill neighborhood especially, so much has happened in the first few months of 2021. And so I came up with the prompt ‘I see my life with new eyes now’.”

The resulting poem, which reflects themes of disruption, reflection, and renewal, is printed below. “It was incredible to read so many thoughtful, powerful, heartbreaking, and even funny poems that were written in a very short turnaround based on this prompt,” Lewis observes. “And the wonderful privilege and challenge of working on a crowdsourced poem, is that you are creating a completely new work that still pays homage to each of the poems that contributed to it.”

Now I See My Life with New Eyes
A crowdsourced poem by Serena Agusto-Cox, Dean Blehert, Stanley Chin, Tori L. Collins, Darryl Denning, Mark Fishbein, Lucy Gettman, Chris Haley, Donald Illich, Katie Irish, Monica Masiello, Keith David Parsons, P.S. Perkins, Kim Roberts, Heather Schoell, L.B. Sedlacek, and Mary Sesso.

Arranged by Jonathan Lewis

Now I see my life with new eyes,
after winter dug a ditch in my days.
I was stuck until pulled out by the yellow
of forsythia and the gold of dandelions.
I catch a thread of light. 

Now I see my life with new eyes,
where Spring on the Hill brings
cherry blossoms to bloom.

But this year, any pleasure found
in their beauty is steadied by guilt
from police violence, COVID sickness,
and overall gloom.  

Now I see my life with new eyes,
where we had before worn
pleasure in our smiles, today
we wear it masked.

Family members survive,
friends of friends gone,
masks, distance, isolation,
eyes still wide open. 

Now I see my life with new eyes,
new eyes that rage
at injustice that can’t be remedied,
at so many families broken and in crisis.
Always we must beg forgiveness
for surviving in the charnel house, for being
the ones to sort bones back to names. 

Now I see my life with new eyes,
new eyes that dampen
at the killing of people too brown
to be protected and served like I am.
It is too easy to claim the eyes of the dead.
The eyes of George Floyd.
I don’t hear, taste, touch, smell or see everything.
How dare I pretend to? 

Now I see my life with new eyes,
no longer filtering out the gray,
only wanting to see in black and white.
Yes, now is different, unlike before,
as more people understand and act,
if they could keep on keeping on
with all the dirt the earth
has muddied under them,
turning sighs to human power. 

Now I see my life with new eyes,
the eyeballs I stole from the neighbor
who sunbathed in his backyard, sleeping,
and will hardly notice they’re gone.
This day I will not think about tomorrow.
I will delight in all that exists around me.
I am free to choose my path,
and leave the one I’m on.  

Now: to see my life
I close my eyes and let my fingers
read the braille of your hips,
rising like a dune.
Leaving the east for the west,
bringing me closer to the sky. 

Now I breathe in with new lungs,
a trip to the drugstore feels like a vacation,
a handshake is a hug.
It’s not freedom, but I’ll have people
to talk to and touch, laughter
I can share, fingers and toes to count. 

I see reality with new eyes –
airplanes and skyscrapers!
An apple peel curls around my hand,
touch like skin on skin. My daughter smiles,
leans into me, eager for a bite.
Your hand, reaching for mine:
A miracle.

If you would like to have your poem considered for publication, please send it to [email protected]. (There is no remuneration.)