pursuit (n).

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I had a dream of greatness
I had a vision that my life would include
noble ambition and impressive
pastimes. I had a dream of notoriety
and confidence that the things I chose
to do were the right things, full of courage
and boldness.

No one told me about
the late nights and sleepless mornings
no one told us about the sore muscles and
calloused hands. No one mentioned
the dirt on my tired clothing and
the secret art of crunching numbers and
sharing last night’s dinner for supper
again and all of the wondering if
we would make it to month’s end.

No one told me
about my heart, pulled in
all ways, my mind, spinning
like a top at the edge of a table.

No one told me
that the dream that was
planted would
grow in this way. 

You will find me
living my dream
with my hair messy and
my children laughing,
with projects half open
and half finished,
with eyes clear and
hands full and heart
living in the light.

sight (n).

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I stopped for a moment and the beauty of
all of these things rose to meet me:
that children still learn to ride bikes and
bakers get up at four in the morning to
make perfect, warm bread and
strangers open doors for each other and
also they make conversation on the subway and
here, just when I needed it, someone mailed me
a letter with my favourite words spilled inside.

The leaves remember to come back each spring and
tiny birds chase each other, even in the city and
sail boats still flutter like eyelashes across
the lake on Sundays and
the sun, just when I needed it, stays around later and
is there waiting for me in the early morning when
sleep isn’t easy and doesn’t stay long.

My mother calls and asks all the right questions and
my neighbour planted magnolias on my side of the porch and
the teen cashier at the grocery store is happy to see me and
the old couple beside me are still holding hands and
my friends are champions, inviting me to dinner and
my cousin drew pictures that I keep on my wall and
here, just when I needed it, a song rises to wake me
to show me I am not alone in my lonesome, that
I am not hopeless even when I am sad.

immerse (v).

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I am in the everything place
which is too close and too much
and all at once, like standing
too close to a painting, 
overwhelmed by this
tiny corner of blue.

I am in the tender place
where everything is soft and
temperamental, where the
walls are made of questions
and doubt, where the air
seems thick and soupy
like summer heat that
won't break, where the floor
is made of shifting sand.

silk (n).

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Who is going to love the softness in me?
Here I am, made of hum and hammock,
with ribbons for limbs, bones of feathers,
brought often to tears and to the floor
in overwhelming wonder that
we are each oceans, just held together
by the armor of our bodies and
the rumor that we need to be hardened
in order to stand.

I've seen the look before, and
I see it again from you, 
you're afraid I will drown you
with the petals that keep
pouring out of my chest.

celebratory word project giveaway.

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 So I just wrote thirty poems in thirty days. This is the third time I've challenged myself with this feat (with the original April Word Project last year and again in October), and it's always the same cycle: the first few days it takes a really long time for the poem to "arrive," I spend a lot of time staring at the wall, or out the window, or generally lamenting to myself. Always finding it difficult to find the time to make it all happen. Around day eight, a bit of a shift comes and I might come up with a banger, and then somewhere around day eleven, all of a sudden I'm taking notes on my phone and writing things down in the middle of work.

With each of these month-long projects, this lesson is affirmed: if you make space for art, something will always arrive to you. And, the runner-up lesson: you're not always going to make The Best Art Of Your Life. Which is totally okay. But you have to be ready (limber, research done, mantel prepared, etc etc) for when it does come. So doing the work, and thanking it for coming, no matter how small it may seem, is all you can do. 

So, a giveaway:

as a thank you for following along with The April Word Project, I'm giving away two poems about whatever they want! For the winners last year, I wrote mooring (n). to commemorate a reader's journey with anxiety, and circadian (adj). as an anthem about starting a new chapter for another reader. 

How to enter:

ON INSTAGRAM: Screenshot and share your favourite #aprilwordproject poem in your insta-story or on your profile and tag/ mention @visitjessjanz. Make sure you're following @visitjessjanz on instagram. 

ON FACEBOOK/ TWITTER: go to visitjessjanz.com and pick your favourite April Word Project poem, and share it on your account. Make sure you tag me (Jess Janz on Facebook and @jessjanz on Twitter) so I can see that you've shared! Make sure you're following the Visit Jess Janz page on Facebook. You can see the whole collection here. 

I'll be doing the draw on Friday, May Fourth, so you have a few days to pick your favourite!

xo Jess

(Photo by the brilliant Steph Ironside from Iron & Bragg Photography).

excuse (n).

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I don’t have time to create;
there is too much to worry about, like
not looking like the pretty girls, and
if what I learned as a child is true, and
all of the little catastrophes everywhere.

And, I am already late;
late to work, late to understand,
late to catch on, late to gain
skill and strategy.

And, there are the others;
they are talented and accomplished
and so well prepared and
polished with their manner and
also the right equipment.

I could not even dare to
begin now.

gesture (n).

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You crossed over to me
from the other side of my kitchen like
to you it was crossing an ocean -

- it was that big of a gesture,
this tiny, precious thing,
that you would take
the first step and not me,
that you would leave behind
your points of reason (so well
prepared) and your solid
arguments and your need
to be right, and wrap me up,
even with your chin trembling. 

implicate (v).

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I now understand
the ritual of mourning clothes,
a physical veil to signify that
we are not yet ready to join the world;
they would act as a suggestion of how
strangers should approach us:
with the greatest softness
and a wide berth.

How many times have I been
unraveled by a well-meaning barista
asking how my day is going? 
How isolating when you can't
answer fully: "I am making sense
of myself after
my entire world fell apart." 

I now approach the world
with such delicacy, since
we are not adorned in our
mourning clothes, but
carry with us all the ways
we are surviving.

billow (v).

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Wade out with me
past the sea grass and sand bank
past the tide pool and shelled reef,
past even the calm and gentle water,
to the place where we hover
and feel like we could be swallowed whole,
to the place that the water turns
from silver to enveloping blue,
to the place where the waves break
and gather into themselves
and that’s how they become tall.

designate (v).

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Who decided on the naming of things?
There isn’t just one word
that can explain on its own
the colors of sadness, or
the itchiness of longing. There are
so many different kinds of tired, like
the tiredness that comes from
physicality and the tiredness that
comes from being in the wrong
place for too long. There need to be
different names for the varying
degrees of home, as in, the place
where I store my belongings, as in,
the place in which I take refuge,
as in, the group of people with
whom I am the most free and safe.

I can’t name you a lesson
though I have learned things,
or name you a warning, though
there are things that we could have
gone without, or give you a name
that is in past tense, neatly tucked
away in history by the verbiage;
you are to me still present, here,
still your socks are folded in the
way I fold socks and not gathered
the way you prefer, still here
is a mug that you were the last
to clean, still here readily
is the swell in my chest when
all the names for you come
rushing too quickly and often.

exposure (n).

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It has been difficult for me
to be known by you, that kind
of visibility has not
sat well.

I have let you in to my secrets
and my regrets, you have
seen the begrudging way I greet
the morning, you have seen
my nervousness in large gatherings, you
have seen the way I fold into myself
for days at a time. You have seen
the heaviness that I bring home
with me and the way
I line it up on the table.

It is difficult to be known
by you, with all these
messy parts lying about;
I thank you that you
did not avert your eyes
but could you have
adorned the mess
with wildflowers?

sought (v).

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You find me always in my
wandering, you find me,
as you do in your gentle way,

going over the same question
again and again and
throwing me off in my doubt
by unraveling me with
the kindness of strangers.

You find me when
I don’t know your name
or what to call you, you find
me in the nameless and
unspeakable places,
you find me in my silence
and heavy sighs.

You find me even when I
flinch from the light
and you lull me into morning,
you find me, though I am
supposed to be
the one seeking you.

repetition (n).

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I am a creature of habit,
my morning this morning looked
like the morning before it, rising
with a whimper and shuffling
to the kitchen for the holy
coffee ritual – portioned with
the same spoon, I place the
same mug as I hum with the
sacred silver kettle.

I return often to the
same places, the bench in
the park where once we watched
a midnight bike parade, and returned
again after I finished my weekend shift
and again to read to each other
from the book I have read
already through, four times.

I echo often the same
songs that spoke to me
(I think maybe they were
written for me alone), these
songs I put on while I write,
or sit at home, or hurry
down to the bus stop.

I want to be in the habit of
finding new ways to
see the beauty in
even the quietest day.  

conversationalist (n).

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I’ve become unskilled at
asking people questions because
the only questions that come
to mind are the kind that
don't fit in well at parties; 
at all times I am consumed
with bringing my hand to
the tender, glossy heart-place
made of glass, asking,

in how many pieces has
your heart been broken, and

how did you become the way
you are, and

what are the things that have
made you fearful? And

what chorus of thoughts
keeps you up at night, and

where is it that you
have made a home, and

when have you been
the most alive, or the
most stuck, or the most
confused, or the most
of everything, all at once, and

who is it you call when
your world stops -
turning or just
making sense or
freezes in those brief
shattering seconds
of doubt?

Forgive me, I no longer see
a room of pretty faces, only
a room full of gaping hearts.