Mahevash Muses is a place for unconventional souls and I, Grace Hasson, am happy to include myself in that community. At times, I’ve found it hard to feel like I belong. But the more I learn to love myself, the less I worry about that. This past year I’ve gone on a journey of self-discovery through writing my first book, a poetry collection called Into the Orange Grove. The more I wrote the more I learned about myself. Any attempt to put my book into a box led to a new turn. I thought all the poems would be fantastical until I wrote realism poems; I thought they would all be love and heartbreak poems until I wrote gothic poems. My book is a coalescence of myself and I don’t see myself as someone who is just one identity. Into the Orange Grove takes you into the maze of my mind and even into the basements of my heart. It is about heartbreak, depression, and isolation, but it also blossoms into a reconnection to loved ones and the self. It is my journey, and I’d like to share one of the poems I’ve written along the way.
House by the Sea
Crash on the shore
Crash in my mind
Can’t tell which waves are
keeping me up
I wonder if I would give up
Half the waves in my brain
to find life easier
I am content
but it’s happiness on a cliff
above an unholy sea
or a glass plate on the corner
of the countertop
Crash on the tile
Crash in my head
There are no acid waves
Just ordinary waves
ordinary for me
Deadly for me
What can I do
And let them
Crash on the shore / Crash in my mind / Can’t tell which waves are keeping me up
Mahevash writes, “It’s late at night, the world’s asleep / But my noisy mind keeps me awake.” This is a sentiment I relate to. The title of this poem is rather literal since my family moved to a house by the bay. One night I was lying awake and I couldn’t tell whether my crashing thoughts were keeping me up or if it was just the crashing waves. I got out of bed, took my phone off its charger, and typed this poem. At times, I have to get my thoughts out – or else I can’t sleep. Insomnia is one of the most daunting shadows in my life. I can turn turbulent as the ocean in a storm some nights and it takes everything in me just to breathe easy.
I wonder if I would give up / Half the waves in my brain / extraordinary ones / to find life easier
It’s common for artists to be people who suffer from mental illness. The famous trope of the depressed artist makes me wonder what my life would be like without my internal battles. Would I not be as creative? Would I be willing to give up my passion for poetry to never be depressed again? It’s a complicated question and I’m concerned by how tempted I’d be to give up my identity as a poet—something that means everything to me—in case I’d lose the parts of me I can’t fully control.
I am content / but it’s happiness on a cliff
Sometimes even the happy times are like tiptoeing by a sleeping dragon. What if this happy, healthy place I’m at is temporary? All states of mind are temporary, with the waves of emotions coming and going like the ocean. Sometimes I find myself caught up in the fear of losing all my progress. This poem is about knowing that I can learn to sail life’s sea, but there will never cease to be waves.
There are no acid waves / Just ordinary waves / ordinary for me
There is a lot of stigma around mental illness. We can demonize our own brains, or let other people’s opinions and stereotypes affect our relationships with ourselves. I try to remind myself that there is no “normal” brain or “right” way to live life. My relationship with myself is very important to me. I don’t want to see my own moods aa negative, even when I’m unwell. Because struggling is a part of life. And that’s how I learn to become stronger and more resilient. What might seem odd to others may be normal for me, and vice versa. Maybe my poetry will be hard for some people to relate to, but I have hope that for the people who can connect to it, it’ll reach something deeper in them. Something beneath the surface worth diving down for.
What can I do / but breathe? / And let them / haunt my / dreams
Sometimes the best cure for insomnia is to not worry about when you’ll sleep or if you’ll ever sleep. For me, just breathing in and out and letting my mind wander is the best cure. I remind myself that worrying will not help me sleep. Why not enjoy this time I spend with myself? I think it’s important to take time out to spend with just the self. Mild insomnia can be taken as an opportunity to find the source of my restlessness. This poem’s ending was changed very close to the finishing of the book. Poems are supposed to have unexpected endings. I had a hard time accepting that for this poem. I wanted it to be a calming poem. One that brought me peace of mind in the middle of a sleepless night. The last line is meant to catch attention, but I hope that doesn’t take away from the sense of calm this poem brings to me and hopefully to anyone who reads it.