I finally understand poetry.
Not literally, in the way that if someone were to hand me a poem, I’d be able to explain what it means. I’m probably the worst at that of anyone who’s ever graduated from a writing program. But I finally understand why poetry exists, and it is like this:
Narrative cannot address the depth of raw emotion that poetry can.
Poetry is the only way I can think about putting words to the experience of Greece, at least until time has muddled all of these feelings into a nice care package of reflective writing. That will come later.
But right now, having returned from Greece two weeks ago, I feel like I’ve come home from war. Not in the sense that what I experienced resembles war; it doesn’t. But I’m returning from a place, from a period of time, that has forever changed me, and I’m afraid the only people who could ever understand are those who were with me. We are bound to each other in a way that merits a lifetime of friendship instead of one month of knowing each other. We have only to say, “I mean, okay, it is like this,” and we are already oceans away, smiling at the memory…
And this is why I haven’t posted a blog about Greece–I’m still in the poetic stage. The feeling stage. And it’s hard to know where to begin.
This problem has happened before, last year, when I faced the challenge of trying to write about my friend’s Persian/Italian wedding, only I didn’t understand what the problem was. I only knew I couldn’t begin to write about it because the experience was so transforming. I felt like I’d become a part of a different culture, and I was so connected to everyone there and so fully present in each moment that I thought THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. This is what it means to be a part of the human network where race, religion, color, language, background, age, history, and gender do not matter—we are all family. We are all part of this moment and bound together forever because of it.
That is how I felt. But I didn’t know it at the time. It was just a blur of dancing and bizarre finger snapping and midnight gelato carts and selfies that start with two people and end up with 24. In one weekend I met people whom I might never see again but whom I knew would be engraved in my heart forever. Now that a year has passed, I’m starting to understand this, but for months after the wedding, I could not convey what happened in anything other than raw poetry or pages and pages of prose. It wasn’t blog ready.*
*There was one person, the talented Mr. Tim Bravo, who wrote a blog about the wedding immediately afterwards, and he did an incredible job (you can check it out here)—but even still, I know that outsiders’ hearts will not swell or smile or sigh with each anecdote. There was just too much to put into words. That blog was written for us, the veterans, the ones who were there.
I’m saying this as a disclaimer to the stories I will post about Greece. I don’t know if they’ll make sense. I’ll have to stray from my usual “I think that I’m funny” anecdotes and get uncharacteristically melancholy. Maybe I’ll include posts that are not really stories but rather snippets of writing from my balcony in the early morning. Maybe I’ll share an article I published while I was overseas. Maybe I will recount the day I almost died swimming. But none of these entries will feel complete.
And that, I’m afraid, is what Greece did to me. It exposed me to life. Wonderful, abundant life—and this is why Greeks are philosophers and poets. It is this place. It is the air they breathe in and the generosity they breathe out. It is in their blood, in the seas that wash upon their shores, in the trees and flowers that grow out of stone, in the defiant beauty that cuts as you admire it.
This is what Greece does to people. It turns them into poets,
because that’s the only way Greece can ever be understood.