Poetry by Lindsey White
September 16th, 2021
A constant struggle of silencing my own thoughts.
This is the most consistent thing that lectures provide me with. Privileged to be in my 18th year of education and yet I still haven’t succeeded in the most challenging task of quieting the spinning thoughts.
Sometimes I silence too much.
Then there are no thoughts. Just static. Numbness.
There doesn’t seem to be a happy medium.
Shouting but never quiet.
Static but never hum.
This constant struggle of determining whether or not I should put effort into focusing on the lecture or if I should just let my mind wander is never easy.
Do I let time pass quickly?
Whipping thoughts in all directions. Whatever comes to mind tossing and turning until there’s no more time left in the lecture?
Do I let time pass slowly?
Crawling thoughts of General Mai and Chinese Wars over Communism?
I try to focus. I really do. Even with my mind fighting with all it’s ideas. I try.
But sometimes according to academia, I fail and my mind wanders.
With that failure comes some of the most beautiful results.
My curiosity and creativity flow with freedom unconstrained by tests or rubrics.
How can anyone sensible possibly view this as a loss?
In my mind I won.
Even if academia doesn’t view it this way.
October 6th, 2021
Chatting as we pass across uneven sidewalks and weave through food stands pouring onto the street.
Wandering about for supper from street stands near our roundabout. Glancing over hopeful eyes.
Smiling through opaque masks.
Causal “sa-wa-de-kah‘s” floating in the air mingling with smells of food cooking along the grill.
No close connection.
Then a deep feeling of comfort comes as I connect eyes with a woman selling soup.
Her movements reminiscent of movements I’ve seen my entire life. Her eyes crinkle in a way I’ve watched since I was born.
In another life this woman would be my grandmother. Selling soup on the street in Thailand.
Of course it is.
Why else would I feel the deep sense of security and longing? Comfort and nostalgia?
Of course it is her. Why else would I feel this way? Just in another life.
Beads of sweat dripping down my forehead.
Noisy traffic of morning commute surrounding me as my feet pound against the sidewalk along the north side of the old city.
Conversation between Isaac and I had died down now that we are single file along this section of the sidewalk.
Left with my own thoughts.
My watch says we are a little under a mile into the run.
An opening forms through traffic and we cross the street towards the inside of the old city.
I hop up onto the sidewalk ensuring that my footing is secure.
There, a woman is walking towards us.
This feeling rushes over me again.
A familiar stranger.
Quite possibly my mother in another life. I’m sure of it.
As I run past, I turn my head to look at her closer as we have now passed her.
She’s also turned back to look at me and our eyes meet for a brief moment.
Then it is over.
The day continues.
Our lives carry on.
Yet for a moment they were connected.
A complete stranger. Barriers and layers of complication to separate our lives.
Yet so familiar despite it.
Stramiliar: a familiar stranger.
October 8th, 2021
A gentle soft greeting from our driver met with my jagged ungraceful one as we climbed into the rusty Rot Dang.
I made sure to check this time before telling the five others to jump in since my previous experience left us with the incorrect driver and a complicated situation.
With only a few of us, I easily secured a spot standing on the back hanging onto the ambiguous bars welded to the main body.
We swiftly moved from a bustling street of lively Friday night energy to quiet residential housing on back streets.
The city came to life again as we moved onto the streets of the old city and gained speed.
A wave to a fellow motorbiker.
A gentle nod in return.
The dancing of shadows intertwines with the air moving around me.
My hair alive with the delight of this adventure into the night.
Though short, an adventure it is.
Hundreds of bricks stacked upon each other remind me of the rich history these streets hold.
Everything feels warm.
Zooming towards a stoplight changing from yellow to red with no intention of slowing.
Soon red is bold. Prominent about the intersection before us.
Yet off we go. Right on by. Continuing.
A turn onto another back street.
Swift changes from scooter filled street lanes and bustling markets to shadow filled streets and stray cats roaming, speed slowing.
I begin to feel sad. Our adventure is over.
We turn again. Another sign of a near ending.
How can it continue past our arrival?
What do we need to do in order to bring the adventure with us?
Familiar questions I’ve asked myself as I think about this time in Thailand with the unavoidable return back to EMU.
No answers to fulfill curious thoughts.
One final turn into the YMCA.
A clear end.
One final gust of October air.
A quick “kap-Kuhn-kah” to our driver before turning away.
Now the fun part.
The challenge of continuing the adventure.
If I can master it here, I can repeat it for our inevitable return to Harrisonburg as well.
I didn’t master it tonight. Not yet.
But maybe the goal isn’t to master continuing the adventure but to reimagine what adventure looks like.
October 13th, 2021
Humming of the van engine fills the silence.
Cascading light filters through the windows as we caravan back south. The light of day is fading across the mountains and deep blue shadows fall across their slopes.
Their ridges smooth but jagged.
They seem as though they could almost be the mountains I’ve seen my entire life.
The mountains that raised me.
For a moment I forget that they aren’t.
The looming fog caresses their foothills just as it does at home.
I forget these mountains aren’t my own despite:
-the passing of cars on the opposite side of the road
-thai conversation passing through the driver’s walkie
-rising smoke trails from homes with mothers cooking supper for their families
A jagged outcropping comes into view with bright red clay in contrast to the sleepy blue slopes and I’m reminded that these aren’t my mountains. Conrad’s voice breaks the hum of the engine. Darkness engulfs the conversation as we venture through a country still so foreign to me.
Evening dusk turns into streetlights.
Pink hues fill the sky as the mountains begin to fall away into the shadows of the evening.
No, these aren’t my mountains but they are still watching after me.
Just as my mountains always have.