“The Night I Stopped Writing Poetry” by December Verbout

The Night I Stopped Writing Poetry

It was the second week of summer, and I’d moved out of my studio apartment to my mother’s home in the countryside. She was sick. The kind of sick that makes you thankful for your steep rent and shitty car. The kind of sick that makes strangers whisper.

They were always whispering.

There is nothing more scandalous than a woman unraveling in a grocery aisle. Back in the city, there was nowhere else for my words to go. Each line of poetry escaped my throat, wrapped itself around a bus stop sign, or collided with a brick wall. But the poetry always came back. It stuck to the bottom of my shoe like chewed gum, climbed up my bones, and cemented itself to my rib cage. It always came back.

My mother’s front porch opens up to long cornfields; they dance to an upbeat rhythm I don’t remember anymore. A song from my childhood I haven’t hummed in years. That night my mother sat in the den, and I watched as her eyes turned from lively green to a sunken gray; grief etched her pupils.

After she went to bed, I sat on the porch steps and tried to write a poem. But the words rolled off my tongue and dashed down the driveway where the cicadas swallowed them whole and whispered them to one another.

They were always whispering.

I wanted to scream at them, call her name, so they had something worthy to hold in their mouth. Scream that fifty-nine is too young and my mother is still an unfinished girl. She has not seen the blue waters of Greece or been high on a rooftop with only the moon illuminating her curves. She has still not been loved properly.

I need to scream because all I want to do is write one more poem about her laugh lines before they are gone forever. Write her the ending she so longingly deserves. But as I sat on the front porch steps, all I could hear was the distant, uninviting cicadas. 

December Verbout is a poet from Phoenix, Arizona, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts with a Concentration in Creative Writing Fiction from Arizona State University. She has been writing under the pen name December Ellis (d.ellis) since 2014 and self-published her first book of poetry, Things You Don’t Talk About, in June 2022. When December is not working, you can find her reading poetry, practicing piano, or hiking desert mountains. Follow her at ellispoetry.com.