Love Like Salt is a poetry anthology recently published by Like This Press and edited by Amy Burne, an English student at Manchester Metropolitan University. In her call for submissions, she wrote that the aim of the collection is “to reveal the fragility of human emotions whilst exploring the inevitable routines and relationships we build today, leading us to question our own self-identity and how the bitterness we allow ourselves to experience becomes essential to reach the sweetness.” I thought my poems Ghosts and Translucent fit that theme nicely, and I guess I was right!
You can read more about the background for Ghosts in my Letters to Josep post in memory of my grandfather, where the poem was originally posted.
I want to elaborate here a bit on the background for Translucent.
I feel a little weird talking about this because it sounds kind woo-woo, but I’m what people call an empath–a person who is highly sensitive to the emotions and “energies” of others and has a tendency to “absorb” them. I intuitively pick up a lot of subtle cues, and that can make social interaction overwhelming sometimes. In particular, looking someone in the eye–even if we don’t exchange a word–can be a deeply intimate experience because I see and feel so much about the person from that interaction; and instinctively I assume that they can see and feel the same stuff about me, which in turn makes me feel exposed and vulnerable. It’s very intense, like looking into a bright light, and because of that, I sometimes have trouble maintaining eye contact, especially with people I don’t know well.
It’s hard for me to describe the interactions with strangers I’ve had that inspired this poem, just as it’s impossible for me to put into words what it is I see and feel when I look someone in the eye. It’s more a sense, a feeling, than “information” per se. When that sense is heavy, dragging, or a sort of high-energy restlessness, it can be draining and sometimes confusing, because I have to untangle feelings I “absorbed” from the feelings that are actually mine.
This is something I’ve only really realized about myself and been able to explain in recent years. I think the phrase “can you blame me,” which repeats itself a few times in the poem, is an expression of where I was with this understanding at the time–a fear of how vulnerable this trait makes me, a discomfort with the self-protective behaviors I’d developed in response to it, and a feeling of needing to apologize for them. I’ve come a long way since then, as I think is expressed pretty well in this spoken word poem I wrote and performed later (which is in Hebrew, but there are English subtitles).
I wrote more about high sensitivity in this Kveller piece about coping with it as a mother: This Is What My Highly Sensitive Son Taught Me About Self-Care.