Winning Writers subscriber Joshua Corwin’s debut poetry collection, Becoming Vulnerable (Baxter Daniels Ink Press/International Word Bank, 2020), was inspired by his experiences with autism, addiction, sobriety and spirituality. He is a neurodiverse, Pushcart-nominated poet who teaches poetry to neurodiverse individuals and autistic addicts at The Miracle Project, an autism nonprofit. Josh hosts the poetry podcast “Assiduous Dust“, where he interviews award-winning authors and creates on-the-spot collaborative poems with them. Visit his website to learn more. He kindly shares two poems from his new book below.
I can hear the shine in your eyes
on the other end of the telephone.
When I speak like this,
I feel authentic
and not heavy.
I don’t have to tattoo meaning in the air
to know what you mean.
I remember when you first told me…
apropos of nothing…
about the different levels of charitable donation.
I was sitting right across from you—over there.
(You in that armchair, me in this one: our eyes.)
You said there’s the donor who gives large sums
and puts a placard on the wall, signifying
who it’s from;
and then there’s the other one who gives…
but remains anonymous.
Your words hanging like a phantom,
I didn’t have to be who I thought I was;
you were once me,
once where I was…
In that moment, I knew.
[This poem first appeared in Al-Khemia Poetica, September 3, 2019, and was nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize.]
GRATITUDE AFTER BREAKFAST
I USED to think that meditation was a hoax,
that enlightenment was for those interred in the ground.
I USED to think it was impossible to cease thinking.
I secretly believed I knew everything.
I USED to deem gratitude an unnecessary word.
I hated to stretch my cheekbones into a smile.
I was convinced everyone was a phony.
I USED to think I was the shit.
I USED to think I was a piece of shit.
I would be paralyzed by fear for hours.
I would argue with mirrors, threatening to pound my fists.
I USED to curse the reflection I feared.
I USED to stay up all night, dancing in sorrow
without consent, my entire body convulsing.
I watched the sun rising sadness and despaired like a mourner.
Outside rising, inside dying.
I USED to not know if I was lying or telling the truth.
I spent hours wrestling with my god—myself.
I wake up in the morning, and I say the sh’ma.
Then I make my bed; wash my hands.
I wake up in the morning, and I walk to the room next door.
Then I sit in a chair; listen for an hour.
I wake up in the morning, and sometimes I feel light as a feather.
Then I make breakfast; smile as I wash my bowl.
I wake up in the morning, and I smile at the man in the mirror.
Then I take a shower; hug my soul.
I wake up in the morning, and I thank God.
I know I’m not Him.