1046: After, We Try to Switch Our Hearts Back On

1046: After, We Try to Switch Our Hearts Back On

1046: After, We Try to Switch Our Hearts Back On


MAJOR: This fall, I spoke with listeners at the Twin Cities Book Festival about the place of poetry in their lives. This week, we’re sharing their stories.

ABBY: I’m Abby, I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am a middle school orchestra teacher, 6th through 8th grade.

In my daily life, poetry is... I mean, it's a little cheesy, but it is what helps me slow down. As a middle school teacher, I am constantly in crisis mode, especially after the pandemic when students have no idea how to be in school or regulate their emotions or anything like that. So it kind of helps me remember who I am outside of a middle school teacher and helps me slow down at the end of the day when I'm driving home and take, take a breath and just, It's just such a comfort to listen to it every day.

I turn to poetry to answer questions about, like what sort of emotions it's okay to be feeling, and, um, is it, like, because I wasn't given that permission growing up, and, um, a lot of understanding of what it means to be a person, and… also understanding of others and their experiences cause I, you know, I can't see those and so when they put that on the page then that is, it feels like an invitation.

MYKA: I’m Myka Kielbon, producer of The Slowdown.

Over the holidays, I visited my family in Seattle. As much as I love being home, sometimes, it’s a little overwhelming to be so…known. Like our listener Abby, I struggle, at times, to separate out an independent version of myself — but poetry can help us find permission for all of our feelings.

One night, I was heading home after dinner with an old friend. While I sped down the freeway, driving my mom’s car in the rain, I felt completely beset by the familiar lights of the city. A new late-night DJ started their set on the station I was tuned to, merging from song to song with such arresting ease.

I pulled off at an early exit before I crossed my bridge home, and drove in circles past industrial lots and bars with people smoking outside. I couldn’t let myself kick off my boots and call it a night, not yet. I was too full of feeling. So I kept circling.

Every sign I saw was like a little poem: The neon of the SODO sign was burnt out on the S and the D, so it just read OO; White Satin Sugar in script on the side of an ancient brick building; bright teal plywood hand-painted for the Show Off Your Rocks Gem Show; a billboard for a casino that read When all you want is everything.

In that moment it felt like I did have everything.

We all serve a lot of roles in our lives. I’m the producer of this podcast, I’m a daughter, a sister, a friend. But sometimes, I feel most myself when I’m alone, listening to the radio and finding little poems out in the world.

Today’s poem reads almost like a bullet journal, a rapid log of experiences in a day. Through that we hear the speaker take hold of small pleasures. And in the noise of what once was ordinary, it makes space for questions about how different so many of us still feel.

After, We Try to Switch Our Hearts Back On
by Joy Sullivan

There are no mountains in Ohio so, on Sundays, I take my heart 
out for a drive. We speed a little. I rush the hills fast so I feel them 
in my throat. Later, I let someone kiss my mouth. Brandi Carlile’s 
voice breaks on the record player and I buy all the strawberries I 
can find because they are furious and red and beautiful. In the 
evening, we dance around the kitchen — dogs shaking off rain. I 
wear a little black dress for the first time in 8 months. My heart 
cracks like an egg. The world spins so loudly now. In the swim- 
ming pool, the checkout line, the middle of the street, I want to 
ask — is it over? Are we different? What happens now?

“After, We Try to Switch Our Hearts Back On" by Joy Sullivan from INSTRUCTIONS FOR TRAVELING WEST © 2024 Joy Sullivan. Used by permission of Penguin Random House.