Why Lit Counts

By Kim O'Connor

The unconscious wants truth, as the body does.
—Adrienne Rich, “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying”

After escaping tonight’s version of the thought police

you wake to float in half-remembered lines:

you, once a belle in Shreveport, or

bad things are going to happen. Each day

requires a re-gathering of facts you knew

yesterday. You sit down to write your life story,

its minor, unspeakable events like boulders

in a river you’re about to crash into.

You give up and wash the dishes, hoping

a clean house will spark a clear heart.

You open the refrigerator and close it.

You open the news app and close it.

Right now, you know for certain, someone

is getting shot. Someone is reporting to prison.

Some children are in school laughing and

some children are in school aiming rubber bands

at a heartbroken teacher who’ll quit

in a year. Someone has a year to live

or less. Someone is stealing a package

from your porch as you sit here eating cereal.

They leave you a bowl of dead bees.

Not really: the porch is empty. You’re lucky

enough to imagine it because once

upon a time you buried your colorful

plastic letter refrigerator magnets

in the backyard. You had a library card

and so learned everything is everything

else, that you’re not you at all. You’re the horse

who paused in the snowy wood and you’re

the snow and the trees and the spaces between

the snowflakes. You’re Anne Frank.

You’re Walt Whitman. You’re the prisoner,

the shooter, the person being shot. You pick up

your pencil and you open up your book.

This post is the last one in our annual Lit Counts series, in which writers and readers express why supporting and elevating literary arts—the mission of Lighthouse Writers Workshop—is important to them. If you agree, support Lighthouse on Colorado Gives Day, happening today! Click here to donate now. Thank you!

Kim O'Connor is the Young Writers Program director at Lighthouse. She was Lighthouse's 2013 Alice Maxine Bowie Fellow, and her poetry has been published in Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Inch, Literary Mama, Mountain Gazette, storySouth, Tar River Poetry, THRUSH Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.