This one is the heavy hitter of 2014. THE poem of mine that was first ever published in something I didn’t put out, or was a part of putting out. Virgo Olympus. And it’s layered, and it’s angsty, and it’s broody, and it’s fucking perfect.
Virgo Olympus was the culmination of a lot of teenaged bullshit that got all wrapped up into a nice set of 21 stanzas. I wasn’t into drama, drugs, alcohol, skipping class, or any of that junk when I was in high school. Nothing too out of the ordinary, to be honest, which is what makes my current trajectory interesting to myself to look at every now and then. Let me regail you with the tale that was my first break up and what that led to!
I dated my first girlfriend from May 20th 2013 to July 4th 2014. Putting the dates in perspective like that makes me see it as an entirely new brand of pathetic. At that time in 2013 when we met, my family and I hadn’t even established well in Washington yet. Barely being here for 5 months at that point. She introduced me to a lot of weird and wonderful things of this place, and her interests were so strongly developed that I slowly felt myself want to become less of myself and more of her interests. You ever feel that? Because at that point I didn’t have a very well developed sense of self, it was really easy to say “I’m just going to try to be what you like” and so I did.
Then that July 4th when she offed me I was heartbroken, obviously. Stupidly, I should say. Everyone’s first breakup is a strange little cascade of regrets and blunders and non-closure. I really didn’t know why she split, as things were going well, and so we went zero-contact. This was a difficult thing for me.
I was feeling such anguish (so I thought) and sadness (I believed) that I thought I would never feel such a thing again. While I was sort of right, I did what I thought would be neat. I started writing down what I was feeling when a wave of grief hit. Figured I’m only going to have my first breakup once and that I should fully embrace this wellspring of void, writing out the sensations as they developed.
This was before I had even thought about writing poetry seriously. I was still doing that Avian American thing, I think. But then my life took a different direction during that summer.
Just about a month or so after that 4th, I got into contact with someone I hadn’t spoken to in a while. Former classmate who had moved, actually, halfway through Junior year of high school (would have been December 2013). I was housesitting, lonely, and was somewhat sick of letting these thoughts get to me. I reached out on facebook to see if anyone would like to chat, just to kill some time. In retrospect, I don’t know what part of me thought that was a good idea, but hey it worked out. This would have been late August of 2014.
Then there was this new girl in my life. I was interested in her, and she in me, and suddenly everything about this state was new and pronounced and took on a new fantastical meaning. I was more strongly identifying in myself, driving, developing my independent interests, and there was her.
Totally different from my first relationship. This was new and exciting compared to the vanilla schoolyard affair that was my first relationship. At this point I could go places on my own, visit her, and all manner of in between. I was no longer mourning the loss of a relationship, I was fully submersed in this brand new flavor of worldviews and interests and things I could tack on to myself. I was “punk rock”, for sure. Long hair, and large ego. She complimented me well.
Virgo Olympus was written on the floor of that girl’s bedroom on October 5th, 2014 at 1:34 AM. After a night on the town and with her, everything changed.
The poem itself was my first crack at a literary poem, nothing meant to woo somebody. It was an attempt to capture those powerful feelings in a way someone could see the journey through that night. Intimacy, Olympia, the nightlife, the people, the context. Everything I thought was going to be burned into my skull, but one of the first memories I was afraid to lose.
Shall we dissect it? Yeah buddy!
“When a long time becomes a year
When it used to mean a week
Tides transitioning, ever bending
Towards an old wooden moon”
Makes reference to fragility of the moment, as well as how much smaller things seem to be getting to me. The last two lines were spoken by a man by the name of Theo, who was dressed in a tuxedo, sitting on the sidewalk, with pigtails, a big beard, and no glasses, singing about the most random things he could string together while playing a music box eerily. Reap on ye fucking reaper man.
The next stanza follows up with reference to him, but also starts with the line, “Apothic red wine and dark coffee”, which we’ll be revisiting in a moment.
Stanza three opens up about the scent of the streets, the stale smoke and bad salvia. And then we see our first hit of sexual content with “this bed is warm and intimate”, which seems a little blunt, perhaps? I wasn’t thinking much when I was writing this, nor did I ever edit it so maybe if I revised this I’d make the sexuality a little more subtle.
I make more attempts to sound smart with the line “Vagrants walk with barons here” but that stanza also hints at the possibility of people being more than what they seem.
Yet what follows is a description of the fantastic sights and sounds. Capitol, food, and the constant smoke that seemed to emanate about the place. We see red wine again, referenced as people stumbling around drunk. It was late that night when we were wandering.
One reference was extremely stretched thin, and like with all things public and sexual I’m somewhat uncomfortable even opening up about it but fuck I wrote it so I’ll own it. The lines “Virgo and sagittarius in the city skies/ Disappeared once inside” are a direct reference to two things. Virginity, and the zodiac symbol of my first girlfriend (she made a big deal about it). NOT MIXING THEM TOGETHER. I was referencing the two disappearing once our night on the streets was over. “Our” being, me and the new girlfriend.
So yes, the poem is also about virginity and losing it. Specifically my experience losing it. That title Virgo Olympus? That’s exactly what you could think it means!
Great! Now that’s out there for the whole world to see. Moving on. So there’s a “synthetic android” riff that was also something Theo said in his ramblings. I wasn’t able to record much of them but I do have some recordings I’ve picked through. That was just one of the things I remembered at the end of that night. But it also gave way to a thought of the smoke and “organic switchboards” being part of some chemically thing. Honestly, I didn’t reach very deep on that side. I was more concerned with balancing images of intimacy with that of the city.
A lot of the poem is a vivid imagination of the emotions at play, although it’s pretty verbose. I think that side of it was a product of me trying to sound like I knew what I was doing when it came to poetry. It was good enough for Pierce College’s SLAM in 2016. I did a reading of it! Not meant really for reading out loud.
We see a lot of the imagined stuff in the smoke, wine, stars, abstraction. We have a philosophical thing with the dollars at the music box, but I don’t see it as very powerful.
“Reality on a strip of paper” is quite literal. The original design for the Reality in Radio Reality City came from a guy who asked me that night what my favorite word was. To which I replied was “reality” since the Xilent song of the same name just dropped at about that time. He drew up the word in a fantastic script and gave the piece of paper to me. I have it pinned to my wall right this second.
The next stanza describes a jacket, shootings, and stabbings. That the person who originally owned the jacket was someone of questionable virtue. I think that’s what I was getting at, but not a lot comes across, now that I read it again.
Here we go, last three stanzas! We can make it now that we’re 1,500 words in!
This is where we get to the ultimate intimacy in the poem, referenced still vaguely as “Hands in hands/ Clothes on the floor”, and we also get that red wine again, a glass half empty. Perhaps it is to mean that the wine is the city itself, and everybody is drunk off the scene? Ha ha!
“Wine mingles with coffee”, evening and morning. Kinda trying to circle back to the beginning without saying it, but the ultimate stanza gives us the time of day.
Midnight. “Into tomorrow, we’ll be revived/ The city will breath, so will we”. Every android is a part of the city. Now we find out what it’s all about.
That each person interacting with the surroundings of the nightlife is really a node in a vast circuitry. Switchboards, old wooden moon, reality. What is reality here?
That’s the heart of Virgo Olympus. All these things so memorable happening in the depths of an impossible machine.
Man, I almost lost myself reading through it again, but I didn’t give myself enough credit to what I was doing three years ago. Bang up job, if I do say so myself!
And I do!
Hope you’ve enjoyed this deeply personal, long-winded mess around with what kicked off my interest in poetry. First one I wrote for realsies, and the first one published outside of self.
It’s amazing what patience and time can do for interpretations.