Along the sanded sidewalks of Venice Beach, I saw a young woman cocooning herself and her belongings with a large tarp in attempt to protect herself from the wind. When I approached her to ask about my project, she showed no interest and asked me to leave her be. As I walked away, she chirped ” I can read you my book though.”
We crammed together head-to-head as I held up the side of her tarp fort. The knots in her sun-bleached hair kept it away from her face as I watched her struggle to pry apart the pages of a withered journal, burdened by life on the beach. Her youthful, radiant face revealed no signs of struggle, but the chilled, piercing glare in her eyes told a much different story. Her eyebrows were dusted with a thin coat of sand and the some of the layers of paint climbing up her arms were older than others.
Sara Jean was beautiful.
For over an hour, she read me poem after poem from her journal, directing my eyes towards her, the beach, or the sky, depending on the effect she wanted the poem to have.
Despite my best efforts, Sara Jean refused to let me take a photo of her, her hands, or her poetry. She was insistent on not talking about herself in any way outside of her poetry or artwork. She did, however, have one Shel Silverstein poem stapled to the bottom of one of her paintings, which she explained “describes me perfectly”. She was incredibly confident, and very enigmatic despite her showcase of art. I learned very few facts about her life story, but also learned that that is not the story Sara Jean cares to tell, so neither will I.
These are some short excerpts of my conversation with Sara Jean as well as her poetry. (She would only let me post short bits of her work).
“Can I get a picture of you?”
“But you’re so beautiful!”
“If that’s true then remember me by my eyes and my smile. You don’t need a picture, just look at me and my face will be something to keep.”
“A sudden wind at my back. What could be going wrong this time?
I’m struggling to hold on to the memories I have kept
But it is always with the wind they are swept away
The only things here to stay are my doubts I’ve left at bay.”
“The sun wakes me up, asking who should i be today
I’m cold and hungry as always, wondering how i got this way.
The trees shade my light and I don’t think much of it.
I shine from the inside out and the voices in my head love it.”
“I never lost count of the stars, I just lost track of my reason to count them
I still look at them every night and pretend I am as important as that little speck in the sky.
But my light doesn’t shine so far, and there aren’t a million lights just like mine.”
“I’m cold as usual and waiting on my next meal.
For once my thoughts are screaming louder than the wind howls surrounding me.
I’m far from the shore but can still feel the waves crashing around me and embracing all of my selves until I’m just another white cap floating above the surface like everyone else.”