"Because Mary Ruefle says she's convinced the first lyric poem was witness to the moon and that the moon was witness to the event" by Molly Gaudry

Today, one of my fourteen-year-old students emailed me her "Why I Write" essay, and it made me cry. This is a good thing. Lately, I have been trying to feel more and think less. Because she inspired me, I decided to do the assignment, too. Here are a few reasons "Why I Write": 

Because I am an orphan.

Because: Once, there was a child wandering about on the earth who was an orphan. He had neither father nor mother, and he was very sad. Nobody paid any attention to him, and nobody asked why he was sad. Though he was sad, the child did not know how to weep, for there were no tears yet in the world.

Because children's literature features orphans.

Because: When the moon saw the orphan child going about, he felt compassion: since it was night, the moon came down from heaven, lay down on the earth in front of the child and said, 'Weep, orphan child! But do not let your tears fall on the earth, from which people get their food, for that would make the earth unclean. Let your tears fall on me. I shall take them with me back to the sky."

Because I found comfort in these stories and stayed inside them as long as I could. I never wanted to leave.

Because: The orphan child wept. Those were the first tears in the world, and they fell upon the moon. The moon said, “I shall now give you the blessing that all people shall love you.”

Because last night I flew back to Salt Lake City after nearly two months in New Haven. I woke this morning and didn't remember. I was in bed and it was too quiet. No city noise. No job to get up and go to. No bellhop to nod at. No front desk clerk to ask to call a cab. No cab driver. No ticket agent at the train station. No one sitting beside me on her morning commute. No Leo to drive me from the train station to work. No barista at the Starbucks next to my classroom, where I used that extra early hour to prep before class. No students. No smiling girls to start the day off right. No one in my apartment in Salt Lake City to talk to.

Because: After the child had wept his heart out, the moon went back to the sky.

Because without that photo I have of flying in over the Great Salt Lake last night, maybe it didn't happen. Maybe New Haven didn't happen. Maybe I've been lying in bed all this time stupidly dreaming.

Because I have too few memories of my childhood and only photographs to prove the rest.

Because when my grandfather died, no one told stories in my family anymore. For the rest of her life, my grandmother would mourn him silently, would also mourn her middle-aged son who would die in the nursing home he'd lived in since he was eighteen years old and his football helmet cracked on impact, leaving his entire body with only the use of two fingers: one to say yes, two to say no. 

Because there aren't too many things in nature, so beautiful, that make me sadder than a sunset.

Because look what these solitary bees do with flower petals

Because when I was nine years old, my parents adopted another little girl from Korea. 

Because my father was an only child and the last of the Gaudrys.

Because my mother's brother would never have a family of his own and was the last of the Pashkewiches.

Because my parents didn't want to leave me all alone.

Because they will. 

Because I am not married. I do not have children.

Because I will never give them the family we never had. The family they wanted for me. A sister. Her family getting together with mine every Christmas. There were supposed to be children. Cousins. Nieces. Nephews. And my parents were supposed to become grandparents. Grandchildren! My sister and I would have in-laws. Our husbands were supposed to have siblings and all their husbands and wives and all their siblings were supposed to have siblings. There were supposed to be a lot more people for me to love.

Because every year on New Year's Eve, though, it's just the three of us having dinner on the beach down in Florida.

Because after my head trauma, I thought I'd never read again. Which meant writing, too.

Because one night I made peace with this when I didn't swim into the ocean and keep going. Was it because of the baby turtles? I don’t know, but I will never forget

Because New Year's Eve is about shedding the past and looking forward. 

Because at midnight you can kiss a stranger and anything might happen. 

Because the whole world toasts to possibility at the stroke of midnight under the starlit, moonlit sky. 

Because every year I look into the faces of my smiling parents and we make that evening ours. 

Because other holidays are too—

Because I need to know: Is it still a family tradition when you're the only one at the table? 

Because when does an orphan ever stop feeling like an orphan?

Because I have to ask, because I can't not wonder: Will this even be my country anymore?

Because last time, I was exiled. 

Because there was no one else.

Because there is no one else. 

Because I think I only had a sister for three years. I don't remember. I don't ask. 

Because there are no photographs.

Because: To this day people can see on the moon's face the stains of the orphan child's tears, which were the first tears in the world.

Because I don't cry. 

Because a long time ago I learned that crying only made it worse.

Because, when you're an orphan, no one dries your tears.

Because: "Orphan characters in folktales and literature symbolize our isolation from one another and from society. They do not belong to even the most basic of groups, the family unit, and in some cultures this is enough to cut them off from society at large. [...] Orphans are a tangible reflection of the fear of abandonment that all humans experience. [...] Orphans are at once pitiable and noble. They are a manifestation of loneliness, but they also represent the possibility for humans to reinvent themselves" (“Orphan Characters In Children’s Fiction”). 

Because I have always been lonely. Yet, the mere idea of reinvention, of possibility-making, is writing.

Because I have chosen writing. 

Because I am not Mother, why do I feel so selfish? Will I ever not feel selfish

Because I wanted to give my parents the family we never had. The family they thought they were going to have and always wanted when they were kids, when my dad was growing up like me without brothers or sisters, when my mom was growing up like me in the aftermath of losing her only sibling. 

Because I wanted to give myself the family I never had in Korea. The family I don't have in America. The family I—

Because I want to write instead. 

Because I need to teach, instead. 

Because love. Because love. Because love

Because, let it be known, I don’t write. Instead, I like to say: I wait.

Because I do not force it. I do not beat myself up or make myself feel bad for not writing every day. 

Because writing comes like the wind. It's naked, it's made of ink, . . . 

Because I know to wait for it. 

Because I know how to. Wait for everything.


Molly Gaudry is the author of the verse novel We Take Me Apart, which was shortlisted for the 2011 PEN/Joyce Osterweil and named second finalist for the 2011 Asian American Literary Award for Poetry. Its sequel, Desire: A Haunting, will release from Ampersand Books in December 2015. 

Posted on July 21, 2015 .