#464: They say, it’s okay to be not okay . . .

Happy day 23 of National Poetry Writing Month, and in my particular case, welcome back to the April sonnet marathon extravaganza. In this final stretch I have been freely messing with the form: blank verse sonnets, odd rhyme scheme sonnets, 15 line-long sonnets, and wonky, iambically-challenged sonnets. Today I’m returning to rhyme in the biggest possible way. Today I decided that every line must rhyme with every other line. One sound. That’s not an easy thing to do–so I allowed myself an even deeper transgression (one that I have employed before) of using the same word at the end more than once–even using a line that becomes a kind of refrain. Consider this a sonnet-villanelle hybrid!

This poem might be a little controversial. And that’s okay, but I want to clarify that I’m trying something on, as opposed to writing about what I truly believe. That can be a powerful thing in a poem–a kind of crossover from the fiction writing world. Writers don’t always create characters that believe what they believe–and sometimes the first person persona in a poem has no relation psychologically or ethically with the poet. That’s fun stuff. I mean, I wouldn’t go that far to describe this speaker. When a person says they are not well, we should believe them. But at the same time, mental ill-health has become of late, since the pandemic, if not an epidemic, almost fad-like. I’m sorry, the poem should stand on its own. I’ll stop now.


They say, it’s okay to be not okay;
And that’s a sound thing, isn’t it, to say? 
We’ve had enough of shame about the way
We are, the way we feel; our stigmas stay
Long past their welcome, it’s past time we flay
Those ignorant, backward pieties and say,
Our issues and traumas are as real as day, 
Sure, yes, it’s okay to be not okay.
However (and here comes the big but), say
For a moment, just a moment (okay?),
That there are people, you know, who may
Desire not to be well, and others, per se,
See pathology everywhere, no gray:  
For some, it’s truly not okay to be okay. 

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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