Shattered Tranquility

Kin to the undulating waters of a barge’s wake,
    or the agonizing shards of a mirror’s jagged break,
Several cloaked feelings are inevitably at stake;
    how many repercussions can one instance make?

Henceforth my fate has made a playful game of guilt;
    my future seemed so innocent without a blemish or wilt.
Upon May’s due turbulence my heart’s gyro will tilt,
    cursing demolition to the foundation I’ve built.


This was the first poem that I remember being published in any real way. I wrote this in 8th grade, back in about 1999. I was about to move from Knoxville to Chattanooga in between 8th and 9th grade and I was heartbroken at the thought of leaving my friends. My mom was graduating from the University of Knoxville and had accepted a job in Chattanooga, sealing my fate, and that of my friendships and – it seemed – my happiness. I submitted this poem to for a contest I think. It ended up being published as the first poem in the website’s anthology book for the year. We bought a copy, and at the very least, its likely many other featured authors did as well. Thanks to my alphabetically optimal last name putting my poem at the beginning of the book, it was likely read by a number of others through that book!

The first stanza discusses how the simple act of moving created changes across my life, like ripples in water or cracks in a mirror. The cloaked feelings were the feelings of fear, sadness, and dread that I was experiencing at the thought of leaving my friends behind. In the 2nd stanza I act like fate is guilty of decieving me by making me think my life would be happy and easy, like my school and friends would always be there. I was thus deluded by fate into thinking my life was immune to change and its challenges. May’s due turbulence would be when we moved to Chattanooga following completion of 8th grade. “Cursing demolition to the foundation I’ve built” is quite melodramatic, but perfectly captures how I felt at the time. I felt like I’d spent all of middle school finding my place, building a small network of friends as weird as me, and discovering my identity as I went from being a boy to a young man. Middle school introduced me to band, cross country, my love for science, math, music, art, and poetry, and much more. The 13-year-old who started high school was a very different kid from the 10-year-old who started 6th grade. Lacking the wisdom this move taught me, I feared that moving would destroy that foundation, especially the relationships I’d be leaving behind.

Looking back a few decades, I now see that I put in the work to maintain the relationships that mattered. Its also clear to me that we take ourselves into each new chapter of life. The foundation I built in middle school is alive and well even today, 20 years later.