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  • Writer's pictureImagine a Bird

Boost (prose poem) + Jenn Simpson

Updated: Apr 27



Please note that a version of this prose piece appears in the QUIVER book under the title, "Camping Alone: Yellow"

Tea tumbler in hand, thick coat wrapped around body, I am strolling by myself through the forest this morning.

This is not a solitary fairy tale, there is no message of integrity’s potential.

I feel dreadfully lonely.

But, the lichen is the color of seafoam green, covering the rocks like ancient - but still living - lace, and the ponderosa pine trees stand tall and thin, their bark smelling of vanilla or butterscotch. Many of the trunks are blackened, presumably from controlled burns.

Beneath my feet are the thinnest of rusty brown nails in the true forms of fallen, dead pine needles. I can hear, as clear and as loud as can be, my own crunching, solitary footfalls.

Still, inevitably, I return to myself and my thoughts. What else is there to do with this untamed gnawing, except to contain it within an insulated cognition?

The soupy, gray clouds beyond the branches contemplate drizzle, mimicking my mood. I sip my tea.

But look over there, what is that? Far from trodden paths and campsites, in a morning-misted field overlooking a valley of red rock mountains, there are bright yellow, nearly heart-shaped, petals of a single flower. It is perched atop a tall stem with gently curled leaves. The plant stands three feet tall in front of a burnt tree trunk.

Then, I hear a voice say, "Oh, look at you!" It’s the sound of a woman in a state of utter delight, like a grandmother who has just opened her door to reveal a beloved grandchild on the front stoop. "Look at you… here!" and the voice is of course my own and I take a long draw of breath, admiring the contrasts of color between the yellow cheer of the flower and the dark ground and the sky, which is still planning its monsoon day.

I stand there, observing her – because I’ve decided this botanical sunbeam is a woman – and I do not know how much time passes. I’ve forgotten the living beyond this forest. The habitual reactions to perpetual thoughts have evaporated, for the moment.

I don’t want to leave.


Jennifer Simpson

Summer of 2019, I moved into Jenn’s guest room, with the plush green, vintage carpeting inherited from her grandparents, and the view through the charming windows of her pomegranate tree, with its glossy yellow-orange buds. Generously, she had loaned me the most comfortable office chair in the house, to be used for my online teaching job eight months before COVID would force many of us into that mode of working.

But at that time, as my roommate in a tiny, 2-bedroom house, she must’ve observed my state of feverish oblivion. I was living in the U.S. but on my way to England, seemingly optimistic but inwardly anxious and quite mad. She watched and she listened, never judging.

When the pandemic hit, and when Trump amped up his repulsiveness, she and I both slipped into states of shock and depression. More than likely, we each needed from the other what the other had no energy to give.

I didn’t know she was dying from coronary artery disease, though. None of us knew, and I am not certain what to do with regret other than to transform it into a Thank you, roomie, we tried our best, and into an appreciation for today and for anything beyond today, if we are so fortunate.

“Boost” was written after a solo camping trip to the Jemez Mountains, August of 2019. I read the first draft to Jenn at her dining room table. She listened intently, and offered suggestions while I took notes. Can there be an emotional arc, as opposed to a story arc? Today, nearly four years later, I took Jenn’s storytelling advice to heart when I sat down to work on it. Tomorrow, I will read the piece at her DimeStories memorial. She passed away December 2020 and here in Albuquerque, we are finally gathering in person to mourn, toast, listen, and to speak our stories.

Obituary, Legacy Funeral Care:

Jennifer Simpson, MFA, August 1964 – December 2020

Jennifer was a talented artist, writer, content strategist, and marketing consultant. From creative non-fiction to poetry, she believed in the power of stories to change the world. COO & Online Marketing Director of Plume, a Writer’s Companion, founder of Talk Story Publishing, Executive Director of Dime Stories International, and an active community builder in Albuquerque, Jenn connected people with stories that are shaping our world in a multitude of ways.

She is survived by her sister, Debby Simpson, of San Diego.


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