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A Pillow Book

by Jaye Nasir

By Jaye NasirPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
by Guillaume Bourdages, on Unsplash

(Inspired by The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon, one of Japan's earliest popular writers.)


Things That Still Frighten Me

The ghost we saw by the tree outside the old church, how it faded into the long black shadows and gray bark, how it followed us.

Reaching the peak of a sweating, uphill hike, unable to enjoy the pay-off for more than a second before I look down at the view and remember how dizzy heights make me.

A man who keeps trying to make eye contact, appearing nearby, lingering, moving towards me, opening his mouth as if he is about to speak.

The question, “Can I talk to you about something?”

Footsteps heard through the open window in the night, a door opening and closing, breath, quiet presence.


Large groups of teenage girls, their eyeliner impeccable, their phones gripped in their fists like weapons, laughing loudly as they walk by.

Reading my work aloud, my voice fluttering, failing in odd places, my throat constricting, chest cavity hollow, knowing that I’m throwing off the cadence, robbing the words of their impact by being unable to claim ownership of them, to truly align my outer self with my inner self.


Things I Didn’t Know Would Save Me

The children, their sticky hands and faces, their drawings, pleas, assumptions, noise, games and ceaseless spirit.

The feral kitten my ex brought home from the woods against my advice, only to abandon her to me in frustration at her inability to be tamed. The seven years that cat and I have spent together, untamed.

The bookstore that contained my future, held the crux of my life within its walls.

Unemployment: both the money and the time.

The houseplants, their silence, how subtly they ask for what they need and how grateful they are to receive it.

Coffee on the porch every morning, no matter the weather, watching the seasons roll slowly into one another.

Abandoning social media, the blue light of the screen, the addiction, the sleeplessness. The freedom of doing and seeing nothing, unstimulated, having to instead look around, see what’s there, to ask, to wait.

Learning the names of the birds.

Taking a walk every day. Doing yoga every day.

A man, born in Texas, twice my age, mild, soft, benevolent, the answer to the question I didn’t even have the words to ask.


Things I Have Found on the Street and What They Suggest

Photographs, polaroids, negatives: happiness, vanity, styles of the past ten years, the desire to appear jaded, unconcerned.

Notes, to-do lists, grocery lists: there is a lot to be done, a lot to buy, strange beliefs, heartbreak, sorrow, love.

A Vanilla Ice collectible trading card: capitalism.

The burned pages of a book: disgust or posturing.

The shard of an intricate floral plate: a mistake.

A Princess Belle figurine, a doll’s head, a plastic snowman, a child’s butterfly barrette: loss.

A handmade necklace: an individual’s life.

A plastic quarter: capitalism for children.

Porcelain birds broken off from an old jewelry box: forgotten beauty.

Puzzle pieces: frustration.

Foreign coins: a whole world beyond what I can even imagine.

Stones and crystals: superstition, an urge to believe in something, a longing for the sacred.

A key: inconvenience.

A half-burned taper candle: lack of completion, process.

A tiny bag of gold glitter handed wordlessly to me by a homeless man on a neighborhood street, whom I did not question, only thank: the certainty that some things make more powerful mysteries than truths.


Things That Give Me the Opposite of Depression

Pale petals falling in a soft wind.

The community garden in January, deserted and still, the air and horizon beyond it all pale blue.

The patience of animals.

Women who compliment my clothes or tell me I’m pretty.

The coyote who stopped to turn and face us.

A field of flowering clover dotted with bees and sunlight.

Steam rising from a mug or full bath.

Deep green river water.

A book you don’t want to reach the end of.

The time it takes to prepare a meal and the moment when you sit down to eat.

The cemetery early in the morning, dense with fog.

Moss growing on concrete, wildflowers shooting up between cracks in the sidewalk.

My grandmother’s opal ring and all the colors contained in it.

Wind coming off the sea, briny and dense.

The silence after a heavy rain.

nature poetry

About the Creator

Jaye Nasir

I'm a writer living in Portland, OR. My work focuses on mysticism, nature, dreams, sex, and the places where these things overlap.

Contact [email protected] for inquires.

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