Why I Sing in Black & White Orlando Poet Laureate Susan Lilley ’75 ’80MA on why she writes poetry. by Susan Lilley ’75 ’80MA Because the line at the coffee shop was long, and the castoff lover behind me chanted a breakup saga into her cellphone, all the details laid out like ancient scarabs on velvet. Because in a dream my long-gone Granny walked next to me in the surf eating fried chicken, lofting bits to gulls above and fish below, water swirling its mirrored sky at our knees. She warned of deep weather; we could smell the dark salt in the Atlantic and warm black inner tubes, while babies that were mine but not mine floated by, impossible to catch and keep. Because as a girl I wanted not to be, but to have (a farm with horses and collies). Because it turns out there are too many lives to live, and only enough time and money for one. Because this is the only way to set things right, or down, or free, or on fire, depending on the story. Because my parents’ voices still sing in my head. Their days of worry and joy weave into my own like flickering reels of truth on the decorated walls of memory. Because when I drank the words of Keats for the first time, I wept in the public square of adolescence, a wooden desk in the third row where I carved “nightingale.” Because the teacher saw the shutters behind my eyes bang open, and for a moment we were ageless together. Because poetry can vanquish shame, make it into a box of air to stand on. Because the stories will be told – betrayals turned to moss and leaves, griefs spun to gold.