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I Must Belong Somewhere Poetry and Prose by Dawn Lanuza


Overview: A daring but necessary insight into themes of longing, home, bullying, loneliness, and mental health, I Must Belong Somewhere is a silver lining for anyone struggling. With her third poetry collection, I Must Belong Somewhere, acclaimed writer Dawn Lanuza is returning to her most popular literary platform. Written during her year of rest and travel, this new collection speaks to the indescribable feelings of displacement and longing for the companionship she left behind. Touching on the difficult themes of body image, death, bullying, sexism, mental health, and injury, Lanuza brings her contemporary views and powerful honesty to address topics many are too scared to talk about. With its modern, global perspective, I Must Belong Somewhere is sure to resonate with a wide array of readers.


I Must Belong Somewhere Poetry and Prose by Dawn Lanuza Book Chapter One

She didn’t know where she was from.
On the first day of school, freshman year, people tried to know each other by asking three things: name, major, hometown.
She knew the answers to the first two questions, but she’d always answered the last one with a question mark. It wasn’t that she lied; it was true. She had lived in that place longer than any place she’d been in, and yet she refused to call it home. She still thought of it as temporary, and she’d struggled to understand why, but then
she remembered.
She once slept in another city
and woke up in this town.
She’d never seen so much land
and trees and rocks and colorful flowers
bunched up in little bouquets of
yellow and pink, yellow and pink.
She was happy for a minute.
She thought she’d stumbled upon
a place where fairies could exist.
The fireflies haloed the top of her head,
crowned her their princess,
and granted her a wish.
She was who they’d been waiting for,
and if she opened her hands,
a glow would reveal her power:
a light, blinding and searing.

That summer, she played to her heart’s content. She ran around the railways and let the dust kiss her feet as she danced and twirled around it. She picked fruits from her uncle’s backyard and ate them until her chin was sticky from the nectar that dripped from her mouth. She convinced herself that she lived in a storybook because, for the first time, she was allowed to dip into a pool of water so cold her insides shivered. She loved her freedom, and she cruised the rivers looking for snails and toads, dared to visit the places where they said mythical creatures roamed.
And yet.
She knew that summer was ending. She started noticing notebooks piling up for school. The spiral spring had been taken off its sides, and the elders spun colorful yarns around to keep the leaves bound together. They started to bring up June, and it sounded like a threat, another separation from a world she just met.
But the day came when she had to leave. They had her bags packed and everything. They never said she was going home; she would just have to go. And because she was young and braver then, she asked the question no one had been asking.
She asked, “When are we going home?”
And she knew, the moment those words left her mouth, that she wasn’t.

She’s been leaving and arriving at places with a cautious heart since then. She’s aware that living in places is temporary, but sometimes she allows herself to be caught up in the magic. Like that summer. With the breeze running its fingers through her hair, whispering promises to her ears as the sun kissed her cheeks to say, “Aren’t you glad you’re here?”
She convinced herself that wherever she is, she can build a home. But at times, she catches herself asking, What is a home? Did she forget what it was? Did she ever even learn what it should feel like?

Every once in a while she is convinced that she doesn’t belong here anymore.
Yet she doesn’t know where she should be just yet.
She finds herself where she is because she doesn’t know where else to be.
Where would you go? she asks herself. If everything would be taken care of, where would you rather be?
But she can’t see it that way yet.
Her mind carries all of the worry and the weight.
Sometimes, when she’s in a new place, wandering and learning its streets, she just hears herself sighing, I must belong somewhere.
She hasn’t found it yet,
but she hasn’t given up on the idea of it.

I am a suitcase:
holding these things together,
keeping them inside.

I have been walking around your town,
tiptoeing, in case you’re around.
Then I realized:
you do not own these streets.
Nobody put a claim on
which ends we should
or shouldn’t be.
You are merely living,
and so am I.
So am I.

The thought of being in the same place as you scares me, but staying away from you for too long scares me in a different way.

She doesn’t have a bucket list.
Thinking about it felt like
enumerating things
until she’s ready to die.
That day, when she
boarded that plane,
sat one row behind
the emergency exit,
she thought,
If this is my last day,
I wouldn’t mind.
She didn’t like to admit it,
but she feared death
when she was a child.
Now she found herself
actually thinking,
It could be any time now.
She used to worry about the things she’d leave:
the mess they would have to clean up for her,
the secrets they’d reveal at her funeral,
the things she didn’t admit for various reasons.
But she’s started talking now.
She’s doled out apologies
to the people who need them.
She doesn’t sleep with the thought of
making it better next time.

She tries to make it better now.
And if it doesn’t work that way,
she lets it go.
She knows now that she can only do
what she can at the time.
She doesn’t waste her energy on someone
who won’t—can’t—reciprocate her love.
She doesn’t live with regrets now.
And if she leaves this earth,
she will.
She’s free from herself now.

Freedom is looking at your things and thinking, I don’t need all of this.

In the winter,
the skies are bland
and turn the city gray,
but there are nooks and crannies
in between the alleyways.
There’s a tiny bookshop
with pocket-sized stories
and a chocolatier
with his chocolate-covered cherries.
A café that was named after a cat
that makes the perfect cup
and a bench in the middle
in case one needs to stop.
When you reach that corner,
remember to look up.
You’ll find that somebody
drew you a heart.
— graffiti

He asked her,
“Why do you keep writing love poems?
There are so many things
in the world that need
to be discussed:
poverty and war,
deceit and injustice.”
And she said,
“What hurt could
a little love poem do?
Every day that we see
the world crumble,
how are we not able
to remember:
a little bit of love
could make this better.”

There are streets that stay alive in your head.
Like St. Kilda and that busy street of
window displays of sweets and
live music blasting in your ears.
People from all over the world
speaking in their native tongues,
clinking beer bottles as the sun
melts into creamy clouds.
It’s orange and pink,
violet hues;
neons, sharp strokes,
alleys, and walls.
Posters of people
writing poetry with their hands.
It’s everyone speaking out at once:
a harmonious cacophony
of lives being lived
that summer day.

Her mind is a born voyager,
always curious about what’s to discover,
willing to embark on expeditions
to locate the unknown.
Her heart, however, is a creature of habit.
It is craving the sunlit porch,
the hot pot of chamomile tea,
a worn-out winter blanket.
She flees because
she can’t help but sate
her interest,
but she always comes back
home to the familiar.
She allows herself to be called
a wanderer,
but she always knew that her
goal was to settle:
to find herself satisfied,
to no longer wonder
what was missing
from her life.

They tried so hard to build a home.
There’s a roof above their heads,
but they’re still seeking shelter.
Did they really have the time
and space to recover?

She wasn’t one of the kids who wanted
her parents to get back together.
There was no together,
even before.
She saw how her mother blossomed
after they left him,
and she would rather have that
than recall her silence
in his presence.
She learned how to choose herself by her mother’s example.
Not everyone would understand it;
she remembered people looking at her
strangely whenever she said,
“No, I don’t want my father home.”
For some people, that made her seem bad,
like she was the devil child,
but she always knew:
you can’t repair something that never worked,
and that was the truth.

As she made her way onto
the Great Ocean Road,
they talked about forest fires
and how people learned
to build their homes
with protection in mind,
in case the fires started.
They will;
it’s just a matter of time.
On her left stood trees
with no sign of life,
trunks black as charcoal,
branches spread out.
Standing tall
above the wreckage of it all.
And she’d never felt so proud.

A screaming match in the kitchen. They should have christened this new home with kind words and hushed tones.
For even the most loving words won’t sound very loving in a harsh and raised voice.

It’s one thing to be a spectator of someone else’s loneliness,
another thing to be a prisoner of your own.

I’ve never read your suicide letters,
never seen them either.
I know that they’re there,
tucked between the bed
and your pillows.
Maybe they’ll slip out of
your books or sketch pads.
But I do know this much:
you’ve had the words
written on your face
all along.
I read them from the way you recoil,
body curled into a tight ball.
You never turn your lights on,
the darkness a blanket as you shiver.
You remain quiet during the day
but a noise of pots and cutlery
during the night.
I’ve never read
your suicide letters.
I’ve lived with them instead.

People started to disappear.
We’d always heard of this,
but it was a different time—
that is, until the names
of the missing sounded familiar.
Like Joni, who I grew up with,
lived next door,
played with my brother after school.
They said he was one of them, too.
He used to walk around the corridors,
wore shirts that were washed and ironed.
He was nicer than most,
didn’t care if someone was cool.
He taught me how to jiggy that one time
’cause my limbs didn’t know.
He said, “Just bend your knees,
move to the beat.”
But that was then.
We had lives outside,
grew up.

He slipped out one night,
only to be taken in
as an exchange
for someone.
Caught, red-handed.
He ran through the streets
carrying packets.
Door-to-door deliveries,
cloaked by darkness.
I didn’t know how he
had gotten into this.
He was the boy I knew,
led the prayers when we were both in
Catholic school.
He always had a pretty smile.
That’s what I remembered
to be true.
People started to disappear
long before I even noticed.
They skipped towns.
They lay low.

The unfortunate ones got caught.
The lucky ones chanced upon redemption.
The poor ones were found on the road.
Sometimes wrapped up like animals,
others left to bleed on the very streets
they grew up in,
in front of the people
they grew up with.
People disappeared all the time,
but now we feel them missing.
They warned us about this,
and yet we just keep watching.

You also disappeared, didn’t you?
You ran to a far enough place
to avoid what was happening to you
and everyone you knew.
But even with the distance, you learned:
no amount of miles could make you
any less
There’s a scribble
at the bottom of a page
of your old notebook.
Once you were afraid, too.
Someone once told you:
whatever it is that scares you,
do that.

Year twenty-nine was
learning to say yes,
knowing when to say no.
Finding a place,
a familiar face,
having the courage to go.

Half of me is worried about the lives I’m not living;
half of me is too tired to do anything about it.

How hard is it to leave someone,
wondering if you’ll come back home
to a corpse?
You either choose to stay
or leave so fast,
so far away, that
you won’t have to see
the blood trail,
hear the last hitching breath,
smell the stink of a day-old body,
taste the chill of their stiff fingers
where there is no pulse,
no blood,
no life,
no recognition of the man
you loved.
How do you carry
the guilt of leaving
for a moment
for yourself?

How hard is it
to live with someone
who wants to die,
knowing they want to live
but somehow can’t quite make it?
It’s like standing over a cliff,
your hand stretched out,
hearing yourself yell, “Take it!”
You see it in their eyes.
They want it.
You hold on and pull them up,
but the weight, even for you,
is too much.
You strain your muscles—
no, don’t let go.
You get that resigned look,
and you know.
They will let you go—
and soon.

She’s traveled so much the past year,
but she’s barely heard the words:
“Should the cabin lose pressure,
oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area.
Please place the mask over your mouth and nose
before assisting others.”
He had been so willing to die,
and she had been so willing to save him.

I must find a way
to still choose myself despite
holding on to you.

When I was young, I learned about a man named Ettore Majorana, who chose to disappear. He was young and very smart, but one day, he bought a ticket to Naples, got on the boat, and never returned. He left a note to his friends to apologize for his absence, then sent a telegram to cancel all of his commitments.
There were several hypotheses regarding his disappearance, including suicide, but I always believed that he was alive. I chose to believe that he was one of the few ones who managed to vanish, chose to build his life the way he
wanted it.
I never forgot about Ettore. I had him in the back of my mind, pictured him living his best life, far different from the one he left behind.
Recently, I decided to type his name in the search box and learned that his case of disappearance had been closed. Someone witnessed him in Buenos Aires, doing god knows what, but I smiled at that.
As I sit here with my glass of wine, I make a toast:
to Ettore,
who disappeared—
but also
to the man he chose to be
and the life he must have fully lived.

Some things you love
won’t always serve their purpose.
You have to let go.

I didn’t want to
just survive this life.
I wanted to live.

I sat on Fed Square
as the sun set slow.
There were pigeons
trying to fight for a crumb
and a family of four.
I dared to ask,
“Can I actually live like this?”
And I meant: transient.
You sat next to me
and said, “Sure.
As long as you always
have a place to dock.”
I’ve been away since;
I’m still wondering where that was.

On the train ride to the city, there was a boy who was making kissing sounds with his girl. Every sentence would end with a kiss. As an unwilling spectator, I started to wince, but the truth is—
I remembered when your sentences all ended with your lips, hitting the sides of my cheeks, my temples, my skin. I sat there not knowing what to do with my hands, my chest, my lungs, my fingertips.
I didn’t know what to do with you, soaking my skin with your wet kisses and your love—
my love.
I didn’t know what to do with your love.
I didn’t know how to kiss you back, didn’t know how to love you just as much when the truth is I do.
I do.
I just didn’t know how to show you. I had to learn from years and years of replacement lovers, storybooks, and novels. Now I think I know.
Yet there is no you left to show.

She wanted to be alone,
but with someone.
That should make sense.

You stopped intruding on my dreams.
In fact, I am convinced:
you now live in my subconscious,
you little
You start fires and let them
burn through the night.
You take from my land,
let your feet sink through
the mud.
You run mad,
leaving foot trails in the sand.
You throw spears,
climb trees.
You seek for sustenance,
you hungry
little thing.
You ignore my call
to make no sound.
You spell out capital
H - E - L - P
with seashells
and granite.
You captive,
you captivate me

You show up every once in a while
to remind me of the promises
I broke,
the lives I could have hoped
to live, to make sure
I don’t forget.
I’ve got you trapped
on a little island
for myself.
I am your shipwreck,
thunder and lightning.
I brought you here to abandon,
so you hunt me down
and haunt me for it.

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