Israel Joyner grew up in a family of five boys, which he describes as basically like a herd of crazed cats.
“Imagine they zoom down the hallway clawing every single wall, with colored pencil, holes, whatever they can do. That was my house,” Israel says.
Israel is the youngest of this brood, a sophomore at West Seattle High. But not long ago, he found something — a notebook from his big brother Mars, written when Mars was in eighth grade. Mars is five years older than Israel. Reading it, and learning about his brother’s old insecurities, gave Israel a rare opportunity: to be the big brother, for a change.
What struck him, he says, was the obvious gap between the imaginative writing in the notebook and the often harsh way Mars talked about himself. Israel wrote a poem about the experience, which got published in a collection of student poetry.
Mars is in his third year at Washington State University. Israel says his brother’s reaction to the poem was, in typical fashion, muted.
“Mars doesn’t really show his emotions,” Israel says. “He might have (said something) and I might have blocked it out with my weird, selective hearing.”
Israel and his brothers tend not to open up to each other with words. But that doesn’t mean they’re not close. They’ve relied on each other through family turmoil — there have been several different configurations of parents and living situations. They’ve just connected, mainly, through experience and a lot of physical camaraderie.
When asked whether he wishes he and his brother could be more intimate about their emotions, Israel responded … nah.
“I think that would be super lame,” he said, with a half-grin. “Brothers can’t do that — not us tough bunch.”
Of course, Israel had just spilled his guts on the page, through his poetry.
“I find that one soft, small crack through writing,” he said.
He Called Himself Uncreative
By Israel X Joyner
He called himself uncreative, unsuccessful, and all together horrible
Everyday he struggled to wake up
Stuck sinking into the sand-bed he called reality
Not noticing how fast it consumed
Long nights of fixing mistakes and doing homework
For the classes he never showed up to
Fists pounding and breaking walls
Mind splitting headaches
Uneventful whispers for loss of time
Time he could have used to work
Consuming himself in his work as soon as he was able to step outside
Leaving his dreams in the closet of an house that burned down long ago
From chasing dreams to grabbing opportunities
But somewhere deep inside his broken heart
Full of broken doors and families torn apart
He screams for help
His beauty still fades into a solom kill or be killed face
How can this be when his notebook shows signatures lining up pages on pages
As if waiting for the day he signs them off for the ones who adore him
How can this be when he wrote essays about skating and halls and showing who is right
Like some rebellious teen who wants to make a change
How can this be when re-writes movie scripts
Sticks up to the teachers
How can he be so empty when he fears to lose the ones close to him
Now on this day I swear on my life he can not tell me he is empty because
The voices that scream out from him are so alive
And so beautiful
And gives me a true definition of hope!
Not the hope you find in those dumb books
But the one that changes your life forever
I want him to look me in the eyes and say he can’t dream again
Because his hands tell stories of beautiful dreams
The doodles jumping out of the pages as if comic books
The stories about me, you and dad all together
Who you are is creative
And deep down one day those voices will break out of your heart
And when they do you will know it too
The word creative begins with a C
I want you to see what you can truly be not what the written eyes told you
The word Believe starts with a B
You were always being kind to everyone while tearing yourself down
When will you realize
You are loved
Unsuccessful begins with a U
You decide where your life falls
So take the wheel and head there
To the one you love
To the place you cherish
To the bliss you missed