Today I stumbled across heaven.

Today I stumbled across heaven.

"Poppies," a poem born from journal writing in spring 2020

By Makayla Conley (she/her/hers), Benjamin Franklin College, Class of 2023 

A text version of this poem is available for screen readers.


This poem was born from journal writing back in April when I was home from Yale finishing out the semester. In the middle of COVID-19, my family was preparing to sell our home in Northern California and move across the country. We didn't have a set destination; our plan was just to drive east and find new beginnings. My three siblings and I had spent our whole lives in California, and the last 12 years in the place I write about in the poem. We lived in a town of about 4,000 people, with plenty of open space, hills, and mountains all around us.

The place I write about in this poem is called "Hillbrook Trail." Hillbrook was always my favorite trail growing up, whether I was running or hiking with my dog. One particularly hard week during quarantine, I just needed to get out of the house to clear my head. So, I headed for Hillbrook. When I reached the peak of the hill, it hit me suddenly that once we moved, I wouldn't be able to come back to this place I loved so much and relied on whenever I needed to escape. Nearly overwhelmed by the weight of it all, I looked around me and suddenly realized the fields of yellow grass were filled with more orange California poppies--my favorite flower--than I'd ever seen in my life. It felt like my beloved Hillbrook was saying goodbye to me. In that moment, my impeding feeling of dread turned into what can only be described as blissful happiness. I am a Christian and was actually baptized my freshman year at Yale, and this felt like yet another transformative experience for me. When I came down from Hillbrook that day, my spiral of melancholy sadness turned into gratitude and joy for all of the time and memories I had in that place.

My goal with this poem is to share my experience discovering that happiness and light.

This project was completed from April to May 2020.

About the artist 

Makayla Conley is a rising junior in Benjamin Franklin college at Yale, where she studies neuroscience and Spanish. She started exploring her passion for poetry more formally at Yale and is excited to share her work with the community. She now lives with her family and chickens in central Tennessee.

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