I was digging through some old boxes today, looking for a particular photograph, and I found some of my old journals. One flipped open and I read the first page. It was a poem that I had no memory of writing.
I used to write a lot of poetry back in my high school and college days and I’d long ago dismissed it as probably angsty and silly and better forgotten. But this poem surprised me. It had some promise. Some of the phrases struck me as rather nice, actually. I started flipping through the notebook and found many things I had no memory of writing.
Looking at the phone numbers scrawled on the notebook’s cover and the papers stuffed inside (among them an old phone bill) as well as at the contents, I think this journal was from 1998 or 1999 when I was still living and working in the Dallas area (having graduated from college in 1996). I thought I’d have fun and transcribe some of the pieces that seem worth keeping and since I’m doing the work of typing them in, why not share them with the world. It struck me that had blogs existed back in 1998 all this stuff would probably have made it to the blog anyway. Maybe. I think of my journals as a sort of proto-blogging. My first blog after all was just a digital form of my notebooks, kept on LiveJournal. I’ve evolved as a blogger, and as a writer. What if my blog’s archives reached all the way back to 1998, though? This kind of thing would be out there.
I mostly gave up writing poetry in grad school when I became too self-conscious and thought that something wasn’t worth doing unless it was going somewhere. Now I find that rather silly. I have come to enjoy writing for its own sake and not for the dream of one day being a famous writer. So maybe typing these in will help me to remember that poem writing self?
Many of the poems were in this vein, taking up a classical theme and trying to imagine myself inside the character in a beloved story.
I tell you there was a day Penelope tired,
cast down her steady eyes from far-off shores,
let slip her hands—almost—
in a final stroke of doubt.
The door gaped, empty,
the bed creaked beneath her sleepless
weight, the storm winds stilled in her heart.
On a green isle lapped by asphalt tides
she stole summer seconds
from years of useful hand-work
from finger strokes that freed her thoughts
for weaving distant islands upon
dream shrouds of oceanic night.
Her mind crashing on the same stony stuff
relentless repeating disruptive rhythm,
did she sense the golden beaches
the restless heart yearning
Did the wind whisper, green
trees blowing, Calypso?
Did she recall a well-turned limb
golden hair curling in the court
untouched by gray?
The chains of memory
fall apart. Her steadfast
heart turns from home and hearth.
And here and now
are bodies young and willing.
All too young and more than willing…
Yet the arrow flies true
the shuttle moves home
from hand to hand
that meet and part to meet again.