Poems in the Attic

This weekend, I spent time at my folks house and pillaged through some old boxes in their attic space.  I have numerous boxes still untouched from my childhood and teen years, and I decided that it would be a good idea to open a few.  My first fear was that a pile of dead mice would be lodged under my thermal legging pants from high school.  My second fear, which was quickly realized, was tons of old mail that I had just got too lazy to shred.  I found tons of bank statements and credit card bill stubs from my late teens.

What I also found was folder after folder of bad poetry.  All the angst and typical low self esteem of my grunge high school years had been packed into commercial mailing envelopes that bore the name of my dad’s old job.  When the place shut down, they abandoned tons of large white envelopes with green edges.  My dad brought them home in bafflement, and I decided to write endlessly about the travails of being a lonesome adolescent and fill them.

I think in this case, the right thing to do is to sit down and meticulously read them.  That is the writerly thing, yes?  But, to be honest, I pitched them directly into the trash.  I know how I felt at that age and the kinds of concerns that I had and I didn’t want to have to revisit any of that.  I enjoyed the random photographs and the bits of jewelry or letters from friends.  They were obviously things to keep.  But the poems in the attic?  Nope.

I think my old self would be a little proud of this defiance.  I think the me of fifteen or sixteen would have found it satisfying to know that as an adult, I would be okay enough with myself to not need these things anymore.  I let that negativity go.

It all felt therapeutic and healthy and good.

Then, just when I thought that I had lost the power to embarrass myself, I encountered a vaguely pornographic attempted novel that I had written in middle school.  After a few queasy sentences, I was adequately humbled.  Um, that is also in the trash.  And to my parents’ garbage collector, you’re welcome.


3 thoughts on “Poems in the Attic

  1. Some time ago, I had a brief discussion with a friend and his wife about holding onto old journals and whether they should be kept and periodically reread, or thrown away to be obliterated by nature (or, in the case of online diaries, the data overwritten and used for something better). His wife didn’t understand the logic of keeping the relics of an identity that no longer exists in any real way, and her husband stated that it was one of the few remaining connections to a past and, as embarrassing or unnecessary as they are, can be some of the only remaining traces people leave on the world after they’re gone.

    My position is similar to what I told the phlebotomist at the blood drive today, regarding tattoos: people do things they might regret even if those decisions don’t leave a mark on the skin. To be able to understand why one’s former self would make the kind of decision that her future self might not appreciate is the most important thing. Whether the scar is visible or not, the regrets may pile up anyway. And regret is a choice we make in the present, after all.

    So, I hold onto my embarrassing journals, in the hopes that somebody might read them when I’m dead. But not when I’m alive. Nobody wants to answer for that crap while they’re alive.


  2. But you could’ve sold them for millions when you become famous! Just kidding…maybe? Some people need to keep things like that to remember from whence they came (no idea why I’m launching into King James; I apologize); other people need to forget that the best they can in order to move forward. I love throwing things like that away–it’s so freeing. Way to go!


    1. I can see it both ways, for sure! I tend to hold onto them maybe because I’m chained to oppressive memory. Too chicken to either let go of or fess up to the relics of my past.


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