Monday, January 23, 2012

Out of the Blue Past

I just answered an email from an acquaintance. I met him years ago in Boston and he found my blog and contacted me. Our common ground is writing--his is poetry and mine, supposedly, is writing novels and blogs. Eh hem.

While writing my "hey" back, I thought about my own bit of poetry. I have two poems of which I am sincerely proud. I've written few poems, if any, since college. How would I describe my poetry? To my acquaintance I wrote that it was a mass of maudlin free-verse too narcissistic to share. I checked--that's the definition of high school poetry. I can't share any embarrassing bits, though, because it was all lost in the fire.

When I say lost, I don't mean totally burned. That would have been better.

I still feel an echo of the sharp scent that burned my sinus passages when we entered the blackened remains of our apartment. There was a blue tarp over the roof of the living room and kitchen, casting an odd glow while sealing out the sunshine. The blackness of the rooms swallowed any stray light into its inky nothingness. We borrowed work lamps that we might dig through the debris of charred drywall, broken mirrors, and a carpet of ruined books.

Melted TV
There was so little left of the living room that we didn't linger except to attempt to identify a few remaining bits. The kitchen we did not enter. It was beyond curiosity.
Kitchen from Living Room

The bedroom and the office had piles of burnt objects taunting us with the possibility of being saved. In the office five or six bookcases worth of sopping wet books, twelve ruined computers, and melted plastic bins with precious papers oozed all over the floor. It was necessary to tread on our belongings. The effort of digging through was too much. Very little escaped that room.

Nightstand with poetry
Beside my bed, in a small bookshelf/nightstand, my poetry journals stood. I recall grasping a few precious objects to my chest as I dismissed those scraps of silly sentiments.  So heartbroken and overwhelmed were we by the devastation, that I didn't even pull the wet, ashy journals from their cubby hole. I saved my paintings, miraculously intact though damaged. I saved many photographs, fairly safe on the floor in the linen closet. Little else was pulled from the acrid smelling cave of blackened, melted memories.

Closet that housed photos.
I did not anticipate being haunted by my teenage pathos. But the numbness has worn away as time has healed my wounds. Questions like "Why didn't I look further? Why didn't I save more?" plague me.  Facts are hollow details absent pungent pain. After so many years I know, as I know about December 7, 1941, that I was emotionally exhausted. Now, in the absence of the physical ache, awareness pokes through that those pages were special snapshots in my development as a writer. And I just left them there.