Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Writing What Matters

Fess up... you have embarrassing stuff you've written that you would just about die if anyone read. Not like bad fiction.... Not blog posts from the past that might have exposed just a little too much. I mean the really embarrassing stuff. Diaries never meant to see the light of day. Journals. Gulp... poetry. That teenage angsty stuff you thought was all insightful and awesome and groundbreakingly emotionally gut-wrenchingly honest. That kind of stuff.

I've got notebooks and boxes full of it. Cringe-worthy material I can't quite make myself get rid of, because it is so honestly, heartfeltedly where I was at the time.

And there is probably embarrassing stuff I've written out in the world somewhere... letters and poetry I wrote for someone else and stupidly gave away.

I say all this because Jean and I were quite the prolific poets in our day. In a way, much of our high school days were documented by torn scraps of notebook paper dotted with free-form verse and slipped under desks back and forth. It was so much a part of our friendship, it wasn't like I could ever forget that.

Still, it came as a bit of a shock today when her daughter posted some of the poetry Jean had written for her and her brother when they were little. Jean kept journals full of her writing for years and years, and told her daughter if she ever died, to burn them or publish them. So her daughter has found them, and is reading through them now, and posting some of it.

I think, of all the gifts Jean could have given to her kids, this is the very best. It is a history of her love for them, of the years they can't remember.

I think of the notebooks, letters, poetry and journals I think of burning sometimes. But if all my kids have of me in the end is my novels, it doesn't real tell them a lot about me. And if all I have is this blog, it's only the tiniest bit I felt safe sharing. I'm wondering now if this is enough. Maybe it's time I write some more.

The friend who first told me I needed to be writing books several years ago was also the person who told me I should be writing poetry about my son when he was born. I wrote very little, overwhelmed with colic and sleepless nights and total lack of creativity. But I did eek one out, albeit a rhymed and metered one. I suspect I was in need of some sense of order in my life at the time! :)

To my son, who is now 10:

Eyes that search the room for me,

blue as the ocean, wide as the sea.

Little fists so tightly curled,

yet loose enough to hold my world.

Quiet breath, sighs so deep,
Cries of pain traded for sleep.

A tiny boy, perfect and whole,

small as a tear, big as my world.


  1. AW!

    I think I did, but someone also known as my mother threw it away.

    That's a lovely poem, and an excellent idea for your children. I love that.

  2. That's beautiful. I write Max a b'day poem every year. I think his wife will love it.

  3. Jen - Mothers can be heartless that way. I'm lucky my folks have a big attic. The mice may have gotten them, but at least I think there are still pieces of them up there!

    Kerri - Your b-day idea is great! Much less overwhelming than trying to document every milestone or sentimental moment. I tried writing b-day letters, but I'm so wordy I could never finish them.

    I'm sort of out of the poetry frame of mind right now. I use to narrate life in my head in poetry. Now I narrate in whatever character I'm writing. Jean's poems make me want to try to do it again... just because I can see how much it means to her daughter.

  4. This makes me want to go digging around to see what I have in the way of old (and embarrassing). But that poem, nothing less than beautiful because you meant every single word of it. I think you may have posted the picture on purpose, just to see if you could make us tear up. Well, touche, Heidi. Touche!

  5. Short and sweet!

    What a gorgeous baby!! My boy had that same blonde hair and the V hairline, but unlike your boy, his hair turned light brown over the years.

    Has he seen your poem?

  6. and, y'know what? I have old journals too. I think since I was 11 or 12; all I know is that around 19 I read some and almost died from embarrassment. I would probably laugh if I read them now. I mean really. "We made eye contact today! Things are really happening! I like him so much!"

    I'm pretty sure there's a box labeled "burn this if I'm dead" in my mom's house somewhere.

    Oh my gosh, blog post idea...

  7. I loved the poem. I love the picture of your little blue eyed baby. I also thought of poems I wrote that I felt the same way about--I go back and cringe too, or know they're only for the person I wrote them for. We should never throw our old poems away. As you said, they are a record of where we were at the time.

    You made me cry too. As HtH said, a big blog idea came to me around one of those poems--now if I can only find it.