rooting around

Our offspring and I are rooting around in search of legacies left by my once-husband. He left boxes of memorabilia about his plays — from playbills to reviews, to posters — so those legacies are obvious. What is not obvious to our kids are the times in his life before they existed, and b!X, for one, is in the process of digging out his Dad’s military history — mostly because it appears that during that time period he changed from good Catholic to angry agnostic. I met him after he got out of the army, so I have no idea what transpired to precipitate that shift in world view.
As I’m rooting around in my — and my mom’s — old files, I’m finding glimpses of an old self of mine that I had forgotten in the lines of poetry I had written back when I was in high school. Those are the ones that my mother saved; I never gave them to her, so she must have gone through my teen-age dresser to find them when I was away at college. If I knew then that she was invading my privacy, I would have had a fit. Now, I’m kind of glad she saved them, because I never would have.
The Winter passes into Spring
The birds begin to sweetly sing,
And through the air the Church bells ring.
But, yet, I notice not a thing.
To me the world is cold and gray,
E’er in twilight, ne’er in day.
There’s nothing in my life that’s gay.
Happiness seems far away.

(Of course, in 1957, “gay” only meant “happy.”)
Here’s one from 1953. I was 13.
The land is so dry, it’s all just a waste.
We’ve no water for days, no food to tatse.
The sand on the desert is not food to eat.
Even the cactus furnish no meat.
The sun is so hot and oh so dry.
The hot breeze in our ears whispers

I don’t know if it was adolescent angst or if I was depressed even back then, but here’s one I wrote when I was 18.
I hear the dreary, mournful refrain
Of the steadily falling downpour of rain.
Not the rain of a wild and stormy night,
With furious streaks and flashes of light,
With tormenting winds of passionate force
And eerie outcries from an unknown source.
Not the kind of rain that rises from hell
And holds all the world in its magical spell.
Not the kind of rain that’s so torrid and splendid —
That you still stand in wonder even after its ended.
And still not the rain that’s mellow and mild
As sweet and refreshing as the smile of a child.
Not the shower that calls all of nature to waken
With gentle caresses that leaves all unshaken.
Not the rain that makes every creature feel new.
Not the rain that leaves the world sparkling with dew.
But a gloomy depressing curtain of gray
That covers and hides all the brightness of day —
A shroud of depression, a mist of despair,
A cloak of discouragement, everywhere.

OK, so there’s lots of trite phrases and rhymings. After all, my high school education was in a Catholic school, where in our senior year the big piece of “literature” we read was “Father Malachy’s Miracle.” What I can’t help noticing, though, is my focus on the dark side of things. Even then.
Here’s one I like. I must have been a freshman in college when I wrote it:

If I were to choose my own heaven,
It would be forever Spring,
    with no bugs
   and plenty of food
   and books, books books
   and a rock ‘n roll band on weekdays
   and a jazz band on Sundays
   and people people people
   and all of them would be college graduates.
If I were to choose my own hell
it could be no worse
than boredom.

I think that my once-husband would have chosen the same kind of heaven. Except for the “people people people” and probably the “college graduates.” He was never bored in his own company. Unlike me.
Finally, I wrote this when I was 20. Apparently, I knew that one day I would be rooting around.

Twenty is Young
When I am old
   I will not care for
      rock ‘n roll,
      bongos drums
      beat poetry
      Jake Trussell
      lifeguards with
      sea-burnished hair
      and convertibles.
But now I am young
      and I know that all of these
      will one day be
      the cushions
      on the couch of memories
      on which I will repose
When I am old.

Note: The Slop was a dance from the fifties. I had to google Jake Trussell and I still don’t remember. But I still like rock ‘n roll. And convertibles. And I’m still known to ogle lifeguards.

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