Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ah, the tortured angst of youth

My brother-in-law has been reading the Chronic(what?)cles of Narnia with my six year old nephew.  Specifically, he's been reading the boxed set that belonged first to my older cousins, then to me.  I discovered them around age 9, on a shelf in my grandparents' house, and read the series through a few times over the next several years, leaving the books behind at my parents' house when I went off to college.  Well, that set found its way to my sister's house, and thus, a new generation has begun to enjoy the stories.

One night, while reading one of the Narnia books to my nephew, my brother-in-law turned the page and out fell two sheets of paper.  Technically, they're not paper paper, but computer punch cards for the NYSE, which came in books and which my grandparents had in abundant supply, as my grandfather was a vice president at the NYSE back in the day.  The one side has lots of different boxes for bid size, ask size, sold, cash, close quote, etc, and the reverse was blank, that side being the one my family used for note pads.

Well, two such sheets fell out, and my brother-in-law immediately called for my sister, as he had no idea what in the heck he'd found.  Turns out what he discovered was a poem that my sister quickly identified by the chicken-scratch handwriting as being a Heather original creation.  She called me the following morning, giggling like a fiend, and told me of the discovery.  She promised to send up the poem to me, but as life tends to get in the way of such things, she didn't have the chance to, until I saw her in person earlier this week while the kid and I were on our annual summer trek to New Jersey.  (More on that later.)  There we stood with our kids on a blindingly sunny, hot beach and she handed over to me this relic of my youth.

And what a tortured youth it was, apparently.  Now, bear in mind that I've always fancied myself something of a writer and poet (also a lyricist and composer - oh, to have properly transcribed the melody lines of the songs I wrote as a teenager... alas, I have naught but the occasional fragment of verse and chord notations from which to recreate my attempts at emo 80s pop).  Obviously, one is never more Angsty and Tormented than when one is going through the hell that is puberty and adolescence, and I was never one to suffer from a lack of an overactive imagination or delusions of grandeur.  It was the pitfall of being a kid whose nose, more often than not, was stuck in a book and whose ears were typically covered with headphones through which music, that food of love, played on and on and on.  What I'm trying to say, basically, is that I tended to the dramatic and the melodramatic.  In my mind, I was Catherine on the moors, Scarlett in Atlanta, Anne in Avonlea and the leading lady of every Shakespearian drama, Eva Peron and Grizabella and Sally Bowles and Cosette, Katie in The Way We Were, the Baroness in Out of Africa, Etta Place hanging out with Butch and Sundance and Sophie with her horrific choice......

This is all a means to attempt to explain - justify? - what I'm about to transcribe.  Yes, dear readers, I'm about to give a Lost Work of Staggering Genius its decades-belated, long overdue public debut.  I'd save myself the transcription effort and scan them in, but my handwriting has never been beautiful and was even less so as a Tortured Teenage Artiste.  Go ahead, laugh, I sure did.  I think, reflecting back on this piece of what surely can only be rightfully termed dreck of the greatest magnitude, that it is eminently clear why I never became the Next Great American Writer, the female Jay McInerny, the 80s Sylvia Plath that I once aspired to be............

*deep breath* Here goes.  The poem is untitled, and I honestly do not remember what traumatic event caused me to write this in response.  More likely than not, it was some fight with my parents.  Perhaps my mom had gone into my room (as she was wont to do) and gone through my belongings, finding something I didn't want her to find.  I'm transcribing this verbatim, mightily resisting the urge to edit as I do:

Walking down a winding path
of darkness patched with silver
sewn into the shadow-filled
darkness by the
far off
distant moon
High above this forest-topped hill
Bravely gleaming all alone
for the host of stars are very faint
The ground below my feet dips and swerves
it is foreign to me, and evil
I yearn for a friendlier path
One through a meadow I have walked before 
worn smooth over years of travel

But somehow
I have entered this
secluded wood
full of unknown dangers and challenges
I fear I am not
experienced enough a traveller
but now
I have no choice

Gone are the easy days, days
when the path was wide and clear
and home was waiting
at the end of the lane.

The wind blows
sharp and icy cold
The old door is barred.  It stands welcoming
no more for me.
It is no longer the end
no longer my destination.
This path
leads not to what once was my Home

Now I must press forward, through the black,
the unknown
I must safely make my way,
alone and unguided
to a clearing in this strange, new wood

And with no background, no past
Nothing of old to call my own
I must build myself
a new Home
in the shadows of these trees
Send down my own roots, create
my own history
build up new walls, as these old crumble down
And protect myself from the past, from the future and its 
unknown frights
Make my own hearth and lay my own fire
to warm myself by.

What I once thought was my own
is no more.
Now I am alone, to begin
in the darkness
When I do build my new Home
will you share it with me?
I'm suddenly overwhelmed with the urge to find a better example of my teenage writing, to prove I wasn't always as horrible a writer as this would lead you to think.......


KiKi said...

Heather -- I LOVED this! Beautiful poem...just beautiful! "When do I build my new home?"

My name is Andy. said...

That is great! I hope you put it in a scrapbook to hand over to the kiddo in the years to come!

Givinya De Elba said...

Ah, no, that's great! Our young writings are supposed to be a little immature so we can see how we've improved over time. But this was really good. Treasure it :)

Creative Junkie said...

Well, as someone who can't understand poetry if it doesn't rhyme, I actually like this! Such a deep thinker you were, Heather.

I'm trying to reconcile this image with the one of you castrating sheep at a fair.