The poetry inside other people’s cardboard boxes

A new hobby is birthing itself, pushing its way out. 

Like when I took to exploring New York with my neck cranked back

gazing up at building sides looking for signs of  shoe polish advertised 100 years ago.

A new research topic. A new obsession.

The confessional.

Sylvia Plath. Anne Sexton. These are writers I never read.

Can you believe it? I’m embarrassed to even admit to it. (Though I already did.)

I never read those ladies on purpose. Their tragic endings were enough to put me on alert.

Enough to scare me into avoidance.

I was terrified of discovery. Worried that by exploring their darknesses, mine would be triggered. I didn’t need any more triggers — my mind’s been busy enough for decades.

However, slowly, slowly — as I’ve begun to creatively confess here on the blog and privately in long-form and poetry — I’m dipping my toes into their confessions. Learning from them. Growing. Chuckling. Feeling relief that I am not the only one pained by the beauty of tulips.

Today, I discovered “All My Pretty Ones” by Sexton, and smiled as I realized her poem is a consequence of rooting through cardboard boxes, both literally, i imagine, and figuratively. 

“a gold key, your half of a woolen mill,

twenty suits from Dunne’s, an English Ford,

the love and legal verbiage of another will,

boxes of pictures of people I do not know.

I touch their cardboard faces. They must go.”

It’s humbling, knowing that you’re not the first person in this world to suffer. It’s reassuring knowing you’re not the first writer to reach for a thesaurus in search of just the right word because your mind will not allow you to escape from the hunt until you do. It’s a relief, in a sense, as Lena Dunham shared about her experience reading and exploring Plath in college to know that your darkness is a little bit lighter than it could be.

It was good I didn’t read Plath or Sexton until now, I suppose.

In the same way it’s all good.

All of it. The stuff we hide away accidentally or on purpose until it’s ready to be discovered, explored, shared.

Turned into poetry.

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