Burn Your Darlings

Cardboard box of old journals, notebooks
full of the ephemeral and the wannabe
profound, words I wrote for an audience—
the high school journal, read weekly by
Sister Seraphia, and later, words for my eyes only—
about unrequited love, loneliness after a breakup—

Dominique has two words of advice—
Burn them. She did, and found the fire
exhilarating. I could burn them one by one in the fireplace. I
could drive them to the summer cottage, in the sandy
backyard, make a bonfire of the journals, watch
them all go in the flames at once, done in an hour.

Or I could take them to a commercial shredding
facility, order the Sheaffer-cartridge-penned pages, the
Pilot razor point-penned sheets sliced thinner than
a fennel bulb on a mandoline, sent off to recycling—
or rip the cover boards off the marble
composition books, use a home shredder machine to
dispatch decades of journals, slowly, one at a time—

The journals are stacked in the attic—
I haven’t opened them for years. I don’t want
to reread all that anguish, adolescent
introspection, the navel-gazing, narcissism of
my twenties. Anything from those times is
lodged somewhere in my brain—if I need to
draw on those experiences for the writing, to impart
a nugget of wisdom to students or my grown children, well—
if I can’t remember it, it’s gone. Or should be.

I don’t want these little burdens, want to
stop holding the paper and all it
records: the perseveration, the romanticism,
the cynicism, the anger, the unanswered
questions, the longing—up in flames, please.

Reprinted from Work to a Calm literary magazine, February 2016