At this point in my life, I’m practically immune to embarrassment. I spent the first twenty-odd years of my life completely humiliating myself on a regular (read:
weekly daily HOURLY) basis. Strangely, when I started thinking about this week’s topic, I drew a complete blank. “I don’t think I’ve ever embarrassed myself!” I said.
“What about the time you got hit by a car?” my wife asked helpfully.
“The time I hit myself with my own car? That was embarrassing, but I think I managed to push the car off me before anyone saw….”
“No, the time when you were little.”
“When I rode my bike into a parked car because I was looking at the clouds? Only it was Val’s bike, and she was in Europe, so I had to write her a letter and explain that I’d totaled her bike by riding it into a parked Buick?”
“No, the OTHER time you got hit by a car, when you fell down and then ran away.” (I think that’s what she said. She was laughing pretty hard at this point in the conversation.)
“Oh right. Or the time my ex-boyfriend’s little sister tied my shoelaces together so I fell all the way down the crowded bleachers, in front of the whole town, during one of the biggest basketball games of the season? Oh, or the time I fell out of my chair in the dining hall, in front of the entire men’s soccer team?”
“Or the time you took a long walk off a short pier and fell in the lake?”
“Or when I tripped going down the stairs and dropped a giant bowl of jello on the floor in front of the whole third grade?”
“Or when you tripped in church in the middle of your aunt’s funeral!”
Clearly the stories of Molly being a klutzy weirdo are basically endless. But I honestly couldn’t think of a single time I’d embarrassed myself in the writing realm. Maybe I’m finally growing up! Maybe I get to be the swan instead of the dumb duckling at last!
…maybe I forgot about all the embarrassing poems I wrote in my teens.
So, for your cringe-worthy amusement, I offer (a very, very small sampling from) my (extensive) hall of shame.
The Cage (age 12)
I am a butterfly
and society is my cage
As I grow older
I am no longer able to stretch my wings
All I can do is sit here quietly and munch on my leaf
If I try to escape this cage of prejudice,
I will be extinguished.
Editor’s note: WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, LITTLE MOLLY? “Cage of prejudice?” You mean middle school? I mean, it sucks and everything, but CALM DOWN. You’re in study hall, not a concentration camp.
Untitled (age 15)
I lost a poem
the chill biting frozen
wind, icy and crystalline,
stole it from me as I
stood knee deep in
and stood transfixed
staring at Venus
bright and clear in
the stillness of
Editor’s note: WINTER’S PRISON?? We get it, Teen Molly. Winter is cold, and you don’t like it. And apparently you have not yet managed to escape your cage of prejudice. Soooooo… good luck with that.
Untitled (age 17)
I remember you as you were last autumn.
You were the strong arms and sad soul.
In your eyes played symphonies under moons.
Your mask was of the sensitive poet.
Like some sort of alien fungus, you grew on me
You lived off my spirit, your voice slow and hypnotizing.
Bonfire of ego, the galaxies spun around you.
Deadly flaming hyacinth gobbling up my soul.
After traveling to Minnesota, the autumn is far off:
Strong arms, sad soul, voice of an angel, heart like a bomb
toward which all poetry flew
and my dreams curled up round your horrible passion.
Bastard from heaven. Snob from a farmtown.
Your memory is made from sawdust and ashes.
Beyond your eyes was never anything but you:
A sponge, a disease, a poison, that killed all poetry.
Editor’s note: Hate to tell you, honeychild, but Neruda you ain’t. Yes, your boyfriend was kind of a dick to you, but “a poison that killed all poetry”? You mean those long strings of adjectives and references to prison? That poetry? It’s not dead, it’s just… living on a farm, where it can play with the other poems. It’s happier now.
Untitled (age 18)
Jesus is purple
Mmmm, I think
you’re wrong, lady!
I love elephanties,
I do not care
what you think
of my poetry.
you — chair.
Editor’s note: Despite what you’ve read about the great writers and their rampant alcohol abuse, drinking a bunch of Boone’s Farm is no way to take your poetry to the next level. Also, you’re 18, you’re drunk, you’re at a party with your best friend — WHY ARE YOU SITTING IN THE CORNER TRYING TO WRITE POETRY? Go make out with someone!
Untitled (age 21)
I have fallen for all your mgic [sic]
You, who could make the trees
burn with a word
the valley fill up with smokey mist
when we couldn’t see the moon for the feames [sic]
And every word you said made
a different me — all those myths
were true in summer.
And you saw colors in shapes like new sight
trees full of lights, music
and all that romantic stuff.
Editor’s note: Dying. Dying! DO NOT DRINK AND WRITE. It does not work for you, child. Also, WTF is a “feame”??
Luckily for all of us, I stopped writing poetry. But in the fifteen years between my first poem (at 12) and last poem (at 27), I did manage to write a handful of poems that were, you know, decent. More importantly, I learned a lot about language and phrasing, line breaks, details, imagery, and not writing drunk. I started writing fiction at 19 or 20, and wrote a bunch of terrible, embarrassing stories (and a handful that were kind of okay), and along the way I learned a lot about narrative, character arc, tension, plot, setting, and language.
So even though these poems are completely embarrassing, I can’t dismiss them entirely, because the process of writing them taught me everything I know about writing today.
Just as falling down the stairs in third grade taught me everything I know about carrying Jello salads to this day.
Okay friends — I can’t be the only one with truly horrendous poetry in my past. Fess up in the comments!
M. Molly Backes
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