Rereading Old Notebooks… (and Resurrecting a Forgotten Poem)

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Having started writing poetry long before I ever owned an iPhone, tablet, or even a computer, I have accumulated a massive collection of old notebooks and journals filled with poems and random thoughts I have penned throughout the years. Every once in a while, (especially when I am at a loss for new ideas), I will grab one at random, and reread it. This is a practice I would highly recommend for every writer. Though this act can be a bit embarrassing, by revisiting your past words, you can track your progress as a writer. You also might even rediscover some hidden gem that you wrote but totally forgot about. Recently I found a fragment of an unfinished poem that I was able to rewrite and resurrect as a piece I am now quite proud of. But more often, I will find poems that make me squirm when I read them now, stuff that I have no idea what to do with. So here is my brainstorm: why not publish them on this blog?

Here is one that I just unearthed the other day. I never got in the habit of dating my work, but my guesstimate would be that it is from the mid-1990s, detecting some influence from slam poetry I was listening to back then. I can’t say if I feel it is bad or good, but one thing, it is certainly something I would never write today. Please let me know in the comments what you think.

Old Man on the Street

On a city sidewalk,
where eye contact
can be a punishable offence,
he still smiles at passing strangers
who analyze his motives,
and question his character.

Sometimes a pretty passerby
will toss the old man a look.
Sometimes he steals one uninvited,
gazing openly at smooth lips
and vacuous blue eyes.

He has been warned
the streets are no place
for social situations,
people are too condensed,
too concerned with just
coming and going,
there are more appropriate arenas
to make friends or acquire acquaintances.
But the street is now the only p!ace,
this old man knows.

In the frigid afternoon,
a college boy (wearing
an unreadable expression)
hands him his leftover coffee,
saying human interaction
is an old fashioned concept,
that hip people today meet
on the internet falling in love
over miles and miles of fiber optic cable.

The old man knows when he is being
told a joke, and smiles with jagged teeth.
The boy returns his gesture,
and will again the next time they pass.
Perhaps a smile, not microtechnology,
is still enough to dissolve the curse
of being alone and lonely.

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7 thoughts on “Rereading Old Notebooks… (and Resurrecting a Forgotten Poem)

  1. I feel it is a splendid poem. It reflects yesterday vs today and how we communicate. Acknowledging a real person in passing is much more meaningful than acknowleding a selfie. Sharing with my followers.

    Liked by 1 person

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