September 14, 2006


A woman I knew thirty years ago, Pennysue Gold, recently sent me a thick folder of poems I wrote when I was fifteen. Most are love poems, of the painfully unrequited variety, all addressed to her. Evidently I loved her then.

My first reaction was disbelief. The poems state again and again that I loved her in the frank and desperate way one loves at that age, and yet I couldn’t remember feeling that way about Pennysue. Did I love her and forget loving her? It didn’t seem possible, but then I remembered a conversation with my father in which he told me to never take no for an answer from a girl. “They want you to fight for them,” he said. I remembered where we sitting when he said this, and I remembered that he was talking about Pennysue. This meant, among other things, that the poems were mine.

The poems. I haven’t counted how many there are, but there are a lot. I wrote them in a two-month period, often writing two or three a day, using lined paper torn from a spiral notebook. Most appear to have been copied in my best hand, although some, evidently originals, are littered with crossouts and corrections and little arrows indicating line order changes. Also: they’re dreadful – possibly the worst poems I’ve ever read.

When Penny emailed me last week (she found me while googling a girl we both knew, who I referenced in an Oblivio piece), she mentioned the poems in her first email. I was floored, having believed my juvenilia lost. But more than this, I was amazed that Pennysue had saved the poems for thirty years. And now that I’ve read them, the mystery deepens, for they are stunningly bad: repetitive, corny, and clichéd. However – and this perhaps explains everything – there is also something beautiful in their sincerity, the sincerity of a fifteen-year-old suffering his first heartbreak.

The first poem in the pile:

A Penny For Your Thoughts

I’ve been watching the sunset
Falling behind the sea
Listening to my headset
Discovering more of me

We’ve been getting closer
I feel a need for you
You’re setting off my emotions
Running me through and through

And it’s beginning to scare me
I want you more each day
I can’t look right at you
I can’t stand feeling this way

Why can I talk to you
Tell you my deepest dreams
Show what I have inside me
Even the weakest seams

I doubt you’ll ever see this
It could change your mind
And ruin our friendship
Change the sands of time

Or maybe you know already
Maybe you always knew
Lying across the wasteland
I want there to just be you