Poetry & poignancy for the end of an era (& sale of my childhood home)?
May 8, 2012 7:36 AM   Subscribe

My mom has sold my childhood home :( I want to leave a 'time machine' box with small objects in a place where it may or may not be found.... I want to write something but I'm at a loss for words... Can you suggest a poem?

This is more a ritual for me than my expectation for whoever if they were to find it, but i did find a similar trove in an older home I purchased that filled me with joy, excitement & wonder & I'd like to pay it forward. I'd appreciate references to time, childhood, play, joy but also safety, harbor, anchorage, autumn, the house as a friend. My sister & I grew up here, the house is an antique style & built in the 20s. It was previously owned by the architect who designed it, who took a lot of care & I've always felt a strong & anchoring spirit of the place. I'd like to say thankyou to it. Thanks for your ideas!
posted by iiniisfree to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Something from Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience would be kind of perfect.
posted by Sara C. at 7:39 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not a poem, but a Mountain Goats song, Genesis 3:23 ?
posted by yeoz at 7:44 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am a big fan of Stevens' "A Postcard from the Volcano." It might fit your mood.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:48 AM on May 8, 2012

Poetry's a nice idea, but if I were finding your time capsule way in the future, I'd be much more excited to find some writing by you about your life in the house. The poems will still be preserved in works of reference for people of the future to read, but your experiences in the house will just be forgotten once you're gone. To make it interesting to the futurepeople who never knew you, perhaps focus more on the everyday aspects of life and things that will date ("My family had this car, my favourite toys were ...., when I grew up here, the games I played were...") rather than emotional, abstract stuff that means a lot to you, but might not have the same resonance to people who don't have your memories. That's just my take, YMMV.
posted by penguin pie at 7:53 AM on May 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

(Ah sorry, I may have misunderstood and you wanted the poems for inspiration? But I think the point holds about including some concrete stuff, not just the emotional side of it.)
posted by penguin pie at 7:56 AM on May 8, 2012

This was my first thought, though I guess it's the opposite of what you want. Still, it fits the 'poignancy' bill...

Home Is So Sad
Philip Larkin

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.
posted by Beardman at 7:59 AM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Penguin pie- I'm looking for all of the above: inspiration & solace for myself, but also actual text (poems), or suggestions such as yours (which are very good) thanks!
posted by iiniisfree at 8:01 AM on May 8, 2012

To My Old Addresses, by Kenneth Koch.
posted by scratch at 8:01 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would be thrilled to find Derek Walcott's "Love After Love" in a time machine box.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Then again, I'd be thrilled to find this poem anywhere, as I think it's appropriate for just about any occasion. So, maybe that's just me.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:03 AM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Kicking the Leaves
posted by FatRabbit at 8:08 AM on May 8, 2012

Write what you know of the history of the house. Write YOUR history in the house. Include photos! Exterior, interior. I play 'house detective' in a lot of places I live and where I reside currently I know the lady before us lived here for over 60 years ... where are the photos? how did this place look over the years? These are the real things I want to know, the day to day and possibly mundane.
posted by kuppajava at 8:14 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Make sure to put it all in a water-tight plastic bag, maybe even with a dessicant packet inside. If you think the people moving in will have the house remodeled or repainted, don't put it anywhere the workers will find it first.

I think hiding it well but not crazy well will be the hardest part. This sort of reminds me of this story I read to my daughter.
posted by resurrexit at 8:17 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

This poem is very specific to the poet's own experience, but it certainly fits your criteria, and I always liked it. Is your house a Cape? (Maybe you could include it and use it as a "jumping-off" point for writing about your own experiences in the house, as others have suggested.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:30 AM on May 8, 2012

Our house is pushing 60 years old. I've not been able to find out anything about the owners prior to the one we bought it from. I'd love to find a box containing photos of the house through the years, interior and exterior, with or without people. Ditto for the neighborhood. I'd love short descriptions of things that happened in the house. The big celebrations, the night the bed fell, your favorite place sit, family traditions, pets. If your family made any changes to the house, what were they and why did you do it? What did you wish you could have done? Most of all, what about the place meant the most to you, and why? A poem is nice, but I'd rather have the words of someone who was here.
posted by Longtime Listener at 8:42 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The laundry room door in my childhood home had wood slats. The bottom few were broken when we moved in and my parents never repaired them, as it made a great hole for the kitties to find the litter box. I would mention quirky things like that about the house, or memories of activities that you guys had in certain locations (I think Penguin Pie is right). Include a picture of the front of the house, or the kitchen! You can bet that 50+ years from now someone will have changed both. If the furniture is still set up, I would even go so far as a picture of every room, and a note about it.
posted by Phredward at 11:08 AM on May 8, 2012

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

From: A Shropshire Lad
AE Housman

Alternatively, (and surely you will have considered this?)

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
WB Yeats
posted by genesta at 1:49 PM on May 8, 2012

When my childhood home got sold, I made a list of all the features of the house and garden that had become incorporated into our childhood games.
  • The hall closet that was actually a secret elevator leading down to the batcave.
  • The lump in the lawn that was actually where a vampire was buried.
  • The loose floorboard in the bathroom that was actually a dead letter box used by spies.
  • The patterns in the fence panel that looked like a face and how it was actually an alien visiting our planet to observe us.
  • The air bubble in the concrete path that marked the opening of the monster's cave.
I found it really helpful to walk around the house and make an inventory of its imaginary features before I had to leave it behind.
posted by the latin mouse at 12:01 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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