Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | April 10, 2022

New Poetry Books Now Available

I’m happy to post that my 2 new books are here and ready for readers. If you would like to purchase any copies, contact me via Facebook Messenger or email me at I’ll be happy to send or bring them to you, signed if you prefer! Or you can always order directly from Kelsay Books online, though they’ll charge you $19.

A Matter of Dark Matter, published by Kelsay Books, includes 50 poems divided into 5 sections. (85 pages, $17.00)

Here are blurbs from the back cover (which I include here with much appreciation for my poet friends who wrote them!) —

  • In A Matter of Dark Matter, Kate Hutchinson explores the facets of darkness and invisibility. She makes “mattering” a polestar of her poetry, keeping a keen eye on the Earth as half-dark treasure; she laments the disappearance of birds and trees, shriveling ice masses, and mounding plastic. Hutchinson moves the dialogue with herself and the reader to measuring memories and experiences darkened by an ominous sense of invisibility—vulnerable students, a son who knows “the constant bruise of his heart,” the disappearance of beloved “wild places,” the challenges of body image. The poems are both composed and starkly intimate, but ultimately the reader joins the poet’s triumph—full-out singing Eric Clapton in an empty grocery store, a “sawed-in-half woman stepping out of the box”—the small joys the poet relishes in these poems as she foot-stamps against invisibility. Hutchinson brings us hope that “the Earth whispers still.”

~ Gail Goepfert, author of Self-Portrait with Thorns and This Hard Business of Living

  • “‘We must love something just enough,’ declares Kate Hutchinson at the end of her poem, “Cold.”  This killer line, coming at the beginning of A Matter of Dark Matter, launches a journey through themes of fragility, vulnerability and impermanence with bravery and fiercely acute perception. Yet despite the shifting presence of a bird on the shoulder that demands its pound of flesh, she is able to assert in “Gentle Yoga,” ‘Our arms/and legs are made to move/across the earth, toward each other.’ Never truer than in a time of COVID, this is the voice of a woman who has reclaimed herself, who never shrinks from the task at hand: to look, to see, to accept and ultimately, to be.    

 ~ Peter Ludwin, winner of the 2016 Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Award for the poem “Wolf Concerto,” and 2017 American Book Award nominee for Gone to Gold Mountain.

  • A Matter of Dark Matter demonstrates Kate Hutchinson’s versatility with its thought-provoking poems on science and social issues and poems inspired by her experiences as a child with a mother who was sick, as a confused teen, and as wife and teacher. She is deft at writing both free and formal verse. And sometimes a line (like “the bride waking with regret on her honeymoon”) pops out and slaps the reader’s face, but bits of humor and hope peek through like stars in a cloudy sky. I highly recommend this collection.        

~ Wilda Morris, author of Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick and past-president of the Illinois State Poetry Society

Resolve in Her Voice is a hand-crafted chapbook that contains 21 poems divided into 3 sections. (33 pages, $5.00)

Women of Now and the Future (such as Katherine Johnson, Nancy Pelosi, Malala Yousafzai, and Greta Thunberg)

Women of the Past (such as Helen of Troy, Anne Boleyn, Cleopatra, and Joan of Arc)

For My Family of Women (including my mother, grandmothers, and aunts)

I’ll also note here that my 2 previous books are still available as long as I still have copies!

Map-Making: Poems of Land and Identity. THEAQ Books, 2015. (63 pages, $5.00)
The Gray Limbo of Perhaps. Finishing Line Press, 2012. (25 pages, $3.00)
Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | December 24, 2021

A Walk on Christmas Eve

We awoke to fog today in Chicagoland, and it never quite lifted. We have yet to see any snow accumulate — the latest we’ve ever gone in northern Illinois without it. I spent much of the day alone and had time to think about the state of the world, which has lately been an exercise in gloom and doom.

Being outside among the trees and birds can always lift my spirits, so that’s where I went.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season, and wishing the world peace and healing in 2022.

Christmas Eve Day, 2021

Just two dog walkers share the path with me,

stepping through mist in their coats and caps.

We trade quick smiles and brief hellos.

How many shades of gray and brown grace

a Midwest winter landscape? Bared limbs

reach into dense clouds in seeming supplication.

Across the field, a gray squirrel halts

to paw the ground and nibble its find.

Above me, a flock of starlings alight

in treetops, chattering of their news.

With urgency in its chirp, a cardinal

swoops past – one dot of red. It is 3:00

and darkness has already begun to descend.

Nearing my neighborhood, I see windows

glowing white against the dusk. Strands

of Christmas lights cling to branches and eaves.

Soon I will be back inside where I, too,

will light candles and sit by a glowing tree.

There is so much to despair in this world.

Hope alone is not enough. But its constant

and crucial simmer will abide this night.

2nd photo source: Better Homes & Gardens

Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | September 19, 2021

Losing the Last Parent

When I started writing poetry in earnest in the early 2000’s, many of my poems were about my mother. She’d been gone nearly twenty years, and as I approached the age she was when she died, I developed a new kind of relationship with her that I’d never had when she was alive. In some cases, my poet’s voice speaks directly to my mom, like this one that notes the long passage of time since she left us:

Two Mothers 

At the side of the trail I see

a small patch of white clover,

and I am back with you, sitting

on the side stoop in ’63 or ’64

when there was only a meadow

between our house and the road,

with the vast forest preserve beyond.

We shared the clover with honeybees—

hundreds of them—plucking the tiny

petals and nibbling them for sugar.

You’d pick the largest dandelion—

a sunburst—and hold it under my chin,

saying the yellow reflection meant

I was as sweet as creamy butter.

The sky is sometimes still that blue, Mom,

and today the clouds stretch across it

like the giant feather boas we saw

on those lazy May mornings when

the older two were off at school,

the baby and cat lay napping inside,

and I was still a little part of you.

In time we saw the meadow plowed

for custom homes, the road widened,

the forest chopped apart for paved paths,

the creek dammed for a fishing lake.

What would you say if you knew

that the wild fields and honeybees

are disappearing too?

This patch of clover seems a relic, from

a time when earth was more than ground

beneath our feet.  You showed me my

second mother—one who fills me with

the wide blue sky—and still you drop

sweet nectar on my tongue, even all

these years since you’ve been gone.

I suppose the reason why it’s so easy for me to write about Mom is because she’s become more of a memory than a reality in my mind. I’m free to explore who she was and who she might have been had she lived into her 50’s and beyond. And I’m able to write about her as a peer, too, not just as her daughter, now that I’m as old and older than she ever was.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve only written a couple of poems about my dad, who just passed away last month at 89. He’s been here with us, preventing me from being able to ponder his existence beyond the details of his daily life or the cliches about what a great dad he’s been. Not that I haven’t reflected on his life more deeply or on my relationship with him as I’ve matured. But there’s a shift that occurs after a person’s death — a distancing, or a kind of poetic sensibility, I guess you could call it — that unlocks whole new perspectives. For that, I’ll have to wait a while yet.

But this weekend, two very short poems came to me. The first came yesterday while I was going through some of the many photos and family albums Dad left behind for us. One photo in particular really struck me.

A black and white photo of him —

crew-cut hair, on hands and knees,

with three of us climbing over his back —

“rassling” he called it —

evokes a recent image:

gray-haired now on his hands and knees,

his legs no longer able to hold him up.

And this morning just after waking, I pondered what I imagine we all do when our last parent has gone, leaving our generation to be the next in line facing mortality.

How vast the sky becomes

when no one is here

to rein it all in for us

and clamp it down at the edges.

Dad and Mom in 1979

Image credits: American Meadows; Medical News Today; Pixabay; Kathy Keatley Garvey blog

Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | June 6, 2021

We Are What We Keep

Like lots of folks my age, I’ve been clearing out my stuff lately, realizing I don’t need much of it and don’t want the burden to fall on family members after I’m gone. My son Ramon, now 30, still lives with me, but I long ago stopped asking him to cull his supply of books and movies. (See the poem below for that story.)

Some have a much harder time getting rid of their possessions, I know. I’ve written before of my mom, who stockpiled food and other items almost obsessively, probably due to a childhood in the ‘30s and ‘40s where many siblings had to share what they had. She died at 46, before much was known about obsessive-compulsive disorder, but we think now that she probably struggled with that, too. 

Reading about the psychology behind hoarding is sometimes fascinating and sometimes sad. According to multiple sources, around five percent of people struggle with it at a clinical level, and it’s usually attributed to a condition such as OCD, anxiety, or depression. Signs of a tendency to hoard often show up in adolescence and can lead to isolation and a growing fear or anxiety about self-protection. In a few cases, people even describe an irrational fear that their possessions will be despondent if they are thrown away or given away.

For my son, who has autism, his accumulation of possessions is driven by something a little different. Yes, he does deal with high levels of anxiety and OCD. Yet he also has what I call a “videographic memory” – an uncanny ability to recall people, places, dates, and episodes from his life going far back into early childhood. I joke that Ramon collects people. He never lets them go from his mind as the years go by, including a substitute teacher he may have had for two days in second grade or a restaurant worker who served him a few times when he was 12.

Another huge part of Ray’s early and ongoing life experience involves the stories he’s grown up with in books, films, and videogames. This is where the hoarding tendency comes in. Without the typical ability to imagine stories of his own making, Ray has always over-identified with fictional characters he likes. We all do this to a certain extent, but I believe for him, the “friends” he makes in fictional tales are more real than for most of us. He revisits some of his favorites again and again, running along with Woody and Buzz on their way to Pizza Planet, or with Anne of Green Gables as she chases the neighbor’s errant cow, or with Forrest Gump as he outruns the bullies and lets his leg braces fall away.

For most of us, Winnie-the-Pooh or young Laura Ingalls become faded memories as we grow up, leaving only a vague imprint on our identities. For Ramon, these characters continue to surround him, reassuring him of his identity and self-worth, his past, and his hope that things will always work out alright in the end. Nothing made this clearer to me than this past year, when so much uncertainty filled our lives and I wasn’t able to give him definitive answers about when he would be able to go back to grocery stores or stop wearing his mask. In his screen world of Scooby-Doo and Arthur the Aardvark, the demons and bullies are always defeated.

Child is Father to the Mom

Jewelry rained down around me

and a second later, my jewelry box.

I startled and looked up to see my son

on the stairway landing, smiling.

There was then yelling, questioning,

a forced picking up, a forced apology,

early to bed, talk of a better tomorrow.

Later, on hands and knees, I sought

the last missing pieces – and answers.

Autism keeps Ramon from telling me

what he’s feeling, so I can only guess.

Was it still last year’s divorce and

the move? Was I on the phone too long

that day? Did he eat something odd,

see something he shouldn’t have seen?

As earring sparkled by the door,

next to the box I’d filled to take

to Good Will: clothes, tableware,

a few of Ramon’s oldest videos.

He’d watched as I’d taken them

from his shelves, listened as I told him

that at age 8, he needed to let them go.

He hadn’t argued. But my jewelry

landed just feet from this box.

In the morning, Ray woke to my

tearful apology, my promise, and

his tapes returned to his shelves.

Now at 30, he’s curated crates full

of books and movies – a collection

that grows as an extension of him,

a constant reminder of who he is and

who he’s been. Long after I am gone,

he will still be surrounded by them.

Photo credits (in order):

The Spruce, Oriental Trading Company, Etsy, Kate Hutchinson (photo of some of Ray’s shelves)

Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | March 13, 2021

Taking Stock: 1 Year Later

March 12 is a date many of us will now always remember, like December 7 or September 11. It seems like five years ago, not just one, when many of us closed our front doors for good, peering out into the scary world with wide eyes. While millions risked their lives to keep the world turning and to treat the sick, many of us became hermits, glued to our TVs and devices for news updates. We learned a whole new vocabulary and developed new ways of being.

I’ll add to the one-year anniversary of the lockdown by offering an abecedarian poem that crams it all in — literally Covid-19 from A to Z. I’ve only written a few abecedarians, but for the purposes of a “list poem,” the alphabet can come in handy and actually be fun. Word geek that I am, I spend lots of time with dictionaries and thesauruses. A new book on my long list of must-reads includes A Place for Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order by Judith Flanders. I’d never even considered that at some point, some smart person trying to organize things decided that the alphabet could be a handy tool! Samuel Pepys and George Washington were early adopters, it seems. Now, we couldn’t function without it.

So here it is, my compact retrospective of Life With Covid, 1 Year Later — from horrific to hopeful. Perhaps it will prompt you to think about the A to Z of what this time has meant for you.

It All Matters

Antiseptics. Air for our lungs and air hugs for our hearts.

Antiseptics. Air for our lungs and air hugs for our hearts.

Boxes of beans plus blue skies and bikes and bare feet.

Clorox on the shelf along with cat food, chocolates and coffee.

Doctors, yes, and drive-thru windows and drive-by birthdays.

Exercise, elastic waistbands, evergreen trees in the yard.

Facts over falsehoods . . . and Facebook. Food kitchens.

Gloves and newly-gray hair and grandparents on screens.

Hospitals full of heroes plus houseplants and hummingbirds.

IV drips, igloos outside restaurants. Vivid imaginations.

Jeans, jammies, jigsaws, Jeopardy! and Jupiter kissing Saturn.

Keeping our distance but keeping the faith. Kindness.

Libraries, leaves greening then falling on lawns. Love.

Masks and music and movies and mothers and miracles.

Nurses, oh yes. Newspapers and neighbors on the front porch.

Oximeters, ovens full of bread. Open minds, open hearts.

Personal protective equipment. Pets on laps and leashes. Poetry.

Q-tip swabs and questions on quarantining.

Remdesivir plus reading, reading, reading.

Steroids, sourdough starter, and solos on balconies.

Too much toilet paper and TV. Treadmills. Tireless teachers.

Ultraviolet light and unsung unselfishness everywhere.

Ventilators. Vaccines! Vegetables from our own gardens.

Windows kept open and long walks and wine.

X-rays of lungs, experts who temper our expectations.

Yeast and yarn and yoga and yearning for normal.

Zoom gluing us together under zillions of stars.

Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | December 20, 2020

Reflections on Longest Night

Darkness can be a metaphor for so many things – depression, despair, evil, death – none of them positive. But Longest Night reminds us that light (joy, hope, goodness, life) will come again. After all, without darkness, we wouldn’t recognize or appreciate light. Winter Solstice rituals have important for thousands of years, and this year they will be even more meaningful, as we close out one of the worst years the human race has collectively experienced.

What’s so special to me about all the centuries-old Longest Night celebrations is just how universal they are in acknowledging human faith in rebirth and renewal.  Pagan Yuletide, Jewish Hanukkah, Christian Christmas, Chinese Dongzhi Festival, Hopi Soyal – each marks the turning of the planet back toward the sun and the hope this instills in us, that we’ll survive another year.  Now we understand why nights get longer and shorter in regions far from the equator, but it’s fascinating to think about how ancient peoples attributed it to the gods or some intentional force.

This year we’re also being treated to the astronomical rarity of the Jupiter-Saturn “Great Conjunction” – which is truly uncanny in its timing, since we need this phenomenon of bright light more than ever this year. We haven’t witnessed it during night-time hours since 1226!  If anyone believes in miracles or spiritual symbolism, this would be quite the thing to ponder. Some scientists believe this planetary convergence may have been what happened to create the bright “Christmas star” mentioned in the bible that led the wise men to the manger.

My lifelong fascination with the Druids and their henge building is stirred each year as we approach the Solstice. Several years ago I wrote a poem about it, and I had forgotten about the poem until a dear and talented friend shared it with me over the phone the other day. Among the many pieces Paul has chosen to memorize during the Covid lockdown (as a worthwhile mental exercise), he chose this poem of mine. What a beautiful honor! I’ve included the poem here, along with an audio recording of Paul reading it for others to enjoy.

“Winter Solstice” read by Paul Quinn

(Just a note about the opening line of the poem – I hope no one finds it offensive. Sometimes poets choose words and phrases for their sound as much as their meaning, and that’s what I did here. Of course Christians didn’t “steal” the Solstice. They wisely incorporated the powerful metaphors associated with Longest Night into their new message of hope so as to resonate with their followers. But phrasing it that way wouldn’t be nearly as poetic!)

Happy Longest Night, everyone!  May 2021 be a year full of light and love and healing.

Winter Solstice  

Maybe it’s alright that the

Christians stole the Solstice,

carried it off to church and

dressed it up with stars and crosses

and called the Son their own.

Those with ancient blood know

the wreaths and candles and songs

tell a different tale wherein the

promise of the Sun’s rebirth

is powerful enough to bring hope,

and where Elder and Birch are the

wise men who share secrets

with the guardians in their

sacred woodland circles.

Once Earth’s darkness told us

to be still and contemplate her

deep womb from which all

life springs; the ancient tombs

at Maeshowe and Newgrange

glowed with the first rays

of our reinvigored god as

he lit upon the buried cairns

promising life would come again.

So womb gave way to manger

and Earth’s light to holy child, now

called the hope of all mankind. But on

the longest night under the black

dome of ice, Earth whispers still.

Images by:, GroupWorks, CaptureLandscapes

Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | April 9, 2020


If you’re like me, you’ve been thinking that on some day in the near future – May 15, maybe, or June 1 – the governors will yell “Unfreeze!” and we’ll resume our normal running around to the usual places. But it’s dawning on us that this is not a game of freeze tag, and we’re not going back to our usual lives. Likely ever.

I’ve been one of the very fortunate whose life has not been turned upside-down in the last 3 weeks. I can’t begin to imagine what some are going through — the sudden loss of jobs, caring for those afflicted, exposure to the virus, or the horrific loss of loved ones with no ability to be present with them or with others in their grieving. What unthinkable agonies.

While we’re in the depths of this strange, scary new world of isolation, some talk is resurfacing of the Great Shifting. Some signs have pointed this way for several years, going back to the 1960’s “dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” but especially since the recession of 2008 and the rise of the 1%/99% split — with the Occupy Movement, Black Lives Matter, Women’s March, #MeToo, and climate change protests. Particularly among Millennials and Gen-Z, there’s been a shifting away from materialism and consumerism, toward a place of collective caring and responsibility — for each other, the animal kingdom, and the planet.

But at the same time, others fear a darker Great Shifting, toward oligarchy or technocracy, run by the powerful few (Bezos, Gates, Musk?) who will track and monetize our every move and turn the planet into one big Consumer State. Ironically, this would likely be embraced by many who have shuddered at the thought of socialism, yet it would have many eerie similarities. Some hail the rollout of 5G as revolutionary, while others fear it as another giant step toward the loss of individual rights and freedoms.

In the coming “re-opening” of the world, I fear the second scenario is more likely to be the case, as we find many of our favorite shops, restaurants, and artistic venues will remain forever shuttered. We’ve been witnessing homogenization in the retail and restaurant world for decades already. Much more is likely. How many remaining businesses will eventually decide that Zoom works, so why pay rent on office space? Co-worker relationships be damned. Schools were already moving toward an online platform, and now they’ve shown – due to teacher ingenuity – that it can work. So long as those Amazon vans can still get to our homes once a week, we can survive. Over time, will we simply adapt to this as the “new normal,” or will we have the means and the energy to push onward toward a true Age of Aquarius?

Maybe in the end none of this matters. Maybe it’s our privilege that has caused us to be anxious about what we stand to lose, when so many millions of people around the world have never enjoyed the kinds of choices and comforts and pleasures some of us have had. Perhaps all we should hope for is a world where all humans have their basic needs met and can maintain some shred of dignity, whichever Big Brother is running the show, and that those in charge will figure out a way not to completely destroy the planet before our grandchildren grow old.

In the meantime, it’s Spring outside. Our greatest comfort can still be found in watching the great blooming that goes on despite the human struggle. Wishing peace and love to all in the days ahead.




The sun – so reassuringly –

appeared on the horizon

and rose toward its place on high.


Birds did their twittering

and south winds blew,

and when I walked out


into the tall grass, a cricket

jumped away. You emerged

from your house, too,


and we smiled and waved

just like we had every day.

Then we laughed and met


for a hug mid-street, all

tears instead of words. This

was how we’d find our way.

–  –  –  –

–  –  –  –

Photo credits (in order): Thomas Schwebel, Flickr; Review of Ophthalmology;; Neighborhood Picnic – Yelp


Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | November 26, 2019

3 Erasure Poems from the Newspaper

Sometimes artists just want to improvise — throw convention to the wind, go zig-zagging off somewhere they’ve never been. We can get trapped in a rut of our own making, recycling the same old words, images, tunes. That’s when it’s time to start scatting.

Every week, I spend a good 3-4 days getting through the hundreds of pages of the Sunday New York Times. This week, I let some pages speak to me and channeled some sort of inner jazz tempo to “find” poems in them. Poets call this “erasure” – discovering a poem hiding within a text.  It’s a fun exercise that can shake free the cobwebs, with surprising results. My students used to love it.

A true erasure poem remains on the page with its words highlighted or otherwise set off from the text around it. (See images below, found online.) My poems have been extracted from their texts, but vestiges of their original sources remain.


Three Erasure Poems Taken From The New York Times, 11/24/19


Original page of text for first poem


From “A Honeymoon on a Harley,” an essay by Marcos Villatoro


As a child

I came to love

my mother

stitching closed the cloth

across the country

with its elongated words.


Gatsby Summer Night by Cathy Dee

When I was

too blind

to worry about

my mother

she worried about

my childhood:


A half breed.

A mongrel.


Mama told me about


a witch that

ripped out the guts

of bad men.


From Snow City by Fred Sasaki (Poetry Foundation)

Hers was a silent warfare

woven into the fabric

of love.



From “Fathers and Sons,” a review of Tim O’Brien’s Dad’s Maybe Book,

by John Schwartz


He wanted to have kids

but he found himself terrified.

His own father had been a mystery.


He wrote sentences –

scattershot, cobbled-together defects –

when confronted with his worries.


Tom Phillips (Gwarlingo)

He tries to pretend the lasting burdens

of writing are the return to awe –

his unbounded love for his son.



From “The Mister Rogers No One Saw”

by Jeanne Marie Laskas


Deconstruct. Doubt. Distrust

the blank canvas.

Jot down a word.

Enter it. Work for the core

of what you’d like to be.

Carry all the stuff —

filthy, random junk —

a flea market

of the meager and marginalized.

Show the ghosts at the lectern

what God looks like.


  *   *   *   *   *


Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | August 17, 2019

Those Huddled Masses

But they are not “masses.” They are individual human beings, each with a heart that beats and a soul that I’d imagine is yearning for a bit of peace. Millions of individuals on our planet today desire what they do not have:  a safe place to call home.

By no right can any ancestor of immigrants in America deny to new immigrants the same opportunities their family had. And just as our ancestors needed time and help to become self-sufficient, so do today’s seekers.

All statistics show recent immigrants to be, on average, more consistently reliable employees and more law-abiding than U. S. citizens. The income taxes they pay more than offset the money they receive in public aid — which they need largely because their unskilled jobs pay such low wages. Yet stereotypes abound of “lazy slackers who are gaming the system” – stereotypes that make it easier to scapegoat and hate.

Time Magazine photo

Recent immigrants each have names, families, dreams and ambitions, skills and ideas to offer, and the right to a decent life alongside us.





The Mowers


They pull in at 7 a.m. sharp on Thursday

as they have every week since April,

every summer for the last 15 years.

The pick-up truck and trailer are nestled

at the curb, cones placed at the front

and back. Three men in orange shirts

and yellow vests unload the machines,

start the engines. Two mowers and

a trimmer wind around the circle of lawns

in the gathering summer heat. By nine

they’re done, packed up and headed out.


These men, whose names I do not know,

may or may not be the same who came

last week, last year, or a decade ago.

Black-haired and brown-skinned, they tend

to our yards while we sleep or watch

from windows, sipping our cups of coffee.

Our homeowner’s fees pay their wages,

these men who push mowers all summer,

then snow plows in the cold, plus who knows

what else in between to make ends meet.


Some days I step out for the newspaper

and wave hello, exchanging smiles as they

NYTCREDIT: Burt Glinn/Magnum Photos

pull their machines down the wooden ramp.

Self-conscious in my slippers, I wonder

what they think of my clothes or my car,

then remember I am as much of a nobody

to them as they are to me. We go about

our business. Our selves and our plans,

our losses and loves, remain shrouded

from each other as weeks and years go by –

the easy invisibility my privilege affords me

and their need demands of them.

Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | April 6, 2019

The Boxes in the Attic

Our kids won’t want our stuff.  This is what we’ve been reading in the myriad pieces written about Millennials — they are not accumulators.  Marie Kondo’s advice, then, must omit that secondary question many of us were asking:  Will it spark joy one day for my son or granddaughter?  No, dear friends, it will not.  To the curb it goes.  Or to Goodwill or Craig’s List if it has any value at all.  And yet…. maybe not everything.

I’ve been the happy recipient this month of 2 boxes stashed in my sister’s attic for nearly 30 years, the contents of which have not been eyed for even longer. They came to me since I’m the one “who keeps things” — scrapbook maker and photograph archiver of my generation.  Even my siblings don’t want my mother’s stuff.  But as I sift through the crumbling treasures, my mother comes to life before me and infuses me in new ways.  Buried here are relics I’ve never seen — papers she wrote in college, wedding cake topper, lesson plans from her brief time as a 4th-grade teacher, letters she wrote us when we were small, and stacks upon stacks of medical and insurance records from her years on home dialysis.

My siblings and I had just become adults when we lost our mom, so we never had the chance to befriend her as fellow adults.  The items in the attic boxes have, in some small but poignant way, allowed me to see her afresh, through the eyes of a woman 10 years older than she ever was.

Before we Kondo-ize our own attics, we might re-consider throwing everything away.  Our kids and grandkids may not want the china or silverware, or any of our old costume jewelry.  But they may one day, especially after we’re gone, enjoy peeking into our lives through those mementos that were most dear to us and show our innermost selves.  Even the least sentimental among us can’t help but wonder at the ways our ancestors’ blood flows through us.

I’m writing a series of poems about my mother using what I’ve discovered in the boxes.  Here is one.


Attic Boxes

Atop the cake for one day, it was packed

into a box where it lay for over sixty years,

its little tuxedo-clad groom’s thin smile

and dots of rouge on the bride’s cheeks faded,

the arch of plastic pink and white flowers crushed

into a lop-sided square, the white bow at the top

now wilted and flat, angling to one side

as I lift the relic gently from its tissue paper

and imagine my mother’s young eyes, as mine

are now, gazing upon such a sweet confection,

our hearts filling with wonder – hers of what was

yet to come, mine of all she would yet endure.

Yes, I did throw away the cake topper, and many other things that had disintegrated or wouldn’t mean much to anyone.  But I’ve taken a few photos for remembrance.  And I will write the poems.

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