Burning the Journals

I come upon
a stack of old journals,

And suddenly
my cleaning-out decisions
carry more weight.

were the choices
card stock,
photo paper,
the odd envelopes.

But this is something different.
Buried treasure.

Too long I’ve said
“Someday I’ll go back through…”
and am more into honesty now
regarding ‘someday,’
how it never comes.

I consider my options. Keep or part with.

I flip a few pages,
stop randomly mid-journal,
run hand over page –

not leaning in,
but keeping  my distance,
as if expecting
something to jump out and hurt me

Is that written there anywhere,
that I have this expectation
a great deal of the time?

* * *

I THINK of THE PROMISE I elicited from him
years ago
“If something happens to me,
burn my journals.”

and how
it seems to me now unlikely
to happen by his hand.
It’ll have to be by my own.

And then this morning
a New York Times story
about a woman burning her diaries,
a whole 40 years’ worth!

But it’ll have to be an outdoor fire,
I calculate,
because last time I burned something in the fireplace
the smoke drifted back into the house.

I didn’t know
the chimney had been long-ago capped.

I cannot
for the life of me
recall what it was
I burned that day,

but the smoke
wafted through everything.

All that is true about us

The minute hand says
I must go start dinner
and the decision is left hanging another day.

* * *

You may also like:

Writing Lessons: Journals

NYTimes article: "Burn the Journals" by Dominique Browning

About Marilyn

Reading, thinking, listening, writing and talking about faith, creativity, ESL for refugees, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. Cheez-it fan. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. Thank you so much for reading.
This entry was posted in clutter, discoveries, journal, letting go, letting go NOT, philosophical maelstroms, procrastination, someday, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Burning the Journals

  1. Painter Lady says:

    I was particularly fond of one journal that I kept through university…as I recall, I wrote down things while sitting on the bus. I always looked at people on the bus, even in the middle of winter, as candidates for a short story one day or even a novel. But along with those notes, were the notes of my personal challenges and dilemmas as a woman, particularly. Those were the parts of my journal that I wanted to disappear, so along with those, went the descriptions that I so wanted to hold on to.

    I didn’t burn that journal…instead, I went for a very long autumn walk through city alleys. (weird, I know) I wanted someone to pick up the anonymous messages of my heart…somehow…even the seagulls, if finally the journal made its way to the dump…I wanted them to be witness to my life. So, eventually, I found a garbage can, an open one without a lid and I tossed my words and a piece of my heart into the wide open mouth and hoped the words would speak to someone. Thank you for the poem. It is ‘my kind’ of poetry and it really spoke to me, not just because of the subject, but because of its fumbling through the ‘inside fireplace and smoke’ types of moments.


    • Marilyn says:

      LOVE your ‘walking the alleys’ story! Thanks for sharing it AND for carrying the spark over to your blog and repeating it there. Love when what one writer posts generates thoughts in another elsewhere!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Disposing of Journals | The Chapel

  3. bethhavey says:

    Don’t burn all your journals. Maybe one of two. Save some. Please. Beth


  4. annie says:

    interesting post Marilyn.
    funny how I was shocked to read your thoughts at the start,
    but by the end I was beginning to wonder
    yes, perhaps I should burn mine before I go too
    although there is much less of deep thoughts in mine
    but who on earth would want to plow through it all?

    and funny, how you have resolved some thoughts in me
    about all the things I have
    and the need to simplify my life.

    funny how I have to write American English,
    how English my education has been
    “plough” has to be “plow”


    • Marilyn says:

      Oh, Annie, I am regularly tortured, stuck between the desire to simplify and the fear of letting go of buried treasure. And feel free to write ‘plough.’ In my fantasy life, I am British. 🙂


  5. Fern Boldt says:

    I wouldn’t burn them, Marilyn. It’s pieces of family history for the next generation.


  6. Oh, Marilyn. A legacy. Maybe just go through a pull out a few pages. You know which ones. 😉


  7. Charlotte says:

    Unless you’ve got something there that will hurt someone (living or not), leave them to your children. I cannot believe you would have anything that could harm, and the comfort of what you’ve written will be appreciated. Trust me, I speak from (limited) experience.


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