2016 Found Object Poem Project: Day 1

Welcome to Day 1 of our 2016 daily write-in! This year’s theme is FOUND OBJECTS. We have a new writing prompt for every day in February.

The object of this project is to turn off our inner critics, play with a daily writing practice, and share the results in a community setting.

For those of you who are new to the project, please read my introductory post. You’ll find more information and all of the Week 1 FOUND OBJECTS at this post. At the end of the month, I’ll have prizes for the most frequent contributors. However, there’s no obligation to write every day. Drop in as often as you like.

Ready? Let’s get started!

100 year old wooden mailing box RHBFound: One hundred year-old mailing box.

I purposely left out information about the objects when I posted the prompts. Think of it as a Freedom from Information Act, a way of giving us more space to think, imagine, and play.

Now that our poems are in, let’s find out more about today’s FOUND OBJECT. It was contributed by Robyn Hood Black, who says, “Here is something I found (& bought) in an antique store a while back, and I keep in my studio – just because I love it.  It’s a little wooden box that was used to mail something!  Over 100 years old.”

Diane Mayr, who blogs at Random Noodling, sent in this poem. I’m a big fan of portrait poems and I love the way Diane creates a character, and hints at her back-story, in this poem.

The Truth of the Matter

I was afraid to open
that wooden box
addressed to me in
an unknown hand.
It came by morning post
on a Tuesday in April.
Its contents shifting
and rustling. Telling
me of a fallen soldier’s
effects? Or of the
sweet-bitter savor
of lemon cream taffy
sent to quicken my
blood in anticipation
of his homecoming kiss?

© Diane Mayr

I tried the whole box/fox/socks angle, but something else wanted to escape from the wooden box and my imagination took over.

Postmark: Valley of the Kings
by Laura Shovan

What’s in the box?
An ancient breath
captured, saved
at Pharaoh’s death.

What’s in the box?
A long-lost curse
in hieroglyphic
picto-verse.

What’s in the box?
I hear creaking.
Are those mummy
fingers sneaking?

What’s in the box?
I’m curious, but
perhaps I’d better
leave it shut.

Jessica Bigi took the call for sensory images to heart. Check out all of the tactile, visual, and scent images in this poem.

Box Of Memories
By Jessica Bigi

Simply a box
Stained from tea
Ginger, nutmeg
Scented cherry wood
A splintered craft
of Grandfather’s hands
Who we’ve never met
Momma’s tearful voice
Saying take only this box
Some jam and bread
Letters I’ve written you
Small carved horses that
Grandfather made
Mint tea, some salted broth
Pictures of Momma and me
My tearful voice saying
Momma please go too
Take this box dear girl
Only one can go so I must stay
I’m too young to understand
Sailed that rain soaked ship
Which smelled of salty grime
My box of precious memories
I brought to share with
An aunt I’ve never meant
her land, my new home, my new life
eating bread with jam
we opened my box
and wiped tears from our eyes
Oh, child how I miss your mother
You have her beautiful eyes
I smiled and hugged my aunt
You have Momma’s hugs and
Beautiful heart, I told her

Here is another box poem that tells a story. I like the way Mary Lee Hahn uses the contents of the box to represent a moment between the past and the future. The object inside takes on an extra layer of meaning.

The Box I Keep at the Back of My Dresser Drawer

I remember
when he sent the new watch
I’d had my eye on.
He was thoughtful that way.

The postman handed me this wooden box
with the address written
in his confident handwriting.

Written before the accident,
when a whole different future lay before us.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

When I’m working with writers, one of my favorite exercises is to look at an object or work of art and write down all the details of what we can see first. Then, using facts as a diving board, we splash around in our imaginations. Molly Hogan pays careful attention to the details of our found object in this poem.

Wooden Box
By Molly Hogan

Capable hands
held the potential of
raw, green wood,
inspired,
rejecting spoon, platter,
a plethora of options,
crafted a secret-holder,
a box for treasures,
dovetailing corners
fitting the lid precisely
sanding smooth the slivers
and splinters,
adhering paper
with written words
whispering on wood
a destination
that has faded into memory
with the accumulating
patina of time.

Inside the box
echoes of those hands
and unknown treasures,
past and present,
breathe,
stirring dusty molecules
and memories.

You can also check out Molly’s blog post with her poem here.

One of people who has participated in this project every year is Linda Baie of Teacher Dance. Her poem is tied to a specific time in history.

In My Attic Graveyard

Not so romantic anymore.
this dusty box on the attic floor
where mice have had a meal or three.
Something’s gnawed on the corner – See!
Mildew’s set in, the smell has set;
perhaps some days in the sun will get
the box back to its sweet wood smell,
the better ready to show it well.
Mister E.N. Chisholm of Lycoming County
received and paid dear for this precious bounty:
the final effects of his fallen friend,
perished among trees of far Ardennes.

Linda Baie ©All Rights Reserved

Some of you may have noticed the corners of the wooden box, which reveal that — rather than nails — the maker used a dovetail joint to fit the sides together. Margaret Simon (Reflections on the Teche) opens her poem with that detail.

Box
By Margaret Simon

Tongue in groove he tells me
is how they used to do it,
before nails
before cardboard and glue.

This old box
traveled over miles
snow-covered hills,
through the mountains, perhaps.

I slide the wood
across grooves
breathe pine, spicy pipe tobacco,
remember my grandfather’s

stories of the railroad,
how steam would rise above
houses and whistle
his way home.

One more poetry box to open, friends. Here is Matt Forrest Esenwine’s contribution. I like the way he incorporated writing from the mailing label into the poem.

Dear Mr. Chisolm

Your package awaits; look,
this brown wooden box
worn from years of hard weather
and thick, heavy hands still
exhibits your name as it lay
here in Leolyn,
down by the creek
deep in Lycoming’s lands.

– © 2016, Matt Forrest Esenwine

LATE ARRIVALS

I’m so pleased that Poetry Friday blogger Catherine Flynn is writing alongside us and also writing about the process at her blog, Reading to the Core.

Nested within
the musty confines of
this worn pine box,
rubbed smooth
from years of use,
a cache of pencils
wait in silence.

Inside their graphite
filaments,
a cacophony of words,
some sweet, some sour,
are poised,
eager to escape.

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

Jone MacCulloch is also blogging about the project at her blog Deowriter. The box reminded Jone of a true and very sad story about her aunt.

Her frail hands
handed me the box.
Take it, she said,
don’t look inside.
Burn it.

Fingers crossed,
I promised
to spark a match
and watch the flames
when
the new moon
tipped like a bowl
hung low in the sky.

She crossed over
pulled
by the tide of life.

The box
rests on the mantel.
Its secrets
tug until I must
open it like
Pandora.

And when I do?
It’s a letter from
the war.
She’d have to return
her wedding dress.
He was not returning.

© 2016 Jone Rush MacCulloch all rights reserved

Brenda Harsham at FriendlyFairyTales.Com was as intrigued by the box as the rest of us were.

Don’t Look
By Brenda David Harsham

Dad said don’t look in the box.
He stared me down.
My eye dropped to his boots
as if weighted by sinkers.
“Okay,” I mumbled.
“Promise me.”
My eye flickered up, and
his brown eyes held me fast.
“Promise,” he repeated.
“I promise.”
I kicked a rock clear up
the blue-back mountain.
I listened hard for turkeys.
I wound around dusty paths.
I hunted ginseng,
but I found nothing but weeds.
Every step I took,
I remembered that plain-looking box.
That box looked as boring as boots.
That infernal box, that magical,
crazy-making box!
I got to remembering the box
and not the promise.
I ate my chicken and dumplings,
swimming and dunking in gravy.
I scooped up my peas
and held my nose closed.
I could still taste them.
I gobbled them quick as cake,
my face making the death grimace.
I washed away the pea flavor with
my last biscuit, saved up
for just that moment.
My mama eyed my plate
and gave a nod, remembering
the other times.
Peas hidden in my napkin.
Peas dropped for the dog.
Peas smuggled to Henry.
These peas are tiny lumps
of poison in my belly
but the biscuit covers them.
I lay down alongside Henry, but
as far away as I can manage.
He stank of coal dust from
his new job in the mines.
Mama was so proud of her eldest.
Is that where I’m headed?
I remember the box
and wonder. And wish.
I sneak downstairs, easing along the wall,
where the boards don’t squeak,
until I’m standing over it.
My hand’s ready to lift.
I hold my breath, as if without breathing,
it’s not really me doing the lifting.
I close my eyes.
I lift the cover.
Is it jewels? Grandpappy’s watch?
Turkish Delight? Cocoa beans?
I open my eyes.
It’s dark and I can’t be sure.
I light a candle, hoping papa
doesn’t hear the scratch.
It’s empty. Not even a speck of dust.
Empty.
“That’s right, Andie.”
I drop the lid down and spin around.
Now I remember my promise.
My dad’s bare feet poke from under
his flannel robe.
“I’m sorry, Daddy.”
“Andie, it’s as empty as broken promises.
Only when you keep your word
do you find treasure.”
Daddy turned his back on me.
I was left with a guttering candle.
And a feeling in my belly like
the taste of peas.

***

Charles Waters of the blog Poetry Time has been a project regular over the last few years. I’m glad to see him back with us!

WOODEN BOX
Dad’s chipped, faded, stained wooden box
contained love letters written to Mom when they first
met at summer camp. Each piece of paper smelled
like mothballs and cologne. In his slanted cursive
he called Mom, dewdrop, best friend, partner for life,
the same words he still uses to describe her today.
These treasures show how our family came to be,
these stacks of paper represent how I became me.

(c) Charles Waters 2016 all rights reserved.

***

I’ve been corresponding with my friend Joanne Polner, a photographer and mother of one of my best high school friends. Joanne read all of our poems about the antique box on Day 1 and wrote this response poem for us! I’m sharing it here, with her permission.

The Box Poems

I’ve got the chills
From the secrets
let out to breathe

I turn from poem
to poem and feel
the feather of
inspiration—

the kind that makes
you hold your
breath.

Is it life
or death?
or the spirit
of so many souls
released into
our world?

My rapid heart makes
my face blush;

The tips
of my fingers
are cold
as I slide the
pages

back under
the cover
of
the box.

— Joanne R. Polner

Joanne also sent us a note about the poem. “You see that I have transformed the concept of the individual poems of your contributors into a collection kept hidden ‘lo these many years.’  Truly, I felt those varying emotions that I wrote about. Praises for your contributors!”

Reading Joanne’s poetic response to our work filled me with joy. This is what doing a community writing project is all about, expanding our community and inviting people to join us as readers and writers.

***

Donna Smith’s poem incorporates the mailing label on the box into the poem.

Dear Mr. Chisholm,
I am sending you this gift
Before you leave, of inks and pens,
So you will write as well as sift
Please consider as you go
Journaling your travel story.
Although in the present
You may not feel the glory,
You know full well
It can’t be denied
This is a bold move
For you have defied
All the well-intentioned friends,
As you set your mind to cross this land
To seek the golden shores
And sift the rivers’ sand.
So tell the tale of leaving home,
Write in days that come tomorrow
For the young who later want to follow
And from your strength may they borrow;
Record the ways and all the deeds
Let them know your undaunted spirit;
Write it now, while you remember,
Write it all, so they will hear it.

Your friend,
who wishes he were Alaska-bound, too

By Donna Smith of Mainely Write

***

I like the way that Carol Varsalona’s poem imagines a very specific object inside the box.

delicate lacy treasures
graced my lining decades ago
when ladies’ gloves were in vogue-
some partner boxes carved
with etchings were showpieces-
mine was rough-hewn,
dovetailed, and sturdy
suitable for travel-
a proud bearer
of a treasure
in time
©CVarsalona, 2016
***
Jan Godown Annino sent us a couplet note that reads:
Wood box
After reading these responses,
I feel wooden in mine.
***
IMG_2405

DAY 2 FOUND OBJECT PROMPT

I’ll continue to post responses to FOUND OBJECT 1 as they come in.

See you tomorrow for Day 2.