Burn Your Darlings
Cardboard box of old journals, notebooks
full of the ephemeral and the wannabe
profound, words I wrote for an audience—
the high school journal, read weekly by
Sister Seraphia, and later, words for my eyes only—
about unrequited love, loneliness after a breakup—
Dominique has two words of advice—
Burn them. She did, and found the fire
exhilarating. I could burn them one by one in the fireplace. I
could drive them to the summer cottage, in the sandy
backyard, make a bonfire of the journals, watch
them all go in the flames at once, done in an hour.
Or I could take them to a commercial shredding
facility, order the Sheaffer-cartridge-penned pages, the
Pilot razor point-penned sheets sliced thinner than
a fennel bulb on a mandoline, sent off to recycling—
or rip the cover boards off the marble
composition books, use a home shredder machine to
dispatch decades of journals, slowly, one at a time—
The journals are stacked in the attic—
I haven’t opened them for years. I don’t want
to reread all that anguish, adolescent
introspection, the navel-gazing, narcissism of
my twenties. Anything from those times is
lodged somewhere in my brain—if I need to
draw on those experiences for the writing, to impart
a nugget of wisdom to students or my grown children, well—
if I can’t remember it, it’s gone. Or should be.
I don’t want these little burdens, want to
stop holding the paper and all it
records: the perseveration, the romanticism,
the cynicism, the anger, the unanswered
questions, the longing—up in flames, please.
If topoi means the place, and logos means the study,
then topology means the thing you studied,
the evidence of which was, among other things
the scraps of paper strewn around the apartment,
on the glass coffee table, kitchen counter, sometimes
next to the soap dish on the bathroom sink,
notes with x and y and symbols that confounded us.
It was Greek to me—All I knew
was it involved sets, like a set of points
and a set of neighborhoods from each point.
You might have explained once or twice
you studied a mathematical space that allowed for
continuity, connectedness, convergence.
Those, I understood.
You said a neighborhood of a point is a set
containing the point where one can
move that point without leaving the set.
You said, if x equals a topological space,
and p equals a point in that space we might call x,
then a neighborhood of p is a subset—
call it V—of x that includes
an open set U containing p.
I was so out of my element—chagrined at how little
I knew about points, sets and neighborhoods.
Here’s what I know:
You are and were continuous, you’re connected to
The rest of us, you converge, in a number of spaces, with us.
You know your neighborhood, like your
neighborhoods of past and future
containing you, you know the points to which
you can move points
without leaving the set of family, friends.
You’re the central unifying notion
of this convergence of us who in one way or
another rely on you—you help us map
the deepest, most human things.
Lynne Viti is a senior lecturer in the Writing Program at Wellesley College, where her courses focus on law, media and bioethics. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Amuse-Bouche, Silver Birch Press, Damfino Journal, In-Flight Literary Magazine, Blognostics, A New Ulster, The Journal of Applied Poetics, Moonsick Magazine, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Silver Birch Press, The Lost Country, Irish Literary Review, The Song Is…, Poetry Pacific, Grey Sparrow Review, and at Boston City Hall. She blogs at https://stillinschool.wordpress.com.