Off Paxil, I Revisit a Box of Old Photos and Letters

Jun 26, 2020

Today’s poem is "Off Paxil, I Revisit a Box of Old Photos and Letters" by David Stankiewicz.  David is Associate Professor of English at Southern Maine Community College.  His book, My First Beatrice, was published by Moon Pie Press.  He lives in Cape Elizabeth with his wife and two daughters.

He writes, “I wrote 'Off Paxil...' after a visit to my childhood home in Massachusetts, where my mother still lives.  I did, in fact, spend some time going through a couple of boxes I'd left years before in my old closet.  In photographs I'd forgotten all about and in a few letters from a particular and distant tine, I was hit with that sort of emotional vertigo where one's past feels so utterly present yet so utterly gone.  I had recently read some poems by the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski using extended metaphor that I admired very much.  Once I set the poem up with the comparison in the first line, I did my best to try to flesh it out in ways that were both concrete and emotionally resonant.  The ending lines--my favorite part--seemed to arrive like a gift."

Off Paxil, I Revisit a Box of Old Photos and Letters
by David Stankiewicz

Like entering a boarded-up summer house 
again after many years, everything dusty 
and faded but otherwise just as you left it:
the titles on the shelves, dishes in the cabinets, 
the conspiratorial whisper of wind 
in the leaves off the porch.   
All the framed faces unchanged, though 
several live only in memory.  Maybe that’s why 
the trinkets on the mantel stand solemn as stone
and the clock’s held its breath for so long.

An arthritic chair complains when you sit 
but the desk hasn’t digested a thing.  Not even 
the naivete of an old notebook.  And the words 
of her letter you’d interred in this drawer
seem now something like scripture: 
defunct, obsolete
yet richer in meaning each reading.

Time to open the windows, air out the place,
recall for yourself the steps to the water.

Be gentle, there’s so much to remember.

Grief—canceled joy—comes again 
like an afternoon thunderstorm 
massing its bruised blossoms.

Poem copyright © 2019 David Stankiewicz