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Leaving the Past Dead Leaves

Updated on November 2, 2011
The poet, angry
The poet, angry

Poetry Collections

Leaving the Past Dead Leaves

I am ten years removed from the talons

Clutching, clutching, clutching

A glance at my surface reveals vibrancy

Beneath lies the carcass of an old self

The vultures know it

Circling, circling, circling

Hungrily seeking out the first taste

If rotting flesh rises to the surface

This is no coincidence

These people rising from me post

Haunting, haunting, haunting

Sure I am easy to find in a search

But why are they looking?

Why don’t they leave me alone?

Alone, alone, alone

History’s cowboy awkwardly, angrily, absorbed my rejection

I thought I was released from not loving properly

Release me, release me, release me

An inmate seeks forgiveness for wrongs never rightable

I seek to say neither yes nor no

I seek silence

Letters from strangers whose words were penned in dream states

You were all supposed to be buried

Ten years later I discover the bodies emerging

The shell of a self from another tormented time rises

Reminding, reminding, reminding

Solid flesh walls of a modern me

Encasing that disintegrating self that I thought was deceased

The vultures threaten

I wrap my autumn arms around spring flowers

Hold tight to my commitment to my own growth

Say leave me alone as I prepare for winter

And promise myself healing

Healing, healing

Poem Explanation

Leaving the Past Dead Leaves is a poem about how personal history haunts us over time. Just when we thought that we had outgrown our old confused selves, something comes back to remind us of where we came from. That place doesn’t have to be a bad place, but it’s a place of a former self and being reminded of it can make it feel like all of the work that we’ve done in the area of personal growth is useless because we are what we came from no matter what and we’ll always carry that with us.

Sometimes it can feel really threatening when life threatens to expose the person we were before. Again, this is not because who we were before is a bad person, but it’s because who we were then does not jive with how we see ourselves now as a complete adult being. In simpler words, when something happens today that triggers memories of the past, we sometimes feel like we are that child again that those things happened to and we don’t want to be that person. The imagery in the poem of the vultures circling is about that personal threat.

This poem sprung from an odd place. In the span of about a week, I had been contacted by four people from the past. These were not people who knew each other and they were all people I hadn’t spoken to in at least ten years. It felt eerie, like the past was coming back to haunt me when I was just starting to feel well and healthy in my adult life. As you can tell from the poem, it brought up some dark feelings. Nothing ever came of the contact. I wrote some people back and ignored others and it was a non-issue in the scope of my full life but the feelings it brought up were very real and I pressed myself to capture them on the page here.


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  • Nellieanna profile image

    Nellieanna Hay 

    7 years ago from TEXAS

    I recently received a contact from a friend from long ago, one who has shut herself off and ignored a few of my efforts to reach and again befriend her. Out of the blue - a letter - a treatise! 9 perfectly hand-penned pages, the first warning me not to continue if I need cheering! wow. The rest, a litany of her ills and misfortunes, not asking for my pity or asking about my life. Just a cold report of hers.

    I was stumped. She is not technologically savvy; by choice, since her husband is quite so. He even had called me secretly to ask me to again try to be her friend. I did try several times. Her door is barred and wired with alarms and she doesn't answer the phone. But I'd left a message months before and her letter was an attempt to respond.

    I was transported back in time as I tried to write a response, in fact hand-writing my own 9 pages, updating her and responding to many of her complaints. Then I realized what was happening. Our friendship which began in junior high when we were both 'the new girls in school' blossomed and when my family learned of hers and their desperate poverty and shame, they took her in and she became like my closer-in-age than my much older sisters. She was only 2 years my elder and had an odd, survival-inspired kind of self-confidence and unflappability at 14, while I was mush, trying to learn to be, at 12. Over the years, she had both resented me and manipulated me in ways. Our paths diverged and yet we kept up contact for many years, usually long distance, long letter writing contact, since we lived far apart.

    As I attempted to respond to the letter I recently received from her, I realized that she was still attempting to manipulate me and that there was the veil of resentment over the process.

    So I finally answered it - one page, written by hand - with a brief expression of concern for her and these lines from Albert Camus:

    Do not walk behind me, for I cannot lead.

    Do not walk ahead of me, for I shall not follow.

    Just walk beside me and be my friend.

    That really explains the ultimate in relationships. Those who share the knowledge of its truth can really interrelate. Those who don't have an invisible wall needing to be removed.

    I've not heard back from Jean. But I can't deny that I felt a kind of freeing of an old binding slip from my own past dead leaves into that much more of the unfettered who-I-am, a person I've come to know & fully accept, but an I who had to emerge from a sea of not ever really being understood by siblings, friends, husbands (till my George) and sometimes, even by myself and floundering in that feeling of the tides and undercurrents of that until I found out who I am for myself. Ever since, I've enjoyed knowing that it is not vital to BE understood by others, just to make sure to be only defined by ones' own truth. But Jean - she's been an unopened door, though till now, I hadn't realized it.

  • icciev profile image


    7 years ago from Kuwait

    well done, thanks for sharing and voted up

  • jfay2011 profile image


    7 years ago

    I loved this. It is full of vibrant details and good imagery.

  • Victoria Lynn profile image

    Victoria Lynn 

    7 years ago from Arkansas, USA

    Great, Kathryn! Voted up, awesome, and interesting! Beautiful, too. It's so true how the past can come back and grab us like that. You "pressed" yourself and captured the feelings very well.

  • K. Burns Darling profile image

    Kristen Burns-Darling 

    7 years ago from Orange County, California

    Brilliant and moving...I have at times in my life also be "re-visited" by these leaves of past lives, and I have a theory about it....when we feel we have definitely moved on to a new and usually better place, life brings forth these leaves as a sort of test to see if we've actually learned from them or not. If we have learned whatever lesson we were to have learned, then these contacts are minimal and usually not repeated again....if we haven't, well, then we are usually dragged back into whatever lesson we've failed and the teachings begin again... Don't know if that makes any sense to you, but your beautifully written poem suggested to me that you might understand it...Voted up, awesome, beautiful and interesting.


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