keepsake box

Memory Box
by Jennifer Finstrom

In 1995, my ex-husband gave me a wooden memory box for Christmas. He wasn’t my ex-husband yet, or even my husband, and the three years that we had been together seemed like such a long time. That was the year I wanted to write him a poem as a gift, and I tried hard but didn’t understand that I was coming at it years too soon, that I couldn’t make him into Odysseus if I wasn’t willing to choose between Penelope and Circe myself.

That wooden box moved with us three times and a fourth time with me alone. In my apartment now, I can’t find the right place for it. It sits on the bedroom floor, circled with a holiday wreath of dust. I couldn’t name the things inside of it, but keep it just the same, a container for what I would rather forget. Neither of us knew that it would be years before he would inhabit my poems, that the memory box they make is line by line forming itself around him.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is by no means the only holiday poem I could have written, and now that I’ve begun to think of past gifts and memories, I’m sure that I’ll be doing a lot of writing over the winter months.

PHOTO: Christmas, 1971. The author and her mother in West Allis, Wisconsin.


Jennifer Finstrom
 teaches in the First-Year Writing Program, tutors in writing, and facilitates writing groups at DePaul University. She is the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine, and recent publications include Escape Into LifeExtract(s), NEAT, and YEW Journal. For Silver Birch Press, she has work appearing in the The Great Gatsby Anthology  and Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks and forthcoming in the Alice in Wonderland Anthology.