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A life of poetry and prose, outside and inside the boxes

East Bernard Express of East Bernard, Texas

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In recent years, my life has given new meaning to the expression, "doing things outside the box," only in my case, it would be "doing things outside the boxes." For my wife and me, it doesn't mean doing things in a totally new and unique way; instead, it means wanting to find past-era things and not being able to access them because they are stored in boxes (75 or more is a good guess-ti-mate).

As the years have flowed by like an ever-changing river, my wife and I have boxed up each section of our fives. These boxes stand some six to a row deep in the garage, with a total of approximately 45; at least a dozen more are to be found in the studio; three, four or five under the bed; and I don't know how many in the storage building in the backyard (a structure until recently nailed shut because the door had rotted).

Oh, I forgot about the attic. It contains a box of old marching-band caps that my wife thought we might need someday (why she thought that, God only knows), several boxes of kindergarten art by our oldest daughter who is now 34, and the New York era love letters from my wife to me and me to her (the kids will get a smile out of those when they discover them after we die), and my memory fails me on the rest.

Most of the time it doesn't matter that the relics from the various eras in our life are stored in over seventy boxes in five locations, but every now and then, I feel a real sense of urgency to access something. A case in point quite recently involved a need to find relics from my teaching days at Wharton County Junior College. I'm guessing that those 22 years involved about 20 boxes and two filing cabinets full of stuff. Access to the two filing cabinets is currently blocked by at least a dozen boxes, two deep, from Texas District Lutheran ladies executive officers materials (obviously my wife's archives, not mine).

OK, so I'll leave the filing cabinets alone; so where did I store the WCJC boxes? I will do a test box at each location, and if I find something in one box, then I know that's the right location. Sticking my hand down in the side of an unopened box, I felt like a Texas wildcatter testing for oil. After several "test drills," I came up with nothing except my favorite eyeglasses case which I had been looking for, for two years, and which I could never find, but which now prove that these boxes do not date back to my WCJC teaching days. At least I now have my case back for my glasses!

Why didn't we label the boxes? Oh, we did, only in our lack of foresight we just labeled them "books," "miscellaneous," "notebooks,"

"photographs," etc. Now wasn't that smart? J. Alfred Prufrock measured his life in coffee spoons; I measured mine in boxes. At least he got to drink the coffee; I can't access my boxes.

Oh, I forgot to tell you why I am still searching (as I write this) through my boxes. I'm looking for twenty years of the WCJC poets' club relics, including copies of its magazine, Try, and photographs of its members. Why do I need these? Because I've started a new group on Facebook called "Alumni of the Bards of Pegasus, aka, the Try-Pens," and I need materials to post on the site, since we have at least seven'members so far. Fortunately I was able to find one isolated box of Try-Pen materials that had detached itself like a broken off glacier and floated in my direction.

And the members are posting photographs that bring back memories, discussions, and questions. Like, who is that guy with us in the photograph taken on the beach? Was he really part of our group? Did we really look like that? Who took the picture? If that's all of us, who did take the picture?

Different people from different towns, coming together to write poems, to read poems, and eventually to publish poems. Not to play basketball or baseball, or play cards in the SUB, or study for a test, but to write poems - good poems, bad poems, beautiful poems, poems that make you cry, poems that make you laugh, poems that try to define who you are, poems that protest, poems that caress, poems that question the meaning of life and God. Every civilized society needs its poets, for who else can pour out their souls through the music of words? Like King David did in the Psalms. That's why I need to find those boxes.

Ray Spitzenberger serves as pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wallis, after retiring from Wharton County Junior College, where he taught English and speech and served as chairman of Communications and Fine Arts for many years.

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Original Publication Date: April 15, 2010

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