The Autograph Book

[Written in 1995 – my green baize book is hidden somewhere in the attic, but I remember it well.]

When I was an elementary schoolgirl,
Friends elemental filled my world;
But never as many near and dear
As at the ending of each year
When leaving left us poignantly
Bereft of classroom company.

To fill this void, keep friends in touch,
Our Autograph Albums were used for much:
Collecting signatures galore
(We tried to see who could get more
Memorials of good times past);
Clever sayings, pledging fast
Friendships even when apart,
Signed with arrow-pierced heart.

Addresses to which one never wrote,
Although we always harbored hope;
No reticence between the ages.
Undying love on virginal pages,
Though never consummated before,
In black and white could now explore
The daring verses that foretold
Of future thrills when we grew old.

I wish you love, I wish you mighty
I wish your pajamas against my nightie;
Now don’t get excited, and don’t get red,
I mean on the clothesline and not in bed.

What matter written girl to girl,
So wicked it set one’s head awhirl;
Experiences we had never been in
Dared us to guess the hidden meaning.
What if we wouldn’t cross The Pale,
We cherished the mark of our favorite male,
Or clever lines which filled the space,
And teased the reader to her face:

I C U R, YY 4 Me

Never B ♯, Never B ♭,
Always B ♮ – or something like that.
We knew them all, and tried to see
If we could first or last scribe be:

By hook or by crook,
I’ll be ______ in this book.

To read it now can bring back all
The memories jogged by familiar scrawl,
Or unremembered name, was she
Perhaps the Senior I longed to be?
Whose unattainable loveliness
Allowed her to be generous:

To the prettiest girl in 7A

She wouldn’t write that to me today.
Green sueded covers framed my book,
With zipper round so none could look.

Today such albums have no use,
Deep friendships hide, or cry “abuse!”
Teens live our wond’rings; old too young,
They speak in unfamiliar tongue
More crass than clever; could they write
As we did, without guile? Despite
Our innocence, those autographs
Gave more to us than thrills or laughs.

But nowadays when money is king
They seem to mean another thing
And signatures of rich and famous
People, like the poet, Shaemus
Heany, or Picasso, Elvis, or —
I could name you many more
Whose autographs are being sold
For many dollars, so I’m told,
At auction, to collectors who,
Possibly, as children too
Gathered names, and “Good Luck, Honey
Phrases worth much more than money
In a brand new autograph book,
Now tattered, in some hidden nook.

Do they read it now and then
And go back to “remember when”?
When someone wrote with ballpoint pen
Or pencil, over and over again:

2 good
2 B
4 Gotten


One thought on “The Autograph Book

  1. Brings back many memories. I haven’t got my old autograph book, unfortunately, but I do have my last high school yearbook with such memorials inscribed in it. As you say, the handwriting itself is priceless, and so evocative.


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