Shoeboxes in the Heart

There are alcoves in our hearts
Hollowed and laying vacant, ours to fill
Like boxes which new shoes once came in,
Now housing old photographs and mementos
Stowed far under the bed, wrapped in shadows.
Those shoeboxes, dusty-lidded and hushed, just sit
So are the heart-spaces, unobtrusively holding our past
Day after year, cradling tattered memories, creased and faded,
Tarnished by the grimy residue of hurt, and stained with shame.
Snapshots not yet processed, fucked emotions we cling to tightly;
No one knows we harbor this composite silt of what came before,
So, it remains undisturbed, shielded from judgment, under our ribcages.

I thought I was the only one carrying strife-filled shoeboxes inside,
Nestled in silence next to my soul, brimming with moments gone by
But others say they too have shoebox-shaped places in their hearts,
Concealing all their complicatedness, the kaleidoscopic refractions of their lives,
Tear-spilling stories, times too shameful to speak of indelibly etched on their bones.
So are the tales we cannot shift, which leave a ceaseless aching.
January after January,
Relationship after relationship.
Why do the contents never disappear? Disintegrate, dissipate, recede away?
They should leave us alone; we are over it now, you know – this garbage inside,
Or at least that’s the bedtime story we tell ourselves
And our lovers.

For now, we want to run from the memories shelved quietly in our hearts,
Where secrets live the longest lives, held captive by those shoebox lids.
Sometimes we can forget, and yet still they will remain, ceaselessly thriving,
Breathing the fear-of-nights like oxygen, awake in blackness giving them life.
Until the day we know the harsh reality – the only way to cleanse those spaces;
Bravely we start wiping away dust, ripping off the lids our truths are trapped beneath.
Reaching deep, we begin scraping out this damned toxicity ever-haunting our thoughts,
So that someday the cavities will be empty, and we can once again
Reclaim the shoebox-shaped spaces in our hearts
For ourselves.

Photo Credit: PinkMoose Flickr via Compfight cc

Judith Staff

Judith Staff’s background is in teaching and early years education. She still teaches occasionally, though now her main focus is in child welfare and safeguarding children. Her work includes delivering training, presenting at conferences, and engaging in collaborative projects with schools around child abuse awareness and sexual violence prevention. She enjoys writing blogs and poetry on topics she feels passionate about. Judith loves running, gym classes and karate. She is married to an art lecturer and they live in Northamptonshire, England with their three free-spirited children, a 12- year-old son, and daughters aged 11 and 9.

  1. Judith Staff

    Rachel thank you – you always help me feel understood and not judged, and I’m so grateful.
    Much love xx

  2. Avatar

    So beautiful, Judith. You so wonderfully express what it’s like to have lived through trauma and still be dealing with it years later – even after all the work and healing.

    Keep writing. We need your voice.

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