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Museum of Unrequited Love

by niteowl

When I walk in, it bombards me
with cologne and old songs
and Polaroid memories
I should have lost by now.
Orange jackets and Kroger uniforms
are framed like championship jerseys,
though I never won a thing in this place.

I watch the boy with blue eyes
making out with whats-her-face
and I am fourteen again,
my face red-hot. 
The caption reminds me
that I spoke to him twice.

Then I'm in biology class,
gaining a practical lesson in my own desire
for the boy I've known since third grade
but am somehow seeing for the first time.
I taste envy as he looks upon the curly-haired sweetheart.
The caption says they broke up years ago
and he's a married doctor now.

Dingy brown carpet covers the hallway
full of college guys who fell in love
with girls that weren't me.
Despite my bold invitations
and love notes under doors,
I lie on the thinnest foam, still alone.

The next room plays a slideshow
of nights I was too drunk for shame
and reaching out for bodies in the dark.
A cigarette butt last seen in Dublin
is encased with the caption:
The closest you ever got
to a kiss you really wanted. 

The last hallway is almost empty
except for a tape recorder.
I don't need to read the caption
to know that you left
never knowing what you did to me.

I press play
to hear your voice one last time
and let my heart collapse in on itself.

A/N: This is revised from my NaPo 2018 here. 

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896 Reviews

Points: 29795
Reviews: 896

Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:47 pm
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alliyah says...

I remember this one from your NaPo 2018! And still think the concept of walking through a metaphorical museum of memories is so smart - and then the way you brought it to life with all these little nostalgic tidbits and imagery is great! :)

niteowl says...

Thanks! It's one of my faves so I was surprised I'd never posted it to YWS proper. I guess this is why I'm doing the NaPo Greatest Hits, to get the good stuff what it deserves. :D

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524 Reviews

Points: 140
Reviews: 524

Wed Jan 15, 2020 5:03 pm
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Jaybird wrote a review...

I also saw this lurking in Green Room, so I thought I'd review it, too!

My first thought on how to tackle this poem - and this review - was to figure out what exactly this museum. My first guess was that it was some kind of bar; I was convinced I was right up until the line in the second stanza where you mentioned the caption. After that, I was sure it was some kind of school. The line about Dublin in the fifth stanza was the one that broke that theory, and then I decided to check the description of the poem.

The description does help to put it into perspective, but it still feels like it can be something physical - maybe a collection of past records? A recorder and a scrapbook would make the perfect combination for that, but that's just me trying to over-analyze your poem. :P

I really like how you weaved together different poems about unrequited love. Any poem like this runs the risk of being too sudden and choppy with its transitions, but the switch from stanza to stanza was barely noticeable. Everything flowed together.

You also did a great job with your imagery. The poem is a very personal one, but the descriptions you chose to include allowed me to temporarily put myself in the speaker's shoes. It takes a lot of talent and work to be able to do something like that so well.

All in all, I really loved this poem! I hope it ends up in the literary spotlight if it hasn't already.

niteowl says...

Thanks for the review! Yeah I had a burst of creativity and posted a lot of poems a couple weeks ago, and I guess some were still stuck in the Green Room. I think this was in the Spotlight for a minute, but I can't remember for sure.

The museum is definitely supposed to be a metaphorical place, like a section of your brain that's dedicated to memories you hold onto whether or not you should. Some museums have more interactive/personalized exhibits (like when my dad and I went to the College Football Hall of Fame, you could pick a team and you'd see things related to that team throughout the museum as well as more standard things), so that's what I was going for. When I said it was a Cliff Notes version of other poems, I meant that it touched on a lot of people/experiences I've written poems about since I first joined 15 years ago.

I think the intro stanza tgham suggested might be a good way to clarify that it's supposed to be a "place".

Thanks for the review! It's great to hear your thoughts.

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Reviews: 0

Sat Jan 04, 2020 9:05 am
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I like the words you used they were moving in a simple way I guess. I liked how Smith the trasions were too. Sorry I'm not good at reviewing. 😛

niteowl says...

Thank you! Yeah reviewing can be tough, especially when you're new. I recommend checking out the YWS Knowledge base in the forum for tips, especially Need Help Writing a Basic Review?, How To Write A Good Critique, and The YWS Critique Sandwich.

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110 Reviews

Points: 8950
Reviews: 110

Tue Dec 31, 2019 2:38 am
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tgham99 wrote a review...

I love the mixed feelings of nostalgia, envy, and reflection that are embedded within this poem. On my first read, these particular lines stood out to me, mainly because I Feel like they will resonate with a lot of readers' experiences with love: "..for the boy I've known since third grade /
but am somehow seeing for the first time".

The general idea of having a bittersweet museum of memories from past love experiences is interesting in itself -- I love the concept, and you do a great job of combining the elements of sadness and experience to generate a sense of emptiness within the reader in order to mirror what the narrator is undoubtedly feeling.

The only criticisms I have are small; I could be wrong, but I believe "whats-her-face" needs an apostrophe in "what's", though this is just a trivial error. The only other comment I have is in terms of structure; you adhere to a solid format throughout most of the poem, but I feel like starting the poem with a poignant 3-line stanza in the same way that you ended it would have really emphasized the message of bittersweet reminiscence that you're trying to convey.

All in all, this is a great poem, and I like that it's so reflective and encompassing of what I imagine so many people feel when they reflect on their romantic pasts. Great job!

All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe