Curation, a poem by Kristen M. Hallows at
Alinabu Photo



written by: Kristen M. Hallows


First, a death. Then, the purge:
waves of purges, more accurately, sustained
by unpredictable reservoirs of human will.
Decades’ worth of a parent’s accumulated possessions
of undeniable, but inconsistently determinable, value
were destined to be evicted—disgorged—somehow.

Neither auctioned nor gifted nor sold nor somehow
recycled nor upcycled nor trashed post-purge,
a cardboard box tattooed Kristen in green Sharpie hinted at, and hoped for, value.
Inside was a reverse chronological voyage sustained
by objects given curatorial imprimatur, technically my possessions,
probably once believed to predict some inchoate aptitude or force of will.

An only child and now a parent of two, I will
stash pre-K papier-mâché and art and written words, somehow
all awaiting rediscovery in our basement, my children’s possessions
headed for that bête noire of minimalism, the storage unit, pre-purge.
Boxes of items accumulated not for but about them, sustained
by greathearted determinations of value.

On top sat an offprint of one of my first scholarly articles, its value
clear; next, business cards belied entrepreneurial bent and failure, not so much of will,
but of millennial dreams consumed as fuel. I rediscovered high school graduation ephemera, sustained
by glossy photographic reminders of poor choices of dress, of dates, veritable hair shirts that somehow
survived. I seemed an incongruent caretaker of my eponymous box post-purge,
confronted and befuddled and unnerved by these possessions.

I want a corrigendum, context for my box of contextomies—I mean possessions:
youthful missteps and their corrections or explanations, presented as an addendum of value.
Inevitably inherited by its muse, the omnium-gatherum awaits its own purge;
its capacity to outlive or embarrass or convict or repudiate will
be defeated by the one it failed to encapsulate. Goodbye, banal and banausic; somehow
even I hesitated at the finality of eliminating this residuum that was, until now, sustained.

Do we parent-curators receive, protect, and organize to prove something, sustained
by the belief that a future caretaker will consider these possessions
to be more than just another box whose fate must be decided somehow?
Collections indelibly flavored by curators, revealing something of value
about us as individuals, as parents, as a generation—yet will
any of our congeries evade or transcend their own purge?

Each purge unmoored the once treasured and the obligatorily retained alike, possessions
whose worth was debatable thanks to decades of distance from any presupposition of value,
long ago perceived and somehow calculated by unpredictable reservoirs of human will.

Latest posts by Kristen M. Hallows (see all)