Drew Payne’s Website

I Burnt Your Poems

He wrote me thirteen poems and I burnt everyone of them when he dumped me. He’d handwritten them, on sheets of paper from that stupid notebook of his, the one he always carried around with him. I took all those poems out into the garden, put them in my dad’s old barbecue and set fire to them. They burned quickly but it still felt so good.


Shane Jones was my first boyfriend and I was his first girlfriend. We were both sixteen and the picture of teenagers in love. We would sit together at lunch, at school, and spend as much time together as possible. We’d hold hands at the cinema; we spent whole Saturdays wondering around our local shopping centre (not spending any money) and talking for ages. The most romantic of all, to my sixteen year old eyes, were the poems he wrote me.


Each week he would write me a poem and shyly give it to me. They were written in his messy handwriting and were filled with his emotions. They swept me off my feet. No one had ever shown me such affection. Even though I was only sixteen, I was already planning out our life together. We would be married, live together in a little house, he’d write poetry and I’d raise our children (he was my first boyfriend and I was full of all those romantic fantasies).


I didn’t realise anything was wrong until the last week we were together. That week he wouldn’t see me, began making excuses why we couldn’t meet. He’d been away the weekend before and I was desperate to see him. When he finally agreed to see me, that Friday, I thought it was to give me my weekly poem, I was too excited at seeing him to think anymore.


When I did see him he didn’t have a poem for me, he told me he wanted to end everything with me. He’d met someone else and didn’t want me as his girlfriend. I screamed at him, I was heartbroken and shocked, I wanted to know this girl’s name. At first he wouldn’t tell me but he did after I started crying. He told me it wasn’t another girl but another boy called Joe, who he’d met when he’d been away.


I was so angry I really wanted to hurt him. I told him I’d tell everyone at school he was queer and that would be the end of him. He begged me not to but I was too angry to tell him I wouldn’t. I stormed away.


I didn’t tell anyone, I’d calmed down by Monday morning, but I still burnt all these poems. They were lies because he was queer and never really loved me.


I hadn’t thought about Shane Jones in nearly twenty years. When we left school, only a month after he’d dumped me, I went to secretarial college while he went to the local Sixth Form. I didn’t see him again.


He was my first boyfriend, but he wasn’t my last one. After him I discover boys really liked me and I liked having a boyfriend, but one that did more than hold my hand and write me poems. I’m now married to Colin and we have two children, Kyle and Jennifer.


Then, last Saturday, Colin decided he had to have a newspaper to read. He’s not normally interested in the Saturday papers, but he went out and got one. When he got home he sat down the sofa and started reading it. He’d got onto one of the supplements when he called out:


“Look at this!”


There’s this big story about Shane Jones. Seems he’s a successful novelist now, his books sell and he wins awards. They’re not the type of books I’d read, they’re all about gay men having sex and unhappy people and that. He’d just published a book of poems, ones he’d written as a teenager and for lost for years.


In the newspaper he talked about these thirteen poems, making a “song cycle of love” (as he called it), which he’d not been able to find. He said he’d given them to his only girlfriend and now he’d give anything to get them back.


Colin said:


“Bet those poems are worth a fortune. Someone’s got them and they don’t know how lucky they are.”


“You’re probably right,” I said, but I felt sick. Deep in my stomach it was and I wanted to throw up. I have to go into the kitchen to calm down.


For us, money has always been tight, especially with the mortgage always going up. Both Colin and I work but there’s never enough money, and the kids always want new things. I could have sold those poems and the money would have really helped. Instead, I bloody burn them.


I felt sick…


Drew Payne

November 2008