I turn out the light
on my side of the bed
and roll on to my side
and fold my arms, hands
in armpits, my thumb
aching as it compresses
into my shoulder either
from holding it this way
too many times for too
many years or from using
it too many different ways
for too many years and
there is for a moment
an ache in my gut like my
balls have been kicked but
it only lasts for a moment
and—“Good night, love,”
she says and, “Good night,”
I say as I realize that three
days have passed since our
and we have done nothing
to celebrate and not because
seventeen is not such a special
year but because there is no
money for it and—“There’s
something on the counter
that’s shining a blue light.”
“It’s the little vacuum.”
“In the kitchen?” “No,
dear. In the dining room.
On the shelf. It’s reflecting.”
“Oh. I just hadn’t noticed
it before.” And I think,
“It has been in that same
spot for two months.”
I have been thinking about the
writing of death poems. How this
practice can prepare one for the
inevitable. I had intended to write
a death poem on the forty-seventh
anniversary of my birth (the beginning,
I thought, of a new annual tradition) but
I did not. Instead, I seem to have written
a death of memory poem, something
that I believe I must fear even more
than death itself at this time in my life,
though this is probably only because
I have not come close enough to
death while the death of memory is
a thing that I have known closely for
quite a long time. So here is my
death of memory poem. Perhaps,
by its writing, I will be made ready.
Let my poems be a hedge between
my self and the loss of my memories,
a palliative against or a salve for the
wounds that I saw on my father’s face,
that I now have seen on my own face,
that same face when I look in the mirror.
My memory is gone. It is a broken
thing beyond fixing that will just run
down and down over time. But maybe
these words, these poems will give me
something that my father never had,
something that he never knew how
to find on his own, something that I
do not know that I know how to find
on my own and yet still I search and
yearn for—a changing of the heart,
a look in this mirror, a softening of
the self (hard, hard thing that we
make within us, our myriad actions
and phenomena uncountable that
we cling to, these never-ending
evanescent folds in the cortex
of time, these simple tricks we
use to try to woo security to sit
at the table with us, to say to us
that we are we but not alone
and yet somehow still solitary…).
Perhaps I can find this thing
for both of us, my father and
I, though he is long past finding
and I find my self searching still.
Perhaps, if my memories must leave
me (and it seems that they will) I can
have them replaced with poems.
If my memories are to be dislodged,
if they are to fall to the wayside,
I would rather have poems in their places
than just more fears of losing more memories.
What is the self but a bag full
of memories that we cannot
put down? Though we are
boarding a train to a place
of no things and we stand
ultimately alone on the platform
and the bag is full of useless things
and our arms are already full of all
the things the world has given us
that we did not want or need or ask for,
still, we cannot put it down.
I want to be able to put it all
down. When the time comes, I
want to be able to board that
train with empty hands. Let me
board it with empty hands, alone.
I see you there
on the other side
waiting for me
like a father,
like a child,
waiting for me
to catch up,
to start making
sense of what I see.
I won’t do it.
I can’t do it.
This is why I
do what I do
and you know it.
So stop. Stop waiting.
Stop wasting both
of our times.
I’ll get there
when I get there
or maybe I won’t.
You’ll just have to
wait and see or
wait and not see.
It’s all the same to me.
I don’t care anymore.
I will do what I do.
You are chatting
with my big brother--your uncle,
who wants to make cheese--
and cutting up a wedge of Tomme
de Savoie, explaining to him
how this one is particularly ripe,
finding its unique, piquant
funkiness, that sharp bite, little bits
of mold all through its bloomy rind,
and you are eating the pieces,
bloom and mold and all, and I
awake, punched through by an ache,
dumbstruck witness to a growing
I can not understand, can only stand under,
pulled up by the roots from within me.
Dirt falls back to earth.
Dust drifts down to the floor.
My mouth is full of clay—
“Please, let her take her time.”