Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How We Forget Things

How do we forget? what are the ways we lose track of flavor, of words spoken, of song, of color and texture? Of the scents of our childhood, despite their persistence and the supplication of olfactory yearning in the almostdreamspace just before we sleep?
Decay: the collapse of small walls in fields and the images you held of how they were hiding places for fieldmice and groundnesting birds. The passage of wood into clay as the treeforts of your childhood tumbled from the clefts and crotches of oaks into the salty dry swamps where you once swore you saw Sasquatch hulking in the twilight. The erosion of fabric in your memory palaces or more precisely of the way your first lover's cotton t-shirt felt, slightly damp with perspiration and dusty from the dry earth of July, against your cheek.
Obliterative subsumption: the replacement of the scent of kerosene at the forbidden cabin with that of your mother's Shalimar cologne, drying slowly in a squat glass bottle in this morning's bathroom cabinet. The falling away of the way the tackroom smelled in spring when hay and leather came together, raising up sweetness to the crooked rafters and marrying the aroma of horsehide as you walked your mare across the field after she'd been running. In its place is the chalkdust funk of your classroom, fallen pencil shavings like sawdust beside a bookshelf in a harsh fluorescence you're not sure you'll ever quite get used to.
Interference: the way your recollection of a song from your first year of college gets mixed up with the chords of something you ran across on public radio's Saturday night jazz broadcast last weekend. The Composer of Delfinado steps in where South Central Rain once was and you try to get back the unintelligible growl you used to love, but it won't come.
Failure to Retrieve: you remember that you were supposed to remember a number, or several of them, a set of digits once branded on your brainpan with the merciless archery of infatuation and need. All you see when you try to bring the figures up are hash marks and half-assed runic swirls.
Repression: Your best friend did you wrong but you aren't sure how or when. You were both twelve, and she had a certain look on her face. She was wearing a striped tank top and talking trash but that's all you know for sure. She's nowhere to be found to ask about the matter and you just have to furrow your brow and then leave things be.
Construction error: when you recreate that scene on the subway where you watched the little man busk for change by playing a godawful stream of Martian music from some bent and rusted horn that looked like no instrument you'd ever seen even a picture of in a book, and in your memory the man is tall and elegant, shabby but genteel in a jacket that fits and apologizes for the hole in its tweedy elbow in a quiet trashcanfire language you swear you once knew the alphabet of.
Failure to store: the apples went bad in the refrigerator drawer of your shortterm battery charger and you wish you'd made sure the acid was going to stay put. You'll be more careful next time and there won't be this brown slime on the corrugated slats where the MacIntoshes once sagged.
The case of infantile amnesia: you didn't fall on your head, exactly, but you knew how to float downhill in the air, not flying but drifting along some current nobody else seemed privy to, a swath of pale pink blankie above a banister, like Madeleine L'engle said she once could, God rest her soul. You know your body has learned a different physics now, perhaps a replacement register where weightlessness goes and language comes, a mirror stage of sorts, a recognition and a letting go, a loss and a finding, a rescue and a drowning, remembrance bowing and heading off into the shadows behind the makeshift stage of your consciousness while words skip forward, their paradoxical little devil's hearts an incandescent tumble of trouble and sabotage, of abundance and power. Ready or not, here they come, and what you forget is the bargain you strike with all that holds its finger in the pages of your soul's ongoing chapbook. An ocean. A big lake that shows its shores in droughts but always fills back up, come rain.

lks 2007

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Georgia, United States
I live at the edge of the forest in a little town in the north Georgia mountains. I teach sixth grade Language Arts and am writing a memoir of sorts about family, spirituality, and narrative. I am also exploring a possible writing project having to do with contemporary lay contemplative experience and how it might be informed by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity. I am a relatively recent convert to Roman Catholicism and an admirer of Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister, and Richard Rohr. I'm a Lay Associate of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. I am interested in indigenous cultures, narratives, and spirituality, especially how these can inform my spirituality as a lay contemplative. I write, read, take pictures, play around with creating ephemera from paper and cloth and other organic things. I cook, hike, watch wildlife, and collect random bits of interesting oddness, both tangible and abstract. I am a seer of smallness and a caretaker of ridiculous minutiae. If you want, e-mail me at or