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Posts Tagged ‘memory’

Parka




Each time I go out now, I wear my son’s coat,
sleeves too long, the whole coat too big,
and I remember how the thin blue down
hung from his slender frame, too,
remember how he wore it to school,
when we skied, when we shoveled the drive,
when we skated on the pond.
To wear his coat is to remember he is gone.
To wear his coat is to remember he is here,
here in the way I carry him with me
everywhere I go—not in the coat,
but here in the fibers of my heart
where every conversation we ever had is woven.
Where every memory—even the times
when he said he hated me, even the times
when he pushed against rules, even
the time he told his sister about Santa—
every memory is threaded into my blood.
I know now what it is to meet the cold
without a coat. With my whole body,
I know what it is to meet the night.
To wear his coat is to feel him close.
To wear his coat is to feel how there is
another coat I wear on the inside: A coat I couldn’t
take off if I tried. A coat no one else can see.
A coat of love that fits
as if it were made for me.


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     for Janet Kaye Schoeberlein, March 26, 1930-Dec. 28, 2021

When I was fourteen, Jan gave me her flannel nightgowns,
the long white ones with tiny blue flowers
that I had admired on her for years.
When I wore them, I wore
the classical music always playing
in the background in her home.
I wore the high tilting treble of her voice
as she sang around the campfire.
I wore her world class hiccups that always
seemed to arrive when she didn’t approve
of what was about to happen.
I wore desert river adventures
and trips to the theater downtown
and dinners with foods I’d never tried before.
And though I didn’t know it then,
I wore the past of her childhood in Germany,
and her memory of how she graduated law school
as the only woman in her class.
I wore her willingness to raise her young nephew
and her joy in raising her daughter
and the way she always said my name
as if I were a south American flower.
Those nightgowns, I took their shape,
loved the way their soft cloth swirled
around my body, wrapping me in eccentricity.
I still wear the other hand me downs she gave me—
Curiosity. Independence. Individuality.
Because she was so herself,
she taught me I could trust myself to be me.
She was the queen of oddness,
a model of uniqueness,
an archetype of being true.
To this day I feel these qualities
swirl around me, too—
the comfort of her integrity
the warmth of her generosity,
the way Jan was so very, very Jan.

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Walking 5th Avenue




I am again fifteen
with my father,
my first trip to New York,
and he is not yet
in life-changing pain,
and we stare
in store windows,
eat street pretzels
and look for sales racks.
I don’t know yet
how he will hurt
too much to walk,
how even standing
will become impossible.
No, in this memory
we are walking
and laughing
as if we will forever,
as if there won’t
be a morning
when I wake in New York
almost four decades later
and reach to call him
and thank him
for that long ago trip,
only to remember
he can no longer
answer the phone.
All day, I hear his laughter
as I walk. All day,
I feel his hand
reaching for mine.

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Potica





Sitting in Colorado
I think of my parents sitting
in Illinois,
how tonight in different
kitchens together we savor
the Slovenian sweet bread
of my father’s childhood,
the sweet bread
his mother would make—
savor not just the taste
but the memory of the taste,
the paper thin crust,
the ground walnuts,
the honey.
Savor not just the loaf
but the memory of the hands
that once made the loaf,
the happiness as we ate it,
the communion in the joy.
Tonight, I break the bread
into tiny pieces, eat it slow,
imagine us at the same
loving table now
and years and years ago.
We are alone, not alone.
The bread tastes
like family, like home.



If you are unfamiliar with this Eastern European nutroll delicacy (pronounced puh-TEET-suh),  you can read more about it here.

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            for Marne


And though we have not spoken
in over thirty years, today I invite
the memory of my friend to walk
with me in the garden.
That girl would laugh
to learn I’ve become a woman
who weeds, who waters, who grows.
We were uncultivated together,
unrooted, unmanicured,
and blossoming anyway,
windblown and wandering and wild.
I bring that sweet madness now
into the tidy rows and marvel
at how things change.
For a moment, I am running with her
over a hill and spinning
and crashing and laughing.
For a moment, I am again that girl
who is more dream than flesh,
more wish than should, more
me than I ever could be.
How beautiful the song of that memory,
how it rhymes even now with whatever
is green in me.
Even now, I am running,
spinning, crashing, though anyone looking
at the garden might think
I am peacefully deadheading flowers,
talking to the spinach,
painstakingly pulling the weeds.

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            for AOI


Unforgettable nights! The sun was committed
to great service, shining low and golden.
Impressive wide variety of laughter,
and the high-quality conversation
made me as if I belonged in my skin.
I don’t remember a thing I ate
or where I stayed or even much of what
we said. Mostly, I remember
walking the large selection
of quiet side streets, grinning,
feeling lucky to be alive,
and you whistling flawless and clear.
Atmosphere: Usually I’d say five stars,
but truly there were at least
two thousand stars visible,
and I’d use them all for this memory review
in which I first met you.
Only complaint, the weekend ran out of time.
Highly recommended to remember again,
especially the way our smiles slipped
from something we practiced
to something immeasurably true.

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Winter Evening

Though I sit alone

on my couch at home,

I’m somehow also sitting

with Rachel and Julie

and it’s summer and

we’re laughing, laughing

until we tumble

into each other’s laps,

laughing as we collapse

into a puppy pile of giggles,

laughing because it feels

so good to laugh—

even now I laugh aloud

with no memory of why

we were laughing then,

but many years later,

it’s still contagious.

Sometimes we tumble

so wholly into the grace

of a moment

that it opens in us forever,

continuously blooms

and spreads its perfume

like night-blooming jasmine,

christens everything

with its fragrance,

even this empty room,

even this tired woman

now so surprisingly awake.

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Clear Instruction

Tonight my daughter

closes her fist

around the first snow

squeezes to make it

into a small cold ball

the shape of her hand,

and then offers it to me.

It tastes like sky,

like electric charge,

like winter, like childhood,

like curiosity.

And once again

I’m a girl who walks

to the neighbor’s yard

for a drink at the well—

I pump the heavy lever

and it draws clean, clear water

from the ground.

There’s a red metal ladle

hanging from a nail

on a nearby tree,

and the water tastes of moss

and rust and freedom.

There is a thirst

that’s been bequeathed us—

a thirst for what is

untreated and pure,

a thirst I somehow

manage to forget.

If it could speak,

the thirst might say,

Remember, remember,

remember.

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Not the What but the How

 

 

 

Mostly, we forget.

Mostly, the singular moments

that felt so important—

remarkable, even—

slip like raindrops

into a pond.

 

Most of my life

is blur, is watercolor.

But let me clearly remember

tonight, dying my daughter’s

hair blue, singing along

to the radio, laughing

about nothing in particular.

 

What I want to remember

is how little it takes

to make a moment light up

from within, light up

like dew infused by the sun—

each moment a teacher,

our own home the temple.

 

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Forty years later, my brother and I

go to the Jewel to buy evaporated milk

and egg nog, and part of me doubts

I will remember the way that we scoured

the produce aisle for green beans. Then again,

who could say why I remember

with incredible clarity the moments

when I was ten and we had just finished

the great turkey feast and my brother and I,

as we loved to do, asked to be excused,

but instead of leaving the dining room,

we simply lay on the floor beneath the table

with our feet up on our chairs

and conversed with each other

there across the green and white shag.

I don’t recall what we said or what we wore,

and it was no important moment, but

I remember the feel of it:

I knew we were together in this—

this moment, this family, this life,

so much so that forty years later

the memory of these ten minutes

is as real to me as the scent of the pumpkin pie

my sister-in-law baked tonight.

How is it that such a short snippet of time

defines us? How it comes to be

the moment we return to again and again

to remind ourselves who we are,

who we love, and why we are here—

those moments, stolen, and still

they give us back ourselves. Even now

in the produce aisle of Jewel, I can feel it—

the carpet against my cheek, can smell

the cranberry salad, can hear my grandfather

and grandmother laughing over our heads,

my brother’s eyes widening, mischievous, so alive.

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