Posts Tagged ‘memory’

Hi friends–before you read the poem, a little note about content. 

It’s Teen Love & Consent week here in Telluride, and lots of difficult conversations are happening about statistics and setting boundaries. At the same time, some difficult news about teen sexual assault has been in our local papers. And so this poem was born. Because it’s so far out of the realm of my normal content, I wanted to give you the ability to not read the poem. It’s not graphic, but it’s not easy to read either. It’s farther down the page. 

I realize as I send this what a roller coaster you signed up for when you subscribed to the daily poems, and I thank you for meeting me every day with the all of it. It means so much to me, your presence, thank you. 

with great respect, 

What Goes Unspoken

with gratefulness for the girls who spoke out

On the table, the tulips are opening,
splaying in effortless pink delight,
an homage to how soft things can bring so much pleasure,
and I think of how you once scolded me for picking flowers,
saying it was better to leave them as they were.

That was years ago,
when I traveled to see you on Cape Cod.
You were a tennis pro
and I was the girl who thought I could come to love you.
I had gone for a walk in the woods
and picked you a small bouquet.
Violets, perhaps, and something small and white.

I didn’t know then that I was a tulip.
We’d flirted. You seemed kind.
I never thought you would—
never imagined I was—
never dreamt when I said no you wouldn’t—

Mostly I left my body.
I remember staring at the windowsill while you—
I’d put the flowers in a jar. They were purple and white.
How could you defend the flowers and yet—
I didn’t open for you and you cut—
I was a stem when I left.

It’s been years since I remembered you,
but there was an article in the paper this week
about a boy here who—
Eleven girls spoke out.
How many girls did you—
I never said a word.
I have a girl now, too.

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One Everywhere

like Christmas tree needles
still appearing long after the tree is gone—
these memories of you

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I resist. There is so much to do,
but soon my eyes are closed
and Mom is pulling her fingers
through my hair the way I love
and I am ten again, or four,
or twenty-five, or two,
lying on the plaid couch
in our old house
with my head in Mom’s lap,
her fingers in my hair.
I wake up drenched in forever,
this timeless stream
I sometimes can see for what it is—
like a fish that leaps for a fly
and sees, oh! an infinite world
beyond the world it knows.
Is it any wonder, this water
clinging to my cheek
as I rise from the couch
and swim back into the night.  

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In the Look

A bunny knows when it’s being watched,
as if attention itself has a weight.
As if it feels my stare like a rush,
like a threatening hand, like a stroke.
But when I graze the bunny
with a brush of a glance
and with half-lidded eyes,
my body faintly angled to the side,
the bunny will bear
the gravity of my notice
and I may watch all I want
as it nibbles and twitches,
hops and rests.
And so it is I learn to meet my past
with a softened gaze, with gauzy eyes,
to meet a memory slant.
The memories let me linger now,
increasingly unskittish.
I do not try to touch them.
They multiply like rabbits.

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Memory of sitting by the river,
you taking my picture,
the leaves around us
already changing—
you were happy that day,
camera in hand,
no hint of sorrow,
no augury of grief.
Oh, that beautiful day.
I fold it in half,
run my finger down the crease,
unfold it, rotate it ninety degrees
and fold it in half again.
In six more steps,
I’ve folded it neatly into a boat.
Someday, perhaps,
I will float it down the river.
Today, I tuck it
into my mind’s back pocket.
When I need to, I touch it,
run my fingers along the folds.
It carries me along
the current.

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I am grateful to have a poem in Silver Birch Press’s ONE GOOD MEMORY series. When my friend Phyllis first told me about the series, I immediately thought of this memory of my father … place can be so powerful. Thanks to Silver Birch Press for publishing “Walking 5th Avenue”:

Walking 5th Avenue
by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

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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Meeting the Memories

Sometimes a memory arrives
with its own soundtrack—
in this case a woman’s choir
repeating again and again the words
deep peace. Sometimes a memory
comes with instructions for locations,
for instance: Best remembered
while walking alone in autumn leaves.
Or perhaps: Don’t remember
while on the phone with an insurance agent.
Sometimes a memory asks you to feed it.
It asks for ice cream, for chai tea,
for black bean soup. It asks to feast
on hours of undivided time.
Sometimes a memory convinces you
it is more than a memory. Proves
it is a part of you. Like breath.
Like tears. Like skin. Like your heart.

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The whole time I drove the three-hundred thirteen miles
and thirty-five years back in time,
wondering why I was doing it,
I could not have pictured who I would meet:
one friend now career military
and a yoga instructor.
Another who owned a non-toxic sex toy store
and became a therapist.
Another who is sober but sells margaritas in Vegas.
A long-haired man who had a kundalini awakening.
And a long-haired woman who looks exactly like me,
who once lived in this town and took school so seriously
and sang in the choir and acted in plays
and picked up every lucky penny she ever found
and kept them in her shoes
like a portable bank of good fortune.
I was most surprised,
perhaps, to meet her again.
Not that I don’t remember how awkward she was,
how she didn’t fit in. Even tonight,
I watch with amusement
as she stands at the edge of the crowd.
It is easy to be gentle with her,
to love her now in a way I couldn’t
have loved her then.
Perhaps because now I know
being nerdy will save her,
and it will not matter at all in thirty-five years
that she was not invited to parties.
Look at her tonight, laughing with people
who barely spoke to her all those years ago.
Look at her, hugging her friend as he tells her
how he felt so bullied back then and was sure
the whole school was against him.
How little she knew of his world.
How little she knew of her own.
I would like to get to know her better
as I drive with her back home.

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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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