Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Random Access Memories


I wrote a poem years ago, about a dead boy whose bones are found by a dog on some gloomy fall day. It's an image that still stays with me, that hound dog nosing at a ribcage, the dead boy happy to see a dog again.

Some things stay with us all through the years, and I don't know why. Sometimes, in the moment, I think, will this be one of those moments? It can be the most mundane thing, a wet sidewalk I've walked a thousand times, and years later I can see that patch of cement as if I was standing over it right then. The pockmarks and leaves stuck to it, an earthworm writhing sightlessly.

If I had a way to control it, would I? Which moments would I choose to recall with perfect clarity? I remember my feet out of my Keds, on top of them, squishing them down as I stood by a lake. But I can't recall the last name of the guy who was with there with me, or what he wore or smelled like. Why wouldn't I want to remember that?

A patch of corn by the side of a trail in a state forest, with two crabapple trees at one end, and yellowing grass as high as my waist in between them. It was strange to see that corn and the apple trees, and I realized the forest management people had planted it there for deer. I don't remember anything else of that hike, but close my eyes and I can be back on the trail, looking at that corn. I could almost reach out and touch a stalk.

That small cornfield was, oh, twenty-five years ago.

I worry that I will get Alzheimer's, like my grandfather. All my other grandparents were lucid until the end. But I have one grandfather who got Alzheimer's and couldn't remember hardly anything, or anyone. And no little bit of fear shadows me, that I will get it, too. I hope that if I do, these weird, bright moments are the ones that will stay. Maybe my brain knows what's coming down the tracks, and it's been snatching moments at random throughout my life, so that when I start to lose the memories of all my dogs, when I can't remember my sister's name, I'll remember that patch of corn, brown and yellow in an October long past. I'll think of dead boys with a smile, and not know if I made him up or if it really happened. Maybe I'll marvel at things I did long before, glad I did them, without knowing the consequences of them--I'll be young and barefoot beside a lake, the sunlight glinting through tall reeds a few feet away, and I won't remember at all that it was the last time we had sex, both of us a little desperate to recapture something that wasn't so much diminished as completely cold ash.

Maybe I won't remember the mistakes or the lessons learned, but those bright moments when I was alive. I think that's good. Those are better to remember, the beauty I witnessed, the air I breathed.

Wish me luck.



PS Yes, I totally stole the title from Daft Punk. Hopefully I remember that whole album, too!



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