what you were before you were ‘this’


Basked in the sun,
listened to birds,
licked off raindrops,
and only in flight
the leaf saw the tree
and grasped
what it had been.
…………………………..Vera Pavlova

That time a room full of words gathered on a Thursday or Sunday. They spun a bottle, stained glass. Listened to strings and that song. One of them recalled a moment. Another talked about that time. There was an engagement. There was an affair of limited lust on a Tuesday between an immigrant and a poet. Between errands and work calls they shared a kiss over wireless connection. A stranger called the day good. There was coffee and a complete raspberry hidden inside a partially stale muffin. Before yesterday, one of them was still sober. Before tomorrow, one of them will be recounting a moment of trauma in order to get surgically healed of it by a muse further west of here. Before last year, there was so much love, it overflowed into bedsheets. Before the end of February, there will be death. What is left but to notice the trees and that protected patch of graffiti in the Bronx by that artist who died of AIDS. What is left but to forget his name even though it is the same as the others. What is left but starvation of throat and bank account. Can you explain away the envelopes and sores. Leave the sheep alone and start counting swallows. This is what you are now.

how to neglect a memory

Something has happened…

When you spend too much money on your credit card, there is a block on future spending. It is a punishment for lack of control; for purchasing that expensive pair of shoes far out of reach of your economic class; for thinking you could buy a new computer when you couldn’t even afford a printer.

My memories are like this credit card im/balance.

There is a block. But instead of a barrier against the ability to produce new memories, there is a pause against the old ones.

I cannot remember.

She asks me to write about my earliest memories, so I think about breakfast today:

Homemade granola with toasted coconut and sunflower seeds and almonds crushed beyond recognition and oats and soy milk and my appetite moving too quickly to savor each bite. And coffee.

Further back?

I remember falling up the stairs at the Franklin Ave. subway station and my fear of Brooklyn’s disease on my palms.


There was that man last summer who…too many pints…a walk home…non-threatening?… STOP.

Keep going, you coax. Further still.

Oh, that canoe trip in western waters of B.C., Canada. Creating a living room out of driftwood. Washing my underwear in the salty water and pacing around nude over fallen tree trunks. The beauty of turquoise-squeezed sky. Mosquito-ravaged skin. Making love in a tent too small to show off in.

Push back.

I remember my mother getting sick that last time. Shipping her sorry body to Brooklyn to make visiting hours easier for us. Visiting her in between full-time job everyone knew about and the one I kept hidden. Hearing her complain about their lack of toasters and what else is there to eat for breakfast beside charred bread? There was that woman there. And I started to feel like my visits were for her, rather than my mother. And I just wanted to push pills made of poems into this young one’s mouth and save her from the prison bars inside her bones.

What is left to remember? Why am I forcing this push…

Look at a photograph of yourself from at least 5 years ago or maybe ten or go back before the braces came off.

How can I look forward…how can I remain present…and still look through those notebooks stained with mildew reminding me why I am like this.

I just want to talk about breakfast. I just want to make you supper. Let’s just talk about your childhood, since something in my body won’t let me talk about mine.