I Remember the Times I Forgot
I remember the time I forgot to breathe.
I lay blue-tongued, blue-faced,
blue-lunged after a hard landing,
air sucked out in a sudden decompression,
the contrail of my last breath ascending
like an uncorked genie after the final wish,
clouds spilling from a decanted sky.
I unlearned rhythm, the innate,
the inherited knowledge of gills,
residual contact with the umbilicus;
and occupied a space outside time,
claw-fisted against the grinding
squeeze of ribs – until the pained spasm,
the first shallow intake upon memory’s return,
a diminishing roar in my ears,
and sweet the air.
I remember the time I forgot to speak.
First, the air was black with words,
all buzz and drone departing,
a mindless swarm without choreographer
that unlinked arms, ended its intricate dance,
its many layered waltz with meaning
and fell into the event horizon of silence.
I could find no words then, no whispers,
no susurrations – only the blind fear
and a spreading stain of incomprehension.
It passed, and in the silence new things grew:
I learned to read the sky, the secrets
of birds’ wings, the songs of clouds.
My eyes recited poems, my hands told stories,
my body spoke other languages
and rich the speech.
I remember the time I forgot to love.
My dreams had set, and black grief arisen
behind my eyes, blanketing stars, sun,
luminous swirl of my inner cosmos.
Joy – panic-stricken – vanished in the arms
of laughter. The ground swooned,
punch drunk at the tide’s retreat,
glistening matted skeins of hope
and flapping wish stranded in its wake.
I sank into inertia,
a monotony of nights and days
and listless conversation,
gravity’s shoes hard on my shoulders.
It was years before the wave came in,
tsunami like, flooding my sullen heart,
and huge the love.
I remember the time I forgot to wake.
I was dreaming noiseless eternities,
floating in the squid ink depths
of unmapped oceans peopled by phantasms,
mermaids, unicorns: all the blurred
images of the subconscious.
Not quite bodiless, I sensed
an insistent tug drawing me further
from the surface. What lullaby
was this? What siren’s song?
Who knows how long I slept
and what it was, at last, that roused me?
I could have been lost forever
like someone sleeping in the snow,
but woke in my own familiar skin
and bright the light.
After each forgetting,
after each lapse into neglect,
a sweet, rich, huge, bright awakening.
We were primed at birth:
smart bombs zeroing in
on our own deaths.
Sweet: the rush of air through sky.
The poet goes to bed with, awakens
in the warm arms of mystery,
words coming to her like shafts of light,
like drifts of petals, gusts of wind.
She fossicks, excavates,
not for fossils or bones, not for shiny gemstones,
but for other gleamings
she can hold up to the light,
look at this way and that,
not seeking revelation so much as glimpse.
In such fertile ground,
there is so much hidden to be found
the work is endless, the days pass
in a blur between night and night,
mystery’s embrace never failing her.
Here comes regret, wheeled in on its gurney,
all banged up and feeling sorry for itself,
though not at all contrite. I turn away,
expressing my disinterest, thinking
I have no time for this, but regret isn’t interested
in my disinterest, or in any prescription
for a remedy, any suggestion to get over it
or to move on, any prescribed diet.
No, regret is settling in, installing itself
for the long haul, fully intending to gorge
on every other remnant emotion,
to swell and swell until nothing else is left.
Darkness shall never vanquish her:
her chin cleaves the waters
she sails through, the beacon
of her face illuminating her way.
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