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ISSUE:  Summer 2010
Memory’s law: what we choose to say about our past becomes our past.
Stephen Dunn, “Memory”

I choose therefore to say that I lost the fight
because I was afraid I’d win, afraid
I’d not be able to endure the sight of blood

on my opponent’s face. I choose to say this,
perhaps believe it, though over and
over again, when I’m not believing, I’m

cowering for another reason. Put simply, I
did not believe myself equal to my
classmate’s aggressive fists. Look: the little

menace was a dynamo. Had I not covered
up, he’d have broken every bone
on my moon-shaped countenance, which

induces me to say that I lost the first
because I didn’t want to know
the pain I had seen in so many comic books

and on the screen. I wanted to choose
not to fight another day. And
what I choose now to remember is the grin

on my conqueror’s face when he raised his arms
in victory, lowering them finally
to embrace me because he knew what we both

knew, that I was a little menace also and in the
heat of battle might have found
reserves I didn’t know I had, might then have

rendered my buddy senseless, which possibility,
though remote, was nonetheless a
possibility, and, as I said earlier, I’m not sure

I could have seen him in such a bloody state
without breaking down, which is
maybe why I folded, after all, or maybe not,

which is why my friend was grinning, let’s say,
not in triumph but in relief, his
achievement akin to all achievements, both

a curse and—in time, a memory—a blessing.


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