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The Memory

ISSUE:  Spring 1989
It seems wrong—
the way the body refuses to die,
the way the soul refuses to be stronger.
Wrong—that the memory I cannot fully form
will never fully leave me,
the memory of a man who tried to save me:
vague curve of shoulders and back
disappearing down the playground path
between snowdrifts as cold as swing chains
on my hands in winter.

Come back—there must be something
you must have forgotten—come back

Did he wear a red scarf?
Was he shoeless in the snow?
He had a three-day beard—or, no—
he was clean shaven. He bent over.
With his warm breath he unfroze
my hands from the swingchains—
not pulling ‘till they were ready.

If only he would tell me now
what it means to let go.
What does it mean to let go?

Sometimes a strange feeling comes over me.
My body tingles as if it were alone
with the soul, trying to explain to her
its inability. She understands.
She needs something.

Why is she not complete?
What does she need to be complete?
Ask the present, ask the body. No,
ask the blurred snowdrift darkening, quick—
ask the child on the swing set; she knows.

It was a red scarf.
Yes, and the wind blew it as he bent over
and the knees of his unbelted pants were baggy.
His breath loosened my hands from the chains,
from the swing set. He whispered,
“Let go.”

Then he turned and walked sadly
down the playground path and suddenly,
in the tired curve of a back,
my body recognized itself.

Nothing more. Nothing forgotten.

It seems wrong—
the way the body refuses to die.
It seems wrong—
the way the soul refuses to be stronger.

There should have been something more.
A binding word perhaps—body, sorrow—
or a parting glance dissolving—
too late, too late, too late.

But now, at least, there is nothing
between me and my soul but myself.


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