A Poem For Re-Remembering

I haven’t spent as much time creating content for this page lately. My apologies to those for whom this space matters. You matter to me too. I’m just doing what we all do — trying to balance organizing with a day job and a personal life, and often dropping the ball on all three in turn. But today, my head is buzzing with thoughts I only know how to express in verse, and this seems as right a place as any to home those words. So, for what it’s worth, these thoughts are my shout out to everyone who is kind enough to visit and revisit this page, who like me, struggles with the mechanics of their own mind.

I share these words, that I pounded into my keyboard this afternoon, humbly, as this is no longer my usual form of self expression, and with the knowledge that much greater poetic talent abounds in my community. Nonetheless, art sometimes exists for its own sake, and today, I needed to express my own awareness that we are all a tangle of the things we carry. I am feeling the weight of that tangle today, and I penned these words in an effort to lighten that load. I hope they will for me in the coming hours, and for some of you as well.

When The Past Won’t Pass

When the past won’t pass, it reinvents
Swerving across thick lines that we’ve traced over
and over
To keep imagery contained
In the ever-fading here and now
A second-to-second space
on the brink of everything before and after
On expanses that extend beyond all cognition
We guard this second-long space, this now
In spite of its nature
We accelerate, changing lanes
to keep our eyes fixed forward
And yet we’re overtaken
And relentlessly
By what we could have said
Or didn’t do
Or should have left alone

Because what was will kick down every door
And enter each new house
Without apology

What was will spill from behind closet doors,
each time we glance inside

The past is thirsty
Unforgotten but untended
The field from which we rose
through earth
As life and death cycled in circles beside us
And we began to understand them both
And ourselves, in each moment
And even time itself

But we have stretched our bodies away
From crooked, tangled roots
From the dirt that holds them
For the sake of warmth
To bury the past in new circumstance
We strain towards light
In both life and death
Because without it, we know starvation will consume us
Like our unfed past
Our unfed selves
The people we used to be, who we would leave behind
In dark corners

Unable to make eye contact with ourselves
With what was
With what we used to be
We strive to avert a whole consciousness
to defy the laws of memory
and brain chemistry
and time
Because at the end of each chapter
We were on our knees, hungry
Crawling across damp floors
with scraped skin
Whether in solitude or good company

We learned the ache of empty rooms
And that we could be no less lonely while entangled
With a hundred other spirits
With the noise of a thousand voices
We could be alone in crowded rooms
So we reinvented
But never escaped our own design

The past won’t pass
It renames itself
and sometimes
It renames us
But our old names had voices
And voices have echoes
In enclosed spaces
in open air
We are altered garments
The same notes in new rhythms
The same fear of the dark
Of what’s known and unknown
and forgotten with intention

The past pounds the hardwood to be heard
It asks loudly and softy and without abating:
Have you forgotten your own face?
The way you wore your hair?
The way you loved him
and hated yourself?
That the two were one and the same?
They way you wrote
and fucked and fed yourself?
The things you would have died and killed for?

You will
And won’t
Because it will not pass

You’ve been a hundred people
Living past lives in the same skin
And judging every inch of them
Like you would judge no friend or stranger
Because you survived their lives
Regretting and forgetting your way through daily re-writes
But in truth: you did not survive their lives
They’ve survived your life
For you.

So remember, for her
for him
and for them:
there has never been a fair fight
in the whole history of time
And the currents of the universe
are a song streaming through your speakers
Exposition without intent

Your dialogue is your struggle
And all dialogue is, at best, negotiation

We are shaped by the intentional and the accidental
We are a collective
and a collage
Made of the same stuff
as falling leaves and falling stars
And our collisions
and forgotten Sundays
and misremembered Mondays
are “no less than the journey-work of the stars”

Your story is a shuffling constellation
As much as it is a weed
pushing its way between slabs of concrete
Fighting for light in a crowded field
As much as it is anything
But we move
Forward at times
With both chilled and warm breezes at our backs

The past will not pass
Even when tended
Even when tilled

But we can learn to change lanes
by choice
shifting between then and now
at will
Because a broken lock can let the light in
And free your captive selves
Who don’t deserve to be caged or kept
in the recesses of regret

The past will not pass
But when we learn to walk
in and out
Of its mouth
Of its grip
Of all the places we’ve lived
And forgive the people we’ve been
Our lives weigh less

Every second retreats from the next
Every sea re-envelops itself
with every crash
And so do we

The past will not pass
But it can be read
And understood
with all the kindness you would otherwise extend
to a stranger
to a friend
and to the sea