It was a stunt we hadn’t practiced that erased my memory at 30 and left me wondering why I was wearing a cheer uniform in the ER
Then there was a doctor who said short and long term amnesia and what was there to do but go home
to a stranger’s apartment with an unknown man who said he was my friend
and showed me pictures of us on the beach, and getting morning coffee
and the one of me with Sal shading her eyes against the sun her eyes the same as mine so I believed him
what made me remember was not a fact but a feeling an intuition of sorrow a space of absence that was memory
when I said I love you it was met with silence
our union was a thing that ended long ago signed and certified a document forgotten
so what is this tenderness that is not love? this compassion from one to the other?
what are we without our memories gathered with intent held in shadow boxes on display
the attic of my mind is empty
we are here now our love is here.
This poem is based on a snippet of an NPR radio show I heard where a woman falls while filming the pilot of a TV drama and ends up having total amnesia. She had divorced her husband but has no recollection of it, and he ends up caring for her during her recovery.
It’s late fall and there are many things flying about starlings tweedle and chirp from the telephone pole where this morning as I am taking out the trash I look up and see a great horned owl silhouetted against the lightening sky.
I jump and run to get my husband and he joins me on the cold brick of our front porch It’s Tue, he says, and we both agree this is the spirit of our cat, recently deceased. How does the call go? he asks, sheepishly, since all last autumn we walked the streets and narrow alleys of our neighborhood, calling for an owl who would sometimes call back, sometimes appear overhead on whisper white wings.
Last year we saw a couple nesting in the eucalyptus grove, two dry-leaf colored lumps on one arching branch and listened as they called to one another.
Once I was on the back deck crying over some old wellspring of pain, and looked up to see the cobalt sky, and the owl flying across our yard from east to west.
Once we were lost driving back roads at dusk sniping at each other in annoyance and an owl swooped down like a blinding angel across our windshield.
Once we were night walking and you said it was an owl, but I think it was a black-crowned heron that erupted out of tree shadows like the surprising strength of our grief and knocked you to your knees.