Bio Note: I have recently retired from teaching English and French in a high school in Los Angeles, and have finally caught up on sleep. These days, I am trying to get used to mourning. I am a long time member of Donna Hilbert's wonderful poetry workshop.
When the Mind Unwinds
—for my sister
When the mind unwinds memories lie in ruins. The bridges that once linked thoughts collapse into a jumble of rotting planks and broken pilings. When the mind unwinds it can only go back and never forward; this is a time for unlearning. Whose house is this? Why are my things here? Who is that man who says he’s my husband? When the mind unwinds some memories stay lodged like shrapnel — your mother’s ring and her impatience, the house with three palms where you grew up, the time in high school when you parked the car on the tracks, daring it all to end. When the mind unwinds it goes slick as an 8-ball and everything new to it slides right off. But you, you are still in there, the core of you bending like a reed in the storm of it, bending toward an ending.
The Guys Who Work Inside My Head
I don’t know their names or gender or whether they even have a gender. I forget they’re even there like I forget a name, a fact, a necessary detail. I only have to wonder aloud and move on to another thought when I feel a little tap on my shoulder or sense the presence of a calm being behind me and there he is, or she, or it, handing me a folder wrapped in a metaphor containing the datum I couldn’t bring to mind that short time ago. Then I can go on living, assured that my mind still works, that the guys in there have not run off to serve a younger or more facile mind, that they’re with me still in their khakis, buttoned-down shirts and wire-rimmed glasses, poised to run to the file box where they know just where to find my username and password, the place where we took that photo with the sea crashing behind us, or the name of that actor, you know, the guy who starred in that movie with that actress, you know, the pretty one with the wide smile and the shining teeth.
What a Beautiful View, She Says
Outside my kitchen window a liquidambar balances in leafy arabesque, a jacaranda drops sticky-siren blossoms onto the lawn and birds dance on the grass beneath a redwood tree. What a beautiful view! she says again. I agree, tell her I am glad that I don’t have to take care of it myself. Moments pass, we sip our coffee and then, looking out the window as if for the first time she says it again: What a beautiful view! She notices the view every two minutes for at least an hour, each time as delighted as the time before. One weekend she keeps asking How did you two meet? We tell the story time and again, she listens with interest, asks questions for clarification, moments pass and then she asks again How did you two meet? Another time her question is When are you two getting married? She asks it and asks it, he doesn’t know what to tell her. Tell her we already did, I suggest later, ask her Doesn’t she remember? Sometimes she asks about her brother. They tell her he’s been gone for ten years now. Each time it’s a new blow to the stomach, a new knife to the heart. When her daughter dies, they don’t know what to tell her. Where is Barbara? she often asks. She’s coming, they tell her. You’ll see her. She misses you.
©2020 Tamara Madison
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