What has kept the world safe . . . [has] been memory. — John Hersey
But we forget, don’t we? Not what happened, but the thickness of it. The rough edges of the table on the café terrace, moisture beading on your glass. The way the woman who would become your wife kept pushing her hair off her forehead. The sound of a cicada spinning to its death on the sidewalk, a papery sound, like someone thumbing through a book.
Think of the man who returns a year after the five-day war in which his house was burned. What’s left of it still stands on the corner, so he can search among the black and crumbled stones, the splintered table legs, for the photo he didn’t expect to find— photo of a woman, her hair swept back in a style no one wears anymore. He’d forgotten that she used to wear her hair that way, as he’s forgotten the stretched feel of his skin in the heat of the flames he watched from across the street,
though he’d tell you that’s the one thing he would remember forever.
The earth has grown tired of us, shrugs us off. Port au Prince, Concepción, Padang, Beichuan, Muzaffarabad—
we all live in Jericho’s walls, and Joshua only the herald of the land’s deep upheaval. His trumpet calls to the bricks:
fall down. Not everyone can be saved. I need poems, need them bad, prays the dying man in his hospital bed. We are all
saying our beads, one word following another like steps across a road in the moment before it rises, before the gates come tumbling down.
Susanna Lang’s first collection, Even Now, was published in 2008 by The Backwaters Press; Two by Two, a chapbook, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including New Letters, Little Star, Kalliope, Green Mountains Review, andInkwell, where her poem won the 2009 competition.
Photo of burned house by TheMint, courtesy Pixabay.