a man slaughters a goat

March 28, 2019

In my earliest memory, a man slaughters a goat in my bathroom. In Rabat, I am nameless, another Moroccan girl to be looked at but not seen. When goats cry, it sounds just like a baby. I couldn’t list all the terrible things we do to one another.  I remember the goat kicking out, frantic. The shattered mirror. The stumbled prayer. I was sick every visit: my stomach heaving dirty water. I would cry and everyone else would tsk, murmur American. Once, I kissed someone and I’m afraid it ruined the world. I’ve learned that it’s not what you do with the knife — it’s how you hold it after. But how do you hold something like that? Something that never stops baring its teeth; a voiceless dog, all bite, no bark. I remember very clearly that I never saw any blood. Honestly, I wouldn’t even know what to do with a knife. I didn’t even know what to do with that mouth.

Yasmin Belkhyr
Surah Al-Fatiha,

The Truth the Dead Know

March 21, 2019

for my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

Anne Sexton

located elsewhere

February 9, 2019

What if the place that we are in the midst of is different from the physical space that we currently inhabit? What if the things we yearn for are located elsewhere, in another place or in a remembered past, and all we now carry within us is an image of this place. We may remember only elements or impressions of it: there may be certain objects, smells, a smile or expression, particular acts or occasions, a word, all of which come out in a manner that we cannot control or understand. Yet any of these elements or impressions makes us feel ‘‘at home’’ in a way that we cannot find in the physical space where we are now stuck. This is the problem of exile, of being displaced and yet capable of remembering the particularity of place: it is the state of being dislocated yet able to discern what it is that locates us. We have a great yearning, but we cannot fulfil it with anything but memory.

Peter King
Memory and Exile: Time and Place in Tarkovsky’s Mirror

To me the foggy blur over the tops of trees is a mental affair. You hold in your mind another time and live there in that other imagined time while the present time, new and raw in some way, presses for attention. But the other time is held like a fragile glass, transparent but up close in front of one’s face. This is a practice from childhood. It serves no purpose except to counter the insistence of present time and to block it a bit. I can’t remember when I haven’t done this. Being in two places at one time.

Martha Ronk
Her subject/his subject
Double Room no. 5 – Winter/Spring 2005

Shall I Tell You

February 3, 2019

Some nights of mine were
left in your house, half read
books too, even the way your body
sweetly lay, sculpted while you
slept and I did not.
All this, now a poem pierced
by signs that, sooner or later, will
fail to remember us.
Don’t tell me it isn’t sad.

Diogo Vaz Pinto
trans. Ana Hudson
Criatura no. 5, October 2010

The Field

January 8, 2019

Remember that meadow up above the ridge
where the dog ran around in circles
and we were tired from the climb up
and everything was tilted sideways
including the running in circles
of the ecstatic dog his bright tongue
lapping at the air and we were
leaning into the heart of the field
where no battle ever took place
where no farmer ever bothered
to turn the soil yet everything
seemed to have happened there everything
seemed to be happening at once enough
so we’ve never forgotten how full the field
was and how we were there too and full

Tim Nolan

The Dead

December 23, 2018

At night the dead come down to the river to drink.
They unburden themselves of their fears,
their worries for us. They take out the old photographs.
They pat the lines in our hands and tell our futures,
which are cracked and yellow.
Some dead find their way to our houses.
They go up to the attics.
They read the letters they sent us, insatiable
for signs of their love.
They tell each other stories.
They make so much noise
they wake us
as they did when we were children and they stayed up
drinking all night in the kitchen.

Susan Mitchell


December 16, 2018

Blades of grass stuck on our elbows, a hose of water trickling around a statue in the dirt. Do you understand? We’re almost fucking but we’re not. We’re all tongue. We’re all tongue down the glass, mouth open and taking. No, we’re not. We’re wasted on memory tonight. We’re fucking memories.

Lisa Marie Basile

like a photograph of fog

October 24, 2018

a misty moon

Tuesday night around ten o’clock cloud drifted in off the coast. The moon became “ghostly” behind its gauzy curtains and the wind dropped away to nothing. The smell of woodsmoke and coalsmoke hung in the air and filled me with a kind of nostalgia for winters past. It was the kind of night that might last forever (or so I felt). Minutes the length of hours. The moon a pure crystal liquid to be drunk in a single, intoxicating draft –

And yet time is terribly two-faced, isn’t it? Ambiguous, certainly.

For example, on my desk is a BBC guide to the Proms for 2015. Three years ago now. I can remember getting it as if it were only yesterday. The time between then and now, is hardly anything at all to my mind. The older I get, the more I feel my life has been clicked to ‘fast forward’. Where does all the time go?

Time has become like a photograph of fog. Its corners are sucked into a vague lack of point, creating a void without horizon, without sky. And I’m lost somewhere in that fog –

The monotony of memory dances to the tune of time, of course. The girl, Claire, like all girls, was labyrinthine to fourteen year old me. She felt betrayed and wished to punish me because of Gillian. We stood isolated beyond the small boating lake. Abruptly, unexpectedly, she raised the hem of her dress –

I experienced, then and now, immediate arousal. Sight of her red pubic hair, the colour of sin, the colour of hellfire, made me feel swimmy-headed and weightless. She had on no undies. And there she stood. I could just make out the beginnings of her small sex tucked away in those firey curls.

‘I want you to know what you’ve lost,’ she said. ‘Take as good long look. This could have been yours. I’d have let you – ’

And with that she lowered the hem of her dress, turned and walked quickly away. We never, ever spoke again –


If Grief Were a Bird

Then I woke up in the still dark and the cold to the sound of the birds starting up in the trees long before dawn, and I lay there unable to sleep and I wondered, if grief were a bird, what would it be?

Susan Wood

charged with presentiments

October 23, 2018

Scotland Fog - Skyler Brown

Writing on the subject of Innocence and Memory, the Italian poet Ungaretti noted that if memory referred only to the past, it would lead to despair. Instead, he called memory a word ‘charged with presentiments,’ which opens forwards as well as backwards in time and thereby contains seeds of renewal — echoing the myth of Mnemosyne who gave birth to the muses who tell of what is and what will be as well as what was.

Words have this range, Ungaretti observed, because of the imprecise personal associations that they evoke. What lifts a word from the pages of a dictionary to make it a living force with the potential of approaching truth is not its denotation but its connotations: ‘this margin of infinite allusions through which imagination and emotion can wander.’ This margin of connotations derives from experience with particular people, places, and things, and their related words. Through these imprecise associations, Ungaretti argued, words most accurately articulate experience, as their indeterminacy lives actually within ourselves. We ourselves are compounds of error, ambiguity, and possibility which overflow bare denotation. Poetry, said Ungaretti, has always used this allusive quality of memory in order to approximate reality.

Louise Chawla
In the First Country of Places: Nature, Poetry, and Childhood Memory