Text, Texture, and the Nature of Memory


I’ve been thinking a lot about memory this week.  How we remember.  What we remember.  Why we remember some things but not others.

And in process, I remembered a poem I wrote some time back about my own expereince of memory, especially my experiencing the past as text. 

In it, I allude to Anna Ahkmatova, the celebrated Russian poet who was so highly censored under Stalin , she resorted to writing her poems on cigarette paper, memorizing them with a  friend (friend’s memory as carbon copy), and smoking the evidence of her crime against the Soviet State.

Here, I also allude to the texture of memory and the texture of texts themselves.  It’s interesting to me that in English the word “text” is inherent in our word for “texture”–a sematic given.

Censorship

The past comes

back in bits

colorless as glass

ground almost to dust

so that any sense of shape

seems irretrievable

 

The taste of it lingers

                in my mouth like

                                something burnt

                                                marshmallow

                                                toast

                                                skin

 

Dream of Ahkmatova

                stanzas scratched out

                                on cigarette paper

                                during Leningrad winters

memorized by a friend

burnt in ashtrays

saying what we don’t

                (hear)

                                only know

like skin

 

(Something to be touched)

 

Text (ure)

                is everything

(The formatting of the poem is not correct, but I could not get WordPress to recreate my Word document without changes in spacing.  I finally decided to pass the poem along regardlesss, hoping its message would speak to you despite the irregularities.)

Losing time, a . . . gain


Wall to wall
                memory is platformed
                into rows
 
Now asleep
Now awake
Now a place not namable
                (asleep)
                                a jagged interlude
                                of spine
 
                rock
                tooth
                decay
 
I am here, I remind myself
                this bed
I am now
                                two faucets
                                one sink
 
I count
                lose count
                forget
 
Begin again
                                stripped