Homeward directly, I wish
victim to the senses.
Absent the smell of balsam fir.
Wending its way through
the canal, traffic three
blocks away. The drum reverberates
back lodging the city in my brain.
Not mine, the cars.
The city belongs to not me.
When she asks my name
my mother’s ear collects the sound
rolls it slowly through the vestibule
disclaims my reply.
Who are you she says again
and through the valley of time we slip.
You are who?
Neuroscientists have identified a condition, (X),
symptomized by constant recycling of memory.
Living a present that is already
Persistent deja vu.
Every conversation old and
no one a stranger.
The same bird sings the same song in the same tree on the same walk as yesterday
though the street is new.
I said; nothing is new.
Scientists posit memory:
one Actual content (plus)
two Conscious experience of memory sensation
three (equals) Memory
Constituent X remains forever in a state of two, thus,
it is not what you know but how you feel it.
and she said it was not up to me to live without her
– Brenda Hillman, Death Tractates
moments of absence as we gather at her table
Alive; not fully with us
until, holes in our knowledge of “mother.”
Perhaps our knowledge has no thrust where she goes.
Perhaps she departs to larger matters.
Not inward; otherward.
Until, every meal a first. .
Until, my urge to protect reaches beyond her need.
And all things there
Or maybe young again?
See? I tend my ficus carefully. And everyday the leaves break,
willing themselves to
And as children, we sheared the tops of carrots, transplanted them
to water and window wells.
Urged along their death.
Removed from soil, they leech
We, God. They, no longer carrots.
Perhaps it is true a little death happens daily;
not as in small things die
and not as in we cannot reproduce,
cannot maintain elasticity, moisture.
Not as in everyday we are closer to death.
It is hard to be otherward and here.
Italicized stanza in first section taken from Donald Revell’s poem “For Thomas Traherne”
Patricia Rose Straub lives in Chicago with her husband Josh and son Manny. She has an MFA from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL, and an MA in liberal studies from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN.