February 28, 2008

Sketches for an essay on memory

I fell asleep on my left arm. Around five am I remember rolling over and shrugging my arm free, but I woke later to that arm around my waist, a dead weight. For a moment it did not feel like my arm, but someone else’s. All morning now it has been shaking. It knocked my glass against my teeth as I took a sip of water, spilled my tea, dropped the pot I was trying to fill. I can feel a shiver deep inside it, perhaps a resonation with something else, some other bones.

I held a finch in my hands once, felt the heart beat so fast I thought it would shatter, like a wine glass on the right pitch. I know there is something terrifying in the lightness of their bodies, in the fineness of their bones. R told me how the railroad tracks by his house were littered with broken pigeon wings and no bodies, just fluff and gravel. Once I held a glass swan and thought just that, those words up there: terrifyingly light. I wanted it gone.

This seems like it should be a sign, a terribly romantic sign, of missing you, of missing someone, this phantom limb. But there is no ‘you’, no someone. I am thinking of no one, I am missing my arm. I am waiting for it to come back from wherever it has gone so I can make my tea, eat my breakfast, get on with my day.

One Saturday, while we were driving slow enough to watch the grass strands on a back road through cornfields, you pulled over and we watched the blackbirds pouring through the sky, moving from one field to another, a thick, dark sweep against the pale blue sky. I thought of them later, thousands of miles away from those cornfields. Kneeling in the cold sand on a beach, watching the shadows and ridges the tide left on the beach, I saw the same advance and retreat, arcs breaking and overlapping.

This same road, the road we used to drive along, is the road that runs along the train tracks, taking us right out of town and into unending stretches of corn, like turning a bend and seeing the ocean. Later, I went out there on my bike, in the early mornings. Riding it alone was different, slower, like I could take time to know it. Sometimes I would ride past road kill, changing slowly each day until it was something unrecognizable. Once I passed a small bird dead in the grass, from what I don’t know, and the next day I couldn’t find it, or forgot to look for it.

Kate Schlachter

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