By Susanna Lang
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.
“Remembering” originally appeared in Terrain.org, and appears here today with permission from the poet.
Susanna Lang’s first collection of poems, Even Now, was published in 2008 by The Backwaters Press. A chapbook, Two by Two, was released in October 2011 from Finishing Line Press, and a new collection, Tracing the Lines, will be published by Brick Road Poetry Press in fall 2012. She has published original poems and essays, and translations from the French, in such journals as Little Star, New Letters, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Green Mountains Review, The Baltimore Review, Kalliope, Southern Poetry Review, World Literature Today, Chicago Review, New Directions, and Jubilat. Book publications include translations of Words in Stone and The Origin of Language, both by Yves Bonnefoy. She lives with her husband and son in Chicago, where she teaches in the Chicago Public Schools.
Editor’s Note: Ah, memory, that fallible arena. You love, you lose, you swear you’ll always remember, but in the end, memory is unreliable. It is a heartbreak inherent in the human condition. With today’s poem, Susanna Lang artfully captures the longing to retain memory, and the grief over its inevitable loss.
Want to see more by Susanna Lang?
Susanna Lang Author Page for Even Now at The Backwaters Press
Buy Two by Two from Finishing Line Press
Tracing the Lines (forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press, 2012)
Susanna Lang Official Website