Notes On Forgetting

Family stories are a big part of why I distrust
my childhood, especially the part that disappeared
since everything I remember happened
before my hand was cut off or after
I was seven and most of the surroundings have vanished
and been replaced by worries about asbestos.
Still, I can say how far a person will go to be singular,
for example to Slidell, Louisiana where
the two crackheads stole a donut truck and left
a 15-mile trail of Krispy Crèmes for the police to follow,
or how someone else might choose to actually eat
a mile or two of crullers, filled long johns, sugar, cinnamon

and chocolate-chocolate donuts in order to escape.
I can explain how when that person wakes up fat
in Mrs. Wright’s third grade, the ruler to the knuckles,
the chair in the hall, face to the corner, visit to the principal
all seem convincing new ways to play down
the tedium of learning perfect cursive.  But this
is devolving into stories of childhood, a time which,
as I said, I detest and which I have tuned out
like a fuzzy FM station so as to have the music
the way I want it.  I tell myself this
in the shorthand relatives use to lie about casaba
or the maid’s splayed feet, the endless insect humming,
not to mention the sun on a Percheron’s back
or how the legs of a child on that horse
might stick out almost horizontal over the furrows
as the Portuguese farmers plow.  When I hear stories like that,

I grow more alert, more nervous
with each passing sentence, as plum blossoms pink
over hindsight’s clipped lawn,

as memory struggles with fable to shape a more perfect line.

Baby. Cake.

Today we grab the pink baby from the king cake, a conventional brioche,
iced sticky as the yard beyond the French doors, tasting sweet
as the green looks, clotting up like buttermilk around us. The cake we never eat

although we plan the party, a fête where any one of us could be a monarch,
win the good luck, put on a crown, buy the next king cake.  Epiphany,
the showing forth, and we throw crepe paper in the trees,
cover the tables, set the water to boil and, without our willing them, the weeks
have arrived that end with fish Friday.  We go around head-heavy
as back fence roses, revamping our souls, still vague about the usual news—
next door a baby dies, a dog gets beaten, a soldier’s legs are gone
and then it’s Easter with its thickening light and we revel in chocolate and gin.

But today we celebrate that plastic baby, hold back the Lenten sacrifice,

our parties for oblations, wait to fast.  We turn away from the neighborhood

fail to listen.  Today we waste a cake.  Today we trifle with the season.

Wendy Taylor Carlisle is the Author of two books READING BERRYMAN TO THE DOG (2000) and DISCOUNT FIREWORDS (2008) . Her chapbook, AFTER HAPPILY EVER AFTER is #15 in the 2River Chapbook Series.  She lives in Texas.

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