Our minds have grown around the past
like a tree that swells over a boulder
as its leaves push upward and outward.
The seasons pass,
the sap runs black,
the old trunk groans,
until the two are one—
though sometimes weaker for it.
Then, in some blissfully distant fall,
an evening wind may blow just right
stressing the tree along this fault
or ending the work the boulder began;
and were it to be removed by some
misguided arborist (or therapist),
the entire trunk would crack
and tumble to the grass.
No, we cannot ever escape the past.
I hop the fence to walk the track
then pace clockwise—inside the lines.
Moved by an impulse like the migrating birds
I began to molt
and preened and plucked off one by one
and placed them in the path
with nothing to distract
but the wind in the trees
and my thoughts.
are poems ensconced somewhere inside my mind
like some hidden treasure I’m trying to find
or demons we summon with blood sacrifices
an addiction we feed with the rest of our vices
from erudite sex after months of gestation
or some kind of socially safe masturbation
are they sculpted completely in only a moment
or are we shaping slowly and don’t even know it
is a poem a seedling becoming a tree
or some captive bird that we have to set free
for some, I suppose, it’s a source of contention
but I think that most poems start out as a question.
Seven years of pictures and videos—
senior year in high school, backpacking.,
two year mission, away at school,
engagement pictures, honeymoon travels,
first home, moving in, a floppy-eared puppy,
the pacific coast, camping in redwoods,
snorkeling in the Bahamas, pregnancy,
firstborn child, first steps,
hiking, public parks, reunions, birthdays,
second child, first words, evenings playing at home—
two hundred and fifty gigabytes of memories
meticulously backed up to the hard drive
whenever a device filled up.
If it had only 3 megabyte pictures
it would have held eighty-thousand of them.
Twenty-two straight hours
of seeing through lenses—
if it only took one second
to realize each moment,
put it on hold,
raise the camera,
and take the shot.
To watch it all in a slide show
would have taken days.
Days of the choicest moments of their life together,
times when they interrupted what was happening
to record a piece of it, trusting
they would always have the piece.
Seven years of life
perched treacherously on the piano.
little feet climb the bench
small hands find the hard drive
curious fingers fumble.
it falls to the ground.
It looks unharmed, but it’s not working.
They ship it out, they get a quote.
“Fourteen hundred dollars?!”
They think of seven years.
“We won’t miss the money,
but we will always miss the memories.”
And they’re right.
A tax return comes through.
and give the go-ahead, hoping,
willing to do without to resurrect
Weeks pass, an email comes:
the drive is broken beyond repair—
and seven years go out with the trash.
I’ve gone to great lengths
to love a universe that
cannot love me back.
It grew in the space between walkways
where students shuffled past year round
hurrying to classes, learning
to fit into their chosen professions—
but the tree didn’t fit in. Not anymore.
It leaned too far south, they said,
and its grasping fingers had claimed
too much of the campus sky.
On a warm day in spring before its leaves budded,
a worker drove slowly to the spot
in crowds that broke around the service car.
The man stepped out and spat on the ground,
scrutinizing the trunk and branches.
He moved around the tree, peering down the walkways,
to see how it measured up to the others in its row.
More campus workers came during classes
and threw red ropes up the leaning trunk.
They hacked and hauled off the abnormal branches,
checking their work against the row
until the tree earned a passing grade.
Which is more powerful,
Hatred of a race,
has rallied millions under its banners
in ways we are ashamed
to think or talk about.
It has formed nations,
showered wealth on victors,
heaped sorrows on the unfortunate,
hollowed untold graves for both,
and filled them
with thier sons and daughters.
just as many.
Perhaps love and hatred
are equally matched
because they are extremes
of the exact same emotion.
The most disorienting mistake
that people ever make
is brutishly resisting that
they are animals.
The second seems just as rational,
until it’s taken too far;
it’s that of insisting that
animals are all that people really are.
What does it mean to own a thing?
To have a rightful claim to it
which the consensus ratifies?
To create, deserve, or control something?
Do these words belong to me,
that came from my unconscious mind
and are not kept, but spread abroad?
I cannot say who now will read them,
nor change what their effect will be:
they have gotten already away from me.
Thus it is with life and words,
with feelings, thoughts, and actions:
we only own what we own no longer –
by claim of memories.