Bits and Pieces

Streetlamp glint on my watch, a Christmas gift, I’m ten, the tin
wristband pinches my skin, my sister calls again from the kitchen
window, it’s getting late,
I sit on the cool clay of the empty driveway, knees pulled in to my
chest, I’m eight, I’m making a pact with myself—“Never forget,” a
cat, skulking, lean, passes his orange-white length along my ankle,
that thing I vowed to remember, what was it?
Sun on my face, sun on the wide water, bow of a rowboat, I might be
five, wooden oarlocks clunking behind me, who holds the oars?
The Ford has a flat, I help my father fix it, we kneel in an arc of light
in the lumberyard, I’m three weeks into the second grade, a mist
of rain moistens the lug wrench resting in my open palm,
Stretched on a mossy pond bank, beyond a gully a block from home,
I plunge my arm in the green-black murk up to the elbow, urging
a tadpole into my mayonnaise jar, on the street above me a cement
truck slows, wheezes, downshifting,

Only these few scenes gleaming in the cave of the past, only these
chipped hieroglyphics, as if hints of some other steady
underneath-it-all self, undiscoverable, hushed,
Or maybe the spider I startled in the washtub, twisting the spigot that
morning in one of my early summers, means nothing, and the
memory of it now means nothing,
Why think still of the way that spider circled the drain—or the day,
studying snails and rotting leaves beneath the side porch, I found
my uncle’s long lost blue fedora, limp but only slightly stained?
What is it about the time the weather turned, the sky purpling
suddenly, and I ran a mile to school ecstatic, pelted by sleet?
What was I then, what am I now, who can come to myself only in bits
and pieces?

:: Chris Forhan, Forgive Us Our Happiness (1999)

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