This is a companion piece to my poem “First Love”. It is an ode to the potency of memory, no matter how brief a relationship is. As Neruda famously wrote: “Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”
I am not young, I am not yet old. The years have not settled into lines yet. My eyes shine, there is a sharpness to my jaw. There are things that still move me, Like the poetry of old songs. But I have lived past my illusions. I have grown a garden And in it I have laid to rest all of my Gods, And bid them farewell.
Someone mentions your name And I am stunned once again By how much the heart can hold. I remember everything, everything, More than I have forgotten. I remember your searching eyes, the same brown as mine. I remember the smell of your breath, all cigarettes and morning coffee. I remember your hands, How you drew lines across my face As we lay on a beach. When you told me about her, I let my pride run amok. Because, most of all, I remember this soft, tortured animal That, back then, I dared not call love.
As the years went by, you tried to reach out But I had already started to believe a lie, A good lie, a necessary lie; That you never cared for me. That it was all a game to you, That I could sooner pull the moon down from the sky And cradle it in the palm of my hands Than make you love me.
But then I remember how you once told me that we are one, You and I, The same person, Quiet and watchful in a crowd. Our jagged edges fit neatly into each other. Did you know, back then, how prescient that confession was? That for years we would dance around this secret, Each one too afraid to be hurt by the other, And so we chained ourselves to separate destinies?
I wish I could tell you that somebody better came along. Somebody did come along But he was the bullet that I took, That I ran headlong into After dodging you.
I comforted myself with other passions, With hidden worlds that opened up to me When love was over and done with. I tried to touch what we had, filament that it was, (Would it have disintegrated under the scrutiny of the everyday?) The way I touch my daughter’s face, The way I hold a brush and paint a hummingbird.
In a library somewhere in the city where we met, I trail my fingers tenderly along the spines of books and wonder: Are these the parts of myself I would have had to hide Or abandon altogether Because I couldn’t share them with you? A favorite novel, A Mary Oliver poem, What the sight of a wild garden does to me, The way my body feels lit from within after swimming for hours.
Ten years have passed since last I saw you. I have not gazed into this darkness till now. And now I know all the things that make a life lived together- The long winded embraces, the gifts for no reason, The road trips and family meals, A slow, gradual intertwining. Tell me all the ways she loved you. Tell me all the ways I’ve failed. Did she make a show of her love and claim you, like I couldn’t? Did she wrap your voice around her shoulders Like a shawl in the night, as I longed to do? Did she share your silences like I would have? No, she rushed to fill them with her easy words, her laughter, and children.
So what do I do now?
I will pick up a brush and paint through the night. I will read poetry again. I will grow another garden. I will watch my daughter get older And marvel at all the heart can hold.
Until we meet again, I will keep this secret in the shadows, That you and I are one And we both knew it from the first day we met. Never stop seeking me out In the gray half-light, Even if I shun you, as I must. Even if you don’t see me, seek me out.
Think of me in the morning stillness, After you’ve awoken from some half-remembered dream about your youth. Remember me, then, and forget the relentlessness of time. Be with me, Always.
Note: "Remembering" and all my original poems are published in medium.com/@asilrashid