Forgotten

Forgotten

Forgotten Sounds Pt.II. Marco NurnbergerCC BY

Memory makes us. If we couldn’t recall the who, what, where, and when of our everyday lives, we wouldn’t be able to function. – “Memory Basics,” Psychology Today

This week, I remembered a poem I wrote as a teenager.

Some of the lines returned to me, complete and clear.

I couldn’t recall other lines at all.

I wrote the poem after a dream. In this dream, I was with a group of young people around my own age in a deserted beachy area with trees. We had reunited there on a hazy afternoon when the light is most golden, just as the sun begins to set, and with great joy, we began singing.

Except that I really did not know these people, this place, this song. In the dream I knew I was supposed to know all of these things, and I didn’t. I was meant to belong, to be a part, and I couldn’t. The sense of mounting sadness over the desperate attempt to remember the significance of these people and the words to the beautiful song so that I could join in was overwhelming.

The dream haunted me so that when I woke, I wrote the poem.

Remembering my poem for the first time in years, I wanted to reread it, to recapture the lines that were missing in my memory. I could envision the little stapled booklet I made, could actually recall other poems I wrote in it, word for word.

I couldn’t find it.

I searched everywhere I thought the booklet ought to be – I could not remember where I put it.

Things like this become compulsions for me. The more I searched without success, the more determined I became to find the missing poems.

At some point I realized the many layers of irony folded into this situation: I wrote a poem about forgetting something I could not remember in the first place, because I wanted to remember the experience; not remembering all the lines compelled me to read it again, and I forgot where I put it.

I began to think about what dementia patients must feel like.

But I kept looking, and yesterday, in a box of old notebooks, in a planner under some loose papers, I found it:

Forgotten Remembrance

My mind, it plays a melody

That it hasn’t ever heard

A voice sings in my memory

But remembers not a word

Faces I don’t recognize

Are singing this with me

Sadness streaming from my eyes

Such a haunting harmony

I hear the music chiming there

And then again it’s gone

Hidden in my mind somewhere

Chiming off and on

I ought to know this tune

These words I’ve sung before

I’ll try to learn them very soon

So I can sing them more

I can’t remember this refrain

I’ve forgotten it this far

My mind cries out to know this strain

And what the lyrics are

But all I know is sorrow

A deep and dark despair

I’ll cry and cry tomorrow

For what was never there.

At last. My mind can rest now.

I certainly can’t end on such a dark note, so today I pay tribute to the vital, mysterious power of memory, how it makes us who we are; to writing, which preserves who we are at various points in our lives and sets us free from whatever haunts or hurts us; and to the foresight of my young, rather gothic self for having grasped it.

 

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10 thoughts on “Forgotten

  1. What a beautiful way to journey back to the writing of your teens. I wrote some as a teenager too. I created a journal that I gave my daughter. Perhaps I’ll need to borrow it back and take a look. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How wonderful to have given your daughter a journal of your teenage writing! I hope you do go back and visit yourself there again – and write about what you find. Thank you for reading and responding.

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  2. I was just thinking about the writing I did as a teenager the other day–mine was sadly lost in a fire a few years ago. It’s funny what we are able to remember and what escapes our memories. I love how you used memory as a framework for sharing this piece.

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    • How sad to have lost your teenage writing. I mourn it for you. The fire sounds like a story in itself – I suspect you have written about it? I actually have a piece of my dad’s writing, a story he wrote in school – it’s priceless to me. Memory is a strange and wondrous thing, indeed – I was caught by the statement “Memory makes us.” How true. I am so glad you enjoyed!

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  3. I am so glad you found the poem, and that you shared it. It is lovely. I also enjoyed your words about memories and losing things. I understand the compulsion. I have a vision of where a “lost” item is. When I open that drawer or search in that cabinet and it isn’t there, then another vision of its hiding place comes to me. I can’t quit until I find it – or until I have worn myself out. Thank you for giving us lots to think about.

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    • I was both relieved and elated to find that poem! I am glad you enjoyed it. You sound so much like me with envisioning where a lost thing is. So often I can mentally find it first. We are definitely birds of a feather with not giving up until exhaustion! Thank you so much for your thoughts.

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  4. I wrote as a teenager, too. But unfortunately, I have nothing but one piece that I sent to a short story contest. Seems to be the only that survived several moves. Your poem is beautiful as is your story of finding it. My grandmother has dementia, and my mother is showing signs too, so this piece touches deep in my heart. Memories are something just too precious to lose.

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    • Thank you, Leigh Anne. My grandmother also had dementia – I watched the pieces of her memory come apart. She sometimes thought she was living in the old days, often thinking many family members were still alive. Her memories seemed to swirl back and forth without rhyme or reason. It’s both alarming and heartbreaking. When I had that haunting dream about not remembering, my grandmother was alive and going strong. It’s only on recalling the dream and the poem now – and scouring my own memory to find the poem – that I felt I had a small taste of what a person with dementia goes through, the many layers of “cloudiness.” I didn’t even make that connection until I was writing the slice. You and I must keep writing, Leigh Anne, for many reasons, among the most important to exercise our brains! My thoughts and my heart are with you regarding your mother and grandmother. Ongoing strength to you~

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