Trance Essay for Remembering Images

At first, I spoke to my neighbor daily, in part because of the weather
(he could still sit out on bench)

in part because of vice
(I was chain-smoking and he’d shout for one when I passed)

but this stopped, in part because of trust
(he did not believe I was smoking less and resented the imagined lie)

in part because of routes
(at first I added 15 minutes to my commute to walk north, past his apartment, towards 6th avenue, and up through the park, as this removes 25-50% of my anxiety, but now that I have lived here half a year, I find myself incapable of waking up early enough to permit this easy remedy, so I walk the other, faster direction)

and in part because of novelty
(having covered introductions, we now tend to say only “hello” when I do pass).

I have a sense of what he looks like, due to this regularity,
but I could not describe his building.

Someone I was hoping to kiss informed me
that it’s easy to remember

images (all you have to do, they said, is take
a lesson from a children’s book, one in which a girl could

remember anything she wanted by saying “click,”
and imagining she held a camera). Later, distracted

on my walk home by the kiss’s memory, which came
easily because my eyes had been closed for it, I took a wrong

turn and struggled to find my building
on an unfamiliar street. That’s why I’m studying:

There is my own blue bicycle; the round planter to the left
of the steps I use to enter, which the downstairs neighbor keeps

tidy—cutting back the plants that don’t stay green
in the winter, for example, but keeping the heartier cabbages

watered—though I have never seen her do this work;
somewhere between two and five pride flags,

some of which are there year round while others
appear only in June; a fire hydrant; the windows

of the apartment that face mine, through which I see my least
favorite bookshelves: they look mildly expensive

and comprise a set of intersecting diamonds, making the books
hard to remove and reshelf since they are all piled at slants;

some scaffolding that seems to attract unhappy couples mid-fight;
one set of table and chairs; a house that frequently puts books

or toys or clothes out on the sidewalk for free. I know that
there are two or more remarkable sculptures, but only

because I remember remarking: one might be of a silver
bust of a woman, maybe an angel or a pop star, while others

are definitely at the base of the railings to the steps across the street, but I don’t
remember now if they are dogs or birds. There is a statue of an owl

on a window ledge I can see from one chair, and it often scares me.
Now some buildings have Christmas lights, but I couldn’t say

which, and that could easily lead me to turn down any other residential
block. There is a lilac bush immediately next door, and in May, it helped me

identify my building from very far away. But when we came
to pick up our keys, I began to cry—it resembles

another that grew in front of my childhood and I am
sentimental. I sat down and demanded my roommate tell me

why he hadn’t pointed out the lilacs earlier, and he threw up
his hands: he had tried, but I had talked over him.

When the kisser who recommended I take snapshots
of my surroundings came to my apartment, there is a chance

that they noticed many more things: they probably know
whether it is broken up at any point by vinyl siding, or what words

appear on the inflatable Santa down the hill. When we passed
through the park, I did attempt to capture the snow lifting

from the ground in spirals, the two bodies—one seated, one running—blocking
some light, the corner-eye view of their metallic jacket. But I wanted

to remember what we looked like to the seated person, so replaced the above
description with an imagined photo of two people connected

by elbows, which I now see instead.
My panic, when it comes in public, starts

with lost vision; at home, with the heart. The classroom used to turn
to white: I could make out, maybe, the light from the streetlamps

visible from the class’ windows, but the shapes of the students’ faces
and the windows themselves would be gone. I got very good

at remembering where I had left my chair, sitting down, and pretending
to glance thoughtfully at my notebook. If I said “yes, mmhmm,

anyone else?” my students would feel prompted to speak
without raising hands, and sometimes I’d take illegible

notes on their comments in order to prolong the period
before I would need my eyesight back. If no voices emerged, but

I could register the electronic sounds enough to know my hearing
was still with me, I would spontaneously become a person

who lectures, or I would ask them to break into groups of 3-4
to collectively answer some question. Years before, when sound

and sight left together, I would sit on the floor
of the subway hoping to faint from a more auspicious

starting position. Looking at things indirectly—on a telephone,
say—does not typically produce such a reaction.

Related Poems

Doing

I often don’t know what to do. Or if I want to.

Dawn has long broken while I still drag my feet in the mud inside my head, hope for coffee, make a B-flat moan. To prepare the plunge into action. Or not.

Maybe I want to cast only a passing shadow. Feel like my mother’s “Thank God” when she took off her corset.

But I am worried there’s something I ought to be doing. Afraid I’ll die without having done anything. “Realized” myself, you call it, but wouldn’t that just mean limited myself? A cement mixer stuck in one motion, even if it helps build a house?

So I delude myself into thinking I’m doing something when thinking. Or when descending into the night with the cat and dreams of the cat.

You say, no doing without sweat of the face, thorns and thistles, and bringing forth children.

Should I look, instead of worrying about fine distinctions that escape my eyes? Listen, instead of fretting about the size of my ears? But can I cultivate my garden without becoming a cabbage head?

The hand gets ready to write. Could we not call this manual labor? Or a stage in the Great Work of rendering the corporeal cat incorporeal while giving her body to the bodiless word? Even if it‘s from despairing of my own body?

You say, my writing is so slow it’s more like gravitational condensation. Or dust gathering on the cleaning supplies.

It’s true I’m dawdling as if I had time to watch the formation of geological layers. Though night already seeps through my brittle bones.

I certainly don’t know what to do to end my days “gracefully.” But the body dies all through our life, thousands of cells every second.

So everything should be very clear.

Sea Rose

Rose, harsh rose,
marred and with stint of petals,
meagre flower, thin,
sparse of leaf,

more precious
than a wet rose
single on a stem—
you are caught in the drift.

Stunted, with small leaf,
you are flung on the sand,
you are lifted
in the crisp sand
that drives in the wind.

Can the spice-rose
drip such acrid fragrance
hardened in a leaf?

Collude

with the anemone zero.

Drink 12 oz. of coffee in Longmont.

Are you parched?

Is your name Pinky?

What color is the skin of your inner arm, creamy?

Valentine City rebate: a box of chocolates from Safeway.

Yours, yours, yours.

In its entirety.

Don't collude with your inability to give or receive love.

Collude, instead, with the lining of the universe.

Descent, rotation, silk water, brief periods of intense sunlight
striated with rose pink glitter.

The glitter can only get us.

So far.

Here we are at the part with the asphalt, airstream Tupperware,
veins, some nice light stretching.

Call me.

This is a poem for a beloved.

Who never arrived.