Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Way Words Echo in Our Heads

I wish we could hear them just once,
instead of over and over.

One day, tired, I sat down on the couch
just to listen to the ringing in my ears.

My eyes are so deep-set in my head
it makes it hard to see

past the memory of lost glamour,
being born too late, living in the shadow

of a beautiful downtown turned into
a ghost town, a hollowed hulk,

and how that itself now turns into
a memory of treasures,

how when something taken for granted
is suddenly over, the pause when you take stock

and realize you’ll never have as much,
that change is always a lessening,

the wall effect, you can’t see what’s next
even though it’s supposedly obvious.

I don’t know what to say about that,
I mean, I’m just barely here.


Copyright © 2020 by James Cihlar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I was thinking about how remembering is different from memorializing, and how both are a sort of a cyclical, communal activity. I’m a member of some online groups that post old photos of the cities where I’ve lived. I like reading all the comments people share, which always sound so happy and appreciative, even when they are describing places that I remember as failing at the time. I had heard a journalist who had interviewed trauma survivors describe the experience of being so stunned that they cannot picture the future, even the next day.”
James Cihlar


James Cihlar

James Cihlar is the author of The Shadowgraph (University of New Mexico Press, 2020). He is a Senior Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Minnesota and lives in Saint Paul.

Date Published: 2020-11-03

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