The Years Remember

though I’ve started the process of forgetting.

Once an era has passed, 
the events and people that made it memorable 
begin fading, first around the edges,
hazy like heat distortion,
then as words and actions go missing, 
holes eat into the images,
and the brain plugs in its own assumptions 
to keep the film rolling but by this point, 
any number of the scenes 
could have been edited or added to the original;
the original might not exist anymore.

So before these memories are nothing more 
than silhouettes haunting the lost country,
I’ll memorialize them in words, 
color in the sections where there is nothing but emptiness, 
smooth the yellowing edges 
and sing the songs that the heart 
and the earth remembers
even when every witness has already forgotten.

I search through the catacombs,
rereading old works and uncovering relics. 
My fingers dance along the wall,
fingers retracing every stain, every smile, 
anything that I can glean from the parts 
that has survived the erosion.
Anything older than fifteen years have been erased
but I can save the rest

but even if I can’t save everything,
the years remember:
mornings of wandering the fading darkness
to get to the bus stop 
to evenings spent struggling over basic division
which became mornings of sleepwalking down Broad Street 
and evenings of trying to do homework 
with feet stomping around the house;

my Care Bears have become my little sisters’ Care Bears,
my dollhouse has become their toy storage, 
and they look even more like me
when I catch them wearing my old sweaters and dresses;

my uniform has changed from yellow and burgundy plaid
to light and navy blue
to anything I wanted to wear
which resulted horrible mix-matching 
until I figured out how to coordinate around junior year;

faces have emerged, submerged, and reemerged into my life:
best friends have become strangers
and strangers have become my best friends,
allowing me to salvage my last year of high school
after losing the first two 
and tarnishing the third;

finding God in solitary moments 
where there was no one else to listen 
except the Father;
when praying became less ritualistic and more real, 
when I spent Sunday mornings calling Daddy
and Sunday evenings sitting in the courtyard, 
admiring the view of heaven 
that opened its gates when Jesus tore them down;

Mom’s rituals of washing and styling my hair
and Dad’s video gaming nights with the family 
have become late night conversations 
about politics and my future
but we still have movie nights,
and Mom still makes breakfast on Sunday mornings 
and Dad still talks to me about the Bible;

and the years remember the days spent 
wandering around Chinatown, 
splashing in the water at Dilworth Park,
exploring the high end vintage of South Street
and dropping daydreams into the river at Penn’s Landing.

God gave us art so that we couldn’t forget 
because it is mortal and can make even pain 
into something beautiful.
If one day, I have nothing more 
than faces, expressions, and photos,
I’ll have something to let me know 
that I had lived.

I wrap these memories in lines of poetry
and remember.

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