The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Will Greenway
The Encumbrance of Things Past
All the happy memories make me sad,
as do the unhappy ones.
When my head hits the pillow
the cancan queue streaming between my ears
becomes a conga line of accusations,
like drunken conventioneers convened each night
wearing the white shoes, belts, and bell-bottoms
of a distant, dismal past.
After the car accident that tipped
my mother over into the dementia
that would kill her, the attic of her brain,
full of the stuff of what was,
was locked away.
Memories lived now only in that house--
not this house, but my happy house
over there--only there was no over there
over there, never had been.
Grandmama had one of the first
lobotomies, became quite chipper at the end
but could never remember her husband
of forty years.
These same genes are probably circling
in the helix, the spiral staircase climbing
to my own anteroom, so that
when my daughter gets pissed at me
once again, attacks my books
on the bedside table,
stomping on my Swann’s Way,
maybe someday she’ll come to know
that Proust never wanted to go to bed
either, and that connection will be the neuron,
axion, whatever, as if she has eaten something,
a cookie maybe, whose taste takes her back
to the now, and the love her father has for her
once upon a time.
It’s what that olden poet
called the body, bānhūs, soft shell
of flesh housing the hard framework,
like the two-by-fours
I used to nail into two-stories
to get through college.
All my joints—jaw, knees, elbows, ankles—
clicking now like a room full
of typewriters, writing the saga,
I suppose, of my own ending
mouldering in the grave or
lying in the ashes of the crematorium,
with what even bony Beowulf
only had left for the final fight
with the breath of a dragon.
William Henry Greenway, Reverend, 1920-1974The Jeep bounced him high,
and when he came down
his back was broken. A body cast
and Red Cross cigarettes for months,
and for the rest of his life a ruptured
diaphragm, the pain so bad,
many nights he slept sitting up.
As a boy, I saw him once
almost collapse when his nephew
gave him a bear hug.
The government did not help,
nor did his prayers.
When his heart failed, too soon,
the doctor said the bulge
had pressed on his heart, like
scar tissue from a battle,
or a deformity from birth,
like a club foot, or a hump,
as heroes sometimes have.
Copyright 2006-2012 by Cook Communication