September 17, 2003

Carpe Diem
-- by Lynne McMahon

Is it memory that makes us whole?
The question was posed by the ten o'clock news
investigating Alzheimer's and stroke,
the key network of synaptic fuses
blinking out, the brain's small cities polled,
found empty across the vacant mews.
Where are the poplar trees, where's the bench
you made, the wallpaper irises you glued
in strips? Home vanishes inch by inch.

Is love, too, cobbled out of past?
What will become of us, landmarks gone?
Dante's worst pang, the knowledge of happiness
lost, would be mine, but wrong
to think you'd feel it less—
you might sense an absence dawning,
it dawns on me, in another's face,
a bewildered sorrow you'd try to calm,
too instinctive in you to be erased.

But I'm willfully naive, I'm told.
Instinct, too, can be extinguished,
the present tense grotesquely folding
in and over on itself, contextless
and dangerous in an endless scroll
of carpe diem. Where's the face I know,
the hands I've memorized and kept?
Is it memory that makes us whole?
Is love over when memory is spent?

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