I’m forgetting my name, and how it’s spelled,
that alphabet blurred by years of usage,
letters tilting like the time-warped script
in my mother’s worn-out phone book,
its cover encased in a layer of heat-warped plastic.
I’m forgetting the person I used to be
before I got lost in the dust-streaked pages
of brittle phone books with dead-end numbers.
I’ve forgotten how to dial phones that aren’t rotary,
that circular whirr and click
humming the cadences of people now dead.
I can retrieve the dead, their faces and stories,
but I’ve misplaced their voices. I can’t recall
the addresses inscribed in my mother’s cursive
page by page in the grimy volume
I threw in the trash when she died.
But I remember the spasm of regret that rippled through me
as I opened my hand and released that store of names,
noting how the body bears the current of memory
as if it were a phone line.
I recall my mother’s knuckled despair,
that legacy that haunted me with the lure
of forgetting, till I became so successful at amnesia
I could not recall the way back to myself.
I think of all the people who wrote me letters
of condolence after my mother’s death,
those tissue-thin pages that whispered
from a distant land. By now,
they won’t remember me. If I call,
they’ll rifle through their aging memories
as if through a card file, trying to place me,
We’ll stay on the line a long time,
breathing heavily into the slippage of silence,
unwilling to say goodbye.
For more poems by Lisa Suhair Majaj check full winter 2014 issue