By Lisa Suhair Majaj

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