Drifting against the Shoals of Memory

by Berrien C. Henderson

We trav­eled sun-drowned coun­try roads
Bare­foot­ed as the day is long
Nev­er mind­ing the stones that bruise,
The bro­ken glass that heli­ographed slyly
Now become sneak-thief cut­ters of our soles.

It had rained days earlier,
Wash­ing out the lit­tle bridge.
Not that it bothered
The old man who lived on the oth­er side.
“I already have a boat,”
He called to us.
Now I think I under­stand what he meant,
For I have haunt­ed the dark bor­ders of Erebus.

Do you remem­ber spit­ting on the pane of glass?
The old farmhouse?
How we smeared sig­ils of curi­ous youth?
No.
Nei­ther do I.

These things I won’t for­get from that summer:
Tang of salt from your cheek and lips.
Watermelons.
Your bro­ken form refract­ed in water.
Your touch.
An awk­ward kiss
(noon­day-hot plums mashed together)
A nib­bling of the neck.
These things, of you.

When sum­mer ends,
You said,
We would for­get so much.
Maybe not.
Maybe the sum­mer for­gets us—
We are just way­far­ers, after all.




Some­one once told me
We all had nicknames
Whether or not we knew it.
They are lost
Like so many things as we age—
Amne­si­acs strayed from two-path roads,
Already grown to thickets—
The under­brush rustling against tree trunks
Scarred with our initials.

This is the last road you walk when you die.
This path court­ing the dusk
And lord­ed over by live oaks,
Their inter­lock­ing, rheumat­ic limbs a tunnel.
It is the same as in daylight
The same, though the signs have changed.

Lost amid the drift of seasons—
The unrest of slow-tilt­ing constellations—
You called to me from the out­er dark,
From across an Abra­ham­ic gulf,
And I saw him, my broth­er Lazarus, wake and weep.

I, too, once slept.
I woke and wept,
Drift­ing against the shoals of memory,
With­in sight of who I was.

There is a Book.
And a Stone.
I can­not tell you my name.
I have for­got­ten it.


Berrien C. Hen­der­son lives in the deep­est, dark­est wilds of south­east Geor­gia with his wife and two chil­dren. He teach­es high school Eng­lish, is a long-time mar­tial artist, and has a big geeky spot in his heart for lit­er­a­ture, spec­u­la­tive fic­tion, and com­ic books.


4 Responses to "Drifting against the Shoals of Memory"

  • This is one of the loveli­est poems I’ve read in a while-very moving.

    1 Asakiyume said this (August 2, 2011 at 11:51 am)


  • It FEEEELS like sum­mer, slow and lan­guid and lazy and a bit melan­choly. Beau­ti­ful, beau­ti­ful. Thank you for sharing.

    2 Terri-Lynne said this (August 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm)


  • Awe­some, man! If South­ern Fried Weird­ness ever makes anoth­er appear­ance, I may have to ask if I can reprint this one. Right up my alley.

    3 TJ said this (August 2, 2011 at 1:59 pm)


  • Beau­ti­ful, I agree with the com­ment that said some­thing about it real­ly feels like sum­mer. Excel­lent, excel­lent poem.

    4 Brittany said this (August 5, 2011 at 9:09 pm)