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?
Neither do I.

These things I won’t forget from that summer:
Tang of salt from your cheek and lips.
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)