Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sunday Scribblings #147: Phantoms and Shadows

It's been quite some time since I've taken part in Sunday Scribblings, but this week's theme—Phantoms & Shadows—is one of my favorites. Below is a poem that came to me after a vivid dream one night in which my dead high school boyfriend appeared, chilling me and breaking my heart all over again.

************************

Penance

I kneel to you
in absolution: Forgive me, lover,
for I have sinned. It has been three days
since I last thought of you, over two months
since I spoke

your name out loud. I brought you
these flowers from my mother’s garden:
lavender, statice, Michaelmas daisies.
She still can’t remember

your name; I have stopped
reminding her. You used to come to me
in dreams; once, floating
outside a second-story window,
you beckoned. I stepped back,
then awoke, nervous and guilty.

For nine years
now I’ve carried the burden
of you like a secret child; I have not spoken
often enough of what it was to know
you. I can’t remember

your birthday—is it the third or the fifth? By now
your hair would be thinning and your mustache
thick. Your twin brother is heavy and dull;
You will never face his fate. He is like some cruel
computer-aged representation. It’s only his voice

that throws me, raspy and cracked,
like yours. And his lips.
I have had impure thoughts.

This is what your mother said to me,
here in this spot, as she handed me your casket’s
blue ribbon: you were the love of his life.
Have mercy on me,
I have never visited her, but the ribbon fit
nicely in the depths

of my wedding bouquet. Seven years now
I have been married to a man you
never knew, two children who look like

him. I must have forgotten
how, in the pain of afterdeath, I swore
I would name my son for you.

It’s all coming back to me now.
Your crooked teeth and bony knees.

~Sarah Cummins Small, copyright 1999


For more scribblings, go here.

12 comments:

Rinkly Rimes said...

I wonder if you are remembering more or less as the years pass. We often feel guilty about 'getting over it'.

Marci Johnson said...

Wow, what a fantastic poem! Really moving, and well written.

floreta said...

wow, very fitting poem for the prompt. this is wonderful. it's interesting how 'time heals all wounds' but memories can still bring us back and it aches all over agian.

Lucy said...

haunting memories
so well done!

wisteria said...

Love it! You stirred up some deep memories of pain I wanted to forget.
I still love the poem. I think I'm going to keep it with me for a while.
Thanks

Wisteria...

paisley said...

wow.. that was wonderful.. i too lost my one true love,, tho not in high school... the loss never really leaves you all together.. and yes... he still comes to me in dreams....

Angela said...

I can feel the poem as I read. Really beautiful and sad.

Lilibeth said...

So vivid. I'm sorry. In dreams we meet the fears which haunt us and the guilts we've muffled. Well done.

Alone on the Isle said...

That was both amazing and incredibly vivid.... I am emotionally drained. Thank you for sharing this, it was a real pleasure to read.

Tumblewords: said...

Unrequited love is often the best - and produces the purest memory... well written.

"Sunshine" said...

Truly haunting. I like how you connect the stanzas. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, also.

anno said...

Using a confession to structure this poem was brilliant, but then, I always admire the fine architecture of your poetry. I love the broken lines, the motive of the broken heart, and all the careful details that make this poem such a compelling read. That last stanza is a killer. Beautiful!