REMEMBER IT WRONG
Everyone’s memory is subjective. If in three weeks we
were both interviewed about what went on here
tonight, we would both probably have very, very
—James Frey on Larry King Live
My front four teeth are gone, I have a hole in my
cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are swollen
—James Frey, from A Million Little Pieces
But I was there, 12C, window seat, and there
was no blood anywhere except the blue kind
making blue roots under the skin of our wrists.
From what I recall his teeth were all present,
ivory and symmetrical, one pristine incisor
flushed against the next like marble tiles.
Teeth other teeth aspire to be. I saw no hole
in his cheek but a razor nick or new pimple,
some red blip on his otherwise unblemished face.
Boyish. Babyish, even. The only holes
were the two he breathed from and the one
called a mouth that demanded another pillow,
headphones, club soda, more ice.
His nose was intact, straight as the tailfin
dividing the sky behind us. There was turbulence,
the plane a dragonfly in a windstorm.
My cup of Cabernet sloshed, my napkin bled,
a bag rumbled in the overheard bin like a fist
pounding inside a coffin. I was calm, I fly
all the time, but the man in question
was quivering and paler than a hardboiled egg.
Eyes swollen open, eyes skittering and green.
Or brown or blue. Memory is a murky thing,
always changing its mind. Interview me again
in three weeks and maybe I’ll remember
his wounds, the way my grandmother
gradually put down the knife after she spread
butter on her napkin. Slowly the disease worked,
slowly erasing slowly what her brain slowly
recorded over the slowly decades. Memory
is a mysterious thing, shadow of a ghost,
nebulous as the clouds we pierced on our descent,
Chicago revealing itself in my little window
like dust blown from a photo of someone
it takes you a moment to recognize.
—from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
2009 Rattle Poetry Prize Honorable Mention
David Hernandez: “You wrote ‘Remember It Wrong’ in July of 2007. You don’t remember much from that experience other than typing ‘babyish’ for the first time in your life. You wonder why ‘babyish’ isn’t used more often in poetry and why ‘honeysuckle’ stays in fashion despite wearing the same pair of bellbottoms year after year. You remember Toughskins. Their durability. Your grandmother removing grass-stains with a scrub brush.” (web)