Remembering by Susanna Lang

What has kept the world safe…[has]been memory.

-—John Hersey

But we forget, don’t we?
Not what happened, but the thickness of it.
The rough edges of the table
on the café terrace, moisture
beading on your glass. The way the woman
who would become your wife
kept pushing her hair off her forehead.
The sound of a cicada spinning to its death on the sidewalk,
a papery sound, like someone thumbing through a book.
Think of the man who returns
a year after the five-day war
in which his house was burned.
What’s left of it
still stands on the corner, so he can search
among the black and crumbled stones,
the splintered table legs, for the photo
he didn’t expect to find—
photo of a woman, her hair swept back
in a style no one wears anymore. He’d forgotten
that she used to wear her hair that way,
as he’s forgotten the stretched feel of his skin
in the heat of the flames he watched from across the street,
though he’d tell you that’s the one thing
he would remember forever.

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