Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Science Of Forgetting





The Science of Forgetting

is a difficult discipline.
A woman may study it for years
and get no further along
than misplacing last week's tears.

Deconstructing a memory
is an engineer's fright.
Remove two weight-bearing
steel eye beams' sight

and the roof falls in, with
plaster dust in lungs smelling
thick as yesterday's loving;
a month, a year, a decade swelling

up later, liquid in feverish coughs.
Touch only the tip of the cornerstone---
the burnt bridge flies back
 from the black Unknown

so that ghosts cross it easily,
notes play, that particular song;
and it's all to live over again,
over again, all wrong.

The science of forgetting
should instead be our religion
where faith can clean the memory,
and  forgiveness our decisions.


~November 2013






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A Birthday in December: Christina Rossetti
Kerry presents us with a challenge to write to the poetry of British Victorian poet Christina Rossetti, a personal favorite of mine. I was unable to come up with a sonnet or roundel, but did manage some rhyming.






Images: The Gate of Memory, and Golden Head, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Public Domain via wikipaintings.org



30 comments:

  1. I think this is a perfect reply to Rossetti's play on remembering and forgetting. You have expressed so well the awful rub of memory, how it lingers still when we long to forget. I would love to quote all the final lines from the burnt bridges, but will content myself with reading it all over again.

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    1. Thank you, Kerry. Safe travels, and hope things don't get too exhausting on your work-trip.

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  2. The first poem of hers that I loved, way back in youthful days, was the one about better that you should forget and be happy than to remember and be sad. The ending of your poem takes this from a slightly different angle, making the poem an homage to Christina Rossetti, but something all your own as well.

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  3. Agree with Kerry--I haven't read her post yet, but this seems very both Rosetti-like and Victorian (but with your own twists.) I especially like the first stanza--well I like all of the stanza but the misplacing of last week's tears as part of the discipline of forgetting is especially inspired. And the whole bit about the building and the lungs--ugh--I have that kind of lungs, so I found this very vivid. But you've used a short line--at least to me it feels short--in a way that is very reminiscent of the style. I tend to be stuck in pentameter so I think it's just amazing the way you get these short lines going. Take care, k.

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    1. Thanks, k. I've come late to pentameter--I used to think and write always in tetrameter, and could do it in my sleep, so it's not like it's a virtue I've acquired through striving...I don't use it in much any more as it is *so* sing-songy if you're not careful, but it suits Victorian poetry much better than modern stuff. I'm very fond of Rossetti--sort of a gentler, more temperate alter-ego of Poe. And I, too have those kind of lungs. ;_) Thanks so much for stopping by tonight---thoughts are with you.

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  4. A poem about the science of a psychology -- now that's a thrice-daunted charm ... There's something musty-Victorian about this, London latter 19th century, in rhyme, image and meter. The first stanza is a great setup, cinching a corset which the poem finds a way of defying, as memory perhaps refuses scientific enquiry, requiring instead a faith, a poetry, that can raise the "burnt bridge" (peaches!) and allow the past to return. And where the Victorian might simply wallow in that fin de sicle woe (Poe?) that what is burnt is ruined, the postmodern poeta goes the other way, beyond what science reaches for into a newer older faith that memory is a bridge over whatever river a person decides it should span. Or something. Anyway, loved it. - Brendan

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    1. Thanks,B. There were few apostates in Victoriana, so faith fits their era and their pov well, as the psychology you cite was barely being born--in its place they had something perhaps we lack, a sense of tradition, of wisdom conveyed from antiquity about the human condition, and a great many rules. They also were quite unabashedly sentimental, too much so for our modern tastes, but in many ways-maybe because their average lifespan was half ours--they were like adolescents,melodramatic, hopeful, insatiably curious, brave and questioning. Many flaws, too, of course, the White Man's Burden and the evils of Empire chief, not to mention women and the masses were in a rather subjugated state...anyway, I digress.Some things are more than science can deal with, as you say, and knowing the scientific answers is no help at all--it takes something completely different...poetry is as good a tool as any maybe. Glad you enjoyed.

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  5. i am not big on forgetting, when it comes to forgiveness...i dunno maybe its the shallow forgiveness that i cant stand...a bunch of people acting like something never happened while it festers inside them still...i think dealing with it helps to get rid of it...

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    1. Well, this is more like forgiving and forgetting what one has done oneself and can't change, and of course, shallow forgiveness is useless---only a convenience. But I am a bad forgetter,/forgiver, too, so I do know what you mean. Thanks,bri.

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  6. This is so lovely a real classic feeling to it. Love the thought of forgetting and the reality of memories coming back way to easily.. I think that holidays might be the worst part for many people when all memories of what's lost come back. Like this a lot..

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  7. I love that you held to Christina's conviction, with religious undertones! Your ending is gorgeous...
    I have an unique memory and so wish for a clean slate~ This really touched me on so many levels~ YOU captured Christina's spirit-she would love your poem-so do I!

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    1. Well, Ella, I am not very religious, I'm afraid, nor was the poem meant to be, though I certainly understand and have no problem with you taking it that way--I just borrowed some concepts and perhaps, symbols that I wanted to talk about here. Thanks for reading.

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  8. Joy Ann, this has wonderful rhythm that leads the reader with ease. The science of forgetting is something I work on daily for one reason or another. Thanks so much for visiting me. I have been thinking about the past few days. I hope your holiday weekend has treated you well. Yes, my Sunday has made up for the fact that I worked on Thursday. My husband and I had a feast on some tacos, we buy locally. I love the food here.

    Pamela

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    1. ¨*I have been thinking about "you" the past few days* Fingers too fast, brain too slow.

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    2. Thank you pamela--it's always good to read you and see you here.I have a package of frozen tamales from New Mexico I am hoarding for our next celebratory meal, so I am with you all the way on the tacos.

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  9. Beautiful thoughts expressed so eloquently. Forgiveness is a process ... it takes time to heal from the past. I find it easier to forgive, but harder to forget. A great tribute to the spirit of Rossetti, with spiritual undertones and a touch of melancholy.

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  10. At some level, I think those ghosts will always find a way to populate now-empty places...I'm not a student of the Victorians, but I can say I very much enjoy this composition. The lines work together so well--not with lockstep syllables, but with images and complete thoughts that carry me through. An(other) excellent piece.

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    1. Thanks, Steve--glad the rhymes didn't feel forced to you--this was originally free verse, and I didn't try to corset it too tightly in the rewrite. Hope you had a good visit over the holiday, and thanks for the kind words.

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  11. such ease Hedge, such simple delineation of a complex concept, expounded with delicate verse that makes my mouth water and presents a template exemplar to aim for. Rich and heart-breaking but without the merest whiff of sentimentality (believe me, I have a bloodhounds nose for the saccharine stench of sentiment). in reality, sadly, I have trouble interfacing with feeling which makes art, good art that I can relate to, a window opening just enough for me to experience shapes which otherwise remain unarticulated. you have a gift ergo I have a gift, a porthole facing the workings helping me to explain the 'real' in reference: the science of remembrance. thank you, best.

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    1. Yes, I can see that, Arron--I don't think your trouble is with feeling per se, as I find much of it in your work--but in being most comfortable in that aspect of it which can align seamlessly with intellect--there is a deeper abyss, and it truly is frightening to the mind, where reason has to step back, and that is difficult for all of us, but that is why we throw it into our art, where we can cage and defang it a bit. The Victorians are a piece of work, but they were able to accommodate a lot of mutually exclusive states, concepts and contradictions without losing their somewhat aggressive sanity, so I don't regret too much my sad addiction to their very uneven but dazzling accomplishments. Thanks for your assessment, and especially for appreciating the difficulties of excising the tumorous lumps of sentimentality--it's taken me years to get this far. ;_)

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  12. Shoot...I got caught up in your comments...I have to agree with FB but before I saw what she had to say I was going to say how much I enjoy your last stanza...in its summation and completeness on its own, it stands and with the rest of your poem it packs the wallop!!

    I love how your title begins your poem and the idea of forgetting being a science...true that, true that, Hedge.

    :) Great work!

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  13. My mother said she could forgive but not forget. I've always been curious about faith, and forgiveness, and your final two lines, especially the last, makes me wonder how much of forgiveness is a decision, and how much is faith. ~

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    1. I need to mention perhaps that the 'faith' and 'religion' I am referring to here are concepts rather than doctrine--as an atheist, my faith is not really religious faith--yet I don't find it incongruous that such a thing is needful to us, whatever inspires it. The line I am drawing here between science and religion is a utilitarian one, a discussion of tools and not superstitions. That said, your comment nails a lot of what I was trying to articulate--thanks for reading, M.

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  14. My Psychology 101 prof said this....
    Neurosis....The inability to forget!
    You are such a treasure to us all.

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  15. Ah. Forgetting. I'm not sure that means the hurt goes away entirely - it's just the good starts to balance the hurt - and that is where "forgetting" or "letting go" are really, in my opinion two different things. I can let go and forgive - but not so easily this "forgetting". It is what perhaps makes me cautious - makes one have to earn my trust back a bit - which in my mind isn't a bad thing. No matter the "religion" or lack there of, I think this is basic human nature - and you wrote about it perfectly.

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  16. there is profound strength in that last stanza. I admit though, I am drawn especially to the burnt bridge from the black unknown. the subconscious mind as engineer? Nice touch with the feverish coughs. I'm a steadfast fan of genuine forgiveness, having experienced just enough to know its lasting effects. This is a admirably formed poem. Victorian in quest and decorum. I enjoy reading your work very much. You have a true gift for mixing the ponderable with sincere beauty.

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    1. AN admirably formed poem. : )

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    2. Thanks, Jane. Nothing gives one such an understanding of the power of forgiveness as being forgiven--it's sad that it is sometimes so hard to come by. You grasp the undertones and layers here very well, as always.

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  17. Love this poem - so full of living (and maybe a bit weary with it, so that some forgetting might be welcome). You show that memory cuts many ways, whether it is accurate (who knows?) or not. From "the burnt bridge flies back" to the end, I stand and applaud.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg