Tripping on Memories

"Embracing the Mess" published in Vox Populi


For me, part of meeting grief has been the practice of welcoming memories. I explore that in this poem, “Embracing the Mess,” which was featured on October 19, 2022 in Vox Populi.


Embracing the Mess

For my son

 I didn’t know you used to straighten 
   the shelves at the toy store in town
     until tonight, when my friend told me
you used to go there to play after school
   while hanging out with your friends, and then,
     to her shock, you’d put everything away.
No other kids ever did that, she said.  
   But that was your nature—
     you who kept rows of mechanical pencils 
in perfect lines on your desk.
   You who ate one thing at a time on your plate.
     Sometimes I pull out memories of you
and scatter them all over the house—
   memory of smelling all the spices in the spice drawer, 
     memory of building pirate ships out of couches, 
memory of playing Legos on the floor. 
   Setting up the drum set in the doorway. 
     Playing chase to Krishna Das before bed. 
They’re everywhere, these memories. 
   I don’t even try to stack them away 
     in the closet, color coded, neatly folded,
though that is in my nature, too. 
   I like it best when the memories are everywhere— 
     and I stumble over the ghosts of wooden train tracks, 
trip on the spot where you used to do push-ups, 
   fall all over the memory of your ski gear, neatly laid out,
     and there, on the piano, I remember it well,
your music spread out next to mine.