Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Memory demands so much

---by denise levertov

Memory demands so much,
it wants every fiber
told and retold.
It gives and gives
but for a price, making you
risk drudgery, lapse
into document, treacheries
of glaring noon and a slow march.
Leaf never before
seen or envisioned, flying spider
of rose-red autumn, playing
a lone current of undecided wind,
lift me with you, take me
off this ground of memory that clings
to my feet like thick clay,
exacting gratitude for gifts and gifts.
Take me flying before
you vanish, leaf, before
I have time to remember you,
intent instead on being
in the midst of that flight,
of those unforeseeable words.

photo by bill hughlett

Someone very close to me nearly died this weekend. “Memory demands so much” speaks volumes. Giving and giving can feel like drudgery (Is it ever enough?) Caught in the mire. A slow march. I have been here before. Stuck. Hurting. Sad and Angry. Seeking communication. Yearning. And I am ever reminded of the little girl who forged her way on her own. Alone.

Leaf, take me away. Let me soar high above the pain with you. The trails of a leaf are like the roads on a map. The paths of our journey. Slow march in the heat of the day—the heat of life’s battle. Or bundled, cold and shivering in the dark of night. Praying for comfort and sweet release in whatever form it might take. Death? Peace? Are they one in the same? Will we only find peace when we finally get to heaven? Or is heaven right here on earth and we are privileged to catch small glimpses of it throughout our earthly lives?

“Memory demands so much.” Fragile child on an emergency room table. Teen with eyes rolled back in head. Comatose? Dead? Witnessing the dance toward death—a slow painful march. Memory demands so much.

Can I remember my flight with God holding me in his arms? It demands so much. The hard times seem to flow easily through my brain—present and at the forefront. But can I remember the glory? Those brief moments when I have been known by another? Moments in community battling for the glory of God?

Evil wants us to be overtaken by the dark moments—the emergency room lights—the harsh sunlight of day—the agony of watching a child leave, again and again.

I want memory to turn to the good times. Riding with my daughter on a ferry. Laughing with my son in the car. I did not know how swiftly the time would fly. Memory demands so much. I have been here before—on the edge—on the verge of losing—being left—bereft of God. I feel the rhythm; the moving away, that has become so familiar.

Memory demands so much.

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