Scenes drift across the screen from nowhere. I can never discover the connection between any one scene and what I am more consciously thinking, nor can I ever conjure the scene back in full vividness . . .
Dillard is talking about memory. The drift of ideas and images through her mind at any given time. The present and past exist in one space. She calls it the "psychological present." Dillard may be sitting under a bankside sycamore, but her mind is asking questions. "Where am I?" "What is that smell?" "Is that a hawk I see in the sky?" All these scenes drift by like so many clouds, connected by a tenuous psychological thread.
Last night, at book club, we talked a lot about death. Since the month's selection was Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, this shouldn't come as a surprise. One of my oldest and best friends is a member of our reading group, and she was also best friends with my sister who died last summer. As we moved through the discussion questions, we talked about the morning my sister passed away.
It was a strange conversation. While I remembered the morning one way, my friend remembered completely different details. She remembers a song playing in the dark before her phone started to ring. I remember waking up my wife, pulling pants out of the clothes basket, and shivering even though it wasn't cold outside. We both remember my sister's breathing. Like the pull and tug of water on a beach. She remembers the color draining from my sister's face at 6:27 a.m. I remember silence at 6:27 a.m. Different clouds, same sky.
I'm not saying these things because I'm wallowing tonight. I'm not sad. It just struck me last night how memory works like a poem. Different images piled together to create an emotional response. We all think in image. Memory is not a novel, read from beginning to end. It's Leaves of Grass and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and Where the Sidewalk Ends.
Tonight, I'm meeting up with another friend who was the best man at my wedding. Undoubtedly, we will share memories, as well as deep-fried mushrooms and a good deal of alcohol. The poetry will be flowing all night long. We will be drunk on poetry, as well as Tanqueray and tonic. I'm talking close to 25 years of poetry.
Saint Marty hopes he doesn't end up with a poetry hangover.