Home > Journaling the Apocalypse > Memory as Lighthouse, Memory as Bomb

Memory as Lighthouse, Memory as Bomb

October 29, 2008

They told me I would not remember
but the rootholds of the mind are rigorous.

Amnesia is not a choice, not a warranty of anesthetic,
not the brain’s sophisticated segregation

of experience deemed injurious to function.
Rather it is the story of the vessel arriving in the bay

that we cannot see because we do not know ship
but do know disturbance on the surface

and if we peer and puzzle at the water’s strange course
the craft comes into view, a miraculous assembling.

Once comprehension rives them, we cannot see
the woman’s face and the image of the vase as one.

The memory center may be flooded with the medicated
smoke that expects to still the hive, to lure

the soldiers into dereliction of duty but even so
the trip-trap footsteps of the hunched figure

ascending the 210 stairs of the lighthouse
continue their rhythm. I cannot forget

the truth revealing itself, a disturbance of flow
and then stunning materialization,

a brilliance like bombs exploding,
a white light that sears the skull and throbs

in the chemical reuptake between cells,
replicating history, insisting on full recollection.

by Kelly Madigan Erlandson

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  1. October 29, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    wow. This is terrific.

    funny, I lit on the poem at the second stanza and read it as “America is not a choice…” which also made perfect sense, and gave me two poems for the price of one, when I reread it :-)

    These lines —

    The memory center may be flooded with the medicated
    smoke that expects to still the hive, to lure

    the soldiers into dereliction of duty…

    are my favorites, but the whole thing sings. & stings.

  2. October 30, 2008 at 8:33 am

    I thought it full of good ideas and some brilliant images, but was left with the feeling that it might have been more telling as prose poetry. I maybe need to read it again – I think there is more in it than a single reading might unravel.

  3. October 30, 2008 at 11:54 am

    I don’t know, Dave — seems to me that the very denseness of images and ideas that invite a second reading rather militate against a reorganization into prose, where one would lose the enforced pauses and white space of the current arrangement. But that of course is for the author to ponder. (Thanks in any case to both you and Dale for the comments, here and elsewhere. Beth and I really appreciate your vocal support for qarrtsiluni’s contributors.)

  4. October 31, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Lovely piece on consciousness and subject-object duality, with a wide vocabulary attuned to the difficulty of expression. The journey from amnesia to the lighthouse is brilliant. All in all, an exceptional work.


  5. sherry o'keefe
    October 31, 2008 at 4:00 pm


    the trip trap footsteps ascending the 210 stairs! that section of the poem has brought me back to read this poem several times.

    tremendous work.


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