Barbara Hamby
Ode to Forgetting the Year

Forget the year, the parties where you drank too much,

            said what you thought without thinking, danced so hard

you dislocated your hip, fainted in the kitchen,

            while Gumbo, your hosts’ Jack Russell terrier,                                                  

looked you straight in the eye, bloomed into a boddhisattva,

            lectured you on the six perfections while drunk people

with melting faces gathered around your shimmering corpse.

 

Then there was February when you should have been decapitated

            for stupidity. Forget those days and the ones

when you faked a smile so stale it crumbled like a cookie

            down the side of your face. Forget the crumbs and the mask

you wore and the tangle of Scotch tape you used to keep it in place,

 

but then you’d have to forget spring with its clouds of jasmine,

            wild indigo, and the amaryllis with their pink and red faces,

your garden with its twelve tomato plants, squash, zucchini,

            nine kinds of peppers, okra, and that disappointing row of corn.

Forget the corn, its stunted ears and brown oozing tips. Forgive

            the worms that sucked their flesh like zombies

and forgive the bee that stung your arm, then stung your face, too.

 

While we’re at it, let’s forget 1974. You should have died that year,

            or maybe you did. Resurrection’s a trick

you learned early. And 2003. You could have called in sick

             those twelve months—sick and silly, illiterate and numb,

 

and summer, remember the day at the beach when the sun

            began to explain Heidegger to you while thunderclouds

rumbled up from the horizon like Nazi submarines? The fried oysters

            you ate later at Angelo’s were a consolation and the margaritas

with salt and ice. Remember how you begged the sullen teenaged waitress

            to bring you a double, and double that, pleasepleaseplease.

 

And forget all the crime shows you watched,

            the DNA samples, hair picked up with tweezers

and put in plastic bags, the grifters, conmen, and the husbands

            who murdered their wives for money or just plain fun.

Forget them and the third grade and your second boyfriend,

            who loved Blonde on Blonde as much as you did

but wanted something you wouldn’t be able to give anyone for years.

 

Forget movies, too, the Hollywood trash in which nothing happened

            though they were loud and fast, and when they were over

time had passed, which was a blessing in itself. O blessed 

            is Wong Kar Wai and his cities of blue and rain.

Blessed is David Lynch, his Polish prostitutes juking

            to Locomotion in a kitschy fifties bungalow. Blessed

is Jeff Buckley, his Hallelujah played a thousand times in your car

            as you drove through Houston, its vacant lots

exploding with wild flowers and capsized shopping carts.

 

So forget the pizzas you ate, the ones you made from scratch

            and the Dominoes ordered in darkest December,

the plonk you washed it down with and your Christmas tree

            with the angel you found in Naples and the handmade Santas                            

your sons brought home from school, the ones with curling eyelashes

            and vampire fangs. Forget their heartbreaks

and your sleepless nights like gift certificates

            from the Twilight Zone, because January’s here,

and the stars are singing a song you heard on a street corner once,

            so wild the pavement rippled, and it called you

like the night calls you with his monsters and his marble arms.

 
Found In Volume 40, No. 06
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Barbara Hamby
About the Author

Barbara Hamby is the author of four books of poems, most recently Babel (2004) and All-Night Lingo Tango (2009) from the University of Pittsburgh Press. She was a 2010 Guggenheim fellow in Poetry and her book of short stories, Lester Higata’s 20th Century, won the 2010 Iowa Short Fiction Award and was published by the University of Iowa Press. She teaches at Florida State University.