Tag Archive for Memory

Shards of Memory

The light steps of John O’Malley sank into the thick, muting cushion of snow without the faintest snatch of sound. The flakes settled softly in his wake, swirling flurries of a gentle blindness, slowly, sweetly tucking away all slips of sound in the deep caress of forgotten dreams. The late hours of evening had yet to pass over the day, and O’Malley’s worn leather soles, peeling and brown-black from the snow, halted their steady procession, paused, and settled their weight firmly to both feet, as their owner craned his head, one hand subconsciously clutching an old tweedy hat to his head, as he stared, squinty eyed through the snow at the large, red “Condemned” letters spelled out across the cracked and dusty windows of the old building. Marked out against the expansive white banks, the fresh new sign peered out from the midst of swirling snow flurries as a trace of unwanted color, in a world comfortably black and white.

A stray, still form in the midst of bustling bodies, collars up to the chin, cheeks flushed with cold, eyes beady and black, O’Malley painted a queer picture in the middle of the shabby street, an oddly clear figure frozen in time, surrounded by the grey-blurred outlines of rushing passerby. Stepping closer to the building, the sound of his own footsteps crunching in the snow seemed suddenly more solid, and, as he pressed a weathered hand to the frozen bricks of the towering old Grand Hotel before him, a shiver ran down his spine, an empty echo sounded down the street.

Hours, or perhaps minutes later he still sat, hunched against the rough stone wall, his patched, wet coat drawn up to his ears, his once fine face paled with the cold, tinged blue around the eyes and lips, pale blue eyes sunken deep into their sockets, fine wrinkles the only outline of what had once been. He had placed his hat before him, weighted with rocks to keep it from being blown away, and as he sat half in, half out of the world, a man who had once opened doors to him dropped a coin in his hat without looking at him. O’Malley remembered that man, the superb quality of his tailored suit, the look of respect in his eyes, the way his eyebrows lifted in barely concealed surprise, the quirk of his mouth as though unsure whether he was permitted to smile. But perhaps it had only been a dream after all…the days of golden arches , of strings of pearls wrapped around swanlike necks, of glittering jewels presented for his, the largest, grandest parties, the awed whispers of his hotel, present under even the most insincere and same-standard cordialities. Black Thursday as it was called had shattered those dreams…or begun them, for reality now faded into sublime, and sublime faded away with the snow.

The next morning an irritated demolition worker leapt angrily from his crane to see what had caused the delay, cursing as he pushed through the small crowd of workers around the condemned building. He stopped as he saw a man curled and small at the base of the old hotel, and paused. Soon however, the crowd dispersed, grew disinterested, resumed their tasks, and with the aid of a couple fellow workers, the body was hosted unceremoniously down an alley way, and buried in a makeshift grave of snow. As the building fell in crumbling ruin, and the carefully crafted might of the hotel crashed to the ground, empty echoes streamed down the snow-muted streets, lost on the ears of the deaf-toned passerby.

A Thousand Martini Hours

Working and sweating in the afternoon sun,

Old man joints aching and creaking,

Dust floating up and onto his old jeans,

Remembering a thousand days out in the heat

Working and thinking

Of the past

And towards the future

And now, in his own garden,

Picking the crops they’ll eat tonight,

Corn and peas and carrots and potatoes,

Wrestled from the ground,

A thousand dreams and memories,

Held like water in his worn hands,

Dots of moisture on bald head and gray hair,

A few hours work in quiet apprehension,

Before strain is laid to rest in brown sofas

Gin is poured and that angry juniper taste

Flows down down down the throat fast and hard

Good breath and subtly worsening speech

Just like the last night,

And every one before that,

As far back as he can remember,

He’s melting into the brown sofa,

Old and content in his home,

Unlit fireplace in front of him,

Thinking and reminiscing,

Till night falls down and carries him with it

Into ancient dreams


Old withered tree

Gnarled and knotted

Towering to unreachable height.

Lifeless branches climbing—

Escaping their host’s unhappy fate.

Hangers clinging precariously to each branch;

Clutching their precious cargo.

Such cargo—images!

Images of places, of persons, of ideas

Scraps of cloth, of paper, of photographs

Attaching themselves like parasites to any available branch.

Below them, inching ever closer

With grasping, greedy hands

Lies a pool of quicksand, without depth

Swirling in a rapid and ceaseless vortex.

One by one, each item becomes absorbed by the overbearing sludge.

Every so often, one or two will resurface

Popping up for a moment, before it is jerked back down

To the unfathomable, murky world of Lost and Irretrievable.

The Memories in a Pair of Socks

I put these socks on tonight, because the only place to work undisturbed on my history homework was my chilly attic bedroom. Moments after I had slipped on the blue and yellow/grayish wool-blends, I felt the cold, hard tile of an empty church hallway beneath my feet. The picture in my mind was of a weekend retreat, the third of five that were part of a youth leadership training program. I, of course, have vivid memories of all five retreats, but for some reason these socks take me back to that January weekend: The snowball fight. The warm, carpeted floor of the room hung with Monets. The girl I lost (not that I ever actually had her). The cold, hard tile of that hallway.

If I looked through my sock drawer, I am sure that I would find many more stories, many more places. I know, for instance, that there are some mottled gray wools with holes that could reminisce about cold-weather camping trips with Boy Scout Troop 10. They might also tell of the times they served to replace the ripped cloth boots from my roller blades. Perhaps, though, they would just complain about being neglected of late, in favor of the two newer pairs of softer, less itchy wool-blends; the ones that talk of churches, and also speak of sandals. Or maybe they would fault the black, thick dress wools with the elastic all stretched out (they have tales to tell about frigid marching band shows with the cuffs of the flannel pants I wore under my uniform tucked in so they wouldn’t show) for being part of what has kept me from camping and skating for the last four years.

I suppose it is possible that there may be, somewhere in this house, some white cotton tubes with colored bands around their tops that remember back nine or ten years to when I thought that it was still in style to wear them stretched all the way up my calves. I’m not sure why I continued to wear them that way even after my classmates informed me that plain whites bunched around the ankles were much more fashionable. I am also not sure if I will ever wear my old, gray wools again. Nor am I sure why this pair I am wearing right now wants so desperately to be roaming the cold hallways of a church late at night. I am, however, sure of one thing: in the hour that it has taken me to write this, I have remembered much that I had forgotten, and even learned a little about myself, and it is all thanks to my socks.