Fall 2009, #16
       "Woodchuck vs. the Hank Williams Zombie"


     by Michael Kelleher

Where memory forms, beneath the skin, 
As sensation, pleasurable or not, which
Can then be stored and/or hidden, to be
Drawn upon and/or deferred, remembered
And/or forgotten, rediscovered and/or
Suppressed, how certain memories seem
To remain in the body long beyond
Their welcome, perhaps one day to be
Released into the blood by way of
A tightening of muscles, which sudden change 
In tension forces memories loose, smokes them 
Out of their holes, if you will, which might be 
A cause for celebration, and might be 
Equally cause for alarm, for they could come out
Not with their hands in the air, waving 
A little white flag, but that other way,
Guns ablaze, ready to die, the light
Of heaven and the fires of hell bursting
From their eyes, which raises that other
Question, what memory actually is,
Aside from its being a story one tells
Or a list one makes of people, places,
Events and things, or the emotions
Associated with a certain time,
Or a nostalgic and sentimental
Disposition towards the past, or a book
Of photographs or a box of decayed
8 millimeter film, or a website
Devoted to scanning the evidence 
Of a life lived, and not only what it is, but 
To whom it belongs, and what part 
Is the content and what part is the form, 
And how can it be shared, and once it has,
With another, or with several others, or 
Millions of others one hasn’t yet met,
How does that change what it is, compared with 
What it was before, what is it once 
We have shared it, leaving in details of 
Certain things and leaving others out,
Having committed the sin of omission,
Is it still memory, autonomous 

And free, or is it a fabrication 
Made to suit some past or present need,
Imagined or unconscious or real,
Or some other thing that may not be
A need at all, maybe a desire, say
For power over the memory itself,
Or over the person or persons with whom
It has been shared or over their opinion
Of us, of our ability to shield 
Ourselves from the frightening onslaught
Of memories to which the sudden tightening 
Or relaxing of the muscles might be 
Prelude, a means to show the world that we 
Control our memories, are unaffected 
By the past, that history itself is just 
A subject taught in classrooms and has
No other use as regards a life 
Lived in the present, and that to think 
Otherwise is nothing but a sign 
Of weakness or sentimentality,
Which might lead us to conclude that there are 
In fact no memories at all, that what 
We call memory is only reflex,
That in our lives we partake of events,
Which we recall with joy or disgust
Depending on the outcome, moments
Randomly seized from the ongoing,
Inexorable and infinite flow of time,
Formed into lists and histories and tales
That hopefully someone, in the future,
With different muscles and minds than ourselves, 
Will have the kindness to one day recall.