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  • Alex Garver

A Mala of Memories: A Poem


my pain

your pain

touches

my tender heart

that has broken open

more times

than I ever planned.


walks around the block

with Neighbor Ed

(when I was so young I can't remember)--

“Well, that's time wasted,” he said

sitting in his yard

after I got off the school bus one sunny day.

“Well, it got us here, didn't it?” I countered

as friends, even though he was 70 years my senior.

I overlooked his racist comments

to hear how he helped put people

on the Moon--

a cool job if I had ever heard one.

Then one day my dad and I

walked his casket

towards the Catholic priest

who wouldn't give us

communion.


* * *


a crush in high school

crushed in her car

a 16-year-old shocked to learn

that everyone I ever know will leave me

a dad-- who once carried me on his shoulders,

warning me to “Xiǎo xīn nǐ de tóu”

to watch out for my head

as we passed under the pines--

now shakes and stoops and

revisits old memories

but can't remember

who I'm talking about.


* * *


loss seeps in

like the tide

turns over rocks

like I churn memories

looking for meaning

like the summer I panned for gold with my mom

on the drive from New York

that was so hard for her

and so special for me.


* * *


my deepest pain, if you wish to know,

is when I have lost trust

in myself, my life, and my world

when I feared there was no purpose to pain

and life was a heartless fluke

like lichen growing on driftwood.


I choose to trust now

leaning into discomfort

knowing the burning stretch of hamstrings

brings tingly relaxation.


I walk with those humans

who humbly turn towards demons

who visit concentration camps

and contemplate the ashen children

who painted butterflies on walls

who remind us

of the beauty

of life and light

in the deadest and darkest

places.

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