by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
It happens surprisingly fast,
the way your shadow leaves you.
All day you’ve been linked by
the light, but now that darkness
gathers the world in a great black tide,
your shadow leaves you to join
the sea of all other shadows.
If you stand here long enough,
you, too, will forget your lines
and merge with the tall grass and
old trees, with the crows and the
flooding river—all these pieces
of the world that daylight has broken
into objects of singular loneliness.
It happens surprisingly fast, the loss
of your shadow, and standing
in the field, you become the field,
and standing in the night, you
are gathered by night. Invisible
birds sing to the memory of light
but then even those separate songs fade
into the one big silence that always
seems to be waiting.
Once upon a time, before the invention of touch but long after writing, there was a voice on the wind that spoke to a boy and the voice sounded like the petals of a rose unfolding. “I offer you a wish”, said the voice. “What is the price?” asked the boy. The voice came closer, with a rustle like red feathers. “You must remember that I am real, even when it will make you unhappy.” The boy stood and thought, his face as serious as his face could be, then said, “That is a fair price. I will accept your wish.” And then there was a flash and he flew away.
I have now filled an entire recycling bin with discarded photographs. Close to an entire ten year history, destined for shredding. I have been scanning them, envelope by envelope, and throwing out the negatives, taking an entire day to do it, digitizing my past in the name of a better future. (Lung visited yesterday, looked through some of them, said, “Fuck, you need better memories.”) It is interesting how it still feels a tiny bit taboo, even as I find myself enjoying the act of throwing them away. Two piles: one for recycling, the other to be burned.
Meanwhile, I wonder if I should be better documenting this apartment, this nest that David and I have built together. Taking pictures of what we’ve done with the walls, how we’ve arranged our furniture, decorated the windowsills with plants. The place is changing, the illusion of permanence dissolving as my things leave, either given away or sold. I wonder how I will look back on this apartment, at our time together. Will I miss it? Or do I feel it’s more a duty to take note of my existence, archive it, surroundings included?
Going through old photos has only reinforced the notion, as I’ve been discovering that I don’t have any photographs of the many, many places I’ve lived, like my teenage bedroom, wallpapered in art posters and poetry, or the room I painted over by Victoria Drive to look like a sunset, stars made from pie tins thumb-tacked to the ceiling, with the tree in the corner that I hauled in from a wind storm and hollowed and carved into a shelf. Rare, even, to find pictures set in my old places, like the one of a friend who happened to be sitting on the couch in the converted storage unit I lived in with my first love in Toronto. Not that it shows nothing of any relevance, only a guy playing video games, homeless as his own apartment was being sprayed for roaches. You can’t see the absurd scope of the place, the huge roll-up door that sounded like thunder anytime anyone went in or out, or the hobbit-sized floor above, accessible only by a rough wooden ladder, which was our “room”, our bed under green hand-prints which probably only now exist as echoes in my mind. The list goes on – the cavernous ex-bank with the working vault that Grady found in the downtown east side, the terrible basement on the north shore with the deviant landlord, the house on 53rd with the gold and black velvet wall where that old guy tried to kidnap me – all of them worthy of being preserved, if only so I remember that once upon a time I lived there. It’s like I abandoned my history, as if because my life wasn’t happy, none of it was worth keeping. It seems negligent, as if I should have been preserving these places as I went, offering evidence that we existed there, that our lives once gave these buildings meaning.