It is not that I am getting forgetful as I grow older, it is merely that I am replacing old information with new, my mind is large but its capacity is still finite.
So if I forget your name when I see you, it is not because you do not matter, although that could be the case, it is simply that I now remember the names of others and yours exceeded capacity.
It is not that I do not care about you, assume that I do whether true or not, help me by introducing yourself again, a gentle reminder of where and how we met, unless, of course, you have forgotten me as well, in which case I am pleased to have the chance to meet you.
I have visited countless galleries, stared at or shielded my eyes from all manner of art, but I always read the plaques affixed to the walls, name of artist, of work price, the relative amount speaking to the financial state of the gallery.
I actually care very little about the name of the artist other than as a historical reference, for the piece has already spoken or remained in total silence.
I do glance at the title and wonder why so many artists, of infinite creativity, when it comes to words are struck mute, and tell me their work is simply “Untitled,” which for me is but another way of saying, unpurchasable.
What I most want to do now, locked in by something unseen, is to wander the streets of cities here, Europe, it hardly matters, and find statues whose plaques are worn away or gone missing, now nameless souls of once lesser fame meriting a bronze or of such ego as donating their own image to the town.
They are forgotten souls, often rightfully so no doubt, but even the forgotten deserve a name merit a history and higher purpose, and I would offer those, with Banksy-like labels, this old bearded man, now Ignatius Fatuus, best remembered for inventing the pyramidal bread pan, where each loaf is uniformly burned on top, and there Shoshanna Chesed, who pointed out that if we were created in God’s image, it is likely God is a woman given the planet’s gender distribution, before the zealots stone her for blasphemy, insuring their own ultimate, eventual ticket to hell.
But perhaps the virus will grow tired of us, mutate, and go after one of the myriads more intelligent species we have not yet foolishly or greedily rendered extinct.
First appeared in The Poet: A New World, Autumn 2020
Aunt Tzipporah hated her name, detested it really, came closer to the truth. “What the hell were my parents thinking?” she said, “like being Jewish in West Virginia isn’t going to be hard enough. On a good day I got away with being Zippy, but you try spending your Junior year in high school hearing “Hey Zipper” or having some jerk come up to you, cigarette dangling from his lip and saying, “hey, Zippo, got a light?” and you can guess why getting out of state to college, any college, was something I wanted so badly.” I told my aunt I fully understood, and she smiled, “I guess you do. It couldn’t be a party going through life with the name Shadrach Shamnansky.
They are arrayed like so much stacked cord wood, pressed against walls indifferent to their presence. They watch the double doors leading to the examining rooms with trepidation, wanting to be next, wanting more not to be here at all, knowing the options are none. He isn’t bothered by it all, this is old hat to him, he knows them, several of them know him by name. He will no doubt be here again and that doesn’t worry him, for here he knows he will walk in and walk out, the alternatives are far less pleasant, some involved simple pine boxes or urns suitable for a mantle, but none of his family have fireplaces and he would hate to be lost for eternity amid the toys and tchotchkes that so define their lives and homes. While others stare nervously, he hears his long dead grandmother whisper “Remember, boychik, pain is God’s way reminding you that you’re alive.”
He is four, he announces to all gathered at the extended family table that he will be five soon, in January. It is important that we know this just as it is important that he sit next to his cousin, for boys like he should always sit next to cute girls and sisters don’t count, everyone knows that. Four people in his class have birthdays in January And he tells us their names, we hoping there will be no quiz. As I call him to get his food from the buffet he turns to his father, and says, “Josh, save my seat,” and smiles broadly. He repeats this ensuring we have all heard. When I ask him why he says Josh, not daddy, he laughs and says, “Because it’s his name, silly, like your name is Papa Lou, and anyway he always calls me Charlie, not son.”
I speak to my father every week or so our conversations are as long as ever but we are rapidly becoming little more than a skipping record. He mostly recalls my name and the various parts one with the other of us has had rebuilt but even that is quickly slipping into the fog that is rapidly settling over him and we both know of the one part for which there is no repair or replacement.