Down By The River

By Bruce McRae

Artwork, “The Day Bleeding Hearts Became Unfashionable” by Rachel Skidmore


Remembering the blue rose and white poppy.

Remembering what it is to forget,

then coming back to my senses on a flight over the pole,

coming back to myself after the long division,

memory’s little fists pounding on an iron door

like a little boy looking up at an impossible wall

of an improbable castle.

Remembering all the weeks and words in a journey,

going from book to bed and home again.

Aided by memory’s wingmen, recollection and recall.

Abetted by the flash cards of photographs and letters.

It’s all coming back to me now,

everything I’ve ever misplaced, given away or had stolen.

The dead pets. The lost worlds. The rainy evenings.

Then another memory, its coat slung over a chair’s back,

a cascade of fizzling ganglia and snappy synapses

firing rapidly at random and creating

an interior picture-show for the old-at-heart,

memory’s lodestone attractive and filing towards

a false north of the mind –

so what really happened didn’t really happen, or it did,

but more like that and less like this,

and next time we’d do it differently, we’d do it better,

or, hell, not attempt it at all.

Remembering twilight’s shrine and tony wilderness.

Remembering the tiny Buddha at the heart of the bell.

Remembering dog-howl in the all-day gloaming.

The racket of pigeons over London’s rickety roofs.

The slant snow and ice-riddled forests.

To a point you can’t remember

all that you can or can’t remember,

the mind’s theatre determined to play itself out,

its setting every place you’ve ever considered or been,

the cast familiar, you’ve seen them before,

sharing a bus ride or in an advertisement –

so memory is like a circle then,

it begins where it ends,

a little house in the past, a ghost-written ghost story,

good things and stuff jumbled up with the bad.

Storms before dusk, then wondrous nightfall.


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