In Memory: Five Years Since

September 17th, 2011 § 2 comments

Did you see our brother
He was here the other day
But he only came to say that he was leaving

Who writes to dead people? Poets, artists, daydreamers, perhaps Emily Dickinson, and certainly those who miss someone lost. Five years you’ve been dead, and only one year has gone by that I didn’t acknowledge it. It reminds me of a scene from a very beautiful French movie called Il y a Longtemps que Je T’aime (I’ve Loved you so Long), about a woman coming to live with her sister after spending fifteen years in prison. In a dramatic scene she accuses her sister of forgetting her, at which point the younger sister shows her day planner after day planner where her name is written at the top of each page. Hemmed within thousands of little boxes dictating the day of the week, the month of the year, or scheduled daily obligations, were 5,475 remembrances. Though writing a name everyday is a simple task, it takes great deal of effort, like putting a penny in a jar at the same time every morning as my brother did as a teenager, to remember someone gone.

 And with a smile he told me
That he wanted just to be on his way
Across the sea no man can measure

You were my age now when you died. I always wanted to be your equal, to close the gap between us, but it feels bizarre now that it has happened: we never were meant to be the same age. Absurdly full of joy, jokes, laughter, and humor, it is unsettling that you now occupy the darkest corner of my mind. A spot devoid of images in an otherwise vividly photographic memory, I hear your voice still, coming from the shadowy depths of faded memories. Your death is the worst thing I know; it’s certainly not the worst thing I can imagine, but it’s the worst thing that has actually happened in my reality. Your memory is the very last thing I think of when I want or need to feel happiness. You’re my fix, my drug, or what I imagine addiction feels like and drugs do, and you always, as in life, cheer me up. While you are the saddest subject I know, nothing about what I remember about you is ever sad, save you lying motionless on the sofa near the end.

He won’t be back,
And the sun may find him sleeping
In the dust of some ruin far away

I went to one of the best lectures I’ve heard in a long time last night, by the dreamy, poetic Spanish artist Elena del Rivero, who expressed about her work an endless number of applicable sentiments. Her studio, located a hundred feet from the south tower of the World Trade Center, was all but destroyed when the tower fell, leaving her space filled with debris. Out of the tragic waste that filled her studio she began making new work, not political in nature, but personal. Dealing with the unexpected event as best she could, a new body of work emerged that has been getting a lot of attention here of late. About her work she said things like, “the conversation I want to have, really, is silence,” and, “like my work, I try to mend my life,” and, “I wish to go beyond the autobiographical.” When asked if September 11th changed her life and work she said no, but with a wistful smile she added, “my life has changed because I’m older.”

Did you see our brother
He was here the other day
But he only came to say that
He can’t breathe here

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