The Soul Remembers

Sitting on a bench
Facing the trees behind which
The Hudson flows
Caressing the island
Like a lover who never stops giving
Not too far from the bench, on which
We had sat together
So long ago
In a life that is
Less mine now than
All the lives that had come before

This one leaves me breathless
In this one, my soul is trapped
Forty years in this body, and
Still not home within its walls,
Still clutching at the bars
Unbending
Unbendable

I think of him, of
Our young Bohemian love
Who was I then?
Was that I at all?
It’s his voice that
Fills me
Takes me back
Its depth and agony

I dial his mother’s number
It’s been twenty years since I saw him
Eleven, since I last called his mother
My finger remembers the number, as if
It’s never stop calling

There is no answer
No one there to tell me that
This man, once my lover, is
Homeless now
Doesn’t recognize his family
Doesn’t want to accept any help
How could I have kept calling after that?
Why am I calling now,
Eleven years since I heard that
He had left the libraries and lecture halls
The books and promises of the
College nestled in the
Idyllic hills and forests
North of this city where he has
Returned to roam her
Treacherous streets, in a
Winter coat, in
July?
Why am I calling now that
He has forgotten whom
He’d loved?

I return to reading
My eyes caress the words
Without seeing them
Without hearing the story they tell
I close the book, look up, and
See this man, in a
Heavy winter coat
Once white
Black pants that
Keep falling when
He’s just pulled them up
Sneakers worn out from
Too many weeks and months of
Living in the streets
His hair is still the same
Knotted into short, spiky locks of
Dread
But dirty now
A halo of dust around his
Unchanged face
His glasses are the same
Silver circles around his eyes
He’d called them spectacles
He still sounds the same
He is speaking now
Loudly, albeit only to himself
His voice has never known to
Sound any other way

I sit up
My soul reaches out
Leaps up toward
This man, who
Stands but a few feet away
Waiting for the light to change,
So he can cross
Walk away
This man I’d loved
Twenty years ago
Before the streets had claimed him, before
He’d fallen victim to the system that
Would have found another way to break him, if
This one hadn’t worked

I call his name
Rise up to follow him
Do you remember me?
Can we please talk,
Just for a moment?
No, he says
Quickens his pace,
Begins to disappear

The pulling and tearing within are
Savage
It is not the man I had loved
Twenty years ago, who has
Appeared to depart again
It is his soul I’ve known
His soul I’d loved
Perhaps he had been my son
Perhaps I had wronged him
Given him away
Perhaps he had been taken from me, or
Maybe I had been the child, and
He, the mother
Who knows how these things go,
How they get to be as they are?
But what the soul knows is unmistakable
As are those whom the
Soul can still recognize

I want to run to take a
Photograph, so I can
Prove to someone, anyone that
This moment happened, that
There I was on a bench
Not too far from the one on which
We had sat together
Holding hands
Twenty years ago
There I was on this bench
Having just dialed his mother’s number
When he walked up, and by, and
Awoke my soul to its
Eternal longing that
Makes memories from
Two decades ago
Seem pale when compared to the
Memories of a soul from
Thousands of years
Hundreds of lifetimes ago

A photograph?
How desperately sad
Even if I had aimed a camera at this
Man, who longed to be invisible to the world
It would have captured the body
Not the soul
It was his soul I’d longed to capture, so
I walk away with no proof of
This moment
This encounter with
This soul I’ve loved and lost
So many times
No proof but this poem
Too long
Too weak in its telling,
Too incredulous
No proof at all but that
My soul is yet alive

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