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WHAT THE HEART REMEMBERS

A young girl is reading in a white armchair.

On the crimson tablecloth is a pink rose

in a glass of water. (She has kept the bloom

from when she was weaving flowers – its petals

superfluous to her design). The book

she is reading she first read three years ago,

when she was seven: its themes – of childhood,

and alchemy, and unambiguous frontiers

only beyond which evil thrives – enclose like

the high arms of her chair, though she is tall,

and is lithe like a fawn. In another room,

socially distant on a coral sofa

with deep cushions, an old woman, lovely

as she has always been, is reading a book

she has never read: about murders,

in a city – of revolution

and compliance, of concrete highways

and ancient lanes – she will never travel to;

of love difficult, transcendent. An old man,

shorter than he was, and a mite ursine,

socially distant on a chaise longue

in an adjacent room, is also reading

a book he has never read: a walled garden

of distant voices; unrequited love;

age and youth immured in anxiety; fire

the inexorable destination,

and the anonymity of ash.

 

Tomorrow, because to be human,

almost whatever the odds, is to try

to be hopeful, the girl will climb the stairs,

and the couple, at her call, will leave their books,

and become spectators. At the fourth stair

she will stop, turn, and, using the banister

for leverage, jump up into the air –

the ancient balustrade and balusters,

indifferent to the fall of empires,

will quiver like saplings.

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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5 Responses
  • Kate Harrison
    July 24, 2020

    I love the idea of you all reading in your separate spaces, but picture the words all rising up and mixing together, and floating through the house, and disappearing through a window, to be reassembled elsewhere into a different tale.

  • John Huddart
    July 24, 2020

    Utterly magical. One hopes permission was obtained from all three parties for elements of the description!

  • David Selzer
    July 24, 2020

    And I love the picture you’ve created, Kate. Thank you. Another poem perhaps?

  • Sally Young Eslinger
    August 16, 2020

    Oh! Deep! I cried by the end of this! Next week my Jim and I celebrate our 36th year of required love, truly one of the greatest gifts and graces from God… a couple being each lover and beloved.

    All the images within this poem: forgotten and discarded pink petals, leaving bare stems to (I assume) magically bloom again; the girl, protected by her chair, reads about vast far, evil empires; the older woman in a large tale of verboten topics from travel to murder, probably winning her sympathies on several fronts: the older man held, not by a chair, but a fictional walled garden and within, as within his thoughts, hearing luring voices: the old wooden supports of the stairs acting still like springy, young saplings when yanked, and the ritual, probably gone on for years, like the mutual reading, of the girl in a magnificent flight of “Watch me!” down the bottom stairs. (We all did that at my house.)

    I think this is more about ritualized life than any feelings of sexual seeking, more of an incompleteness due to ages or life choices, than any present or pervasive disappointments to be consciously found in the escape of their reading, for people tend to read when they like to, or perhaps otherwise whine on phones or in bars.

    It indeed IS a characteristic of humanity to CHOOSE to be hopeful, while knowing we are bound for ash that will not come with a label presenting our greatest hopes.

    As humans, we also desire to be one of the All…and we hope and need love within our lives. The love spoken for in this poem is resounding. As I became paraplegic 8 weeks ago and my Jim’s love for Us must tend to my every need — I could feel that hoping for such love with this magnificent poem, and that brought my tears, Be well, David. Thank you!

  • Alan Horne
    September 4, 2020

    A cracker, David! I can’t add anything to the well deserved praise already offered by others except to say that I read it once, quickly, on a train, and since then have every so often thought, “What was that poem of David’s? Where the hell is it?” until I had to track it down. It’s really something.

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