Riley M

SHARDS OF GLASS

Shards of Glass

reach their cruel, high-and-mighty fingers out

with points sharp as knives

to mock my skin

and to tear away at the

weakness of my body

I cannot handle

The Disapproval of Others

even when Others care not

what I think about it

Glass continues to shatter

Shattered by hammers

Hammers that are claws

shredding and scarring my heart

The shards continue to point at me

as if they were young, unknowing

Children

Looking up to their hammer mothers

And Pointing

Asking

“Mommy, why does she look that way?”

And they keep asking

They keep pointing

but I never know why

Shards continue to cut at my heart

I can hardly breathe

Will these shards

ever sheathe their swords?

The pointed blades of glass that I call fingers

they are jabbing, poking, digging

at every part of me

As if I am the Earth

and shovels of shards of glass

pierce my heart of grass and ground

And it happens again

but now I am the sea

The glass darkening into the color of obsidian

The glass is oil

Polluting my waves

Destroying what was once a calm, serene, hopeful ocean

And it happens again

And again

And again

The shards of glass

no matter what form they take

continue to slit my fragile heart

Lunging to strike at every breath I take

These shards of glass reach out

But why do they reach for me

only to let go?


SNAPSHOT

A Piece of Flash Fiction

The sloping mountains and hills, blanketed by trees of dark green and amber hues, provide a backdrop for an afternoon celebration. A man and a woman, both older, stare at a photographer planning to seal away this moment in a still snapshot of the past as they sat for lunch on a porch looking out into this forested and grassy expanse. The couple, smiling, know what is about to occur, and raise their flimsy, plastic turquoise cups in celebration of this moment. The woman, with her cheerful pig nose and large brown rimmed glasses smiles as her black shirt with yellow flowers shines in the daylight.

“Hey,” said the man, gesturing towards the photographer as he spoke. “How do you want me to look in this?”

The photographer stood puzzled, twisting the camera around to find the perfect angle for his picture. “Just look like you’re happy,” he said without even glancing at his subject in black sunglasses and a white polo shirt.

Happy? the man thought, as his smiled waned, only showing his top row of teeth. How do I look happy if I don’t know what that is anymore?

The camera began to make flashing noises to seal this smile into history. “Okay, I finished,” said the photographer. The woman began to stand up, quickly glancing at her white shirted companion, who was now deeply lost in thought. She looked at the mountains just ahead of her, feeling that they somehow shrunk since the last time she saw them 50 years ago. She almost felt the feeling of warmth of her husband’s arms wrapping around her when he was a much younger man. He knelt on his knee as he smiled at her, and the ring that was in his palms so long ago had glimmered in the sunset.

She wanted to ask her husband if he was coming with her as she began to walk from the porch towards the darkly lit room just ahead of her. However, she shook her head, knowing that just like these mountains, her husband was not like he was 50 years ago. She managed a sigh as she left the porch, the man seeming not to notice that she even left.

The woman and the photographer had left the porch where they were sitting, leaving the man all alone.

Am I really happy? The man thought as the clouds above the mountain began to darken, as if to portend a storm ahead.



Yesterday’s Just a Memory

Memory is everything. It’s your brain deciding where to shuffle what so you can recall what you’ve experienced. Memory allows us to know who we are, and hence be able to identify what is, and what is not, a part of our lives.

“Yesterday’s just a memory, tomorrow is never what it’s supposed to be,” said Bob Dylan in his 1983 song “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight.”

The song, the final track on Dylan’s ’83 album Infidels has been panned by critics and fan of his work alike due to its computerized drum sound and its appearance of being a typical break-up song, according to Untold Dylan by Jerry Hallier. However, Hallier explains that he likes, “the way Dylan uses the choruses to allow the narrator to repeatedly invoke some pseudo philosophical twaddle about the significance of the past and future.”

Nevertheless, it is incredible to think that the past and future hold significance, as we hold memories for the past to mark our expectations for the future.

Remembering seems to be the only constant thread these days. We remember what we wanted to be when we grew up, we remember what song our mothers sang us to sleep, remembering what our brothers and sisters looked like when they were young.

Or not.

“Long term (memory) is supposed to be limitless in its capacity and length in terms of time. Still though, we can forget information through decay (as in short-term forgetting) and interference from other memories,” says Psychologist World. Hence showing that remembering makes us who we are, though it becomes tainted with time.

When I lived in Texas, my family and I lived in several different houses. Of course, I was around 6 or 7 when we moved to Pittsburgh, so I do not remember everything, but the house I recall the most was truly beautiful. It was gigantic, with two stories and a long, sweeping staircase. The staircase had a dark brown handrail, perfectly carved and stained from wood. The carpeted stairs and second floor, creamy, tangled, and soft underneath my toes strike my greatest memory from this home. I was young as young can be, wild and free-wheeling. The stairs were my path to power, as I stood taller than all below me. But the stairs, as kind and welcoming as they were to me, were not my focus.

No. My focus was the handrail, its dark brown stain flooding my thoughts. One morning I found my way up to the top of that handrail. After inching up to the top, I stood in awe of my kingdom at the top of the stairs, and as a good Queen (at the time more so Princess), I jumped down to the story below to greet my subjects on the ground floor. A memory I have believed true for more than half my life. I might have been playing pretend, but I know every single frame of that movie by heart, and I could never be wrong. Of course, none of the houses that my family lived in while in Texas had a staircase. Not a single one.

***********************************************************************************

A March 2015 study from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control states “An estimated 4 million households in the 13 U.S. states included in the study have a family member with increased confusion or memory loss, potentially affecting more than 10 million people.”

I remember seeing a woman shoot a man on TV. I recall my eyes widening as I saw the man fall to the ground, spilling out of his head. I can’t remember how old I was, or why I was even watching it. I know I was in my old house that my family rented, in North Allegheny. But I don’t recall what the room I was in looked like, only that it was my living room. All I truly remember was the feeling of fear creep up my spine as I watched the man die. I ran to my room, so afraid the woman was going to get me, too.

Yesterday’s just a memory, and that was a yesterday I was willing to forget.

After my grandmother died last spring, my brother was given her bacon-themed t-shirts. They say things like “You like bacon or you’re wrong” and “bacon is life.” Fun things like that.

The shirts smelled like her.

Lilac and cherry, fresh, perfect, something so strong but so subtle you just want to keep smelling it.

My mother, my grandmother’s daughter, says that it was only the smell of laundry detergent.

It reminds me of when she came to visit several years ago, and she gave me a black collared shirt with flowers all over it. My mom said it was too grown up for me, but that was fine. Grown up was what I wanted at 12 years old.

And truthfully, all that mattered was that it was hers.

I now realize that I want to remember every moment ever given to me, because as I grow older, and the numbers of people I love seem to dwindle by the minute, I get scared.

I get scared that I will forget everything about her. The way she laughed. The way she made everyone else laugh. My mother tells me that she was the most joyous person in the world, and that when she was in the room, there was never a quiet moment. And the way memory works, if we have no proof of the truth, then there’s no possible chance that it’s something that actually happened.

I want to remember moments I wasn’t there for, but ones that I’ve heard so many times I might as well have been, like how my father worked at his college library and made it onto their college pamphlet the following year. Or how my grandmother danced like she was 17 when she was 50-something at a Neil Diamond concert in Little Rock.

I want to have all of these moments as if they were my own memories, because what if my own memories fade out? I want to have all these things because I don’t want to believe that I wasn’t there, or that it never even happened. I don’t want to think these memories never happened, but if I don’t remember it, and I can’t recall the details, how can I prove it ever happened?

If I can’t remember the wars over if Darth Vader or Harry Potter would win in a fight to the death with my friends, did these arguments ever happen?

If I can’t remember why I tried to run-away when I was 7, did I ever even think of doing it? If I forget what my grandmother looked like before she was sick, was she ever not?

Memory, in theory, should last forever, but it doesn’t. It seems that the world is against us, as if it wants us to not have any recollection of who we are. Over 5.5 Americans live with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2017 according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s almost as if it’s our destinies to forget. To forget the people we love, because based upon existentialist principles, we should only care for ourselves as we make rational decisions in this irrational universe.

But is it rational to keep grieving for someone who isn’t here any longer, and will never return? Even when in the end if I lived to the average lifespan of an American female, I would have only known her for a fifth of my life?

Memory is both a blessing and a curse, as I am able to remember so much. I am able to know my name, I am able to recall how to tie my shoelaces, I can spit the first 15 digits of pi. But now that I haven’t seen her in what seems a lifetime, I’m beginning to forget what my grandmother’s eyes looked like, what she sounded like. Our memories aren’t really our memories, because who would truly wish to take away a single second of what makes up who they are?

***********************************************************************************

Clive Wearing is a British conductor and musician that contracted a brain infection in 1985 that caused him a memory span with less than 20 seconds. He lacks the ability to recognize anyone except his wife and he’s unable to remember anything happening only minutes earlier. Despite lacking the ability to create new memories in addition to his loss of his past memories, his musical memory works better than ever, and can read and play music without any issues in his musical abilities.

“The most important things cannot be spoken; that’s why there’s music,” said Clive Wearing.

Hey Porter, Hey Porter, would you tell me the time? How much longer will it be till we cross that Mason Dixon Line?

I see him singing, his head nearly shaved with snow white hair only on the edges of his scalp. The man, my grandfather, is sitting in his old, beige armchair with its checked square pattern. I can picture almost the exact same chair, but a dark red just in front of his. My grandmother is in that chair, and she has a full head of short, dark brown hair, her eyes closed, but beneath her shut eyelids I know there are shining bright eyes, excited for every adventure the rest of the day holds. My grandfather continues to sing as he looks at his wife, the woman he has loved for more than 40 years, and then his lips curve to form a smile. The day passes away, my grandfather singing, my grandmother resting, and the whole world is at peace.

I know I can’t simply pick and choose what to remember and what to forget, but they say that yesterday’s just a memory, and that is a yesterday I will always treasure, a yesterday I will never forget.