a prose poem by Nicole McCarthy

Memory - Rene Magritte, 1948
Memory – Rene Magritte, 1948

From our Fall 2016 issue, here is a poignant prose poem about the peculiar powers of memory by experimental writer Nicole McCarthy.

{ X }

I WANT TO TELL YOU A STORY. Or maybe
a   memory.   When  I  was  a  child  I   built
forts     out     of     couch     cushions     and
ratty      blankets.     I     packed   food  and
flashlights     and     books     and     stayed
quiet    so    no    one    would    find   me.  I
stowed   away   stacks  of   coins,   beaded
necklaces,     love      letters      and      diary
entries-    things    I    needed    to    protect,
or    to    hide.

Overnight    the     clips       would       snap.
Blankets     would    lose     their     footing
under    boxes.    Holes    in    my    fortress
would    appear,   and   I’d    be    revealed.
I    sat   exposed,   in   the   middle   of   my
ruins, wondering what I did wrong.

{ X }

I   built   a   fortress   in  my   body   out   of
words       and       cement.       Incantations
reinforce          walls          composed          of
affirmations.         Graffiti         scars         my
intestines        like         stretch         marks—
remnants   of    damage    left    before    the
partitions went up.

A    city    of    memories    hum    in    a
molecular cacophony.

The   blueprints   of   my   body   are   filed
away   for   safe   keeping.  Memories   are
currency,       we       exchange       one     for
another.

To get closer or to pull away.

To heal or to harm.

{ X }

“Would you ever consider memory
suppression?”

“Is that possible?”

“Maybe. Through therapy, or trial
drugs, or shock treatment.”

“You’d be willing to damage your
body to clear your mind?”

“I’m just asking would you do it.”

“I don’t think I have any memories
I’d need to suppress.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

{ X }

You kiss my knees to part them and
whisper “what are you hiding?”

You outstretch your hand and enter
without a map.

Once inside, you search through my
blueprints, in nooks and valleys,
down short hallways to scale, for
what is bitter on my tongue.

How long will you stay now that
you’ve opened the vault?

Do you see yourself, anywhere, in
the city of memory?

{ X }

IMG_3091NICOLE McCARTHY is an experimental writer/artist who tends to work on too many creative projects at once. She is currently in the MFA program at the University of Washington Bothell and working on her first hybrid collection. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Punctuate Magazine,The Fem, Crab Fat Magazine, Ghost Proposal, and Tinderbox Poetry. She drinks too much coffee, sings too much karaoke, and has seen Drop Dead Fred too many times. Nicole lives in the real world but can sometimes be found on Twitter- @GarbyTheSass.

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