Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Pondering the Question

Last summer, I challenged readers to write a "burning house" poem: if your people and pets were safe, what would you rescue from your burning house? This was Stacy's poem, and I'm privileged to share it with you. 

Pondering the Question
I.
If I had to leave my home?
Evacuate.
Flee before the flames,
Retreat from the advancing wildfire.
To preserve my life, my loved one’s lives.
What would I take?
What would be important to me?
Too important to leave?

I have been pondering the question.
Thinking.
Not of ID and insurance,
Titles, deeds and bank documents.
What possessions do I need?
What material goods?
What objects? What things?
What stuff do I need from my life to continue that life?

Well, obviously, I will need my computer, my phone.
How could my life as I know it continue if I lose all of my electronic information?
What else would I have to take?
Photographs of course!
All those irreplaceable images and memories of people and places I love.
Captured on paper and stored in boxes. 
(Not uploaded to digital format yet because I do not have the time)
Scrapbooks and mementos of my life, I will need these.
My jewelry.
My Grandma’s ring.
My Mom’s favorite cross,
The one we put on her for her funeral viewing.
The earrings I have been collecting since High School.
Surely I must have these precious items!

Would I have time to get my books?
The ones I paid retail for?
The ones that were beloved gifts?
Thrift store and library sale treasures bought on the cheap?
All of those?
I have to have my books!
To have my own life still, after the fire, won’t I need my books?
Where do I stop? Draw the line?
Do I take all my clothes?
Coffee cups and espresso maker?
Chef knife and silicone spatula?
Art, furniture, sheets and towels?
Where will it end?
What do I really need?

I have been pondering the question.
Thinking hard about my life.
Considering what I need.
My life, my loved one’s lives and maybe, just maybe, a file of important papers.
That is what I need.
My life, my loved one’s lives.
Really.
That is all I need.
Not all I would want,
Not all I would hope to save.
But really, all I would need.

II.
If I had to leave my home?
Evacuate.
Flee before the flames,
Retreat from the advancing wildfire.
To preserve my life, my loved one’s lives.
What would I take?
What would be important to me?

While pondering the question,
Thinking hard or in passing thoughts
I wonder.
What do I really need?
I know my computer, my phone, would ease the transition to a post fire life
My photos, mementos and books would aid in continuity from my pre-fire life.
Art, housewares, personal possessions would soften the move to a new place.
A new home. A new life.

Pondering the question and thinking of all my stuff.
Would I need it? Have to have it?
The possessions? Objects? Things?
Need? No.
Want? Yes.
Of course I would want them.
Those special treasures, those precious objects are links.
Tangible links to people, places and times I love.
Physical objects representing things I have done and seen and shared.
They reinforce my memories, aid my recall,
Of those people and places and actions that shaped me and my life.
These emotionally weighted objects trigger a response in my brain
Connecting me in my present to me in my past.
Losing these tangible pieces of my life would be brutal.
Hard.
Devastating.
Yes. Losing them would be devastating.

III.
Pondering the question
I know that if I had my life, my loved one’s lives
That I could live without all the rest.
Yes. Thinking hard I could lose it all.
Every object big and small.
Every item expensive or cheap.
Every thing important or trivial.
I would survive losing them all.
I would mourn the loss.
But I would survive.
Mostly I would mourn the weakness this loss would generate in my memory chain.
Mourn the vacuum, the gaps, the access to these precious clues.
Clues that cement my life experiences to my person.

But, while pondering the question,
When I think of what I know, what I remember
How much these memories are connected to objects,
How many objects and their accompanying memories I have forgotten, shed or lost.
How in my present,
I do not know which objects will be memory lodestones for the future me.
I do not know if objects will be memory lodestones for the future me.
I do not know that the future me will have any memories.
I think about how fragile memories are.
How easily lost or broken.
That makes me think of my Grandma.
Her loss of memory.
Her loss of Identity.
Her inevitable loss of life.
She still has the physical objects of her long and full life.
Her papers and books, photos, art and household.
She has her house but has lost her home.
This place and these things no longer have any connection to her and her person.
The wildfire of Alzheimer’s has burned them to ash.
Much like her I have collected things,
Things I plan to love and enjoy and the build a life with.
Pondering the thought of losing my things and then extending the thought,
Facing the possibility of losing even the basic knowledge of those I love.
Losing the basic knowledge of who I am.
What would be left? Anything?
Will she, would I, in losing our things, our memories, our very identities
Lose everything?
Pondering that thought,
I do not think so.
I hope that we do not.
I have faith that we do not!
I believe that even though her memory has gone, that one day my memory may go
That in our brains and bodies, our very cells,
That every moment, experience and loved one is recorded and remembered.
Safeguarded by our souls. 

- by Stacy McKnight

Feel free to share your "burning house" poem with me

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