“My Oldest Memory” by Luke Daly
Luke Daly lives on the west side of Buffalo, NY with his artist wife and two daughters, and he teaches writing and literature at Villa Maria College of Buffalo. His poetry and criticism appear in Basalt, the Blue Earth Review, Comstock Review, The Corresponder (Mankato, MN), and the Cream City Review. If you’d like to view more of his work, visit: http://www.creamcityreview.org/category/poetry/.
This poem is haunted. Sure, the title calls it a memory but the line between the living and the dead has blurred to a fog of pipe smoke. Curious how the room is filled with “ancestors” instead of family, how their “flotilla” rows “to a dim house in a new country” as if crossing the River Lethe. All of this before the speaker calls himself a specter, “paralyzed” in a doorway. Maybe the line between death and life isn’t the pipe smoke. Maybe the line is that doorway and he is visible to the “one/ who can’t see past her knuckles” because neither are alive. Maybe this is the speaker’s day of birth. Maybe it’s just an odd memory dominated by a bright carpet and elderly relatives. Happily it’s a poem, so it can be both.
Skinny Chick and Filament are each spectral in their own way, legibly ghostlike, caught “between kitchen and pallor.” For Skinny Chick it’s those extra long descenders and ascenders plus the slightly uneven baseline that give it the anxious feel of a child’s handwriting. Filament is that same child grown up, blocking capitals with several parallel strokes, trying to etch something tenuous into a more solid state. Together they look ad hoc, slight, ephemeral.