Muscle Memory

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muscle-memory-black-n-whiteEvery inch of road trodden is an act of memory,
you said, as you held my hand, as we went on
forced marches and long bus rides, penniless
and yet, we found fragments of miracles along
the least walked paths of human suffering and dignities,
as I pressed lightly your hand, supple and human,
every muscle scarred with untold stories, unearthed
memories, as we created our own memories, bits and pieces
of miraculous road, still penniless, but we ate with our hands
the food of kindnesses, people’s kindnesses, people
who had always told us, we could only tell the story
of our scars, and we held their hand, hardened yet supple, sinewy hands
as we trod every inch of road, the least walked paths, finding
dignities and suffering and miracles, we trod on miracles
and muscle memory, while we held each other’s hand
and walked our forced marches and rode our long bus rides,
without a penny to our names and relied on people’s kindnesses,
and as I pressed lightly your scarred hand, you said,
Every inch of road is an act of memory…

2
The heart remembers everything, even the shadowy details, it recalls
every muscle and movement, every awkward dance and song sang
out of tune, every curve of a smile, every glint of the eye, every softness
of skin as we held hands in an awkward dance, every contracting muscle
as we moved to out of tune songs, and the curve of your smile, the music
of your laugh, when we danced and my hand is in your hand, my heart
was full, but it only remembers the shadowy details now, remembers only
the traces of a touch as we danced that awkward dance, a shadow of a hand,
the echo of an out of tune song, as if in a dream, shimmering and lost
like the glint in your eye, the heart recalls even the curve of your smile, as we
moved, every muscle taunt, in an awkward dance, that the heart only remembers now.

3
I have scaled every inch of you, every curved edge, remembering
every square inch of skin memory, the tingle, the warmth, the entanglements,
and you would say then, absence is also presence, that one is never really
absent, not there, but in actuality, everywhere, always there, though perhaps
only in memory, but still, there, here, in the air, in the light, in each
heaving, gasping, delightful second of living moment, and I would laugh
and snuggle deeper into every inch of you…

…’tis true, in the gracious now, you are present, although only in memory,
and you were right, absence is also presence, because you are there,
in our children’s eyes, in people’s laughter, in the slant of the light
at sunset, in the spray of waves crashing on the shore, you are there,
in a tiny flower I suddenly notice on my way to work, you are there,
in the relief found in a cold drink, in the craziest news, in the downfall
of civilization as we know it and in the rising of human dignities and kindnesses,
you are there, you are here, when I embrace our children,
when I embrace humanity, when I embrace the cold
of a life-long grief, you are, you are there, you are present, you are here…

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