The Playing Cards on the Bicycle Spokes of My Memory

Over at her Drift Record, Julie Larios points us to a New Yorker article (or is it NYTimes?) lifting up the habit of memorizing poetry. Her posted sent my feeble mind drifting in several directions:

Compass Point A: My grandmother spent her last three years in an “adult care home.” One of her housemates was Olga who had a thing for Kleenex, stuffing them in every possible place on her body (don’t ask). In two and one-half years, I only ever heard her vocalize nonsense sounds. One day, I was spending the day with my grandma and she fell asleep. So I wandered into the living room and there was Olga. We nodded at one another, with me nervously eying the nearly full box of tissues on the coffee table. Not to worry. For who-knows-what-reason, Olga began to recite poetry. “Under a spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands. . .,” and “I wander’d lonely as a cloud/that floats on high o’er vales and hills/when all at once I saw a cloud/a host, of golden daffodils,” and poems I didn’t even recognize. I don’t know how much time passed, but when her recitation ended, Olga once again fretted at the tissue in her hand and mumbled words I could not comprehend.

Compass Point B: In my term as member of the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program, I had the honor of hearing many poets, but my favorite was Marvin Bell, who recited a love poem to his Dorothy that began, “You are not beautiful, exactly. . .”

Compass Point C: While I may not be able to call your name to mind when I see you on the street, I can flawlessly recite the phone number of my best friend from junior high: EM3-6202, and the date of my beloved grandmother’s death: April 27, 2005.

Compass Point D: As much as I admire poets and poetry, my brain embraces verse as oil does vinegar.

Compass Point E: Due to my passionate study of fiction, I have found that, by accident, I have committed certain first lines of novels to memory: “My name is India Opal Buloni and last summer my daddy, the Preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”
(Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo);

and “The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.”
(How to Steal a Dog, Barbara O’Connor);

and “The best time to talk to ghosts is just before the sun comes up,”
(Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson).

Compass Point F: If you connect the dots between these compass points, you may find your way, as I have.

Or you may wander farther yet afield. No matter. Make your own memories.