the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Carolyn Raphael

Mnemosyne's Gift

Henry Gustav Molaison, 1926-2008. After an experimental brain operation in 1953 to cure his seizures, "HM "developed what neurosurgeons call "profound amnesia" and could not remember anything for more than a few moments. This condition lasted for the rest of his life, during which time he gave numerous interviews.

First sunset, crunch of apple, rose perfume—
the slate erased each time. No reservoir
of angry words unchecked and peaks unclimbed.
No need to count the absent birthday cards.
And best of all, no fears about forgetting.

Visitors grieved for the diminished man,
whose memory album showed blank photographs,
who had no tale to hold a passerby.
But all who saw him noted his contentment,
his rootedness in now, eternal now.


Very Personal Trainers

Venus and Adonis Health Club


A radiance of golden skin and hair,
her body firm beneath blue Lycra,
she kneels beside him,
one hand resting on his thigh.
Gently, she lifts his other leg;
their eyes look elsewhere.
Afterwards, they move to the machines:
she regulates the weights,
then counts the repetitions.
He strains, then smiles
as she whispers praise.


Leaning over the table,
he presses her shoulder,
rearranges an arm.
She floods the air with banter,
cries out as he finds the ache.
Afterwards, she trudges
on the track: large step, then bend.
He walks behind her,
murmuring encouragement.
She will not turn around.



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