My new poems podcast, Words by Winter, can be found here.
When we were little we weren’t supposed to swim for an hour after we ate, because if we did, cramps will seize you and you’ll sink to the bottom and drown. Or something like that. And when we got drunk or high we were killing off brain cells that would never be replaced, because you were born with all the brain cells you’ll ever have. Or something like that.
Both false, along with a lot of other things. Sometimes I wonder about the things I believed, and maybe still do, like the idea of a soul that’s unchanging and the essence of who we are.
But what if there is no soul? What if the person you are in the moment is just that, the person you are in the moment, not who came before and who will come after? What if everything you forgot isn’t buried inside you somewhere, it’s just. . . gone? These were the questions floating through my mind on a thousand-mile drive last month. The little girl I used to be rose up in my mind, her serious eyes and wondering heart, calling to me from long ago and faraway.
Leaves, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Years do odd things to identity.
What does it mean to say
I am that child in the photograph
at Kishamish in 1935?
Might as well say I am the shadow
of a leaf of the acacia tree
felled seventy years ago
moving on the page the child reads.
Might as well say I am the words she read
or the words I wrote in other years,
flicker of shade and sunlight
as the wind moves through the leaves.