Linda Gregg's poem seems to be just talking, nothing special, but finally it says what we didn't know how to say, what actually can't be said, about our memories.
This time of year I'm remembering Thanksgiving at my grandparents' house in Columbia, Mo. We'd drive up from Arkansas — I remember those times as being full of family, of the Boone County ham Granddaddy always bragged about, a bushel of apples on the back porch, the extra portable "turkey oven" brought up from the basement, china, silver, surreptitious pre-dinner highballs for the men, tiny little wine glasses for the women. All very exciting. I can see my nana in the kitchen, poking stuffing in the big bird, my mother wearing one of Nana's aprons, dutifully chopping something ... or, I've invented the scene out of remembered bits, out of the smell of stuffing, the warm light of the kitchen.
It's hard to be certain what actually happened and what our minds create over time. As I was working on my memoir, "Driving With Dvorak," I'd sometimes ask my sisters about an event I was describing. They'd mention a part that I'd completely forgotten, or they'd have seen it from a completely different angle, a different sense of what happened, or why.
So what is the "truth"? We aren't even sure sometimes if we remember an event or if we saw a photo and we later think we remember.
We tell and re-tell events from our childhood. Over time, they begin to simplify and solidify themselves into something generic: The Thanksgiving Kitchen, The Grandmother Stuffing the Turkey.
As Linda Gregg says, there's nothing wrong with the simplifying as long as it doesn't go too far. The tiny detail, the almost secret image that we carry, must remain — "the bite of the creek's smell," as she says. It's what the senses know, that bypasses, or slips in under, the mind that likes to tell stories about it.
There's a feeling in the heart, something that has no voice, that can't be said, that is how it was. It's inside us, in the stillness, and our words, or the words of a poem, can only point toward it.
Fleda Brown is professor emerita, University of Delaware, and past poet laureate of Delaware. For more of her work, and to see her website, go to www.fledabrown.com.