This is how I came to know how to

by EMILIA PHILLIPS

 

 

forget afternoons            crying after St. 

Kindergarten, not what happens but who
makes them

                       happen. The Red-

Haired Man. Lie down
said the grass to the sky. Lie down, said time 

to the roof. A memory of a memory, and then 

the memory 

             I didn’t 

remember until I was asked if, to—    I’m playing 

with a cutaway
             dollhouse, the others 

asleep on their blue     pallets, the corners 

of the sweet boy’s mouth 

crumbed, his eyelashes candid as what we hide
from ourselves. My arm loosens, 
                                                                 my weight, 

             my weight         falling from my earthward

hips, legs unfolding, to my feet as I’m lifted, he lifts

me up, the doll dropping

top-heavy from my hand, her hair         frayed, my soles’ 

             duplicitous shadow in the dim

window light gauzed
by sheer 

curtains that rise—       Lie down, said the ear to 

the whisper. Lie down, said 

the dark to the anchorite

             light the door     opened upon

             as he swung
             me into the kitchen

             whose song is coffee burbling and gossip

except there’s no
one now 

this afternoon, the pantry full    of graham crackers and Peter Pan

peanut butter, the bare 

             bulb is

on. Then it is     off. Lie 

down, the teacher said
to the children. Lie down, the life

             to the lie—
             the school denies 

a man like that
ever working there. Lie down in the length 

of your body, which is more
linear than
time. He bolted             the door. No,

you may not come        in, no 

you may
not        come in, knuckles 

on the door frame, freckles decimaled beneath his backhand’s

coppery hairs. Lie          down.  
Lie. Lay down the life

to the lie. Where? 
Will you? Pleat 

of khakis, 
             braid

of belt. No, I will not. You may not

come in. This is how I came to
             know how 

to forget.
             Lie down, said the whisper
to the ear,
                                said the grass
to the sky.
                                The teacher 

to the students:               Now rest
    your eyes