My MFA Poetry Thesis, May 2012




 (hard to reproduce the format here, but you’ll get the drift. continuing to share what it is I do and have done with you.)

The Intelligence of Memory
Molly Daniels
© 2012

For all of us who live to the other side of silence.
“Memory is like           
               shifting          collage,
             a narrative                          spun
out of  scraps     and
                              whenever  recollection       takes place.”

he tells me it’s obvious i’m inexperienced. i don’t tell him
pushing my head under his sleeping bag is disconcerting.

i accuse the boy i’m dating of
leaving so quickly after sex that he forgot his shoes. he tells me i’d insisted
the night before that they were mine, and wore them home.

they wheel another college student
into the ward. he’s chanting, Do not go gently into that good night! and i think bemusedly, i could do this for a while.

the poem i want to write has the
word nipple in it   it won’t
be taut or blushed   just
nipple, right there   because
you know how it tastes   the
slight give of density between teeth and under the ply of your tongue

 when they knock on my dorm and pull me out of bed, i have to take my retainer
out first.

She drops a carton of cereal. It splatters against the
baseboards. She pauses, and 
begins to wail as though the o’s are all the things she cannot manage. I reach
to the sink with a sudden glass and open the tap. Oxygen bubbles cloud it. I
hold it out to her and she shakes her soggy head, It’s dirty. I tell her it’s
just the bubbles. She hiccups and insists, No, it’s dirty. I fill another

 months later, a friend will tell me
the only coherent thing i said that day was, i only feel normal when i’m drunk.

my breath comes short   and shallow in gasps of
clinging—No—clutching—No—manic tantrum thrashes—No!   i cannot let this go   i need this   them  
his   i need you to
make me better   i need you to
make me feel better   adore me   touch me   writhe on top of me   so in that suspension   i can feel alive   writhe on top of me  so in that suspension   i can feel alive   your breath comes short  and shallow in gasps of clinging—Yes—clutching—Yes—manic
tantrum thrashes—Yes!  malleate
me   pound me   beat me out of myself   so i can be in the quiet   beat me out of myself    so i can be in the quiet

the other patients will tell me
they assumed it was heroin because of the jutting hipbones.

and because neither of us know what we’re doing, i don’t
know my discomfort is his finger in the wrong hole.

 my first time is an apology. he puts on his shoes when he’s

 he comes over at 3am sweating booze. it burns as he pushes
in from behind.

 the scent of day lilies cloys the air. they’re
supposed to rot in dirt.

this could be anything you’d forget   or anything you remember   this could be the thing you’d
always remember   but isn’t at
all how you remember it   this could
be the  experience you wish you had   the
experience you did have   or the experience you’d wanted to have   but now that it’s happening   you’re wishing it were
different   wish it were
more   you wish you knew what
came next 

 i’ve skidded out on just-damp
pavement. the cutlass nose-deep in a copse of trees. i can’t get my fingers to
steady around my cigarette. the hicktown cops make quite a show of marching me
into their holding cell.

 My mother taught three special topics courses at a
university in the 90s. Psychology of Fashion (special emphasis on fetish fashion); Barbie on the Couch, a
Psychoanalytic Perspective
(final projects
produced several mutilated dolls); and
Female Serial Killers (surprisingly few; generally preferring poison).

 She tells me she realized if she twisted just one more inch, she’d break his
arm. He stutters from the time he is verbal.

crocuses like periscopes through snow   skeleton stakes of tomato
plants   a brick
patio swims in a decade of oak and maple leaves

 We sit on a bench outside the outlet mall. She wears
black pleather pants. I have a cigarette. She’d rather I didn’t but she smoked
when she was my age. The other two are inside some men’s store. She asks how my
summer away was and a cute boy walks by and looks toward us on the bench. She
says that he’s cute. That she’s been emailing with a nineteen year old
somewhere in the middle states. That she was going to buy a plane ticket to go
out and see him. I don’t remember where. I’m glad to have the numbing thrum of
adderall to push the din of rage and panic back behind my collarbone. At the
last minute she decided not to go. I tell her not to hit on any of the guys I
thought were cute too. She laughs. I examine the filter. My dad walks out of
the store. 

 my lips travel down his body and
freeze to a sudden stop at his waistband. flashbacks blind my retinas and i
cling to his thigh, barely breathing in the dark. he tells me that it’s okay,
that we can just have sex, instead.

 my mom later tells me she came to see me once, but i don’t
remember. she tells me i was zonked out on meds, and her voice trails off, and
she gets this terrified look in her eyes.

 my dad’s first wife, i was told, ended up in bellevue. now
she lives in brooklyn.

 when getting honest about the
amphetamines, my mom tells me her therapist insisted she come see him 7 days a
week, or be committed.

 my therapist leans forward in
earnest. you do know you’ve had a breakdown, right?

 i meet with a student who tells me not to take
split-level poetry because all the under-grads write about is date rape – so i
don’t tell him about the drunken carride from two strangers, later finding an
earring twisted into my shirt, or being turned away from four Korean hospitals
because rape is not an emergency.

i read an article on how to snag a man which suggests
that women think about something naughty when out because women won’t pick up
on it, but the men will – so, i imagine licking pre-cum from a cock, which
provides a lascivious revolt against public decorum and not undamp panties.

but, in the unwalled house of my memory, these
situations sometimes mix – and the salt sours, the armor rebuilds, and the
currency of reality cripples.

i can’t let you be nice to
me    you skim and caress
and   i can’t take it   you are gentle and whisper   and   no  
not here   there is
nothing breathing here   just
do it   take it   please don’t honor this   please  i am going to break   Please  
kindness does not belong in here

 i hold my palm against all the
objects i’ve piled in the center of my room and ask them each where they

 i’ve removed the velvet cloak from
my stuffed bunny. with my now-shaved head, we are both naked and new.

 he sounds like an impostor every time he recites the blessing over the shabbat
candles. as if crossing the border of religion frees him of his past, or gives
him access to ours.

 he hurls his words: you look like your mother. that night, i simply shave it all off.

i’m on that electric walkway at
the airport. its moving along beneath me, but i’ve lost my footing, and its
dragging me, scraping me apart as others stand so calmly heading toward their

 the doctor stares at his clipboard, a few pages up-turned in
his hand. he glances vaguely
toward me – i hear there’s something about your hair?

 afterward, he tells me he wants to take me out, like to
dinner. i ask why. he tells me he likes me, wants to get to know me. i stop
answering his calls.

 my dad grips the arms of a green plastic chair. his knuckles
are white. i’m not angry at you, he spits, i’m angry at your disease.

i cannot let this go   him   them  
what will i be without this fractured electricity whirling around my body   who will i be without you to
bring me to life   how will i
know myself?   in the morning   i remember the Beatles.  i hear them deep within my story  and as i listen   i remember:  I love the Beatles   i love to laugh at my own
jokes   i’d love to embrace
fully   without savage tongues  or suspended reality  i find myself to be a woman   scared   scarred 
and  beautiful.  and it is this constant   this one  unalterable  truth about myself   that enables me for one unguarded moment  to lean over the edge of
uncertainty   to spread my
arms   and fall in

 huddled on the closet floor, phone clutched to my
ear, my friend tells me: i’m thinking
of checking out a meeting.

this is the feeling of
your arm tight around my ribcage  
this is the feeling of your thigh soft beneath mine
sense my consciousness escaping  
it’s not safe to be here  
exposed   from so much
more than clothes  
is the feeling of your heartbeat 
gentle against my back  
this is the feeling of your lips   pressed sleepy at my shoulder
want to detach   to run away
from myself   to leave my
body  leave just two bodies   base  discardable  
this is the feeling of your hand twining firmly into mine   this is the feeling of my body
melting into yours
   but i   am human  
and you   are human   naked and safe   here  i breathe

this could be the time you get it right   the time you remember there is no
right   this time you don’t
wish it were any different  
and you don’t come back for more.

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