Looking Back

The past insists on being heard, like a raven
That returns to raise a racket just when
You've forgotten him, or like a mourning
Dove whose plaintive call brings it all
Back to you even though you've taken steps
To shelter your emotions from an earlier
Existence. Of course you can recall your
Share of memories, but everyone you love
Is here and in the present. It makes no
Difference to your way of living that you
Once walked through a field of small green
Plants tended by your father's friend, and were
Told that in a few years they would bear red
Ripened fruit. It doesn't help you to recall
The cemetery on the hilltop with its
Hundred-year-old tombstones and the road
That wound up to it from the creek bed at
The bottom. Friends you haven't seen for
Twenty years or more, come suddenly to mind.
Like a car transmission slipping gears,
Your life proceeds with sudden disconcerting
Shifts into your ancient history. Studying
The past is fine, especially for scholars
Who are trained to isolate significant
Events. Amateurs should leave this work
To others, rather than disturb the layers of
Previous relations. This backward-looking
Vision seldom yields a satisfying explanation
Of the meaning of it all. How much better
To remain securely in the present. Memories
Are slippery and can't be trusted; stick to
What is right in front of you. Otherwise
You'll squander all your time reliving what
You've been through once before. Why waste
The opportunity to savour something new?

©2016 Michael Fraley

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