Poem 13 ± June 17, 2015

Jennifer Michael Hecht
Two At A Time

Remember the first house you can remember,
how the stairway hung from nowhere,
unconnected to the floor from which you were
bounding away and floating free from the landing
to which you were flinging yourself, the torque of your perfect legs
projecting you towards your room or the room
you shared; what if you knew now
what went through your mind, not all the time
of your childhood, but just then,
just a script
of your mind while on those stairs, each time, what thoughts
would therein be recorded beyond a steady refrain of
two-at-a-time, two-at-a-time? What will you wonder
thirty years from now when all of this has the same unconnectedness,
when the office where you work will hang
in the air of memory without hinges,
without crosswalks, what litany of concern, what
delicate structure of related thoughts
will you wish you could recall, could reassemble,
thirty years from now,
when all the cars today on Broadway
are vintage cars, and we, the populace of the present,
glow out our individual and collective ignorance
of some particular future event, the innocence of which
makes us shimmer when photographed as if, if you
could only speak to us, we could grant you some wish,
and whisper what it was to live before.

Jennifer_Michael_HechtJennifer Michael Hecht is a poet, intellectual historian, and commentator. She has three books of poetry, including her recent Who Said (Copper Canyon, 2013) and four books of history and philosophy, including the bestseller, Doubt (HarperOne, 2004), a history of unbelief; and most recently Stay (Yale, 2013), a history of suicide and an argument against it. Her poetry and prose have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The New RepublicPoetry, and The New Yorker.

This poem originally appeared in The Next Ancient World (Tupelo, 2001)