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I find webpages and see the faces

of two of your now forty-something siblings,

and imagine how you looked in middle age.

Study even the obituary notice picture

of your mother, seventy-eight, for clues.

But you are twenty-two. It is late summer,

you are wearing white pants, a simple blouse,

you stand at a distance and smile slightly,

and let me take a photograph of you.

You are there in sunlight, in my cells -

you are there, you are twenty-two.

Meals I did not sit and eat with you,

and my food and drink without you now,

all of it nourishment for the cells -

the cells vanished along with what they held

of what I was and what I knew of you

and since replaced with new cells,

and the cells still here, which will vanish.

I saw somewhere among a poet's lines,

What is not of flesh, we won't remember.

And I know that the cells of the body

both remember and disavow the body.

And the living flesh is its testimony

that it can only remember then forget.

And the sunlight falling all around you

is timeless, blameless, and continues falling.

And what is of the body, we will remember

because it is what we can possess, though it can't last.

And what is not of the body, if we imagine

it is another body that can only remember -

even then it can't save us. The body will forget us,

and if the spirit can tell us it knows us,

or which among the scattering and fading cells

comprised us, we won't be there to hear it.

Far inside the cells of my body now,

where I am only barely a body, in sunlight

you are twenty-two, and you remember and forget,

and you arrive neither to fulfill touch

nor invisibly hold sway, and you step toward me.


Russell Thornton

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translated from the Spanish written by
Homero Aridjis