My Mother’s Memory

By Robert Hunter Jones

“I’m losing it,” she says, and I remember
the baseline roar of the ocean coming in
across the dunes through the bare studs
of my bedroom wall the night Keith
pushed the blade of his Buck knife through
the tarpaper between two cedar shingles.

He aimed to let me know how near
the wet world was. When winter gusts
hit, I felt the salty breath on my face.
The window rattled in its mildewed frame.
The ocean muttered—an old man turning
in his damp bag beneath Tenmile Bridge.

It isn’t just memory but the critical specifics
of time and space loosening like the last teeth
in her jaw. I was the sixth pulled through
that wound in the wall—seven in total—each
tethered to a conditional dependence. If she
forgets our names, what becomes of us?

We have insulated, hung interior walls, windows
snug in new vinyl casements. Still, the view over
the woods to the dunes is relentless. Storms blow in,
each more insistent than the last. Someday the sea
will rise from its wet bed and stagger down 101.
It will be as though nothing ever happened.