False Memory

Matthew Wimberley

“The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant.” — Salvador Dali

Later, they will say with the casual diction of old enemies of course the marriage was doomed — but no thing is final when I can make this place up one breath at a time. It is still late — somewhere not dissimilar from here the lagoon I will come to remember is only a bog a bird skims so the air between her wing and the surface has made an indentation — carved out a little ravine into this memory. So, the water is cooling wax a child will pull his finger through in a future where he watches, voiceless, sitting up at the table in a high chair while the adults argue about some other world. In front of him he will think the amaryllis arranged in a vase in the center of the table, though it will be years before he has a word other than “flower,” looks flimsy, looks wrong in the candle light and the flame is kind of trying to say something waving back and forth like a stranger across a street whose whole body becomes a shout — whatever happened or happening is unseen, something you cannot know and beyond any language but this panic and this flicker. Say nothing has gone wrong. Say it is thirty years ago. It is still late — somewhere my parents have just kissed. It is the day before I am born.

Matthew Wimberley is the author of two collections of poetry, All the Great Territories (SIU, 2020) and the forthcoming Daniel Boone’s Window (LSU, 2021). His poems have appeared in Blackbird, Orion, Narrative, Poem-A-Day, and elsewhere. He lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains where he teaches at Lees-McRae College.