My Mother’s Memory

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.

Robert Hunter Jones’ Winter Garden won the 2014 Gerald Cable Book Award, a first book prize juried by Dorianne Laux. His poetry has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, Northwest Review, Poetry Northwest, The Seattle Review, Poetry Daily, and Verse Daily, among others. His second collection, Coasting In Neutral, will appear in 2022 from Silverfish Review Press.