Jessica Moore: In ten minutes, aside from what you write down on this paper, all your memories will be erased

In ten minutes, aside from what you write down on this paper, all your memories will be erased 

I would keep the dark basement, and I would keep the eye 

of the furnace. I would keep the underwater, the click

of the needle, the soft pulse of toads

inside cupped hands


I would keep laughing till our bellies hurt 

on the bus to your grandmother’s farm 

The pig who ate the mitten. The weedy passages 

between lakes, and that I wasn’t afraid


Stars above and snow beneath

the silent forest and my mother pulling the sled

Stars above and stars beneath

phosphorescence in the nighttime sea


I would keep my grandmother’s voice, you wicked girl

and fighting not to burst out laughing in the taxi

as the ancient driver jolted us to College and Bay

Her pale eyes smiling, the way she said my name


Coffee in tin cups and fire smoke

three crows and the gossamer

wings of clouds


Comfrey at the furthest back corner of the garden

Blue mornings and the shallow sound 

of carrots pulling free


I would keep the closeness of women, and the island 

where once we docked, brilliant dark blue lake 

behind us, climbing up past yellow flowers 

into a place all our own


I would keep the whales, but not my mother’s remove that day


I would keep the wolf who held my gaze. I would keep the tent walls beating 

all around us but not the rest, not even the night you taught me to two-step

and not the time I wept beside creosote, antelope turning like birds

I would keep John Berger, a skin of water flowing continuously, the paragraphs 

I set to memory after the terrible accident


The way I lean into you at the piano

which is the same way you dive into every single body of water

with something more heedless than faith


I would not keep the first kiss 


—but I would keep that first kiss, oh god yes

and the worn wood floor in the Junction 

and the gift of my own body given back, the spiral of my ear


I would keep the tandem bike, the bus station in Mexico

the wide window in your loft and the smell of bread rising

The night we began, every night we began, the promise 

and the moment just before—


Would I keep all I’ve learned since you died?


I would keep that thing I’m always chasing which is the wild aliveness pulsing just behind things, and you can’t look for it, just like the smell of those grasses somewhere in South Carolina so drifting and sweet there was nothing to do but lay down, winds combing us, and wait


I would keep the dream that woke me, pregnant, a shining inside like a lamp 

before I remembered the gray 

(but really, I have never felt more clearly such joy in a single moment, and it was like a lamp

placed there so I might remember)

I would keep holding you on my chest, two months old, that same light radiating through us


Getting stranded on the sandbank when the tide came in, I would keep that too 

I would keep dancing, yes that, and the way the desert sky has blown me open 

even to such a keening edge. I would keep singing, every harmony ever swallowed  

and every rhythm learned in my limbs, the black dog in the night 

and the floors of the barn covered in sweet gale


I would keep almost leaving my body, laughing at the trick


I would keep the edge of the cliff

Read Jessica Moore on porousness and the making of this poem in our brief Q&A. 

(First published in Arc 100. Shared by permission of the author)