In Montreal

In Montreal, in the long gape
of my twenties, I dwelled on the rip
of wind in my childhood, the hiss
of the Pacific, which I called home.
I remembered better
than anyone without a problem,
traced the inked seismogram
of my days, the happy ones
tallest. This, I thought, was how time
should be measured,
by height, the bad days small
and fast. I passed a friendless summer,
riding my bike down windless streets.

I don’t remember Montreal.
I think I must have liked the heat.
I took too many pills, the blue ones,
and scribbled on packs of cigarettes
to hide pictures of disfigured jaws
and yellow lungs. In Montreal,
at the hard start of my twenties—
at least I remember that fear.

I think I must have liked the heat.
I must have imagined that something would come
of all that blue.
The pills I took, the wrong ones,
made memory kick and grasp.
What did I remember?
Moon-gulped hills. Being mad
at everyone. I wrote emails to enemies
that I did not send.
I wrote letters, real ones,
in the scrawl I’d perfected
in chemistry class.
I wanted to be Rimbaud.
I was too old, already,
so who could I be? Outside,
I read long books about Canada, the alien
continent that Frye had described
in The Bush Garden.
I read Wuthering Heights
and did not finish.
I rode my bike down old hills.
I sold my bike in winter,
and went home.

In San Francisco, in the thin coil
of my twenties, I armed myself
with the names of streets. I kept them
in a notebook. How else to know a place?
A doctor once told me, You will never hang
onto pictures. You can’t keep them
in your head. The pills I took
couldn’t fix that. The pills I took,
the right ones, made me forget
the rip of wind. To someone else,
a city is a different city, a world
of one’s invention, mythologies blank
or inhabited, histories faint
or aching. I was lucky to forget
what memory said.