Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review


Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review


Article excerpt

Memory's law: what we choose to say

about our past becomes our past

-Stephen Dunn, "Memory"

I choose therefore to say that I lost the fight

because I was afraid I'd win, afraid

I'd not be able to endure the sight of blood

on my opponent's face. I choose to say this,

perhaps believe it, though over and

over again, when I'm not believing, I'm

cowering for another reason. Put simply, I

did not believe myself equal to my

classmate's aggressive fists. Look: the little

menace was a dynamo. Had I not covered

up, he'd have broken every bone

on my moon-shaped countenance, which

induces me to say that I lost the first

because I didn't want to know

the pain I had seen in so many comic books

and on the screen. I wanted to choose

not to fight another day. And

what I choose now to remember is the grin

on my conqueror's face when he raised his arms

in victory, lowering them finally

to embrace me because he knew what we both

knew, that I was a little menace also and in the

heat of battle might have found

reserves I didn't know I had, might then have

rendered my buddy senseless, which possibility,

though remote, was nonetheless a

possibility, and, as I said earlier, I'm not sure

I could have seen him in such a bloody state

without breaking down, which is

maybe why I folded, after all, or maybe not,

which is why my friend was grinning, let's say,

not in triumph but in relief, his

achievement akin to all achievements, both

a curse and- in time, a memory- a blessing. …

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