the perfidy of memory


Three café explorations.

“Reality serves at memory’s pleasure,”
something I read somewhere.

I have a tattoo with the very same words.

Quite the coincidence.

I’m whimsically curious about your reading choices,
about the when and where.

Details I’ve forgotten, I’m afraid. I wasn’t paying close attention.

She offered me the pack of Marlboro Memories,
and I’d finished one a moment before,
a fade of smoke, an echoed warmth
congealed against the throat.


I squinted at the blackboard menu, chalked, rechalked,
patchworked with erasures, crossings out.

I’ll have another latte, Abstinence Three’s on special.
First sip is three-day retrograde deletion
of memories of caffeine. Peak craving, so they say.

How’s the bird repair shop going?

As slowly as an infinite regress, as a pointless verse;
leak repairs for a scuba diving cormorant,
an orthonormalizing engine for an interstellar sparrow,
and for a boa, feather implants. 

When I asked about her notes,
she turned the page through space and time
from twelve to three o’clock.

What’s been redacted?

Your second coffee erased your recollection of the first.

Did someone say, “We’re made of memories”?

Deleted from your personal timeline
along with coffee number one.

She leaned across the table in a cloud of scented whispers.

It’s the latest in synaptic fashion: customized forgetting.
I’ll be erased from you, a month of us together gone,
and when we meet tomorrow, it will be a celebration.
Magic and the night, the Transcendent Trattoria
with cacciatore free-range chicken,
liberated from their earthly cage.
Querida, if you love me, won’t you please forget me?

Every moment is a token we’ve created,
coffee instants, you and me in post-it note reminders
We’re made of what we make ourselves
in pendant circularity, spirals paired and interwoven.
So no,
amor. I won’t.


  • memory also has persistence and persimmonence
  • Perfidia (Spanish) Linda Ronstadt version
  • Marlboro is a trademark of Philip Morris
  • Post-it Note, 3M trademark

artwork lost city nights, detail above

35 thoughts on “the perfidy of memory

  1. three-day retrograde deletion
    of memories of caffeine – I’ll have one to go, please.

    So no, amor. I won’t. – and neither should you.

    Excellent cafe capture, Steve. I’m sure I’ve been to each.

    • You might have to wait a while. Playing with memory in fiction is quite common, but apart from total memory loss, I’m going with it can’t be done. I think the details of what we remember, consciously and subconsciously, are so interwoven in our minds that there’s no way they could be erased. Thank you, Frank, and I have some idea what you mean. PS: I’m playing catch up, thank goodness for Anzac Day.

    • Which leads to – how can you remember something that is made up of instants, now gone. Making the memory is ‘new’ every time and therefore different (I think). Endless fun in these concepts, but leaves me crosseyed.

    • Me too, memory and the related subject of time travel turn my head inside out. I’m guessing we don’t remember the instants usually, we’re remembering things in some integrated way, more conceptual, part of them being woven in. I read somewhere that we don’t remember smells at all (a very primitive chemical sense), and that’s why when we smell something it can be so evocative of other memories. I don’t know if that makes sense, but there it is. 😃

  2. …”free-range chicken liberated from their earthly cage”…why do so many humans choose not to do the same and simply say I won’t? Here’s to great poets and solo spirals 🙂

    • Thanks, Sobhana. I don’t really know, but one thing I’ve noticed is that people often have an innate initial reaction, either positive or negative. Of course it depends what the request is, but without thinking, some people might say “yes”, “sure”, “why not?”, while with others it’s the reverse. I guess it’s just a starting point, I don’t know what it means.

      All spirals are a great, common in nature, and to me, they mean change/growth, but always around a fixed stable point.😃

  3. This is beautiful. And it really hits home. “Reality serves at memory’s pleasure.” Truth. I guess memories are a good way to avoid the Present and idealize the Past. He turned me on to free-range chicken. You’re not helping. 🙂

    • That’s true, and our background is memories, what we see, what comes to our attention, depends on them. For example, I once tried to hail a police car in São Paulo because I thought it was a taxi: a reality dysfunction. 😃 Maybe it’s only a metaphorical chicken, dependent on your reality. 🐔 Thank you, BG.

  4. The right to be forgotten, the right to be remembered. Close to the actual experience of some, no doubt. Monday does not disappoint.

    • Thanks, Paul. I agree, both sides of the coin. For me, memories as background and thus expectations is also interesting. Even when reality can’t be changed, it’s difficult to change expectations: it means changing us.

  5. Is the bird repair shop next to a crow bar (not a dry seat in the house)…synaptic fashion and customised forgetting….I tend to forget either randomly or selectively…another totally originally poem, Steve! Not too many poets I know of, doing what you are doing. Keep it up! JIM

  6. “Your second coffee erased your recollection of the first.” Yes! My memory of yesterday is usually overwritten by that of today, unless yesterday was particularly unusual (and therefore memorable). I like the idea of customized forgetting; it probably complements selective remembering.

    • Yes, overwriting with things we repeat. If you want to remember, you have to do things differently, while standing on your head, or whatever. 😸 Selective memory, intentional and unintentional, is a tricky area, I don’t think I’m brave enough to go there. 😃

    • Thinking of a different way to do every daily activity would exhaust our … or at least MY … mental resources too quickly. I wouldn’t get past brushing my teeth while doing a head stand! 😉

    • It was only an example. 🐒 Yes, I agree, and a lot of things we want to do efficiently, not waste time. I think someone has written a book with a similar concept. It suggests stuff like learning to juggle, but for me, the ideal would be to find new things that are useful in some way, to us or others.

    • This is like time travel (possibly another side-effect of coffee) because I just came from the past a few seconds ago. And in a few seconds, I’ll be in the future, making a cup of tea. Thanks, Vanessa, the artwork is my impression of er… the inside of my head. There are a lot of melty bits. 😸

    • I’m sure it is because of coffee. I’m pretty sure there are times I would not have made it into the future without it 🙂
      I am adjusting to decaf though, I think I may have mentioned before that I have to for health reasons. Big adjustment. BIG. Fortunately, decaf has come a long way, to, you know, trick my mind.

  7. I felt a strain of impatience running through the words, turning pages of notes and reference to time had a clock ticking sequence begin. another fantastic read Steve, I have been swamped with mathematical equations whole day and this has been very relaxing to read, just soaking up your words.

    • I think you’re right, Gina. When I read a piece, I hear a metronome ticking, and this piece ticks quickly for me. I suspect it’s partly the short cameos and hurried cafe meetings. Glad you had a moment to relax. I sometimes wonder how to put maths and words together, in a way which isn’t madness. 😃 Haven’t come up with anything yet.

    • I attempted the tetractys poetry form and words and numbers can co-exist quite dramatically and symbiotically, everything has a tempo, a rhythm and that’s the mathematics of life. You have a gift for arranging words, I am sure there’s a formula to that!

  8. How is the bird repair shop going, then? Your words are the textual equivalent of a Rorschach test – that’s a compliment, I fear I passed in flying colours 🙂

    • With the bird repair start-up, I convinced the venture capitalists that I could turn a profit from the guano alone. But I pretty much spent all the capital on bulk buys of wine. I probably should have come up with a less realistic idea, like living on Mars, or a ridiculous design for electric vehicles.

      An interesting parallel, the Rorschach test, I can see that. I read what people think, but fortunately, I have no thoughts of my own, and everyone gets a High Distinction. 😃

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