Recollections

By ALEKSANDAR HEMON 

My father once asked me: How is it I can recollect
with utmost clarity what happened forty years ago, 
but not what I did this morning at all? I didn’t know, 

but I recognized I would always recall that moment.
It was late summer. We were driving to the country
to see my grandfather, now blind and demented,

who could walk only in short shuffling steps, peed 
himself, did not know where he was, could never
forget where he’d come from. He would demand 

to be taken back to Ukraine, to the home he’d left 
at the age of twelve. There were times when he felt 
he was abandoned in a dark forest, so he crawled 

on all fours to hide in the bedding closet, where 
he wept as we searched the house. We found him,
promised we’d take him home, walked him back

to his sagging couch. I would feed him with a spoon:
wet bread, mashed potatoes, soft corn, as he couldn’t 
chew. He’d ask: ‘Am I still hungry?’ My grandmother,

his wife, long gone, she would have always known.
He’d inquire who I was, why I was present there. 
I didn’t always have a clear idea. I just was. I strode 

through life scouting the world for what I’d recollect 
in the long lightless future I couldn’t begin to know. 
From Grandfather I learned only the past mattered. 

The rest is a blind completion of a misshapen circle, 
a return to the original longing by way of loss, each 
day but a day before the one we cannot yet recall. 

 

Aleksandar Hemon‘s most recent book is My Parents: An Introduction / This Does Not Belong to You. He teaches at Princeton University.

[Purchase Issue 21 here.] 

Recollections

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