I Remember Lost Things
by Ron Padgett
I remember getting letters addressed to me with my name and street address, followed on the next line by the word City. Which meant the same city in which they had been mailed. Could life have been that simple?
I remember the first time I heard Joe read from his I Remember. The shock of pleasure was quickly replaced by envy and the question, Why didn't I think of that? Aesthetic pleasure comes in many forms and degrees, but envy comes only when you wholeheartedly admire someone else's new work. Envying the talent of a person you love is particularly beautiful and envigorating. And you don't even have to answer the question.
I remember feeling miffed at García Lorca because he made me feel like crying about something that may never have happened. There is a 1929 photograph of him standing next to a large sphere on a granite pedestal that also bears a sundial, on the Columbia University campus. Passing by the sundial this morning, I suddenly realized that Lorca had stood on that very spot 70 years ago, a few years before he was shot to death. It was as if he had been there just moments ago. Such a brutal, stupid death! Tears came to my eyes. But on second thought, I found it hard to believe that someone would put such a large sphere on this spot: it would have come between the light and the sundial, no? Later, when I examined the photo again, I saw that it was taken there. But that sphere? I like it because it keeps distracting me from the idea of his death.
I remember the mill, a piece of currency that was used for a few years near the end of World War II and just after. A thick paper (and later a lightweight metal) coin with a round hole in the center, the mill was worth one-tenth of a cent. It was fun to press it hard enough between thumb and forefinger to create temporary bumps on those fingers. On price tags, it was written as if it were an exponent; for example, ten cents and four mills was written 104. I don't know if mills were used anywhere other than in my hometown, and since they went out of use I have heard references to them only once or twice. They have faded away, even more forgotten than the black pennies of the same period. But if you mention the mill to people old enough to remember them, their faces will take on a rising glow of recognition that turns into a deeper pleasure in your company.
I am trying to remember what it felt like to have never even heard of television, to be six years old with your toys and maybe a dog. You roll the wooden truck along the carpet and make a truck sound that turns into a honking horn as you approach the outstretched paw of the dog that jumps to her feet, just in case, and you say, "Aw, I wouldn't have hit you." Wagging her tail, she comes up to lick your face, which is fun at first, before the doggy breath becomes too strong. Then you wipe your face with your sleeve, turn back to the truck, and start up its engine again. The sound of dishes from the kitchen.
I remember when some cars, older ones, had running boards, and the fun of standing on one and gripping the window post as the car accelerated down the block to the corner, the wind in my ears. Gradually there were fewer and fewer of them, and then none. At least the new cars still had hood ornaments, the most memorable being the shiny chrome head of an Indian man, his profile knifing into the wind, headdress feathers blown back. And then he was gone too.