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Jacket 15 — December 2001   |   # 15  Contents   |   Homepage   |   Catalog   |

John Kinsella


          for Kenneth Koch

Suffering from amnesia I don’t recognise
my friends or family, and I guess
it’s plausible you were a close buddy
in my other life, but then, if you can’t recall
knowing me, I guess you’ve got the same problem
or someone’s pulling my leg. Another friend
— apparently — tells me, even insists
that I had sex with a prominent
politician on at least a dozen occasions,
and though suited men with earpieces
declare it never happened,
that I’d better be wary of cracks
in the pavement, I like to wonder!
I’m told I had a bad habit of bragging
at cocktail parties after dragging the tone down
with straight brandies, and at public bars
after a few bloody marys. But I’ve only
got his word for it, and since I can’t remember
bars or cocktail parties, I can’t follow up
effectively, though I do ask randomly —
those unfamiliar faces, even blank faces,
that appear before me, confront me, with “Hey,
remember me...?” — and I do systematically
work my way through photograph albums
and old correspondence but have found no trace
of a subtextual or subversive history.
Someone said I should reconstruct
identity through the credit cards
I carry. It worked, up to a point.
I learnt that while I am not wealthy
vast amounts of credit are available to me —
the same friend says this is more to do with poverty
than good standing or a sound financial record;
bad debts repaid slowly and agonisingly
over a long period would account for a high credit rating.
I can fly around the world on a platinum card
twenty times over if I want, and join
the legions of the unpaying, of the life-debtors
reminiscing over their big fling before cutting the card
into the bin. Platinum isn’t as strong as the market
would have us think. I also discovered my
mother’s maiden name, my birth date,
and the date I expire, or my dreams
of action and fulfilment might come to an end.
I learnt that I went for Mastercard over Visa,
that I must have eaten out regularly
as my Diner’s Club was booked up to the hilt.
I drew on the platinum to put that right.
I assume marriage, as another card has my surname
but with a female Christian name, unless I’m
into fraud, which is possible. No woman
has put her hand up. I meant to ask at the bank
about that one but left it, my wardrobe full of dresses —
nice evening dresses, little black numbers, pant-suits.
Amnesia might come from a blow
to the head or deep emotional trauma,
a shock so great the mind shuts down
to preserve the body. No physical injury
can be detected, so I guess it’s a matter
of not pushing my luck, and enjoying
a life without a past. To me, it’s definitely not a case
of remembrance of things or the more things change
the more they remain the same, but your voice
is familiar, and furthermore, your name
is written all over my books...

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