“I Live in the Future, My Body Lives in the Past”
by Rachel Mennies
The dead dog eats his breakfast.
The dead beloved drives to the hospital,
where he works, where he does not yet reside.
I sing them mourning songs in the shower:
Oseh shalom b’imromav, he who makes peace for us.
From the floor of the lake, the dog smiles.
From his grave, the beloved presses a palm
to my brow, my mouth, still singing.
There is no peace here, but there is certainty.
Like a clock I turn my body to that promise:
a written page, erased by all the light.
These two poems come from what is, right now, the outline of a new poetry collection, one whose speaker feels trapped in a future—or futures—conjured by her brain. They’re two of the first poems I wrote after the lockdown year, during which time I wrote basically nothing.
“I Live in the Future, My Body Lives in the Past” touches this time-tension directly: the speaker is already writing elegies in her head for beloveds still with her and cannot seem to stop.
I can feel the fear in these poems, but also a dogged resoluteness: return, return, return to the world.
Rachel Mennies is the author of the poetry collections The Naomi Letters; The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards, the 2014 winner of the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry at Texas Tech University Press and finalist for a National Jewish Book Award; and No Silence in the Fields, a chapbook from Blue Hour Press. Her poetry has recently appeared at The Believer, Kenyon Review, The American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Her essays, criticism, and other articles have appeared, or will soon, at The Millions, the Poetry Foundation, Lit Hub, and numerous other outlets.