Remember waking, starting, stupidly young
the promises, the lies, the world’s forked tongue
Remember how you longed for love, and how
you long for love the same way, even now
you know that there’s no cure for loneliness
not even love, let alone happiness
Remember marriage, children, summer holidays
Remember work, remember all the ways
you chose to be defined which were not you –
if there’s a self definable as ‘true’
Then remember prayer, answered or unanswered
(either way, how to tell?). Remember whispered
doubts. Remember the words and images
which led/misled you on your pilgrimage
Remember how you crossed the desert, cursing
Remember how you crossed the desert, hoping
Remember age and illness, letting go
of everything you’d told yourself you know
Remember forgetting the Lord your God decreed
you must remember him, and teach your seed
the stories storing their identity.
And if you read this, please remember me.
Tom Vaughan writes: “I like it because it came in a rush, like something hammering in my head, and because it reflects not just what seems to me the crucial nature of the link between memory (however selective and indeed creative) and identity, a link I saw brutally put to the test during my mother’s long decline with Alzheimer’s, but what has always fascinated me about Judaism and the wonderful emphasis in the Jewish scriptures and festivals on the need to remember, in order to retain/create a sense not just of individual but also of collective identify.
The rush also meant that substantial trimming was called for: it was originally about twice the length. But I hope the final compressed result pins down more precisely the push and tumble of the writing process.”
Tom Vaughan is not the real name of a poet whose previous publications include a novel and two poetry pamphlets (A Sampler, 2010, and Envoy, 2013, both published by HappenStance). His poems have been published in a range of poetry magazines, including several of the Potcake Chapbooks:
Careers and Other Catastrophes
Familes and Other Fiascoes
Houses and Homes Forever
Travels and Travails.
He currently lives and works in London.
‘To Whom It May Concern’ was first published in Snakeskin 277, October 2020
Photo: “Jewish house with Mezuzah” by La Laetti is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.