They say if you walk
deep into the darkest part of the woods-
where canopies of leaves block out the sunlight
and tree trunks are swallowed by bright darkness-
you will find a hollow spot between
the shoulder blades of the forest
that holds the Book of Lost Things.
In this ancient catalogue
is a list of all the things
gone missing from your life.
Items are categorized
by an almost random process,
for the Gods were surprised by
parents who “just dropped by to say hi,”
and hid their collected mess of Lost
haphazardly in the closet
so the contents read like a bookie’s predictions
for a horse race of creative names.
Simple nothings like your favorite
pencil from kindergarten
with pastel flowers
and tooth marks
swirling into an always-sharp point
are stacked on top of
Items that time forgot:
The whispered words of your father
softly sending you to sleep
or the first body that warmed your bed beside you,
complete with a map of its curves and valleys
accurate to 1 degree of latitude (and longitude as well).
Misplaced keys, balloons
with too much helium and a slippery string,
and other nonsense
take up space next to
the memory of being held
or the song stuck in your head
most all of your sophomore year of college,
The sound of the school bell
signaling the end of class
is fast replaced by repressed memories:
the time you gave your crush that flowery bouquet
that ended up in a trash can.
The Encyclopedia of the Misplaced and Faded
is well used.
It has bruises in the shape of earmarked pages
and tattoos of margin notes
painted on its aged skin.
The graffiti serves as warnings you left:
posted traffic signs after an accident
containing phrases like “you must never go there,”
that shadowy elephant graveyard
filled with starving hyenas where
memory meets the person you’re trying to be.
But then there are pages,
crazy leaves of paper
that spin insane stories of your past
that if you weren’t there to see,
you wouldn’t believe.
with anything on hand to hold its place
like a torn post-it note or chicken bone from dinner
because it was too important not to save.
from generations of fingerprints scraping
along the ink to try and absorb
the very thing that was once forgotten.
It is in these lists of Lost
that you find yourself:
Feeling a cliché for the first time
like butterflies flying inside your organs.
The smell of burnt toast
that only someone with a palate
as strong as your mother’s
could eat for breakfast.
The umbrella left dangling on a sink
that saved you from the rainstorm of the century
and made you look stylish besides.
And in this book you will place your own bookmarks,
and margin notes, and graffiti,
and leave it in the empty space of the woods
to find years later
when you need to remember
what you forgot.