I wake this morning to a bruise the size of a plum
on my left hand. I have a memory of something hitting it, of thinking I bet you’ll forget all about this. A memory, I can’t be sure
if it’s real. My sister recalls smashing my hand in a car door, antique Cadillac, white and baby blue, always smelled of mint. But she’s running away,
tearing through the double door of the high school as my father, in a rush, slams the car door on my hand. I want to remember the person who said, “Memory is an opening door.” I want to remember
Listen to "Memory Reel," a poem from Nancy Chen Long's Wider than the Sky, in full in the Southern Review/LSUP.
In her second book Wider Than the Sky, Nancy Chen Long grapples with the porous and slippery nature of memory and mind. Through form and content, the poems in the book mimic memory, its recursive and sometimes surreal qualities—how recalling one memory resurrects a different memory, which then jumps to another memory, and then another, each memory connected by the thinnest of wisps—as well as memory’s mutability—conflicting memories among family members, changes in the collective memory of a society, a buried memory that is resurrected when one catches the scent of a forgotten perfume. Wider Than the Sky explores the role of memory in identity, how the physical aspects of the brain impact who we are, and how who we are—both individually and as a society—is, in one sense, a narrative. These poems delve into the mind’s need for narrative in order to make sense of the world and how a society uses stories and myth to help its members remember a lesson, a preferred behavior, or their position in the social scale.