Telling the Tale of the Day Backwards

An Occasional Poem by cin salach 

This combines a ritual (creative habit) I do with my son, a poem I wrote for my dad, and my business, which is writing poems for occasions—this occasion being my father’s Alzheimers. 

for my Dad

Once upon a time in the fairytale the storyteller told,
the Queen loses her husband
to a spell that turns him into a giant lizard
every night after dusk. Every night
he retreats to a tower alone, not wanting to be seen.

To break the spell, the Queen must
wear out twelve pairs of iron shoes,
along with a couple of other impossible things.
But she does them all. With grief
and perseverance, she does them all.
The Queen and the husband  live happily ever after.

The storyteller then tells us to tell her the tale
backward: “Happily ever after” to “Once upon a time.”
It is challenging, but not nearly as challenging
as it would be to wear out 12 pairs of iron shoes
and there are eight of us in a circle
to help each other out.

We fill each other’s memory in, eventually
recalling all the small details 
that live in between all the big ones.

At first, I’m frustrated that I can’t remember
every single detail by myself.
Then I’m elated that I don’t have to remember
every single detail by myself.

Since then, I’ve stayed with elated
like a new truth.
A part of my heart unlocking
like a spell being broken.

Listen: I don’t have to become a giant lizard
and disappear if my memory gets dusky.
I simply have to find a circle of women
who all heard the story,
and ask them to say it out loud with me
until we reach the beginning once more.

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