Memory’s so treacherous. One moment you’re lost in a carvinal of delights … the next it leads you somewhere you don’t want to go. Memories are what our reason is based on. If we can’t face them we deny reason itself.
—The Joker from The Killing Joke
Ever since the accident, I forgot
who I was. Falling into toxic waste
does something to a mind.
Most days I don’t even mind
my marshmallow skin,
my avocado hair, my mouth
a razor smile.
But other days, I need something
to remember myself by. So I decide
to go to the Gotham Public Library,
check out a few books by Maurice Sendak,
kill everyone in the building
to clear my head. Watching a body lose
light is the only thing that gives rise
to memory like mercury.
I finish the last one with a knife
to give him a grin like mine
and a little lipstick to pretty
his slashed face.
I count the seconds between
his breaths, as my past takes shape.
Soon I remember fragments:
being booed offstage, my wife’s smile
that showed too much gum,
reading Where the Wild Things Are
to my little girl on Christmas Eve.
Memory is in the killing.
But the past always slips loose
until I’m the only olive in the martini,
and I’m used to being dry.
If only I could remember
the moment before I fell in
and cast the old life off—
why I’m incomplete,
the crack in every smile,
the black globe in every eye.