The words are forgotten, lost in a drive just three hours long, misplaced somewhere along 170 miles/270 kilometers of road. Ancient names known for a city lifetime of decades, now the words hide behind months of rural living. How familiar they were, how missing they have become.
My lips tremble when I try to speak them. It is as if I ask them to verbalize an unfamiliar language, phrases borne of another land, yet I ask only that they remember the words that go with the mind’s pictures, the names once common but now rare.
Dropped into memory’s abyssal hat and plucked out one by one, I read from the mental slips of paper names of the absent, of the once ubiquitous, of those long called neighbors. What alien text is this? From what removed existence come these unremembered names?
When a few short weeks ago I journeyed back those three hours, back that long distance, unbidden the words came back to me, names once more as comfortable as the threadbare sweater worn each winter for its personal value rather than its fashion statement. I knew each name that matched each face, knew the words too quickly lost.
Yet back to my new world I had to return, and again the names hide among the missing, the faces lonely for the words that call them, the world outside my door barren for their absence yet abundant for their replacements.
For they have indeed been replaced, the once familiar now forgotten, their collective presence full of new words, words like Texas coral snake, Inca dove, southern black widow, eastern bluebird, white-tailed deer, northern rough-winged swallow, flying squirrel, alligator, cougar, fish crow and black bear, along with many others. How delightful these new words, how appealing the newfound familiarity of such names.
Nevertheless I miss the old words, the old names, those now among the missing. In another lifetime they shared my life, found each day right outside my door. But now they only live in other places, not here, not with me, though near me, short drives away, or once more rediscovered at the end of that three hour journey, at the destination resting 170 miles/270 kilometers away.
Still, now I shall stutter the gibberish that goes with each mental picture, shall feel the unfamiliar words stumble upon my lips, shall pluck the words from memory’s deep hat with hope I shall remember those who remain among the missing.
— — — — — — — — — —
- Rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia)
- Fox squirrel (a.k.a. eastern fox squirrel, stump-eared squirrel, raccoon squirrel or monkey-faced squirrel; Sciurus niger)
- Male house sparrow (Passer domesticus)
- Male red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
- American coot (Fulica americana)
- Male superb cicada (a.k.a. green harvestfly, green cicada or superb green cicada; Tibicen superba)