“… ‘really’ may not matter

now (when ruddy Truth isn’t true)

if you see how little meaning means,

see the way they mean you to …”


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bygones — begun on his father’s centenary


One-hundredth anniversaries roll by him now

no longer the wrappings of impersonal history

but ribboned in his own unfurling affect,

the mystery spanning what doesn’t otherwise exist

as, he’d almost known when he was young,

the direction of memory is backward after all

   xxxxxx (which this should not be) —

if a fellow can be counted part of his father’s father

or his mother’s or her mother, or his father’s, or … you can see

he almost is somehow well into a third century now.

Having known people born into the nineteenth

a fellow in a way touches all three,

centuries, he means, without being an extraordinary age,

the turnings over arbitrary each (re)marked

by celebration, the first of which he didn’t attend

and is not how he counts to one-hundred

if you can see the way he means you to see.

What fades each day at least for him

is the fantasy we might re-begin, be able to,

if there’s a god, just undo the last one,

cancel the raw (de)terminations,

decry the worst inebriations, atone,

he means, for the longest longest century —

his own for the half part — the injustice

we regret for all and each, the hurt and cry

of civil unease, he prayed to do that arch

arc over please, though (right) now it’s clear he’s

bisected from all the years that came before

  xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx              right now, now

everything’s so everything so all inflected, all

inflamed and complexified and not what they’d expected,

  xxxxxx xxxxxx    so frightfully quick in coming, so ready to go,

    xxxxxx xxxxxx    so not eternal, even though

the millennial turn already is

two presidents and a resident ago.

What so long was glacial time no longer is

glacial but centrifugal, ice melting, winds in swirl

against the clock (in this hemisphere),

his grandparents dead and father, too,

the past like the future dead to who

would lead us on and already do —

while (re)marking time, three one two,

the moments of quarterly

            xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  (so, not eternal) returns.


xxxxxxThe earliest photo of his father an infant only

xxxxxxsome months old dressed in a full white gown of lace,

xxxxxxhair blond as it would never be again and not yet thick,

xxxxxxand the next one of a four-year-old standing by the driver’s door

xxxxxxof a Model T Ford, his hands in belted sweater pockets,

xxxxxxlegs wideset for balance, not yet in long pants, sock tops folded

xxxxxxneatly, bangs capping the dear round face his son will know

xxxxxxup close, the face that will be his, too, the son’s, and not so dear.



Wars would yet be fought —

which he ought not make passive like that —

  xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx              They would fight wars /

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx              they  would wage peace


xxxxxxAt the first roll call for his — the boy in the sweater’s —

xxxxxxhe thought he heard the sergeant call out his father’s name

xxxxxxand started: If they’ve drafted Dad, he said aloud

xxxxxxto men he didn’t yet know he knew, uncertain men

xxxxxxin civvies and nervous straight formation,

xxxxxxthe war must be bad, God bless this blessed nation,

xxxxxxxxxxxxbut then, they all go bad. Really.


One of his words, really,

though really may not matter

now (when ruddy Truth isn’t true)

if you see how little meaning means,

see the way they mean you to,

as it’s never what is said but always who

that matters and then is always never, viz.

    xxxxxxxxxxxx these days I never said


xxxxxx (I never said Russia didn’t meddle

xxxxxxNever said I’d build a concrete wall

xxxxxxI never said Mexico would pay the bill

xxxxxxNever told anyone to break the law

xxxxxxxxxxxx I never said I’d pay their legal fees

xxxxxxI never said we oughta give teachers guns

xxxxxxxxxxxx or that they shoulda been shooting the other way

xxxxxxNever called anyone’s wife a loser

xxxxxxNever said his father killed JFK

xxxxxxThere never was a quid pro quo,

xxxxxxI never told him what has to be

xxxxxxAnd I didn’t say I didn’t know

xxxxxxthat you know who is nasty).


Really, but that is only now, right now,

as is all of this of course, so far

beyond that Model T that Voyagers have left us


Deaf by design, we forgot to look both ways.

Something clipped us and we despaired.

The beats we lived by ended there.

Desolate and helpless we declared

  xxxxxxxxxxxx this is our moment, this moment here,

   xxxxxxxxxxxx now the Voyagers have left the heliosphere.


xxxxxxThe last day they could have gotten there,

xxxxxxhe’d asked his father if his father thought

xxxxxxthe words he could no longer find

xxxxxxwere somewhere there inside his mind

xxxxxxxxxxxx or not.

xxxxxxThen the father thought on that

xxxxxxxxxxxx (he thought forever)

xxxxxxand turned his face toward the son:

xxxxxxxxxxxx ‘I don’t think they’re in there,’

xxxxxxhe said, and he was done —


The Voyagers left and then was never,

some was true and some was fake,

and all he knew was what they’d wanted once

(which is not (forbid) to call him snowflake).

Resistance waxed on irrespective,

the son (among many) grew nociceptive,

and nothing, nothing day after day,

was anything like they’d meant to say

anything like they’d meant to see

anything like. His father


missed all this, or much of it

having passed in aught five,

a little bit shy of eighty-six,

or just now — it all is one,

a hundred years, an aging son

who lets their memories be overrun

while notching would and rue into his bones.


Frederick Ramey is the author of the novel Comes a Time, published by Fomite Press in 2020. He is also a longtime editor of literary fiction and memoir, the co-publisher of Unbridled Books, and the founding director of Leaping Man, a not-for-profit producer of performances, arguments, and artifacts in Colorado. You can find him at leapingman.org.




Featured image by UIHere.