anamnesis beneath umbrella | J. David

5 mins read

for thirty-

seven minutes 

i watched the day 

break blue across 


yesteryear forgot 

while recounting the names 

of my ex-girlfriend’s siblings.

i imagine this 

to be the kind of forgiveness 

a tree 

must be capable of. 

there is, in fact, 

a tree just outside town almost

not worth mentioning 

if not for the story 

told to us as children in cribs

sucking appendages 

new to infant mouths, 

those eager

seekers of knowledge 

when we knew 

so little, hell-bent 

on offering entry 

to each thing encountered. 


the tree, however,

we knew nothing about 

for we had not

put it in our mouths, and so 

our mothers told us all

about its knobs and knuckle-

boned bends buckled

over xylem and phloem

contained like casts

or casks, passing

elevator cars in opposite

directions, i knew why 

before i knew why. objectively, 

i’ve been writing you these poems 

because i do not know how 

to speak to the dead. 

and what would i tell them?

of whales 

bound for some north

passage only whales 

must have heard about 

in some story 

told to them as calves,

coalesced beneath their craniums

and encased in gray matter 

like years within bark. 

let’s hope by now you understand 

what i’m on about—constellations

of wildflowers so beautiful

you might even stop wishing

to be dead. but, i’ve forgotten

all about this tree by now

in favor of whales

squeezing through chasms

into again-open waters

containing life’s colophon.


i want 

to tell you

something about 

the doppler effect

and grief—what, 

i’m not sure yet. maybe 

it’s how on either side 

sits a silence stretched thin

by objects moving through

space. how it eclipses

and stays

long after the moment 

rushes past. how the most

beautiful woman i’ve seen

this year, or any, 

plays a song just

for me

in front of thirty-seven people

and decides mine 

is a love 

worth moving past 

in favor of a love 

already passed 

and i want to tell her 

about the tree

just outside town

filling my dreams

each night. where i sit 

beneath its boughs

and call out the names 

of everyone already across

the chasm past life’s conclusion

of their own accord—

you my darling ghosts, 

you which slow 

my heart to a pitch

only sorrow hears. 

i want to tell her

your names 

and the colors of

your favorite umbrella. i want

to tell her i love


i used to love. like

the wind chimes

we placed 

on my grandmother’s grave 

or the way it sounds 

when a good person

says your name.


i’d tell you once more 

about the tree 

or the whales

if it would keep 

you here 

for just another minute. but the dead 

have no sense

of time. and i am only stalling. 

all this to say

that i’ve been getting sad again

and ghosts give

disappointing hugs. perhaps,

i was drunk and walking

home from a party

when someone i would soon watch die

asked me does love 

really make it worth it

in the end? 


and i said sometimes.



Joy David is a Ukrainian writer living in Cleveland, Ohio, where they are a geneticist in a lab studying diabetes and rare pediatric endocrine disorders. They are the author of Hibernation Highway (Madhouse Press) and their work appears in the Harvard Review, Colorado Review, 68to05, Salt Hill, Muzzle, Passages North, and elsewhere.