Carol Dorf: Prose Poem

On the Way Out of the Memory Palace 

I heard a definition once: Happiness is health and a short memory!                                                                           
                                                       —Audrey Hepburn

 Didn't Hannah Arendt write a book about forgetting, or was that dozens of books written by Freud? A mother claims, "I can't remember anything from those years I was married to your father." This covers the entire time the daughter lived at home, plus a couple of years of college. The daughter's memory is a cove, where unexpected fragments of a school play wash up against a burnt tabletop. They have pills for that nowadays, the mother tells her. The daughter remembers the pink birth control pills the mother kept losing, and the little helpers that drove the mother's huddled naps on the couch after work. "Who can rest without a little friendly assistance?" Now the mother is getting old and must circumnavigate language. The daughter is addicted to the crossword puzzle, with its little jolts of remembered trivia.


"Memories" © Khalid Almasoud


Editor's Note: Don't miss "The Big Bang of Prose Poetry," Carol Dorf's introduction to prose poetry in TW.


Art Information


Carol Dorf is the poetry editor at Talking Writing.


"Time and space, what more is there to complain about, though a higher intellect would critique rather than settle for this whine. In a just world, you could flip time end over end, until you reached the place where you actually belonged." — "Library Hours"



Carol, very evocative. In her later years, my mother forgot my father's name--they divorced after 29 years. In talking about why she forgot it, she said, "Oh, he really wasn't important." It was pretty startling to me. I've been enjoying your prose poem series. Meryl

I love this piece, Carol. It's such a compressed world -- each line a window into something much larger, charged with nuance. It's also very memorable, appropriately enough.

Hi Carol, This is a lovely poem. Mothers and daughters--it is never easy--but such a source of inspiration. Thank you for writing it and also for the great article on prose poems. Sarah

GOsh Carol, I just read the poem and feel so familiar!!!

YEs yes yes those first lines are priceless to me. I now ask my mother, 90,
when I want to say something about my dad..."Remember that guy you were married to-- my Dad???" They never divorced but the marriage was a disaster.
It's amazing how many of us survive at all....and what our scars feel and look like.

Very wonderful poem. I would like to bring it to my class as a prose poem example....Thank you so much
Patricia B

Meryl, that is an amazing story about your mother and father -- I hope it finds its way into your writing.

Patricia, that would be fine to bring the poem to your class. It is so strange how time transforms what we might want to avoid into the forgotten.

Thanks, Karen!

Add new comment

More Like This

Oct 8, 2012 | Writerly Sins
“Gentle Caress of Light” © Travis Miller
Jun 24, 2013 | Memoir, Nature, Sex
Nov 7, 2011 | Food