|The author as cowboy: April 1951, Lancaster, Pa.|
How to Save Yourself
I keep meeting myself as a boy.
He’s doing and saying everything I remember him doing.
I think this is all he is now: what I remember.
But I’m wrong: there is something else.
At the end of each appearance, clumsy
Or adept depending on the event, he has started
To add something in a newer tone.
“Save me,” he says in a whisper.
He is not following the rules of memory.
But he is me, so I have a stake in his demand.
“How can I help?” I ask helplessly.
“Understand.” A whisper with a shout’s resonance.
I take it as a cue to offer retrospective advice.
Circumspection and foresight are what I recommend.
“Circumspection? Foresight? I’m five years old!”
Then: “I’m twelve years old.” Then: “I’m seventeen years old.”
I’m at a loss. “Just understand,” he says.
I stop talking. I watch him talk and act some more,
Following the scripts of my memory to a T.
It can be painful. Finally I must speak to him.
“And now?” I ask hopefully. “And now?”
He begins to seem less trapped, freer within himself.
I am standing under him: I’ve attained the etymological sublime.
“It’s working!” he says in the voice of someone
I can begin to love. It’s working.