Wise men advise us to not look back, and that makes sense,
because whether our memories are happy or sad,
they cannot be changed or undone.
But the past is always there
whether we acknowledge it or not,
ready to haunt us at the mention of a name,
or in the wee hours of the night
when darkness makes time disappear
and the past reawakens in our minds.
'Leave me alone, ' I think.
'I'm done with all of that! '
But then I hear my father's voice, or my mother's,
or someone else's once dear to me,
or perhaps I see their face, crystal clear,
looking down at me with an inscrutable smile
or weeping like Niobe for her children,
and I am shaken.
'What do you want? ' I whisper.
But they don't answer, but only continue staring,
and as I struggle to understand,
they disappear back into the darkness.
Of course, I know, they are not really spirits,
but only devious tricks of the mind.
Perhaps they come to remind me
of who I am, and how I got here.
If so, I could assure them I have not forgotten,
but they seem to want something more.
Could it be that our business together is not quite finished?
Do they want my understanding or forgiveness?
Or perhaps they just want another moment of life?
I don't know, and they won't answer.
I reach out and touch my wife sleeping beside me,
and the spell is immediately broken.
I am relieved, but I know they will come again,
perhaps at the sound of a stranger's voice,
or some night when I am walking under the stars,
and maybe on that day I will be less prepared.
I might even allow myself to be drawn more deeply
into a past that cannot be changed or undone.
I sigh just thinking of it, but it's all right,
I know the past is what made me who I am,
and it cannot harm me anymore, not now,
for I am safely ensconced in the present.