How to Remember–An Exercise in Eulogy

Poems are powerful tools. They’re also very versatile. Raleigh Walter, a poet published in our upcoming spring issue, understands this. “Flamenco Shoe” is a poem that we’re very proud to be displaying as it offers so much insight about family, the emotional inheritance that we are forced to bear, and what it means to eulogize someone with a dedication to the truth.

“Flamenco Shoe” begins with an image enshrined in tenderness and articulated with great care. The objects around a person–their modes of circumstance–can come to define them and are often the things we hold onto the strongest, and whether they are “bleached white tube socks” or the “morning newspapers” that punctuate our days, it is important to recall them with precision. And that is perhaps the best description of this poem’s feats: the images, the feelings that constitute our families can often surface nebulously, but here they bubble up with muscular exactness.

From the tenderness, we move to a place of confusion. The speaker’s mother is recalled, and the three generations are linked in a delicately ambiguous braid. In a balancing act, we operate with ambiguity for the rest of the poem and end there with plenty to think about.

I think I love this poem because of its verism. When we write an ode, a eulogy, or remember in any other way, we are so frequently prone to the throes of nostalgia and remain trapped in the constraints of a false positive. Poetry can be used to remember, but that is often a different thing from remembering correctly. The expressions, the linguistic gestures, the intimacy of the images here are astonishingly unforgiving. They evoke feeling with no room for misunderstanding and do not yield to pure adoration or pure disdain.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to revisit the events, the people, the monolithic moments that so profoundly shape us in ways we don’t even recognize. We owe it to ourselves and to them to apply in our looking back the clarity that we have been granted since then. Processing, understanding, intake can be delayed significantly from occurrence. I am reminded of Toni Morrison’s expression of “rememory” in Beloved. Sometimes, memories live on in us–or with us, as sentient beings–and take their own shapes, rear their own heads.

“Flamenco Shoe” processes with sage, mature clarity. It eulogizes with careful mastery. It engages carefully with the rememory. It reminds us all that meditation with respect to the truth is better for us all than blind worship. I am proud to have such a wise contemplation in a magazine designed to uplift youth voices. Sometimes, wisdom can be found in the places we look for it last.

 – Conor Naccarato, Senior Poetry Editor