Poetry / Virginia Konchan
:: Memoriae Aeternae ::
I love Jesus, I said, to explain. I’ll be your Jesus, he said. Hit me, I said. He hit me. Hit me harder, I said. He hit me harder, dislocating my jaw: I cried out in pain. He removed his hand quickly, eyes twin wounds of concern. It’s ok, I said. I asked you to.
There once was a body, here, and now there is no body. What does that mean? What does that mean, to you?
Sappho herself wrote of eros: it’s as if the tongue is broken.
We prowled each other like cops and robbers for weeks, static between us rising from generated electricity.
So what if subjectivity is reducible to performance, performance to narrative, narrative to anecdote? So what if I almost forgot to call you my home? The etymology of queen is prostitute. The etymology of king is king.
Lord of Lords, let me die, and then, in dying, ascend.
Muse, let me stay forever in your arms: to the last paradise, memory, let me in.
From the writer
:: Account ::
“Memoriae Aeterna” was born out of recent readings and musings about the role of memory in the history of lyric poetry, from Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory and mother of the nine Muses (whose name derives from the word “mnemonic,” meaning remembrance), to the differences between epic and lyric memory. The former is more collective in nature, relying on a rhapsode’s use of poetry’s repetitive, mnemonic devices to celebrate the deeds of a tribe, and the latter, a function of the modern nation-state, requiring different mechanisms of legitimation such as affirming the poet’s unique subjectivity. The lyric poet, thus, since the Renaissance, also attempts to forge myths, but these myths are more individual than collective, and often require the poet to search her past to build a personal history endowed with consistency and meaning (William Wordsworth’s The Prelude is an exemplar of this lyrical work of self-mythologizing, building bridges not just with one’s autobiographical history but those of collective history, and Marcel Proust, in fiction, as well). In my poem, I begin with a dialogic contemporary incident in media res that prompts the speaker to trace back through lyrical and historical forms and genres of love and conflictual tension (Judeo-Christian, Sapphic eros, Western noir), but it’s the poem’s inciting incident in the first stanza, acting as a kind of flashback device or trigger, that gives the speaker the ability to exit the scene of passion and return to memory. So while modern aspects of gender and gendered violence may seem to color the poem, for me it is more about how the speaker, through engagement with the other (who consents to play “Jesus”), can then come to terms with her own personal mythos, choosing at the end of the poem to privilege the work and blissful surfeit of memory over the white male ascension narrative (suffering, death, resurrection) she had formerly believed was the only path to “salvation.”
Author of two poetry collections, Any God Will Do (Carnegie Mellon, 2020) and The End of Spectacle (Carnegie Mellon, 2018); a collection of short stories, Anatomical Gift (Noctuary Press, 2017); and three chapbooks, including The New Alphabets (Anstruther Press, 2019), Virginia Konchan’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Believer, and throughout the US and Canada. She lives and works in Halifax, Nova Scotia.