Memoriae Aeternae

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.