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Published: Tue Jul 1 2014
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.

Mnemosyne’s silent M drives me to the dictionary
Her baby sister makes an n run. Youth does not tarry

Those diaphanous, luminescent water jellies, Mnemiopsis,
small as sneezes, I can only conjure as Knee me up, Sis

Spelling? Easier to recall these beauties as invasive
carnivorous, cannibalistic, and hermaphroditic
_        _(They eat each other and fuck themselves)

Mnemonic is a device that helps me remember
birthdays and phone numbers

of those I no longer love but can recall in traces
Or how to sequence pi to a thousand places

as Guinness names me a mnemonist. Or
my own birthday because my mother died the day before

Just a handful of words end in mn, and the soul they limn:
autumn, solemn, damn, condemn, the a capella hymn

But hundreds contain mn. A standout: that Jurassic cephalopod,
belemnite, long gone, yet its name and phallic fossil live on

And should those Siamnese twins stand at the head, they’re led
by a vowel that takes m by the hand and leaves n to bed

another syllable. Amnesia. You are what you forget
Still, the mother of all muses has a name hard to set

Mnemiopsis, mnemonist, mnemonic, Mnemosyne— such elegance
I should be able to recall: these words all begin with silence

Perhaps her name once began with A: Out one day, bathing carefree
in the Aegean, she fell for a creature she could feel but not see—

say, a tentacled jelly—got entangled with the beast, lost the A,
Tore her chiton, and returned in disarray

Zeus said, Where’s the A I gave you on the birth of Calliope?
She, recalling his trysts, yet savoring her berth, wanted no scene

Saw in backward glance, the gem wedged in coral’s gritty teeth
A’s so plebeian. Words are rife. Alcmene, Europa, Hera, adultery

Few can spell my name yet spell I cast when lives are spent
I am the Titan Mnemosyne, Goddess of All Memory,
and off she went

leaving Zeus to rue her gift and curse
Yet wise manager, was hers not the golden purse?

Laura Glen Louis is the author of Talking in the Dark, a Barnes & Noble Discover Book, and Some, like elephants, a chapbook of elegiac poetry. Recipient of the Katherine Anne Porter prize for short fiction, she has had work included in The Best American Short Stories. (updated 4/2014)

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