That was the last time you thought of --
Hiberno-English and the Irish Sea, hands and signs, runes and binds, but mostly, age, whitening, skin-folding, slow losses--of sight, of sound, of sense. Of health. Of shame. Pack that pamphlet for Oak Park away in the little casket of memory, turn to your brother, think of other things. But now:
Dean wanders off into the wilds of Arkansas. Dean loses the plot on the way to the john. Plucks at a gray that isn't there.
Sam (that’s you) slips a razor along his brother’s throat because his brother doesn’t know what a razor is, at least for the moment; needs a suit-sharp shave. Dean says: Sam? Are you the real one? Or the other one?
There’s an unreal Sam at every bend, but there always has been. Dean doesn’t remember--all those losses: of soul, of faith, of trust, of will--moves his fingers with yours, sweet throat-flutter; flake-bark trembling in a wind; signs.
Dean’s been a child before, and an old man, won back from another witch. You can hear him now, nine-hundred years of Padraic, slipped when you went out of your head; handsome eyes slipped to his own hand, his own girl too lost to live.
Truth is: a lot you don’t remember. You’ve read what goes first; words, ways home. Dementias are not: sleeps, blessings, witch-killing poppies; Oz.
But you could take Dean to the woods. Down the yellowbrick to the rivers: Lethe. Mnemosyne. (A spell, Rowena says, to make you a babe again, newborn from the neck down, and the neck up.) Oblivion. Omniscience.
Choose then, and drink.
Dean drinks from his little bottles. Dean pricks himself with the tip of knife, watches the blood run runes down his ligaments. Blinks at you as you bandage, scowl, can’t bring yourself to soothe. I lost you once, you'd say, many times over; you died and you didn’t remember; and you remember, though you shouldn’t, your brother telling you: that soul is suffering, that memory is suffering is soul.
Memory’s axis mundi seizure’d off the map; detour out of the hippopocampus.
You read once: like sailing into a dark.
Or: Arkansas woods; Scottish witches.
This is the New World, Rowena says, talks to herself about ragamuffins, little MacLeod lost in a copse of hostiles, her Scotland gone on its own leys, high on Cairngorm and gorse. Who can tell what she’ll say to your brother, or to you, or to the other one: Sam.
And this is your other brother: Dean wrapped round himself, rocking, twisted as the intricate magics of the Mississippi. Happy.Who knew.
Place has been mapped a thousand times, Rowena says, but not nearly enough. All these currents. Great River Road and a ridge named for my son. All this bottomland.
You think about signs, switches turned letters and letters turned codes, and keys, and books, damned; monks and druids and letters that sprouted calves, ran the witches out of the isles. Snakes. Parasitic vines.
Samuel, your witch says, tell me, what do you most remember—what you did right, or what you did wrong?
Her fingers on your brother’s collar, on yours, pulling your twain plaids close--
Cuimhnich, she says.
There aren’t many evergreens in this Arkansas, it seems. Or that Kansas.What will green forever.
Miss me, your brother asks, jangles the keys.
Miss who? You’re you. What, vessel, do you carry.
One day you won’t remember. One day you’ll be old. Planted on a bed, or a porch, a stone--
and will you love me then. Will you still.
Dean plants his feet so firmly, jangles his keys. Looks at you—old man, but not, way he always does. Too old for this, you heard yourself say, not so long ago, holding him, hairs crushed under your chin, banshee’d. You remember.
And you remember:
Running through woods and worlds, all you've done panting alongside like a pack. You’d just killed the president. Or no: cheated another reaper, watched her flame out while you thought: I almost lost you, Dean, again, and you’d have gone all at once, not a flicker at a time like candles in the wings of houses; not like a last refuge.
It’ll be dark soon. You’ve got a black book and a wicked witchover and a long drive.
It’s all of me, Dean says, flings his arms out, like he’s gonna wild-ride into the next, and the next after. Come on, Sammy.
That’s you. Of all people. You’ll leave yourself a note (on a mirror, maybe, or stuck, forever, to nothing). Remember always:
(This is your)
(This is your)
--will you love me then as now?—“Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone”, A.P. Carter