Posted by: Viola | October 15, 2015

Taste of a termite

This week, I am working on some poems about my childhood in Cameroon. It’s interesting–fascinating–what I remember and what I forget. I am blown away by the kinds of memories that pop up as I work on an idea for a poem. I am frustrated by the things I can’t recall, no matter how hard I try.

There are things I wish I could go back to. Not everything, of course–no, I don’t really wish to be back in my childhood. But I do wish I could revisit specific moments, particular experiences. I wish I could gather up the details. I wish I could return to the sounds and smells and sights of a certain season, a certain year, a certain day, when this thing happened whose happening now eludes me, whose existence calls to me in my memories but the details of which remain obscure.

I am thankful for the one detail or two that leaps up out of the fog of my memory. Suddenly, I remember the taste of a termite. And then, as if to torture me, I forget again. The memory slips away. And now I am not sure if what I remembered was a dream. If the termite was on my tongue and then gone. Or if it was ever there at all.

How can all of this be real? How can all of this be one lifetime–and mine, my lifetime? How can all this loss be inside me, all this loss of memory, loss of time? How can I hold so many gaps inside my body and be here like I have no past, no remembered history? How can all of this be? How did I get here, if none of what I know happened for sure? And if it did happen, why can’t I just remember it? I know what I could do. If I could find something around here, something to trigger a memory and bring it back, then all would be well. I would go from one memory to another, triggering it and writing it down, and never letting it slip away again.

I’ve got to find some termites, then. Got to get some and eat them. And know again everything about the way they taste. When you eat them raw or you roast them, know the taste again of both. I’ve got to taste a termite. Got to have it again. Got to remember it. Got to write it down. But where am I going to find one right now, a termite like the kind we had in Cameroon? I could ask someone in Cameroon to send me some termites. I could ask my father to bring some back for me, if he travels to Cameroon.

But are the termites in Cameroon even still the same? What if they have changed? What if they taste different now? What if, no matter how hard I try, I will never again have what I once had, never again eat a termite like the kind at my old home? What if it is time to let this go, to stop wanting these kinds of things, craving these kinds of unremembered things? What if it is time to let the termites be termites? Let them keep their wings and let them fly away and let them build a colony of loss somewhere, a subterranean maze of all the moments I will never remember.



  1. Beautiful, longing post. Elusive memories do have that singular ability to haunt.

  2. 😀

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