Eileen R. Tabios

I Forgot My Great American Novel

Chapter 1:
I forgot caution because caution always exhausts and is not you.

Chapter 2:
I forgot nothing can blow away light after it’s touched your flesh.

I forgot how, through rhyme, an archetypal music arose from your silence.

I forgot the universe shifted and leaked stars when you held my hand.

I forgot the color of your eyes changes with each angle of observation—each shift evokes the flux of identity, the subjectivity of beauty, and the instability of fate.

I forgot the difference between magnolias and cherry blossoms—the former dies whole while the latter dies petal by petal.

I forgot Salvador Plascencia writing, “I don’t know what they are called, the spaces between seconds, but I think of you always in those intervals.”

I forgot architecture can distract to effect calamity.

I forgot the world could be underwater and you still could make my throat dry.

Chapter 3:
I forgot the Greek god Aeolus blew at a night sky to unlatch stars—they sparkled as they fell to form blue sand sapphires that made an entire island glitter.

I forgot how no one had to explain: inevitably, everyone breaks.

I forgot the 18th century birthing the hungriest human in history: the Frenchman Tarrare who ate his bodyweight’s worth of food every day.

I forgot new lovers privileging what Stoic philosophers deemed unnatural: monogramy.

I forgot true devotion battles its identity’s evaporation.

I forgot light cherishing its fall into the ocean though its dive will dilute itself into non-existence.

I forgot water departs swiftly under the tropical sun until it becomes mere stain, a useless shadow against land.

I forgot the taste of salt is logical: sweetness always disappears.

I forgot water as perfect memory, filling any space sculpted by amnesia.

I forgot fate is most generous to those who can bear instead of buckle under the burden of suffering.

Chapter 4:
I forgot a color because it had no name.

I forgot the newly-dead’s slogan: Effort is Beauty.

I forgot humanizing stars because they are at home in your eyes.

I forgot a scarlet rosebud deliberately falling onto a thorn—when it ripped, it revealed the same light glinting in the eyes of an ascetic whose starvation spiraled him into ecstasy.

I forgot the shape of absence because your presence overwhelms.

I forgot silver’s nobility can be scarred by tears.

I forget an oenophile calling wine “racy” after tasting black cherries, kirsch, dried flowers, spices, leather, and Darjeeling tea.

I forgot all deathbed illusions are forgivable.

I forgot you grinding glass to create a solar system for soothing my muted gaze.

I forgot what didn’t exist until I named it: Black Rose.

Chapter 5:
I forgot barracudas swimming beside vast schools of jackfish atop an undersea volcano.

I forgot how curiosity, a tsundoku addiction, and amusement share the characteristic of irony.

I forgot cannibalism thriving in morally malnourished contexts.

I forgot the rarity of tranquility in a world dominated by orphan-makers and spies.

Chapter 6:
I forgot the Egyptian god Alun tinting his skin with the sky’s color so he could fly invisibly.

I forgot how lips immersed in salt-water metamorphosed to blue, thus cautioning against the charisma of unrequited desire.

I forgot the proof of a human becoming a saint: eyes become sky.

I forgot the poet startled by blue veins simmering beneath the skin covering a lover’s breast.

I forgot how words destroy worlds, and how the same words in different weather can create momentary heavens on earth.

Chapter 7:
I forgot orangutan turds smashing the face of a sleeping spy under an unreconnoitred tree.

I forgot the edge of a forest guarding a meadow with feral orphans shredding wild violets.

I forgot rivulets of water etching the boulder that cradled your exhaustion.

I forgot a smile can be adjusted to indicate no threat.

I forgot “nice” as a word of failure.

I forgot your tendon becoming a cracked whip as the dust of ancient books left sepia pages to tickle my nose.

I forgot an island surrounded by water rippling in the same manner of your falling hair after being unleashed.

I forgot the difficulty of holding a stare with one’s reflection.

I forgot my pores memorizing your scent—I forgot inhaling you to become you.

I forgot the instability of amusement as incentive.

Chapter 8:
I forgot how love requires loosening armors to fall out of theories that made them real.

I forgot corals blushing underwater because an island is nearby.

I forgot unbuttoning a garment can cause an observer's fist to open in a gesture immortalized on all paintings of infinity.

I forgot the paradoxes of sacrifice exemplified by a durian’s shell hardening as its contents mutate towards sweetness.

I forgot the futility of searching for past lovers… unless you turned to look back with an astonishment new to you.

I forgot words can ruin countries.

I forgot words can create countries.

I forgot how words can create from dew a love that succeeds through sincerity.

I forgot the scent of old leatherbound books: vanilla flowers, almonds, juniper, birch tar, patchouli, black tea, tobacco…

I forgot the definition of adhesion: the attraction of molecules for molecules of a different kind, like water helplessly drawn to glass—like eyes helplessly drawn to parted lips.

I forgot gold flickering atop emerald eyes turned towards a sun whose noonday blaze forges its own chemistry.

Chapter 9:
I forgot lust causes selective amnesia.

I forgot checking your flesh for new scars.

I forgot gods laughing as mortals edited the limits of agony.

I forgot intimacy as a threshold into a vulnerability strong enough to create addicts but whose ethics will birth regret.

Chapter 10:
I forgot deadheading roses named by hopeful gardeners as “Cherry Parfaits,” “Falstaffs,” “Tahitian Sunsets,” “Wild Blue Yonders,” “Ketchups & Mustards,” “About Faces,” and “Frankly Scarlets.”

I forgot wind-whipped sand covering the tracks of traffickers, arms dealers, and jihadists traversing the Sahara.

I forgot romanticizing The Battle of Thermopylae by describing rose bushes creating bottlenecks on a mountain pathway instead of Spartans combing long oily hair that was the privilege of veteran soldiers.

Chapter 11:
I forgot the symphony conductor humming as he guided new refugees on the streets of Kharkiv.

I forgot how pronouns change to third-party shields when the speaker recognizes mortality.

I forgot how today’s parenting no longer sculpts a natural upturn on the corners of children’s lips.

I forgot your calloused thumb grazing my lips to cease my pouting.

I forgot a lonely sunray threading a crack through thick tree canopies.

I forgot the novelist wanting each sentence to succeed as a monostich poem if it were excised from its prose context.

I forgot how much you warranted my desperate insistence because you foregoed guarantees to bend a knee before me.

I forgot the poet remaining loyal to form despite the banality of content.

Chapter 12:
I forgot the unique affection that characterizes ambedo.

I forgot the leather jacket sprawled over a Ducati Multistrada V4.

I forgot the woman turning her body into a corporation by cutting the length of her heels.

I forgot the compromise of watercolor because of fearing the vivid.

I forgot how watercolors are unforgiving through a fluid nature preventing the guarantee of the artist’s control.

I forgot how, when everything fails, poetry is the remaining language.

I forgot silk flowing about and from your body.

I forgot the zaffre velvet sleeve sheathing your wounds.

I forgot you faking a kiss because you didn’t want a morsel of your authenticity observed by the CIA.

Chapter 13:
I forgot the flaws of innocence are among the most potent seductive forces.

I forgot I wanted to follow the scents you breathed in from your cup of tea: orange peel, calendula, cornflower…

I forgot you wanted to know if camel engastration was an urban legend—it took you years to create the opportunity to stuff a boiled camel with a large lamb, 20 chickens, 60 eggs, 12 kilos of rice, two kilos of pine nuts, two kilos of almonds, one kilo of pistachio nuts, 110 gallons of water, and five pounds each of black pepper and salt.

I forgot how the 4th century battles between the Jin, Yan, Liang, and Qin nations taught you how to “hold a sword with compassion.”

I forgot you taught me other shortcuts besides fear.

Chapter 14:
I forgot perfume rising from the bedsheets that received your body: top note of plum, middle notes of musk and heliotrope, and base note of suede.

I forgot you planted plum trees in snowy ground so you could harvest its syrup for my winter tea.

I forgot a karambit knife that looked like a serpent with its paracord wrapped handle.

I forgot the ebony eyes of roosters sheathed with razors for cockfights.

I forgot recognizing you despite the blood still unwashed from your skin.

Chapter 15:
I forgot kindness and hatreds were not always choices.

I forgot the tenderness in eyes who’d released their barricades.

I forgot you could charm the sky to fall but knew better.

I forgot how your lashes curled in a stance that could not be edited by wind, rain, or tears.

I forgot you drinking my hot psychic tears.

Chapter 16:
I forgot my musk on your lips.

I forgot the patience you defined by steeling your body against urges that made me tremble.

I forgot you used rain as an excuse for turning away, as if a window was open and the rain was not gentle in falling straight, as if I didn’t prefer windows open to the breathing of the jade forest.

I forgot rainwater graying a cityscape into tiles of wet slate, like those paving a road in Burgundy where a pregnant winemaker opened a bottle to perfume our tongues.

I forgot a bed of moss as gentle as Dr. Samuel Johnson’s “breeze that plays in the evening among the spices of the Sahara.”

I forgot memories making us.

I forgot memories unmaking us.

I forgot redwood trees imbibing water from fog.

I forgot how tears improve vision.

I forgot how humans lack extra eyelids for protection—unlike cats, camels, polar bears, seals, and aardvarks—because we use other weaponry besides teeth to capture prey.

Chapter 17:
I forgot absence heightens the impetus to please.

I forgot you didn’t walk towards me because you wanted me to be the one to erase the distance between us.

I forgot you on the roof fixing a cracked gutter while you sang about the longings of a thousand flutes in simultaneous melody.

I forgot your hands on my waist made me forget the dim alley cocooning us.

I forgot you said my scent became your bone marrow.

I forgot you opened the car door for me to step onto cream-colored gravel surrounding a white house with windows beaming forth a golden light.

I forgot your landscape painting that combined bunchberry, painted trillium, partridgeberry, sheep laurel, foxglove, tall corydalis, wild columbine, rough-fruited cinquefoil, common yarrow, white baneberry, butterfly weed, American bellflower, trumpet creeper, bluebell bellflower, and purple clematis.

I forgot the Filipino god of sun, Amman, whose eye is the sun.

I forgot whispering, Idealism is not naivete, and you holding back your laughter.

I forgot my two fingers tapped your cheek as if to chastise you, only to fail when you turned to lock them between your lips and refused to let go.

Chapter 18:
I forgot how any distance between us, even an inch, felt unbearably huge.

I forgot you licking your lips when the frayed edge of my t-shirt rose briefly above my jeans’ waistline.

I forgot your frown as you watched me skillfully clean pistols laid out on a table: the Glock 17, a Sig Sauer P320, Beretta 92, Sig Sauer P226, C-75, Smith & Wesson Military & Police, FN Five Seven, HK USP, Beretta PX4 Storm, and Walther P99.

I forgot royalty thrived because of humanity’s disease known as “silence of the lambs.”

I forgot feudal lords practicing “jus primae noctis” that allowed noblemen to have sex with low-ranked women on their wedding nights.

I forgot caressing the tears on a long-haired woman whispering, To live is inevitably to shatter.

Chapter 19:
I forgot how I protested, “Must everything be remembered?”

I forgot night’s consistency in always arriving.

I forgot words turning me into water without flavor because its memories had yet to be conceived.

I forgot night’s consistency in always ending.

I forgot the Koran’s “eternal water”—whiter than milk, sweeter than honey, and colder than ice.

I forgot the chilled perfume of a fountain spouting helplessly towards a ceiling of mist in a dim, anonymous cave.

Chapter 20:
I forgot parting my lips beneath clouds in the planet’s top repositories of rain: Zurich, Miami, Ljubljana, Burgundy, Hilo, Copenhagen, Beijing, Quibdó to Borongan, Glasgow, Taipei, Jagdalpur, and the Pacifican rainforest.

I forgot the futility of smelling vivid images of the world’s most fragrant flowers: gardenia, rose, lily, magnolia, jasmine, freesia, honeysuckle, lavender, orange blossom, hyacinth, lilac, and heliotrope.

I forgot we became pluviophiles because rain-lovers more fully appreciate life by basking in any experience.

I forgot the Apuan Alps where mountains glimmered as though cloaked with snow all year because they homed the marble that became Michelangelo’s “Pietà” and “David.”

I forgot Lardo di Colonatta, pork back-fat seasoned with sea salt, garlic, black pepper, sage, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, and coriander.

I forgot the ingredients of Venetian Tongue with Olive Sauce: calves’ tongue, green olives with pits, lemon juice, anchovy paste, virgin olive oil, and flat-leaf Italian parsley.

I forgot deer horn is not a good handle for the Bowie knife because, unlike stamina wood, it can be slippery.

I forgot Marrakech where you licked the remnants of chermoula from my mouth after it welcomed beef cubes from a tagine the same color as that day’s sky.

I forgot worlds changing and love keeping up.

I forgot that for those whose nerves have been steeled by fortitude, love retains its constancy.

Chapter 21:
I forgot even Hadaka-Jime judo was not as efficient as chiffonading a bad guy’s head.

I forgot a long-lashed god who slept nude on a floating cloud off the coast of Kauai.

I forgot hefty bank accounts in Singapore, Georgia, Cook Islands, and Chase in the United States despite the marketing clamour from Swiss, Panamanian, Costa Rican, Anguillan, Barbados, and Cayman Island banks

I forgot Colombia’s best beer, Club Colombia Doradas brewed with malted barley and caramel malt, is fully capable of exalting any moment.

I forgot how philistine was merely a camouflage for you.

I forgot the innate talent of spies—they contain multitudes.

Chapter 22:
I forgot how the 2008 Masseto crafted “the taste of forgiveness.”

I forgot Mark Twain’s reminder: “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

I forgot how you redefined “dessert” as belonging in the bedroom instead of dining room.

I forgot how you whispered, “A waterfall awaits. I’ve been parched without you.”

Chapter 23:
I forgot you made me shudder more than once.

I forgot the fictionist Steve Almond’s tip of never likening nipples to Frankenstein’s bolts.

I forgot how the belly button, contrary to popular belief, is not the cut end of an umbilical cord but scar tissue.

I forgot you bathing me in champagne before you encircled my waist with a gold chain bearing charms that symbolized the history of the world: teardrop-shaped black pearls, a gold book with an enamel cover emblazoned with a red rosebud, a silver sword with its blade embossed with horses and handle studded with rubies, the sun and earth’s planets as small diamonds set atop a mother-of-pearl circle, and a heart-shaped aquamarine.

I forgot that at the height of sexual pleasure, names become irrelevant as we become acolytes of rapture.

I forgot the unique fragility of a person in love.

I forgot the oldest umbilical scar is from a 130-million-year-old dinosaur, the Psittacosaurus, whose umbilicus persisted until sexual maturity, like those on certain lizards and crocodylians.

I forgot that to treasure you is to cherish your scars.

Chapter 24:
I forgot that midnight is not black but a navy blue that resembles a moonlit night sky around a full moon.

I forgot how you left me sodden and slightly swollen.

I forgot you called my children more journeys for loving me.

I forgot how Zimbabwe’s elephants lapse to autocoprophagy—coprophagy refers to eating feces and autocoprophagy means eating one’s own.

I forgot that inheritance includes crap.

I forgot how kindness cures human autocoprophagy.

I forgot that one shouldn’t bother arguing with fate, even if one disrupts it.

Chapter 25:
I forgot scattering pink rose petals on a dining table because pink symbolizes innocence and we rarely experienced innocence.

I forgot the spy who camouflaged himself in the Congo by learning to dance mbuki-mvuki.

I forgot people bragging more about their grief than money.

I forgot Hadrian naming a constellation after his lover, Antinous.

I forgot Gertrude Stein proclaiming for Alice Toklas: “One must dare to be happy.”

I forgot history’s amnesia when it came to helpers, like Karma Paul who was a sherpa and interpreter to Hugh Rutledge’s 1936 Everest expedition, Ooladie who was rare for having her name known among the female Africans who aided H.M. Stanley’s 19th century trans-African expedition, and Juan Tepano who helped Quaker ethnologist Katherine Routledge as she conducted research on Rapa Nui, Easter Island.

I forgot most people need a savior.

I forgot thick-thighed soldiers laying waste to land until “not even a perch for a bird was left.”

I forgot King Sargon of Akkad who introduced empire to humanity.

I forgot how Enheduanna’s father used her poetry to destroy his enemies’ gods.

I forgot the sky’s color is an illusion, and how the illusion paradoxically expands blue’s personality: Argentinian Blue, Azure, Baby Blue, Blue De France, Boeing Blue, Byzantine Blue, Celeste, Capri, Carolina Blue, Cerulean, Chlorine Blue, Columbia Blue, Cornflower Blue, Crayola Blue, Dodger Blue, Facebook Blue, Indigo, Intel Blue, Maya Blue, Pacific Blue, Pantone Blue, Persian Blue, Polynesian Blue, Powder Blue, Ruddy Blue, Savoy Blue, Spanish Blue, Tufts Blue, Turquoise, Twitter Blue, Uranian Blue, and Ultramarine.

I forgot no one should clutch at the sky as their only blanket.

I forgot gods are like humans: sages are rare.

I forgot gods are formed in childhood so that the orphan’s childhood revealed gods are disposable.

I forgot we are not amateurs as spies.

I forgot enthusiasm until fate brought us together again, our eyelashes intersecting with each other’s when we kissed.


Chapter 2: The Salvador Plascencia quote is from his novel The People of Paper (HarperVia, 2006).

Chapter 6: the 4th line is after the line “Blue as a vein o’er the Madonna’s breast” by Robert Browning.

Chapter 10: the last line was influenced by the account of “The Battle of Thermopylae” by Ludwig Heinrich Dyck: https://ludwigheinrichdyck.wordpress.com/tag/thermopylae/

Chapter 20: the list of the world’s most fragrant flora is from “12 Best Smelling Flowers in the World,” Petal Talk: https://www.1800flowers.com/blog/flower-facts/best-smelling-fragrant-flowers/


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