back then

no one can ever be
what they were
back then

we are not the same

so much of us
and what there was
has gone

the friendships of our schooldays
are mostly dead
and are only rarely more
than images preserved
by a forgotten process
that technology has replaced

a first love...
the strength and elasticity
of physical prowess...
the recollections
of your upbringing...
exist only as
imperfect and dreamlike

bygone teachers pose
in the photos of their form...
fading in the dusty frames
on the paint-chipped walls
of outmoded years

who then became
an hirsute and erectile youth...
am now creased and flaccid
and slowly folding in
on knotted joints

and she...
who was a multi-coloured caterpillar
that ate the library leaves by day...
is now a soft and downy moth
attracted to the scents and nectar
of the night

for some...
a metamorphosis
has taken place
whereby we can scarce believe
the entities before and after
are somehow the same

but something has endured
between the beginning
and the end
of every lifepath existence

briefly are we each
a transient appearance
of ephemeral and mutating genes
whereby the continuity
of our essence
appears retained...
by patterned skin
on fingertips...
the enduring color
and construction of an iris...
or the complex signature
of the helices
of our genes...

what has endured
is nothing more than
an ecosystem succession
integrated by the present whims
of a single phenotype

distant and accumulated memories
are often deconstructed...
and links and associations
that may or may not
have ever been there
are made
or lost
or overwritten
by the relentless input
of the present

skills and thoughts...
hopes and aspirations...
have all changed
from when we dreamed
back then

the present is all we have

the future continues
as a chaos of uncertainty
where even the very nearest tomorrow
may decline to eventuate

no one can ever be
what they were

back then