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Friday, 27 September 2013

Autumn: Work for Week 2


Suddenly you remember something, someone, somewhere.   Sometimes you know what set the memory off.  Sometimes you don’t.   Or it’s in a dream.   

Why did you remember that, him, her, that place?   You’re feeling sorry for yourself?   You feel guilty?    You’re scared and it always comes back when you’re scared.   That’s exactly
what you previous lover said!  That’s our  song.  

Remembering at the last minute.  Remembering too late that you’ve forgotten the anniversary.    Remembering the dead.

Sometimes I think of something my father would have been interested, and just for the smallest sub-particle of a second I’m thinking, oh must tell Dad about that,  but before the thoughts ‘finished’ I’ve remembered he’s dead long since.

I remember things based on familiar everyday objects.  They, as it were, ‘contain’ stories.

When I lift my brush to clean my teeth I remember Camelford, where I’d brought the electric tooth brush to use during a writing week.   I see the window of the bathroom there, and then the rather bleak rooms of the place we stayed.

When I see a baboon I always think of ‘Bobo’ at Southampton zoo where my former wife worked as a keeper.   

The Warsaw Concerto takes me back to the age of about six or seven in the sitting room where my father you to play it to me, and then ask me what the tune was (it was always the same so I always got it right)

When I look at the carving on my desk I remember my friend from Zimbabwe who brought it for me when he’d been on leave in Zambia.   He’d been educated in, then, Soviet Poland, and like most of the Poles I met there was a strong socialist.   It’s bare bold forehead was like his, I told him, and indeed like Lenin’s!
It would be possible to construct a poem or a prose sketch in which you simply went round a familiar room and related each object to a bit of past.      This is the ‘sea’ you are now sailing, floating, sinking on.

When I see a dog’s paw pads I think of the dog I had in Nigeria:   when you tickled the spot in the middle of the pads of its back foot all its whiskers would move slowly forward.   As a child I had a dog and every other dog seems in some way the same, the same skull that your hand feels,  those hard eyebrows,   that place behind the ear to scratch,  the blackberry nose, the intent gaze as the chocolate drop, as my mother once put it, like the gaze of a lustful man.

Think about the moment of remembering.  Suddenly as the train stopped and the passengers started getting          out  I remembered Millie, I saw her back turned lugging the suitcase down onto the platform.    Why did I   suddenly remember?

My friend Brian died last week.  Haven’t seen him for some twenty years since he left Nigeria and settled in the ‘Arab’ district of Paris.   Suddenly I see him at the door of our house coming to visit.  It’s evening.  Black glass door panes behind him.  He always felt he ought to come with some news or a gift.   Why?   I wrote a poem about it for another friend to read at his funeral.  Things he’d told me back rushing back, about his time at a seminary, a strange sexual experience in the presence of ‘nature’. . .

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. ... Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? ... And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.
—Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

Over and over again
I keep tasting that sweet madeleine
looking back at my life now and then
asking: if not later then when?

"Memory of the Future" from their 2012 album Elysium,

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