By Claire Buckle
Welcome to my third April Showcase. Last week, I looked at how love in its various forms can be contradictory. This week, I thought it’d be interesting to examine memory.
Recently, I attended an online writing workshop where participants had eight minutes to write about memory. Studies have shown how a memory of an event can be notoriously contradictory to what actually happened. This thought generated a piece of flash/micro fiction. I imagined a memory arriving in an elderly woman’s mind, perhaps for no discernable reason. Fleetingly, it reminds her of a happy moment in a sea of unhappiness. It begs the question whether we, as readers, can trust first-person narration, or is it always unreliable?
It wasn’t me but my little brother who found the tiny plastic penguin, nestled in the gritty sand beneath the clear water of the rock pool. It comes to me now, in this dull, half-light, the thrill on his sun-kissed four-year-old face. Much of the penguin’s black and white colour was scuffed. Peter held it for a moment before he popped it into his red bucket, that one with the yellow handle, along with the tiny wiggling fish and minute crab he’d caught with his green net.
Seventy years later, there are no photographs of that holiday, but the penguin sits on my shelf, sparking a slice or a sliver, or maybe simply a crumb of happy childhood times.
© Claire Buckle, 2023
The following poem by Jan Clarke was written in 1973 when she was Janice Rhoads, a 15-year-old schoolgirl. Published in that year’s Hornchurch Grammar School magazine, the poem serves as a reminder that the angst felt by adolescents 50 years ago still resonates today. Remember, this is way before the advent of social media and yet the narrator feels their daytime persona is a mask, part of a performance they undertake.
Impatiently acting our way through day,
from dawn till dusk, a charade we play.
Our slumbers take us away from fiction
to the world without jurisdiction.
Dreamland is a world of fact
But the daytime is all an act.
People awake, themselves can never be
We are able to face ourselves only subconsciously.
© Janice Rhoads, 1973
Two Stews Apart by Gloria Maloney focuses on the delicious aroma coming from a family recipe, which conjures up the memory of a grandmother’s love. However, the simplest of actions brings to mind the contradictions between the basic act of seasoning a dish and the human cost involved in some countries in the production of salt.
Gloria says: “The inspiration for my poem came from watching a documentary on the lives of the Agariya people, one of the poorest communities in India, harvesting the salt in Rann of Kutch.”
Gloria has illustrated the scene with a charming pen and ink drawing.
Two Stews Apart
Pungent aromatic smells of my favourite stew waft around
Herb memories bubble to the surface
Stew stirs, unravelling of Grandmother’s headscarf
A basket of herbs by her side
Tender hands lovingly transfer the scarf
Covering my eyes
I hear bees buzzing
“To see the essence of the herbs, hold out your hands”
“Sage - clever and wise
Oregano – skin all aglow
Fennel – good health and wealth
Chives – lively inquisitive, sweet child of mine”
The stew calls for a sprinkling of salt
I reach for the condiment
An assault hits my mind
Recall of the TV documentary
Woman, skin deep brown cervices, harsh life lines
Labours under the relentless burning Indian sun
Harvesting the Salt Plains
Sinews stretched taught, knots of pain
Salt coursing round her veins
Her world a colourless white blank canvas
I wonder what she will put in her cooking pot tonight
© Gloria Maloney, 2023
Below is a poem by Mary Walsh, which I hope will make you smile. Mary’s inspiration came from thinking about children scrumping apples and questioning why they should have all the fun.
Mary says, “I was never allowed to when I was a child and so I thought about what it would be like if an elderly lady decided to steal an apple, having been good all her life. Would the thrill of the forbidden fruit be the same?”
The woman’s behaviour is contradictory to how she would normally act. The temptation to take the apple is too strong for her to resist and, even though the theft has consequences, she has no regrets.
I Am Eve
I am Eve
I took that apple. It looked so round and delicious.
Just hanging there, the sun gently warming its dappled skin
It had been a while since breakfast.
Of course, fruit is no substitute for a Danish pastry,
or a bacon sandwich.
But Oh! It looked so tempting.
My fingers reached up curled around its rosy form.
A twist and it was in my hand as my lips parted.
The flesh was sweet and juicy with the aroma of summer
And then too soon, all gone!
I dropped my walking stick climbing back over that garden fence,
ripped my skirt on a nail.
I hobbled away from the man shouting.
“Oi! What d’ya think you’re doin?”
With a smile on my face,
the taste of forbidden fruit on my tongue
© Mary L Walsh, 2023
To finish, here is a poignant poem from Patsy Middleton. The vivid landscape is etched on the narrator’s memory and we can imagine how it will comfort them if they can no longer walk on the beach and watch the sunset.
Sunset On Sheringham Beach
The tide was going out as I walked along the shore
Retreating waves left ripples in the sand
The sun was going down as it always had before
there was no difference twixt the sky and land.
A mist mixed sea and sky to a glowing line
As if I stood within a hazy orb
I’d never looked at anything so wondrously fine
The vision captivated past superb
I watched the mist rise upward from the sapphire sea
My soul sang songs to nature’s loveliness
My heartbeat felt as if it did not belong to me
As eyes drank deep of this great wondrousness
I couldn’t move away from the feast before my eye
And now it is imprinted on my soul
Just as Wordsworth’s daffodils for him would never die
I’ll remember this sunset when I’m old.
© Patsy Middleton, 2023
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