The Memory Theatre

When the memory of a loved person becomes impaired through dementia or brain injury, we have the sense of a diminution in our relationship, perhaps gradual at first but eventually undeniable. Memory holds together the immensity of a life, binding together its phases like a symphony or dramatic work. But artists strive for unity; a lived life has no such design. Even so, looking back on someone’s life, we may feel certain themes clearly emerge. This poem considers such feelings through an extended metaphor.

The Memory Theatre  
(Gertrude: 'Thou turn'st my eyes into my very soul' HAMLET Act3 scene4) 
There is only one show in the memory theatre 
and it has been running a long time.
Now and then a new actor joins
giving the director an opportunity 
to make adjustments to the plot.

It becomes less about entertainment,
more the hunt for a narrative
which satisfies like food:
a staple necessary for life
to have meaning and flourish.

As a taste for simplicity grows
the host uses an optics of self-scrutiny
to illuminate tricks of memory
and suggest right action through portrayal
of its casual or studied avoidance.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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