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.