Memory's Landscape's avatar

Memory's Landscape

The storm came out of the blue,
unpredicted. Now light appears
like a tear in the edge of the gray,
and the sound subsides, muffled
like drums moving away
to another skirmish
in an endless war.
The papers left in the station,
or blowing in the links of a fence
are already days away,
the ink and soggy pages together
soak and sink.
The water carried indoors as darkness
on clothing, or lightness on skin,
is a memory of the memory
that begins before we become
who we briefly pretend we are.

Keith Althaus, from “Whose Requiem Is the Rain,” The American Poetry Review (vol. 28, no. 3, May/June 1999)



During the last ten years of her life, my mother gradually lost her memory. When I went to see her in Saragossa, where she lived with my brothers, I watched the way she read magazines, turning the pages carefully, one by one, from the first to the last. When she finished, I’d take the magazine from her, then give it back, only to see her leaf through it again, slowly, page by page.

She was in perfect physical health and remarkably agile for her age, but in the end she no longer recognized her children. She didn’t know who we were, or who she was. I’d walk into her room, kiss her, sit with her awhile. Sometimes, I’d leave, then turn around and walk back in again. She greeted me with the same smile and invited me to sit down—as if she were seeing me for the first time. She didn’t remember my name.

… As time goes by, we don’t give a second thought to all the memories we so unconsciously accumulate, until suddenly, one day, we can’t think of the name of a good friend or relative. It’s simply gone; we’ve forgotten … I search and search, but it’s futile, and I can only wait for the final amnesia, the one that can erase an entire life, as it did my mothers’.

So far I’ve managed to keep this final darkness at bay. From my distant past, I can still conjure up countless names and faces; and when I forget one, I remain calm. I know it’s sure to surface suddenly, via one of those accidents of the unconscious. On the other hand, I’m overwhelmed by anxiety when I can’t remember a recent event, or the name of someone I’ve meet during the last few months. Or the name of a familiar object. I feel as if my whole personality has suddenly disintegrated; I become obsessed; I can’t think about anything else; and yet all my efforts and my rage get my nowhere. Am I going to disappear all together? The obligation to find a metaphor to describe “table” is a monstrous feeling, but I console myself with the fact that there is something even worse—to be alive and yet not recognize yourself, not know anymore who you are.

You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all … our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing. Memory can be omnipotent and indispensable, but it’s also terribly fragile. The menace is everywhere, not only from its traditional enemy, forgetfulness, but from false memories … our imagination, and our dreams, are forever invading our memories; we end up transforming our lies into truths. Of course, fantasy and reality are equally personal, and equally felt, so their confusion is a matter of only relative importance … I am the sum of my errors and doubts as well as my certainties … the portrait I’ve drawn is wholly mine—with my affirmations, my hesitations, my repetitions and lapses. My truths and my lies.”

—Luis Buñuel, from My Last Sigh (Alfred A. Knopf, 1983)

The shadow past is shaped by everything that never happened. Invisible, it melts the present like rain through karst. A biography of longing. It steers us like magnetism, a spirit torque. This is how one becomes undone by a smell, a word, a place, the photo of a mountain of shoes. By love that closes its mouth before calling a name.

Anne Michaels, from Fugitive Pieces (McClelland & Stewart, 1996)

(via cwmy)

nefotografas, One Day Impressions, 2011

nefotografas, One Day Impressions, 2011

(via leprocrastinateur)



“I am the one standing in the rain,
invisible beside you. I am the one in the dirt
which is now turning to mud around my feet.
I am the one weighed down by each of our partings
and the one lifted up by each meeting,
reachings that could not be completed, that
nevertheless held up the force of their hunger.

And, yes, you were always a seeking, an unknown,
a mystery to me. And not less that I to myself—
beginner that I have become all over again
on the paths and mountain slopes of this journey.
I watch my mind watch each moment in its passage,
it fades into, blends, with what came before.

Nothing remains as it was in the mind
after the path has been seen and walked upon,
there is always the next thing arriving
as if from behind, catching up with one’s sight,
surrounding. And all the while the snows of memory
are falling, covering the roads of the present.

The past overflows this moment without meaning to,
just as your face is more real in my remembering
than this present one sitting next to me,
just as each of us hurt the other without
intending it. And after a time we thought
experience might bring us to calm, and we see

we are standing in the river of passing,
each waiting for the warmth of the other’s face,
unable to understand why they are not with us,
startled by their absence, traveler and traveler
distant as two dots unconnected in a yellow field.”

William Kistler, “You Were,” from The American Poetry Review (vol. 28, no. 3, May/June 1999)



When the sky’s dark face
catches your eye again,
let memory write
of a darkness beyond this:

days self-blinded, nights
of searching untaught,
thinking your own thought,

Antoine de Chandieu, from “Octonaires on the World’s Vanity and Inconstancy,” trans. Nate Klug, Poetry (June 2011)

Below you will find a link to “an open call for participants in a digital project that explores the stories that discarded objects can tell about our history. (This is a non-fiction storytelling project.) The project will examine how people’s memories of their childhood games with discarded material objects inform the way they imagine the cultural landscape of their childhood.” 


A writing project you might enjoy, or share with someone you think might have something to contribute:
For those who are interested, do consider participating and good luck!

"We, as human beings, are landed with memory systems that have fallibilities, frailties, and imperfections—but also great flexibility and creativity. Confusion over sources or indifference to them can be a paradoxical strength: if we could tag the sources of all our knowledge, we would be overwhelmed with often irrelevant information.

Indifference to source allows us to assimilate what we read, what we are told, what others say and think and write and paint, as intensely and richly as if they were primary experiences. It allows us to see and hear with other eyes and ears, to enter into other minds, to assimilate the art and science and religion of the whole culture, to enter into and contribute to the common mind, the general commonwealth of knowledge. This sort of sharing and participation, this communion, would not be possible if all our knowledge, our memories, were tagged and identified, seen as private, exclusively ours. Memory is dialogic and arises not only from direct experience but from the intercourse of many minds.”

Oliver Sacks, from “Speak, Memory,” The New York Review of Books (21 February 2013)

Alex Boyd, Last Light, Dún Briste, 2012

Alex BoydLast Light, Dún Briste, 2012

(via memoryepsilon)

Men’s memories are uncertain and the past that was differs little from the past that was not.

Cormac McCarthy, from Blood Meridian: or the Evening Redness in the West (Random House, 1985)