Who were they?
They are nothing, now.
What is memory?
Fragments of time, name, place;
That strange country:
My grandfather (Ah Kong)'s watch,
[Awarded to Datuk Kam U Tee
on the occasion of his retirement
Stepping out of the airport
The wall of wet heat and car
Horns, the sweet aroma of
Warm sewage, dim sum,
(later brown (after the firemen came)) of
22 Fairfield Avenue
Sunflowers peeking over olive green fences
Yorkshire pudding, rising slowly in the oven
This week’s Beano annual (1970)
(purchased at The Red Cross Bookshop
[Bath Rd, Cheltenham, Glos])
a slab, a body, a boy
Seeing a corpse for the first time,
Shivering in the cold morgue -
My father, drawing the thin plastic curtain,
mumbling “I’ll give you a moment…”
I kissed her forehead.
I wish I knew how to say goodbye
In a language she can understand.
Where is memory?
“Flat 3, Stanley House”, ()
I was eleven years old,
Writing a sonnet for English
She said: “I’ve always loved the word lambent…”
(The name of a cottage in Cornwall)
Where she taught me to knit,
Where we half-finished puzzles
Where my mother whispered
“This might be the last time,
So be nice!”
It had a garden, where I played pretend
Battles with imagined demons,
Whilst the tin kettle whispered on the Aga
And the rain knocked gently on the door,
Who was he?
Ah Kong is
Sat on the other side of the chessboard.
He tries to hide his smile
I topple my white King
And set up the pieces again
(minus “black queen” (to make it fair))
my mum, my dad, my grandma ("Ah Ma"), maricel, myself;
“But come ye ba-aack,
When summer’s in the meadow,
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be he - [Ah Ma’s voice breaks] -aaere
in sunshine or in shadow,
[the beep is slowing down]
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy…
Sitting alone, tonight
In front of the fire,
Playing chess with myself,
Trying not to win
How is memory?
Buried inside a notebook,
Locked in a box in the attic[
“... and though the lambent sun may set tonight,
When people go, the things they leave behind
Are memories, their tracks on our minds”
aged 13 1/2]
Written 10 years older
Trying to remember things he said,
Or the way she laughed
(before the pill boxes,
the care home visits,
the late night phone calls),
Or who I was.
What is memory?
It’s a place I had forgotten -
A thing forever lost,
A mess of names and smells and pictures
Some remembered, some not -
Until I hear a whisper on the breeze
Turn to find myself alone,
With a handful of ashes
On an empty moor:
(or something like that)
(Where Joan and Thomas Donald
Used to lie together
And blow the stamen from dandelions
And make faces out of clouds)
Where we scattered her.
What do I remember about the night she died?
We were playing “Settlers of Catan”
The phone rang
My mum answered
Came back in flustered
“They think this might be it...”
I rolled my eyes, Annoyed more than anything
Begrudgingly gettinf in the car
More phone calls
Dark building rush past
The empty car park
A white room, a white curtain
The look on my father’s face.
I knew, then.