I was scrabbling through some old papers at the weekend, searching for a song, when I came across this poem.
I wrote it in 2001, and, interestingly, can’t remember what it was referring to – which, once you read it, seems somewhat fitting.
I do know that sometimes we carry memories with us in a negative way, whether they are hurtful memories we can’t let go of, a situation we can’t leave behind, or simply what I call ‘Golden Age syndrome’.
This is where we have an idealised picture of how a place/person/relationship used to be and it dominates the present so much that we forget to look for its own unique joys and sorrows. Regret is one thing that is particularly hard to release – indeed it has a very particular sting which can taint everything.
Here it is, then, the poem which sparked these thoughts…
Why do we follow this circle round
of memories that lead to hurt?
(labelling them as ‘nostalgia’
as if they were benign
and caused no cancer to the heart.)
holding fast to that which was
the good and the bad in the palm
of a weary hand, rheumatic
with clinging so ferociously
to a collection of battered
antiquities and hopes, now dust.
is it wrong or somehow
disloyal – to exorcise the mind
of old demons encased in silver
boxes? to embrace the ‘now’
not ‘then’ (despite its beauty,
for a beauty faded cannot shine.)
risking fullness of life
for a bucketful of broken china
and the spiders in the cracks.
if eyes open can the hand
– and heart – remain closed?
(unfeeling at the sunrise of tomorrow)
why dream of night when it is day –
or wish the golden colours grey?
Of course some memories are incredibly special and it is healthy to carry them in our hearts and have them form our character and reactions in the present. But I think we know, ‘deep down’ as they say, which memories we are clinging to in a way that is not beneficial – to us or to those around us, who share our lives. These memories are like stones in our shoes, although we may struggle to admit it – we limp along desperately but cannot bring ourselves to leave them behind. We need to see those which are benign, and those which are causing ‘cancer to the heart’.
Recognising them is the first step, praying we will learn to open our ‘closed hands’, those clenched fists, such painful grips, and trust that there is One greater than past, present and future who can take the unhealthy bits away. (Indeed he is as wonderful in one time as he is in the others.) It may mean we can at last hold a memory minus its bitterness and pain, not absent but cleansed of any ugliness or sorrow.