memory is a fickle friend

One of these days I’ll get up early enough to join a dVerse OLN live session… in the meantime, asynchronous will have to do.
This started as a line in my last poem, that a couple of people said they liked.

Memory is a fickle friend at best,
at worst, a false witness.

Like a blind man asking
a confidante to describe a photograph,
we ask her to tell us our past.

But she cannot.
The past is gone.

So memory,
like a historical novelist,
must construct a story from the scraps –
one true enough that the lies don’t catch our eyes,
one false enough that we can stomach it.

And so she obfuscates and extrapolates,
filling in and filtering,
redacting and recolouring
to give us what we want
(or maybe what we need):
a yesterday revised to suit our today.


Filed under poem

36 responses to “memory is a fickle friend

  1. A tremendous poem. So accurate and well said. With strong imagery that says what even excellent words cannot.

  2. Totally. Yes. Ms. Novelist shuffles things sometimes to please: “she obfuscates and extrapolates,
    filling in and filtering, redacting and recolouring”. She does. She is fickle at best. 👏

  3. memory a fickle friend indeed. the title is so appropriate

  4. Well written. I struggle to remember what memory is!

  5. Yo Kate, I enjoyed greatly

  6. You got this SO RIGHT! All memories are reconstructions…

  7. fireblossom32

    Memory is a tricky beast indeed. Like a histrical novel or even more like a poem perhaps.

    Hey….I am hosting at The Sunday Muse this weekend. We’d love to have you join in!

    • Thanks! I just followed the link, I’ll try to come up with something.
      I need some headspace first – sending angry work emails and listening to the kids fighting right now.

      • fireblossom32

        I hope things have calmed. Meanwhile, I’m going to go write “historical” 100 times on the blackboard.

        • If only I could get some of my colleagues to write “I will do my damn job” a hundred times. 😀 Things have not calmed yet, but tomorrow will hopefully be the last of the current surge in work. Sorry I didn’t make it to the prompt. Next time.

  8. rose color
    no u
    cos i m usa bound
    ah so

  9. All memories are subjective, as are our realities, individual, unique, and totally unreliable. ~peace, Jason

  10. one true enough that the lies don’t catch our eyes,
    one false enough that we can stomach it.

    So, so, so true, Kate


  11. Well put. Much as the writing of human history goes too victors, we use incomplete or inadequate memories to rewrite personal histories to suit ourselves. Whole futures can turn on such interpretations. Whether out of innocence or guilt we reconstruct, we often all to often mess it up.

  12. We cannot trust the memory indeed… people even make false confessions to murder.

    • I believe it. I once unintentionally gave a false witness statement based on a constructed memory of a car accident that I 100% believed at the time. I still have no real memory of what happened, although I was lucid and chatted to the ambulance driver. I had no idea who he was some hours later when he came to see how I was doing.

  13. So true! I wonder how many stories have been written just like that? Sort of pieced together like a convincing collage. Then one’s perception is coloured by emotion and all sorts of things at play. Ooh, this is a thinker 🙂

  14. sanaarizvi

    “Like a blind man asking/a confidante to describe a photograph/we ask her to tell us our past,”… yes! This is incredibly deep and heart-stirring 💝💝

  15. Kate, you are brilliant in this craft of weaving words, that portray your thinking.

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