This is an explanation or background to the poem ‘Blue grapes’.
I am watching my own memory, as I have written here over these past years. Me then, me now, what I knew and what I did not. I have written about dementia, a devastating disease that touches most of us in some way, that is affecting my mother. I have written about photographs like memory. Is this a sideline or a sibling to identity?
As I talk to my mother on the phone, my voice is familiar enough, and she remembers her son setting off camping alone in the Peak District. And yet I worry that if I were to knock on her door now, she would not recognise me. She never knew she had a daughter at the time I remember her summer skirt, when I was so small and sat or on at her knee. My best memory of that may have been stimulated by a photograph of her wearing it. Which I saw many years ago. The photograph no longer exists because she threw it away, my memory does, hers may, because it is an old memory, where I am still her son.
Somewhere inside, she is still the same young mother, whilst outside her reality is badly distorted. Today cannot be reclaimed, whilst those old days are like fluctuating embers of a dying fire. The conversations we hold now are a tissue, always the same, very fragile, everything in a tenuous memory layer, nothing really in the present. I am in the opposite pattern, where my memories are least like I really am now. One of us is hanging on to the present, the other the past, as our strongest realities.
Our identities must be more than our memories, yet without them we don’t fully make sense of the present, and so my mother and I have slipped apart even more than my bad record of being in touch deserves. I feel more myself, she less, whilst we may both remember a time long gone when she was young and wore a skirt I shall never forget, in a pattern of blue grapes.
Hence the poem, which visually represents a dialogue that is slipping apart. It can be read as one voice, or two.