Dealing With the Emergence of Memories
Some years ago while conducting a writing workshop demonstration, with a group of Grade 4 writers a young writer suddenly burst out in the middle of the 'tuning in' phase of the lesson, 'Wow, I just realized there's a hole in our laundry wall and its been there for about three years and I don't know how it got there!'
There was a pause, then laughter slowly bubbled up within the group. The writer apologized for her unannounced declaration, so I asked, Why do you think that memory suddenly came up like that? What sparked it? She wasn't sure what had summoned up the hole in the wall right at that point in our lesson. I urged her to continue thinking and maybe consider it as a writing prompt in the hope the memory recall might lead to something more substantial.
Sometimes our recollections are prompted by a word trigger. A connection is made and the mind kicks into overdrive in dredging up the memory -be it false, accurate or incomplete. Such spontaneity is common. We all experience these moments from time to time.
An idea, a thought descends upon our consciousness with lightning speed and we are suddenly consumed by that unexpected interruption. We allow it walk freely about in our minds as we ponder -where did that just come from?
On the weekend while watching a documentary on restoring old machinery, I suddenly recalled an old steamroller that once stood on a vacant block of land for many years, three doors up from our house. It flashed up so clearly and I began to recall a myriad of associated childhood memories. While it had been many decades since I last had any recollection of that massive machine, I immediately knew how that young writer felt recalling the hole in the laundry wall.
I allowed this returning memory to grow like an ember fanned by a sudden breeze. On Monday, after percolating for a couple of days, a narrative poem with a full head of steam came rushing out across the fresh pages of my notebook. Memories are lost if we don't listen to them when they come calling...
It was there from day one
A steel behemoth
How did it land there?
We found it standing silently
-A vacant corner block
Not far from the school
A roadmaking relic
Propped plumb in the middle of that block
The block everyone in town
Called- Severino’s Block
A dinosaur of a machine
Well and truly out of steam
merely a curiosity upon which local children climb
And clamber over its huge frame
As toddlers assail a kindly uncle
The echoes of children’s laughter
Surround the accommodating giant
It morphs into an imagination machine
With a view of the surrounding houses
The football ground
Cars going by.
By space angels, dragons and warrior kings
As a pirate ship
A rocket, ready for launching
A command outpost,
Where from the bridge
The leader stands boldly
Unfussed by scampering minions below
And then at other times
A teenage hangout
Where conversations and cigarettes are exchanged
Secrets of little consequence revealed.
Overtime its green paint, flaked and faded
Blackberries sprung up around it
The relentless rust spread across its body
Decreasing its appeal
And the kids grew
Moved on, lost sight of it
The steamroller stood its ground
A brutal, steel monument to the passing of time.
One day it was gone and Severino’s Block
Lost its identifying marks
Becoming merely another block of land...
Did the steamroller
Roll down a hill,
Crash from a clifftop
Like Ted Hughes’s Iron Man?
Its parts separated, scattered.
Did it move on to a steamroller sanctuary?
Graceful in retirement
If someone knows, they are holding onto a steamrolling secret
The legend rolls on…
©Alan j Wright
|A steamroller similar to the one that disappeared all those years ago|