Poem O’ The Week: This Is My First Memory

About a month ago I visited Chester to do some poetry projects with Chester Performs. On the Saturday, I sat in the Roman amphitheatre in the middle of Chester, chatting to members of the public about their earliest memories. I wrote each memory on a big A2 sheet of paper, and we hung them up all around a marquee. As the day went on, the marquee became a gallery of disembodied memories, and people would wander through, nosing into the shaded recesses of strangers’ brains.

Some of the memories were sad, some were funny, some seemed very dramatic at the time but in retrospect were tiny moments. I suppose most of life is like that, really. I took the memories and spliced them up to make a single, dreamlike reminiscence. They’re all real. None of the lines is mine. I hope you like it.

This Is My First Memory

I like putting my head under the water.
I see it in a mix of first and third person:
I was dressed as a butterfly,
a chain attached to the skirting-board;
it was for a contest.
I didn’t go near the sea again for years.

In my memory, I can see myself
like an inverted thimble,
sitting on an upturned flowerpot in my neighbour’s paddling pool.
I drank it.
I don’t remember how I felt.

I was so scared.
I was jealous.
I was panicked.
I was jealous.
I panicked.
You know that thing you do as a kid when you cry so much?

We all pretended to be dogs.
My Mum had made me
out of crepe.
I couldn’t concentrate.
I was 2, 2½.
I was 3.
I was 4.
I got lost.

A very old man
got a bit over-enthusiastic with the dandling;
I hit him over the head with
a Christmas tree fairy.
I thought I was doing it a favour.

I fell into a swollen river.
I remember it being beautiful.
I saw Year 6 – there were basically hardly any people.

I wish I could go back.