I was four myself when my own brother died. The details at once vivid and vague, as a dream has moments of clarity and still plots that meander and turn aimless and insensible. Memories are compounded by the retelling and rewritten by the narratives they create.
And in the Flanagan house, with me at least, conversations don't happen and I alone write my memories, based on my four-year-old's eyes. And I see myself looking, so I know it's a memory written by a me now looking in on a remembered scene that may not even have happened like that.
People press on memories for truth. Not just distant memories, but what happened yesterday, what happened during that conversation when two people fell away from each other. I do it too, but I try not to too much. Because it doesn't seem to matter; that line between the memory and the narrative of it.
I'm still not over Heaney's passing. Maybe I'm wallowing in it, the way grief can be so compelling; its pinpricks create a seeking-out. And if that's what it is, that I'm wallowing because it means reaching deeper into poetry, it's a beautiful grief. This is by Seamus.
I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o'clock our neighbours drove me home.
In the porch I met my father crying--
He had always taken funerals in his stride--
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.
The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand
And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble,"
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand
In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.
Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,
Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.
A four foot box, a foot for every year.