Monthly Archives: September 2011

You leave again

This poem has taken weeks to write and has been fairly mercilessly edited for the past few days. It will most likely require more editing but, for now, I’m fairly happy with it. It is raw and emotional. I make no apology.


You leave again

The phone rang a second time   and with it I lost you
Finally, irrevocably gone   you had not left yet
You had left before   it would not be the last time

With its first ring   the last Act but one began
Did this penultimate Act begin with that first ring?
Or before?  When I lost you again
A Mobius strip

The phone rang incessantly
There were only two calls

I cannot hold your hand

Grown woman    young girl
The girl you left   the woman you leave
A small child   bereft   longing
Contained in a woman’s body

I sit beside your bed   tubes   machines   monitors
All so familiar   but you are not
Your bloated face is not that of the mother I crave
Your sparkling eyes are closed   your voice silenced
Tenacious   you are still here

I cannot hold your hand

Left swaddled in bandages   white as the skin inside your wrist
De-gloved the morbid medical term for your injury
The arterial line in your right wrist    tells me you are alive

I cannot hold your hand

The grown small woman child
The girl you left   the woman you leave

Days pass   a seated vigil   a remembrance
I speak to you   but your eyes are closed
Face a mask   I cannot hold your hand
There is only hope    there is none    I hope
I sit and hold your foot   and know that you would scream
Laugh and kick me away   if you could

The phone rings for a second time
Your pupil is fixed   dilated
I scream and sob and run and cry and I cannot hold your hand
You are having a CT scan and I cannot hold your hand
Your skull can no longer contain your precious mind
Escaping blood

I cannot hold your hand

You are dying   you are dead but for machines

I cannot hold your hand

The grown small woman child
The girl you left   the woman you leave

You stood there with your bag packed   you left
Did I say goodbye?  Did you?
A small child   bereft   longing
Did I say goodbye?  Did you?

I cannot hold your hand and you are dying

I say fuck your arterial line
Bandages   white as the skin inside your wrist
I am touching it now

I am holding your hand


A whole month without posting a poem! Many notes have been made, words scrawled on trains, in cafes, on waking, after the shower – but no poems written until today. Some are still percolating, perhaps gestating – waiting for the moment of birth. I’ve also been quite distracted writing my thesis – a quite different style. As I listened to the wind howl last night, my heart beating just that little faster, I knew it was time to write the poem I had planned about the wind. The idea of the balloons came this morning – in the shower, where most of my best thinking is done. See what you think….


I hear it moaning     a plangent sound of longing
It whips and whines     buffets my consciousness
Rattling, shaking     its tendrils invade each fissure
Howling, it tears at structure     solidity
Threatens to tear apart the gestalt
Streaming molecules     particles     embers
Move down a pressure gradient     seeking the low
And with it     tug a thousand tiny balloons
Attached to my neural framework     each axon stretched
Taut   as power lines in a gale
Ready to fail

The reference to power lines only came to me as I was typing tonight. The fire that destroyed my home was caused by a failed power line. I hope the poem conveys that fact as well as the notion that I fear my ‘nerves’ will fail at times when the wind is particularly brutal.

Into the light

The lights came to us on Saturday night. Through misting rain, a procession of children brought luminous joy to a cattle shed in Whittlesea. The lanterns, hand-crafted by children from two primary schools, glowed gently, accompanied by the song of young children. A star-shaped lantern guided the children across the oval to converge at the entrance to the shed, where a beguiling shadow puppet performance unfolded in the rain. My sons’ excited faces were infused with the pride of achievement and a sense of belonging; my vision blurred by a mother’s tears. Awaiting us in the shed was a masterful exhibition – a journey through pain and loss into the light. Works echoing three time periods – before, the moment of change, after – were arranged to allow for viewers to undertake a personal journey through the exhibition. Paths of black wood-chips, white salt and earth brown twisted between the exhibits. Works in fabric, natural materials, pottery and of fire-altered materials demonstrated the depth of talent in the community and the therapeutic nature of the creative process. Symbolism was evident in many of the works, benefiting from repeated viewings. A ceramic made by one of the schoolchildren depicted a blackened tree and the words ‘What happens now?’. Indeed, what does happen now? For many the recovery journey has only just begun – we remain fragile, sensitive to small perturbations. Our resilience is reduced, our defences weakened.

Gathered in the shed were people willing to share – bushfire survivors, supporters both professional and voluntary. The mood was buoyant, festive even, but respectful and considered. I was there to do a job: to read one of my poems to an audience for the first time. I had not rehearsed other than read the poem aloud at the dining room table a couple of times. Was I nervous? A little, but also proudly excited just like my five year old who held my hand and stood with me on the stage. I introduced myself, explaining the amazing writing journey I have taken over these last three months and of the support given to me by the ‘Conversations’ group and the ‘Express Yourself’ workshops. When I said I had written thirty poems in that time excited whoops echoed about the shed (thanks Jesse!). And so I read my poem ‘Home’. Slowly, savouring each word, I spoke it aloud and sent it into the crowd. My first poem – both written and performed – and one that I no longer find has much power over me when I read it on the page. But spoken aloud to an audience with shared experience it seemed to have life, power anew, and I left the stage elated, proud and with a new sense of identity. I have survived. My life has meaning, purpose – a future of new experience beckons. Art and community give us meaning. Through them we heal. My creative journey is just beginning.

My sincere thanks to Meme and Stefanie for including me in the program. And to my support crew – Stacey, Grant, Jesse, Leanne, Sebastian and Jeremy.

My first reading

I am both excited and daunted by the opportunity to read one of my poems at the Community Celebration of the Into The Light exhibition. The exhibition is featuring works created at the Express Yourself workshops supported by the City of Whittlesea and the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund. Here is what the organisers say about the event…

Into the Light is an art installation and community gathering to celebrate the coming of spring.
Developed in consultation and collaboration with local community members and artists, the installation is an exhibition of works created by local people, artists and participants of creative workshops offered to those living in and around Whittlesea, and will reflect on the journey of change experienced over the past two years. Audiences will enjoy a visual and aural ‘walk’ that will take them on a journey of change, from the dark of the winter and into the light, and a community celebration as its launch, with a lantern parade by local school children, performances and food stalls.

Choosing the right poem for the reading has been somewhat challenging as many of my ‘favourites’ are not really suited to an audience of young children and one which is likely to include other survivors of bushfire whom I do not wish to traumatise all over again. We have decided that I will read ‘Home’ which is, fittingly, the first poem I wrote in this journey I am making. The celebration is from 5pm to 9pm at the Cattle Shed at the Whittlesea Showgrounds. I would love to see you there.




Four walls, a floor
A roof over one’s head
Windows framing a view
Repository of memories
Safety, a haven
And yet, it is not
A blackened mess of iron
Detritus of life
Fragments only, the whole
Torn asunder
And yet, it is not
Four chambers, a muscle
A place for courage
Of love, hope, meaning
Repository of memories
Safety, a haven