Monthly Archives: October 2011

The beginnings of a short story?

The last Express Yourself writing workshop was held yesterday. I wrote a poem about the memories of my five year old son. It may contain the kernel of an idea – or it may be a sow’s ear Why do we malign the sow? I must investigate the origins of that expression. In any case the poem as it currently stands is not fit to share. Our second exercise was to describe a journey, which I uncharacteristically undertook in prose. Arnold Zable felt that it might be the beginning of a short story and suggested that I use the ‘daring’ approach of moving to the second person when discussing my ex-partner’s role.  Weave the story of my escape from the mountain with that of the relationship – and, indeed, a second escape. Here is what I wrote yesterday – clearly it’s a draft. What do you think?

Leaving the mountain
The air escaping the back of the car is even hotter than that around us. And that air is the hottest I have ever felt. Sweat evaporates before it has even thought to exit the glands on my skin. I cannot smell the smoke but above me the sky is tangerine or perhaps blood orange. Why do we so often seek edible metaphors? For, unlike the fruit, this sky contains no moisture – only refracted light and ominous promise.

We load the car with tubs of photos, dutifully packed before the first day of tremendous heat and sinister wind. I cannot lift them. I am spent from a morning preparing for such an eventuality. The pump stands primed, ready. Hoses are uncoiled. Buckets, mops, torches, radios and countless bottles of water are positioned around the house. Clothes are ready. The plan is on the fridge. Preparations made, we calmly pack the car.

I am breathless. Belly swollen, the baby due in a mere three months. He is quiet now. My son is at my feet. He has finally stopped screaming, his face slick with shiny red goo. The remains of the placatory red icy pole offered him. He has been woken from his nap. He is tired and frightened. I have no time to comfort him.

Now I plead with you to leave.

I have never been happy that you wish to remain. Your misguided masculinity. Your sense of self bound up with the notion of being a hero. And yet, you are so unprepared, your psyche unlikely to withstand the coming inferno.

So I must leave you. Photos, laptop, a few toys and clothes jumbled in the rear of the car. I throw the woolen blanket out of the boot. A stupid, careless gesture since its purpose is to protect us from radiant heat if trapped by fire. When the blanket is found five days later, ember burns pocking its blue check, we realise it has saved your life.  There are times that I will wish I had taken it with me.

The car noses its way out of the driveway. It could drive this road itself.  I say no goodbye, do not look back and head into the uncertain.


With this poem I hope to express one aspect of therapeutic writing – ordering and processing the grief, pain and loss. The action of writing it out creates meaning, allowing a deeper understanding which, for me, brings a sense of calm empowerment. However, one friend’s take on this was that I sounded like a victim – the blanket like Linus’. Quite the opposite of how I feel and what I want to convey. Please let me know what you think.


With this pen I write
words course onto the page
ink the colour of my veins
curlicues, serifs, pen-strokes all

Marks on the page
created by hand
each thought a neurone
extending from cortex though fingers

Ball of string within my chest
dissembled, tangled
its mess binding
heart, lungs and mind

Words set free
dance upon the page
transformed, a salve
comforting blanket of
woven twine

Today I’m off to another Express Yourself Writing Workshop with Arnold Zable. Five hours of quarantined time to write, talk about writing and to listen to the experiences and writing of others. Best hop in the shower…

The moment of loss

I thought I would share with you, dear reader, the reworked poem Vigil, in a previous life known as You leave again. Initially the idea was to explore the notion of repeated loss relating to one individual – in my case, my mother. However, I felt that the original version of the poem did not convey this adequately and the agenda was overtaken by the power of the moment of death. Since I don’t have sufficient skill to tackle both subjects successfully in the one poem I edited You leave again to focus on the days leading up to her death. However, I hope that Vigil still indicates that grief is coloured by our previous experiences. And so, the 29 year old woman finally holding her mother’s hand is also the 8 year old child who watched as her mother left – suitcase in hand. She is simultaneously woman and girl and at the moment of her mother’s death feels forsaken, longing for the comfort of her mother. But the mother, too, is the small bereft child – the adult daughter recognising her mother’s grief – a moment of understanding. Writing this poem has been absorbing. It has taught me much – allowed me to reflect, to ponder. In focussing on my overwhelming desire to hold my mother’s hand, the poem also points to the need to feel connected. To feel as one with her as she died in a way that perhaps I couldn’t when she was alive – despite our intense love and friendship. Perhaps that 8 year old child in me was frightened to get too close to her lest she disappear again – but held her hand as she sat and watched her die.


I cannot hold your hand

I sit beside your bed   tubes   machines   monitors
All so familiar   but you are not
Your bloated face is not the one I crave
Your sparkling eyes closed   your voice silenced

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

I cannot hold your hand

Left swathed in bandages   white as the skin inside your wrist
De-gloved the morbid medical term for your injury
In your right    an arterial line shouts you are alive

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

Days pass   a seated vigil   remembrance
I speak to you   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     you would scream
Laugh   kick me away   if you could

The phone rang incessantly
There were only two calls
With the second ring
Your pupil   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
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

I cannot hold your hand and you are dying
I say fuck the arterial line
Bandages   white as the skin inside your wrist
I am touching it now

I am holding your hand

Mathematical relationship

Often I feel inadequate when poets make references to classics and mythology in their work since I have little knowledge of these. As I wrote my thesis the other night I realised that I do know something about maths. And so this poem was born. It may not be terribly original. It may be corny. But it was fun to write….

we worked on our simultaneous equation
only to find there was no solution
or rather, they were different

product of innumerable couplings
which, if graphed, would demonstrate
a reducing x against the y of time

until you kissed another
creating a new trigonometry
angles to be calculated

and counting
each free integer a celebration
inviting love’s calculus


Brave New World (with apologies to Aldous Huxley)

Posts have been few and far between recently. I have been writing – ‘You Leave Again’ has been extensively edited and a new poem called ‘Mathematical Relationship’ with references to simultaneous equations, trigonometry and calculus. I haven’t posted these since I am considering submitting them for publication or competition – who knows what chance I may have? Probably slim but no harm trying. Part of the ‘Brave New World’ – not as Huxley envisaged, but rather part of this journey of reinvention I am undertaking. It is four months now since I started writing. I am writing less, but hopefully improving. I am beginning to see myself as a writer. Even a poet. Today I had to confront my ‘impostor syndrome’. With the support of a dear friend I read three poems at an ‘open mic’ at the Dan O’Connell. I chose a bushfire theme but did not want to be too bleak and so read ‘Red Band’, ‘Snow Weather’ and ‘Wind’. I am pleased with how I read (despite my tremor and palpitations) and the audience were attentive – one chap even came up to me later and told me he had liked ‘Snow Weather’. He said that he could really see the snow. I enjoyed the reading – even (especially?) the adrenaline buzz. I have no doubt I’ll go back for more. What of the therapeutic nature of reading? Is it different from writing and blogging? On his blog, Andy Jackson described the reading of a poem as creating a room into which others can enter. I understand now what he means. As I read ‘Wind’ one of the women in the audience smiled as I read the line ‘ and with it tug a thousand tiny balloons’. At that moment I thought – ‘you get it, you know exactly what I am saying’ – and felt joyous exhilaration. I could get used to that. So this Brave New World – this new identity. Who am I now? Mother, daughter, sister, friend, doctor, student, and poet. I am all of those things and more.