Tag Archives: grief

Impact scars (for Pluto)

Recently a challenge was issued to poets on Twitter by Erika Nesvold. “Poets! There are no impact scars on Pluto’s heart because it’s continuously healing itself with ice. Please get on this”.

Here’s my response.

 
the first crystal forms
nidus in an infant heart
his worn-eyed mother
passes him to a stranger
leaves him for a thousand lifetimes
by the time she returns from her first haircut in a year
the crystal is lodged next to his aorta
her sunlight embrace
fails to melt it

 
at school, those frozen motes grow
with each
and every, taunt
each icicle barb embedded
in cardiac muscle
several of them coalesce
the moment his father says
boys don’t cry

 
his parents marvel
at his barren eyes
when his dog runs off
as if an orphan rock
at the edge of a solar system
they discern no impact scar
the boy has become adept
at mending his heart with ice

 
when his first girlfriend says
she can no longer tolerate
his lack of emotional availability
likens him to a cold grey stone
he watches, mute
her fire unknown to him
the frost gains momentum
glacially spreads to encase his right atrium

 
by the time he is made redundant
both atria are encased
in salty pack ice
clot incubates
in that cardiac refrigerator

 
after the stroke
he orbits his family
in an ever increasing spiral
would spin off into another galaxy
were he not dependent on his wife
who still flinches
if he tries to raise his hand
her death causes his right ventricle to freeze
swollen ankles the first sign of a failing heart

 
he isn’t well-liked
at the nursing home
mostly silent, he sits in his room
at the end of the corridor
no visitors make that trek
his children revolve around warmer bodies
a vanilla sponge from the kitchen
marks each successive year
until all he can swallow is ice-cream

 
when she comes on for the night shift
his half-moon face is turned to the window
sallow, skin tinged with uraemic frost
his ragged breath punctuates their silence
returned to infancy by dementia creep
both ventricles encased
she crushes his tablets, mixing them with strawberry jam
here, Pluto, this will help you breathe
Noor takes his cool thin hand to her cheek
whispers in his ear
one convulsive throe
melts the ice cage
she closes his eyes
notes they are wet

 
My heart may have been damaged by fire. I won’t heal it with ice.

Mending buttons

I was just mending an errant underwire when I noticed an unopened packet of ‘mending buttons’ in the tub that now serves as a sewing basket. I vaguely recall buying the buttons in the first months after the fire. I guess I figured there might be a button emergency or perhaps they would be useful for the kids’ craft. I thought of the sewing basket I’d had since a child – frayed but still serviceable and the gorgeous large brown jar of buttons that had been my mother’s and hers before that. Its lid was rusty, the jar pleasingly ridged and inside were buttons like jewels. These objects reflect life’s patina. My home is warm, friendly, light, airy and filled with comfortable and beautiful objects but it doesn’t have its patina. There are only four and a half years of our history here. We belong but something is missing.

I’m thinking of those who have lost their homes in the latest fires. They are dealing with the enormous practical task of day to day living after finding yourself suddenly homeless, with your objects gone. Where will we sleep? How do we replace our documents? How do I charge my phone? I don’t have any clothes. I’ve lost all my prescriptions. There’s no tampons in the cupboard. Thankfully these current fires haven’t left people with the questions ‘Are they alive?’ ‘What’s happened to my GP?’. They will grapple with replacing the essentials, finding somewhere to live, negotiating work, fractious relationships and the behemoth that is traumatic grief.

I hope they, too, will one day have the space to reflect on something as small as a jar of buttons and realise how they have healed and will continue to do so.

Rain’s edge

Standing at the edge of rain
each single drop
mixed with tears
taste the brackish water
homage to worried years
this trapped moment
 

Dance a stricken moment
at the brink of swirling rain
inventory of years
condensed in every drop
infusing chaste water
with its cargo of tears
 

This looming of tears
delivered in a moment
the rarity of water
bordering rain
each spherical drop
content to hold its years
 

Had they been benevolent years
would there be so many tears?
each and every drop
closely held moment
generates such rain
an excess of water
 

A final gush of water
flickering years
this torrent of rain
mirrored tears
fragmentary moments
condensed in a drop
 

Solitary drops
embrace to become water
each melded moment
combines to form years
and the rivulets of tears
create a salty rain
 

Should we drop the pretence of years?
Water our souls with tears?
Stand for a moment at the edge of rain

 
________________________

This poem takes the form of  a sestina. I have not written to a form before. I found the exercise quietly stimulating and quite meditative, with the swirling repetition of words. The resulting poem seems to sway back and forth in a tightly controlled fashion. Indeed, it’s a little claustrophobic. Given the poem is about grief, this seems apposite. Hope I’ll have some more fun with forms soon.

Bauble

unwrapped with reverence
released from a tissue cocoon
globes of gold, green, silver and crimson
an incongruous orange fish

shimmering paint
worn away in places
to reveal translucent glass, light as air
aged patina, witness to many a Christmas

heirloom baubles
one by one they are hung with care
suspended, fragile but commanding
memories in perpetuum

————

nestled in the ashes and charcoal
skeleton of the festive tree
metal limbs in defiance to inferno
fearsome survivor of family celebration

but the baubles are vaporised
fuel of a conflagration
perhaps their pigments invoked Christmas cheer
in the middle of the furnace

————

garish plastic orbs, in silver and purple
chosen by others
adorn a new tree in a different world
ugly reminder, a bitter season

soon they are jostled
by paper chain, patty pan bells
pie tin ornaments
glass stars sent from afar

a festive focal point
for renewed commemoration
after which the baubles are
reverently wrapped

Unravelling

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.

Unravelling

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

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

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

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.

Vigil

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

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