Tag Archives: trauma

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.

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Droplet

an almost perfect sphere
she clings
her surface tension
a reflective membrane

 

shaken loose
her teardrop free fall
reaches terminal velocity
impact disrupts her cohesion

 

transparent fragments
secrets revealed

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

That day

Home was the last place I should have been
That day
Dire warnings, my own fear
Not enough
To erase the sense of safety
Of Home

 

He shouldn’t have left me
That day
To prepare for disaster
Child swelling my belly
Another at my feet
So Tired

 

I worked so very hard
That day
Pumps and hoses
Mops and buckets
Water in the bath
So Pointless

 

And then I slept
That day
So tired and foolish
Listening to the radio
For a warning
Never broadcast

 

And he returned and slept too
That day
Lying in the heat
Until a knock disturbed our slumber
A warning most
Never received

 

The sky was an urgent red
That day
As I packed the car
Photos and documents
Clothes and toys, soon to be
All we owned

 

Why did I leave so late?
That day
I had a plan
But hesitated to leave him
Unprepared for a
Firefight

 

I drove towards the fire
That day
Heuristic brain
Fragmentary information
Conspiring to lead me towards
Danger

 

The roads were almost deserted
That day
In that reddened dark
Emergency vehicles absent
Only a water truck
Ironic really

 

The wind roared into the firefront
That day
Shaking my car
Scaring me senseless
Much closer than
I thought

 

His frantic call almost stopped my heart
That day
Wavering voice
Cacophony behind
Running for his life, surrounded by
Fire

 

Much worse again was the silence
That day
Phone lines dead
Communication down
No way of knowing
His Fate

 

I had to remain calm
That day
And put my son to bed
Comfort his mother
Check if my baby was moving
And wait

 

And finally the phone did ring
That day
A neighbour with the news
He was injured but alive
Our home destroyed
Our lives to rebuild anew

 

And so I tried to sleep
That day
My aching body
And numbed soul
Unable to comprehend
But never to forget
That day

Wunderkind

Frightened
Crying
You sit at the table
Suck on a red icy pole
Watch as we flee

 

Anxious
Hesitant
You sit in the car
View the blackened world
Questions bubble from your mouth

 

Respectful
Mournful
You stand beside the dam
Scattering ashes and flowers
You sadly recall

 

Angry
Howling
You fight me in a store
Grief stricken
You collapse in my arms

 

Sobbing
Gasping
You lie in bed
Tell me of your old room
And finally sleep

 

Smiling
Confident
You draw a picture
It is to remember
You comfort me

Scorched Earth

The scorched earth emits an acrid smell
It permeates nostrils, hair, skin
And mind
Impossible to eradicate
It returns
Unbidden, unwanted
To harass, torment, disturb
Wash it away
Wash it away
Cleanse me of its taint
Release me from its ardour
Allow me to breathe