And she looked around, took in a huge breath of clean air and jumped. The mountain was high and her board left a wave of snow behind her. Her mind was silent, her body moving so effortlessly down the slopes… is this what heaven feels like…?
And then she wailed. The birds, who had previously been singing their eve song, closed their beaks. Even they knew this was no longer the time. The air stilled and a respectful, unsure tension overcame the earth. A wail that was so powerful it stilled every nation could surely only come from an unbearable, unspeakable pain.
The vicar of ‘my church’ has gone onto Vimeo to provide worship to the community during these times of uncertainty.
This is what I needed. My faith is one that is not often very strong, however, the happy memories I have of church and worship brings a comforting warmth. What else could possibly be more helpful in calming the mind at a time like this…
Stay safe, everyone.
Bestie 1: (2009)
Standing in doorways was the hardest thing I could ever do at one time. All of our gatherings were either at my house with the doors closed or me on one side and you on the other.
You went off to college and I stayed standing in the same place, never moving, never progressing. To live through questioning you: What is college like? What is it like being on a bus alone? What friendships are like when you can choose them for yourself…
One day, I asked you if you thought I could do it one day. You were always positive with your encouragement that I would not always be left standing in the same place. Until you asked me what I wanted to do…
“Dunno. Maybe psychology or something. You think I could do that?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yeah. I guess you’re right.”
Bestie 2: (2016)
You helped me through it. “Come on, C. Let’s go for a walk.” Encouraging but never pushing. Any time I needed to turn back and retreat, you were with me. Only made it to the end of the driveway? “You made it to the end of the driveway, C! You’re doing great!”
But then I recovered and the dynamic changed. I no longer needed a hand to hold every time I set foot out of that doorway. I could walk down the street and walk into a shop without needing to retreat.
“I’m thinking of applying to do this Access to Higher Education course. Not really sure what it’s about but I think it helps with Uni and stuff.”
“Don’t do it.”
“It isn’t worth it.”
“It’s psychology and stuff, I’ve always been really interested in that kinda thing.”
“Yeah. It’s your thing. It’ll interest you and you’ll leave.”
“It’ll open doors for you and you’ll go. You aren’t going to stay around here, are you? You’ll leave and I’ll miss you.”
“My plan has always been to leave.”
“I know, but now it’s real. Don’t do it.”
The dialogue from Fences between Troy and Rose has always spoken to me. This morning a thought entered my head that perhaps it spoke to me because, for a time, it was me and it could have been me for much longer if I had felt a bigger need to put my closest friends before myself.
My two closest friends believed without a doubt that I would get better one day, or they at least portrayed such a belief. In the years following, however, they were not so keen on my decreasing need for dependence. What was once two very strong, positive friendships suddenly became volatile and hurtful. A lot of deceit that had been previously hidden came to light… their only reason being “we were protecting you!”
The guilt felt from putting myself first and walking away is slowly fading, although, I am unsure if it shall ever truly fade completely.
…It’s not easy for me to admit that I been standing in the same place for eighteen years.
…I been standing with you! I been right here with you.
( http://www.iupui.edu/~elit/fences/fen21txt.html )
It is 8am, I am so tired. The neighbours have kept me awake until the early hours and they pay no consideration to me having made plans.
It is 9am, I need to get ready. The weather here has been cold and dreary and I have no idea what to wear, only that it needs to be smart and presentable.
It is 10am, I am leaving. I really should have brought a scarf for the walk – the wind is biting but within five minutes I arrive.
It is 10:15am and I am seated in the Minster, next to a Nun. There are greetings and conversation, I feel embraced.
It is 11:45am, I am leaving. The beauty of the service I just participated in was so immensely beautiful that I found my emotions were brought straight to the surface. The moment the choir started to sing, I found myself teary eyed.
I needed this.
A small town person in a strange City, being completely embraced by strangers – I have no words other than:
I needed this.
I thank you, every one of you, I thank you.
It was not planned, it was not something I had thought I was going to do today. Sitting by the grave, looking at their names carved into the headstone, I talk…
“I need some sort of divine intervention. I don’t know what to do. Do I move to the City and work to improve my life or just stay where I am and work to improve things here?”
I leave, put in my headphones and catch the end of the song that is playing…
…It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright
Bright lights in the big city
Belongs to us tonight
I’ve got the magic in me
Every time I touch that track it turns into gold
Know everybody knows I’ve got the magic in me
The next song plays and I hear these words:
Live life like you’re giving up
‘Cause you act like you are
Go ahead and just live it up
Go on and tear me apart
I choose to believe that this was what I had asked for.
I thank you and I love you.
( Songwriters: Benjamin Heyward Iii Allen / Anthony Rhichardo Reyes / Thomas Decarlo Callaway Trebles Finals: Bright Lights Bigger City/Magic lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management )
( Songwriters: Amy Wadge / Ed Sheeran Even My Dad Does Sometimes lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC )
I had a jar of hopes – a literal jar that I would fill with small pieces of paper with my hopes written down.
Today, the wind sent the jar flying and it smashed. All my hopes that I have not read since I wrote them down, scattered all over the floor. I have debated for a long time, ‘when would be the right time to open the jar and rediscover my hopes?’ Maybe fate saved me from coming up with an actual answer.
I hope CBT will be my cure (2011)
I hope we don’t stay long (2011)
I hope Grandad comes home today (2011)
I hope to be brave (2012)
I hope to get on a bus today (2012)
I hope to get my head around maths (2012)
I hope my first day at Franklin goes well (2012)
I hope to know what I want (2015)
I hope to travel (2016)
I hope to make all the changes that I need to make (2016)
And then there is this:
I stopped hoping. For some reason, at some point hoping didn’t seem to be enough. My Grandad is dying, my Nanna is dead. (No date)
Malika Booker, Sharon Olds and Warsan Shire (2011). Modern Poets 3: Your Family, Your Body. Great Britain: Clays ltd, St Ives plc.
She does not talk about that time.
She has buried it deep in the earth
where you bury shit.
Buried it with no wake,
no funeral, no coffin, no fanfare,
buried it whilst it was raw, stink and bitter.
It was early September. The phone ring.
Per out of sleep. Fumble. The red sky
of pre-dawn through my bare window.
My cousin’s guyanese tones, low,
whispering, voice broken. She sobs,
till I, too, begin to cry.
She stutters, stops, starts, tells me
about an advert, a plane ride.
They promised her work and a US visa.
I am a prisoner somewhere
in the South; they take my passport,
work us long hours, deduct our pay
for food and board, then give us a trickle.
I made more back home. We pick fruit all day.
She left her girl child home in her mother’s care,
now can’t send them no money.
I can’t see me way… help me, she sobs.
I make phone calls to older aunts in New York,
not new to this, who tell me they will take care of it.
A month later they call to say, we have her.
How? I ask. But they have buried it, too.
We do not talk about them things.
There are dark places drunk with grief where water
drizzles. There are wilted flowers and dried wreaths.
There is your grave hidden back there, behind
God’s back. There are clusters of Charles
buried here, neighbours in this family plot.
Two lone wooden stumps mark the grave
where you wait for that marble headstone
etched with your name. There is wild bush
and the broken fence where your nephew
crashed that rented car at your funeral,
when his vision blurred with tears. There are
the marks we leave and those that will be made.
Poem of thanks
Years later, long single,
I want to turn to his departed back,
and say, What gifts we had of each other!
What pleasure — confiding, open-eyed,
fainting with what we were allowed to stay up
late doing. And you couldn’t say,
could you, that the touch you had from me
was other than the touch of one
who could love for life — whether we were suited
or not — for life, like a sentence. And now that I
consider, the touch that I had from you
became not the touch of the long view, but like the
tolerant willingness of one
who is passing through. Colleague of sand
by moonlight — and by beach noonlight, once,
and of straw, salt bale in a barn, and mulch
inside a garden, between the rows — once-
partner of up against the wall in that tiny
bathroom with the lock that fluttered like a chrome
butterfly beside us, hip-height, the familiar
of our innocence, which was the ignorance
of what would be asked, what was required,
thank you for every hour. And I
accept your thanks, as if it were
a gift of yours, to give them — let’s part
equals, as we were in every bed, pure
equals of the earth.
Her Blue Body Full of Light
Can you believe I have cancer? Yosra asks,
a mug of tea between her hands,
almost laughing, hair cut close to her scalp.
I imagine the cancer auditioning
inside her body, tiny translucent slivers
of light weaving in and out and of her abdomen
and uterus, travelling up and through her throat,
needlepoints of light, fireworks glimmering down, the body
burning into itself, deep sea blue inside
her body, her ribcage an aquarium,
the cancer spreading and spreading, deep space,
her throat a lava lamp, sparklers beneath breastbone—
a lightshow, a million tiny jellyfish, orchestral womb,
kaleidoscopic ovaries, disco ball heart,
her skin glowing and glowing,
lit from the inside.
I think I brought the war with me
on my skin, a shroud
circling my skull, matter under my nails.
It sits at my feet while I watch TV.
I hear its damp breath in the background
of every phone call. I feel it sleeping
between us in the bed. It lathers
my back in the shower. It presses
itself against me at the bathroom sink.
At night, it passes me the pills, it holds
my hand, I never meet its gaze.
Luis De Camoens, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Frost and Philippe Jaccottet. The Sea! The Sea! An Anthology of Poems. (2005). Edited by Peter Jay. London: Anvil Press Poetry. In association with the National Maritime Museum.
Luis De Camoens
On a Shipmate, Pero Moniz, Dying at Sea.
My years on ear were short, but long for me,
And full of bitter hardship at best:
My light of day sinks early in the sea:
Five lustres from my birth I took my rest.
Through distant lands and seas I was a ranger
Seeking some cure or remedy for life,
Which he whom Fortune loves not as a wife
Will seek in vain through strife, and toil, and danger.
Portugal reared me in my green, my darling
Alanguer, but the dank, corrupted air
That festers in the marshes around there
Has made me food for fish here in the snarling,
Fierce seas that dark the Abyssinian shore,
Far from the happy homeland I adore.
( Translated from the Portuguese by Roy Campbell )
With Ships the sea was sprinkled far and nigh’
With ships the sea was sprinkled far and nigh,
Like stars in heaven, and joyously it showed.
Some lying fast at anchor in the road,
Some veering up and down, one knew not why.
A goodly vessel did I then espy
Come like a giant from a haven broad;
And lustily along the bay she strode,
Her tackling rich and of apparel high.
This ship was nought to me, nor I to her,
Yet I pursued her with a lover’s look;
This ship to all the rest did I prefer:
When will she turn, and whither? She will brook
No tarrying; Where she comes the winds must stir:
On went she, and due north her journey took.
Sonnet on the Sea
It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
Often ’tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be mov;d for days from where it sometime fell,
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.
Oh ye! who have your eye-balls vex’d and tir’d,
Feast them upon the wideness of the sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dined with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody –
Sit ye near some old Cavern’s Mouth, and brood
Until ye start, as of the sea-nymphs quir’d!
Thomas Lovell Beddoes
To sea, to sea! The calm is o’er;
The wanton water leaps in sport,
And rattles down the pebbly shore;
The dolphin wheels, the sea-cows snort,
And unseen Mermaids’ pearly song
Comes bubbling up, the weeds among.
Fling broad the sail, dip deep the oar:
To sea, to sea! the calm is o’er.
To sea, to sea! our wide-winged bark
Shall billowy cleave its sunny way,
And with its shadow, fleet and dark,
Break the caved Tritons’ azure day,
Like mighty eagle soaring light
O’er antelopes on Alpine height.
The anchor heaves, the ship swings free,
The sails swell full. To sea, to sea!
Gerard Manley Hopkins
I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail,
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
Neither out Far Nor in Deep
The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.
As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull
The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be-
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.
They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?
The sea is dark again on my last night
but who or what am I calling upon tonight?
Aside from the echo there is nobody, nobody.
Beyond the crumbling rocks the iron-dark sea
booms in its bell of rain, and a bat flies
at the windows of the air in wild surprise.
My days, torn by its black wings, are in tatters;
the grandeur of these too-predictable waters
leaves me cold since I no longer know
how to communicate. Let the ‘fine days’ go!
I leave, an older man, what do I care,
the sea will slam its door on my departure.
( Translated from French by Derek Mahon )
There is a reason I came out here.
A reason, why now.
This day, this time.
A memory of you.
A physical reminder.
This gentleman wearing a cap.
The people we meet are for a reason.
The air noticeably cools now I am sitting here alone.
It was hot a few moments ago,
The sun’s rays burning through my jeans.
Perhaps this too, is a sign.
A sign that this was enough.
A sign to say, ‘It is time now. You can go.’
It’s like they were the sun,
and I’m afraid of the dark
It is difficult to see you as anything less than a positive light,
Even when you aren’t feeling quite right,
Everything is temporary,
You just gotta get through it.