SAD OLD MEN
Sad old men circling the streets –
Nowhere to go, no one to talk to.
They try to walk away from their sadness
But their troubles follow them like shadows.
Some shuffle along,
Dragging an invisible ball and chain of shame,
Some stride out,
As if to outpace the rain-clouds that chase them.
Their failure is like a stain on their clothing,
And their loneliness a condemnation of mankind.
They are thin and grey,
Aliens on this earth,
The depressed -
Lost in sorrow with no way home,
Circling the streets that never end.
Feel like giving in to some wild impulses –
Running to the hills.
I’m yearning for the crags.
Take in the slack - That’s me - Climb when you’re
ready - Climbing
Yes, I remember how good it felt to go to the Edge,
Claw my way up, get to the overhang,
Feel my heart pounding, palms sweating,
Legs shaking, feel the grip slipping,
Knowing I have to make the move or I’m off
Dangling like a spider on a thread –
Will the hex hold in that crack?
So I surge upwards, grasp at tiny rounded ripples in the rock.
Somehow I defy gravity and get over the crux,
And scramble the last few yards up the gritstone,
Fingers bleeding and my stomach left somewhere on the way up.
That felt good.
But now – I want to fling myself at the rock,
Lash out at it with flailing arms, and curse it for being so hard
And for evoking memories of happier days.
And I curse my body for being so heavy
And beat my hands against the
Sandpaper surface of the gritstone,
Despising it for being so ancient
Yet being worn away, bit by bit, by raindrops,
Worn away bit by bit, just as I am.
INSIDE THE PAIN
I sometimes think that in the depth of despair is
Pass through, and the world is inverted.
My mind is on the outside and inside is the world.
Now I can take control,
Now I can order things so I can’t be hurt again.
The world in my mind is small and simple.
Wounds are bathed, cares are laid aside.
There is gentleness like warm olive oil,
And kindness, soothing as camomile,
Healing the cracks.
IN MY COLOURING BOOK
The world was green –
Spring leaves and spring grass –
And pink –
Cherry blossom snowing and dotting the paths with pink petals.
There were picnics by the stream,
Paddling in icy water running over furry brown pebbles,
Sticklebacks in jam jars,
Mum dozing on the banks with her book.
And then back home, there were tears,
The pressure cooker filling the kitchen with steam,
Hissing and spluttering like some demonic machine,
And happiness disappeared into a grey mist.
The world was white,
White dress, white car, white roses brightened with yellow,
All sunshine and bright eyed hopefulness.
But leaving home –that hurt;
And now, finding space growing between us, that hurts more still.
The world was lemon –
Boy or girl ? We didn’t know…
So there was Mothercare lemon… and peach and mint,
All juicy, luscious, scintillating
And we were anticipating
Great joy and fulfilment.
But the babies cried so,
And I tried so hard…
But sometimes they sucked me dry.
No milk, no energy, no life –
But no, I did go on living
Although I felt a part of me had died
And nothing could revive that part.
The world was grey,
Grey as my mother’s face as she lay dying,
Grey as the dank, misty day that was her last.
There was no time to heal the past.
She died alone as I tried to sleep
Curled up in fear and hopelessness,
Uneasy on the easy chair in the rest room,
Praying for the end to come soon
Though my motives were misplaced.
And it was both a death day and a birthday
For seven years ago my daughter daughter was born
And seven years ago I had lain sleepless, rejoicing;
But now was the time for loss and grieving.
The world was changing colour –
It was sad blue, it was misty green,
Then the blackness came
As the clouds of years descended and shrouded me
In a heavy suffocating despair.
My quiet place became as comfortless as cold rain
And as ugly as maggots on a carcass.
The world was … veiled, full of colours that
I couldn’t see.
My world was as close as breathing.
If I could have just stopped breathing by willpower,
Maybe I would have been tempted to escape into death.
But life had to be lived, and my world became red,
Salvation by blood,
Bright red from skin, dark red from veins,
Pain and fear running out, letting in peace,
Giving release, leading to a place
Where I could curl up and rest,
A wounded animal waiting for healing.
This is my world away,
My time out,
My other place –
Where I try to escape
From the whirl of thoughts
That jostle, that prod, that goad me
This is my nature corner
Where I learn from the rivers and the trees
About changes, direction, power and surrender.
I come to seek peace,
I come to find answers,
But they elude me;
They hide in the shadowy leaf patches
And silver-brown currents,
In the damp earth smell and sweet wren song.
But at least I feel alive, and that is enough for the present.
Will the Real ME Please Stand up?
Which person am I?
The woman in the sauna?
She drove her car here after a morning’s work.
She worked up a sweat in the gym,
Lifting weights, jogging, running,
Fighting the flab.
She showered and came here,
To the stifling stillness
And enveloping heat of the sauna.
She thinks she has grown.
She feels in control.
She thinks her mum would have been amazed to see her now.
Her mum would never have done any of this.
Who is that?
That frantic woman,
Screaming inside with a silent rage.
Staring at the bedroom door with hate in her heart.
Reaching for the scissors
And gouging flesh
Until her breathing slows
And she now knows
That grief alone can’t kill her.
Who is this woman?
She walks alone with her dog,
Down tracks to woods and fields
Remote under the stormy sky.
She has no fear of murderers, muggers or rapists
But sometimes fears her thoughts.
That dark river, the weir –
She remembers the Mayor of Castorbridge
And how he sought his death – and thinks
"The Lodges are a good place to drown".
But she sees the distant hills and recalls
That she would like to die in a high place.
What about that pathetic figure there?
Curled up on the bathroom floor,
Seeking escape in a few moments sleep.
Desperate to shut out and shut off from
Everybody and everything,
Face wet with unanswered tears,
Rejection, remorse, regrets
And caging up the
Fierce longing for oblivion.
Perhaps I’m really that woman on the mountain
She had a battle with fear to get here.
She was uneasy, not sure of the way up,
Less sure of the way down.
She struggled on and traversed the little summit ridge,
Borne along by joy and triumph.
She surveyed the landscape and
Felt passionate about life,
Felt uplifting optimism
For if she could reach this place
Perhaps nowhere was out of reach.
I’m thinking of suicide –
Lying on the sofa,
Feeling crazy, feeling beaten, broken.
I’m thinking I’m suicidal
Lying here, idle, idling the time away,
Dreaming of the final day
And the ultimate escape.
I want a peaceful way,
A gentle way, drifting into eternal sleep,
Sleep that knits the rav’lled sleeve of care,
Sleep that takes me beyond the need of care.
Yes, thinking of suicide
Have I made an idol out of Death?
Has Death deceived me by displacing Life,
Eternal Life that I received when I was young,
Life that promised so much,
Life that I’ve trampled upon and sullied,
And think of casting away with unwarranted, self-indulgent fervour?
LIFE WITH HARD LABOUR
Each time the wave of crisis passes
and the pain subsides,
My brain says "There, you got through another one,"
and my heart says "How many more can you take?"
I anticipate the pain
(That’s catastrophising of course)
and screw myself up against it,
Then try to breathe,
hold my breath,
count to five like they taught me,
Try to relax, try to build up my strength
to fight again.
I try to see them as labour pains –
each one comes and goes, never to come again.
But labour pains led to birth
and I can only think that these pains
will lead to death.
JOY, JOY, JOY…
Thinking back…yes, I have known joy!
Joy that could fly a kite,
Joy that could uproot trees
And set them dancing with me.
Joy that caused buds to burgeon and burst
Into cascades of brilliant spring green
And flowers to unfurl their soft petals, velvety warm in the sunlight.
Joy that could light the candles on a child’s birthday cake,
And bring smiles to the faces of angels.
I knew joy that turned the moonlit snow into a pale blue velvet
And changed dreams into tastes of heaven.
Joy held me in safe warm arms of love
But let my heart sing and dance and fly in the vibrant night air.
I thought I was so special, felt so privileged.
No-one knew the intensity of life like I did, I thought.
But I also knew sorrow;
Now joy has deserted me,
And sorrow is my companion through the restless dark hours.