If I had my life to live over I’m not sure I would do anything differently. Life is a journey, a series of crossroads, roundabouts and T junctions without any signposts to guide the way. At each intersection we must make a choice. Our decisions are based on limited information. Emotions, intuition and experience colour our judgement and we choose what we think best at the time. We evaluate, we take a risk or not. Whatever path we take there will be highs, lows and plateaus but the journey will not necessarily be better, just different.
The truth is life is unknowable. Crystal balls and tea leaves will not help. Surrender to your journey wherever it will take you for it is uniquely yours, your own fascinating story. Enjoy the highs, learn from the lows, rest during the plateaus. There are no good or bad journeys, only what was meant to be.
The blizzard began, cherry blossom from a flame sky. The road home
vanished. Pink ice floes shape-shifted in the river, bumping
and grinding like clubbed seals. We tended the fire
and played strip poker. In bed you wore lipstick and a balaclava.
On the third day we tracked through the crystal forest. The valley
was a fandango of silence. I clawed at it with my bare hands.
You held your phone up high, immobile as the Statue of Liberty.
We returned to the cabin and played Scrabble with four letter words.
The windows became peepholes. I saw no footprints in the virgin drift,
only the farmer’s wife floating silver between the tree tops.
She was wearing a wolf jacket, her face upturned to the falling snow.
That night you thought you heard singing in the wind.
On your last day, you stopped speaking, stayed in bed, a tender huddle
of bones. I roasted meat on the log fire and drank Jack Daniels. I recited
the tale of our first New Year’s Eve, kissing in Times Square
while rockets fell. I could still remember the neon taste of your flesh.
Alone in my hospital room at night I watch tiny particles of dust and fluff swirl beneath the reading lamp. They say dust comprises of dead skin cells, we sweep them away when we clean, removing all trace of our former selves. Our cells are constantly reproducing and every seven years our bodies regenerate anew. Your body is repeatedly recycling itself but not your mind. Your mind is an entirely different story. Our brains become less active, neural pathways die, our memories fade and disappear, we lose skills and alertness, sometimes we even lose our sense of self.
But back in my mean small room, Ward 3A. I’ve been here fourteen weeks now. A reluctant patient, more like prisoner. So every night I sit, sleepless and thoughtless watching the dust and wondering if these are particles of the old me, a shedding of my past life. Occasionally moths enter through the open window and dance wildly in the pool of light, their fragile wings clinking against the electric bulb. Blinded and bewildered they circle. In the morning I find their wispy bodies spent and shrivelled on my sheets.
1. The scent of lavender and pine on a summer breeze.
2. Sitting under the cherry tree in the noon day sun, light filtering through the leaves like gold satin.
3. Fast-moving, shape-shifting clouds carving up the sky.
4. The premonition of rain in the air and when it falls, the softness on my skin. The way raindrops gather and trickle on the window pane making patterns. The way rain strengthens the colours of leaves and flowers.
5. The miraculous existence of rabbits.
6. Birds that sing at night.
7. The rhythm of the sea, white surf boiling up on the beach after a storm.
8. The cool smoothness of sea pebbles.
9. The darkness of forests, the dry crackle of twigs under foot.
10. Biting into a ripe nectarine, the juice trickling down my chin.
I follow mother’s crooked
path beyond the giant privet hedge
where once I found blackbird eggs. Perfect
spheres of eau de nil slipped through careless
fingers and smashed on paving stones set by father
years before. On the hill, the shed cowers beneath the apple tree
where once I found God. Perched up top, he was singing
Bowie songs and watching the neighbours through binoculars.
Ashes to ashes; Jennifer Jones kissed the coal man.
Dust to dust; Marjorie Moony hoovered nude.
I never done good and I never done bad.
I wanna come down right now and try
mother’s apple pie
The Gleaning is an example of a concrete poem where the shape of the page echoes the theme. This one is supposed to represent an apple tree.
The ambulance man with striking
green eyes stroked the inside
skin of her teenage arm as she lay
strapped (for her own safety) on the reeking
canvas of another NHS. If you’re a lucky girl you’ll meet Jimmy!
She thought he was, maybe
trying to be nice (but those alien
fingers were electric…) No comfort
blanket, suspended in L10 skeletal
traction, legs akimbo and knicker
-less (for her own hygiene), a monster pain
-ted by Hieronymus Bosch. The male charge
nurse with watery grey eyes brought gin
secrets in a Barr’s Cream Soda bottle, hot
take-away through her open
window of gritty nights.
She thought he was, maybe,
trying to be nice (but gin made her sick,
she liked Babycham).
The glass half
-full on the sunny side. Cheer up, might never happen,
said the porter with lizard pink
eyes taking her down to a strip
-lit basement, down corridors
lined with conduits. If you’re a lucky girl you’ll meet Jimmy!