Friday, 4 March 2016

On the Season of Lent

Forty days and forty nights.
As I battle my own demons
I wonder,
not for the first time,
how He did it,
how he managed
to crawl out of the desert
with his soul and heart intact.

I've lost track of the days.
I don't where we are
in this dark Lenten season.
I can't remember
when Easter comes.
Rebirth seems too far away,
or maybe it won't even happen.
The days are too dark
and the nights too sleepless.

Someone I love is battling demons
I can't even imagine
while my Dark Night of the Soul
seems endless.

I pray to a God
I could swear 
has stopped listening
and when I can't pray anymore,
I find my lips mouthing
His prayer unconsciously...

Our Father
Who art in Heaven

Deliver me
Deliver us all

4 March 2016, Athens, Georgia


Saturday, 27 February 2016

On Healing

RMy therapist and I concentrate on two things: feelings of failure and responding to what is actually happening now, not what might happen or that catastrophe thinking my mind is so good at generating.

For awhile it seemed as if I was unable to view my life as anything but a series of failures. The thing is, there will always be failures. It's how we learn. Some people refer to it more kindly as *trial and error.* 

However, when every failure gets tied into a chain of failures, it's not long before we find ourselves unable to take any kind of action at all and a kind of mild catatonia coupled with high anxiety sets in. Of course, taking no action at all is a kind of failure in itself, I suppose. But I found myself pulling farther and farther away, inward. In truth, I shut down.

We are working hard to remove the word *failure* from my vocabulary. It's a slow process and, of course, no matter how hard we try, there will be those in our lives only too happy to remind us of our failures. Still, we're attempting to reframe my thinking into something more positive. Slowly. So every action and every non-action and every emotional response is a way of discovering who I really am. It's a starting over process, I suppose, to match the trans-Atlantic move of 8 months ago which was also a starting over process but one I quickly became overwhelmed by. Hence, the therapist.

Because I am an adult woman who was once an abused little girl, I learned early on that hyper vigilance was a survival skill. Unfortunately, as an adult it is not always helpful. Planning for possible catastrophes leaves you in a state of high anxiety and means that ultimately you don't have the energy to respond to what is happening in the present. And, let's face it, sometimes bad things happen: you get sick, you pick the wrong roommate, you lose your job because you're sick for too long, you find that becoming an American after living abroad for thirteen years is not only harder than you thought but also requires much jumping through hoops you were unprepared to jump through, that people you trust will hurt you when you least expect it. All you have is your ability to respond in a cognitive, rational thinking way. I'm still working on that too.

And with that, and maybe the most important part, is acknowledging your successes, even the tiny baby step ones. Also, I am loved by many and emotionally supported by many, so very many people are there to catch me when I start to fall. One friend told me I was a masterpiece being slowly restored. So every little success is one more brush stroke closer to healing and recovery and restoration.

I try to remember that.



Sunday, 14 February 2016

I will die a thousand deaths

I will die a thousand deaths
And then I will die a thousand more

And every little tiny death
I add to my increasing store

And some of the bigger deaths
Turn into tales I lock behind my door



Thursday, 11 February 2016

Remembering Love

His kisses are my sun,
that bright spot 
that hits me hard
and soft and reminds me
sunny days are a kind of love
from God through a
great ball of fire
suspended in infinite space.
He becomes my sun.

And when I am lying
gently in his arms
while his hands soothe
and stroke and calm,
his voice, soft and
filled with wonder,
says my eyes are like stars,

he becomes my moon.


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

A Ramble on the Creative Process and an Old Memory of New Orleans

This is not one of those particularly poetic posts of mine. This is just me thinking out loud on my iPad, remembering a bit of yesterday.

One morning  I was drinking coffee on my patio, drinking coffee and listening to the birds sing and  remembering a conversation I once had with a man. We would have the most wonderful talks and other things but that morning we were talking. We were talking about writing.

I was bemoaning the fact that I never finish anything, write in 1000 word increments and move on to something else which brought up William Burroughs and *Naked Lunch.* Boys always bring up *Naked Lunch* and I always have to blushingly admit I've never quite finished that book...yet. 

Being an English Professor and writer, himself (yes, another one), he then told me how young writers come to him asking for advice and how he, with a note of frustration in his voice, told me he would tell them to stop talking and write and beg them not to disclose the plot. Please.

This is something close to my heart because I learned this lesson the hard way. When I was in my twenties and thirties I was bursting with ideas and apparently unable to keep them to myself. Because you see once you've told the story, whether orally or in written form, it's complete, finished and your creative mind moves on to something new. 

I moved to New Orleans in 1990. My first visit took my breath away. My first morning I was sitting in a little outside cafe near The French Market. A three piece jazz group was playing and singing. I couldn't keep my eyes off the stand up bass player. I was sitting alone, drinking a daiquiri and had my journal open in front me. I remember writing that it felt as though the musicians in the French Quarter breathed their music. It was part of their soul, their essence. They didn't play, they just breathed and the air was filled with magic and sound.

I had an Olympus OM-1 SLR at the time. I came up with the most brilliant idea for a creative project. I would go from bar to bar photographing the musicians breathing their music, not the famous musicians and not posed shots. I wanted to capture their faces and their instruments and their dance of life that was so uniquely their own. I would take these images and create a coffee table book filled with photos and on opposite pages my thoughts and maybe a quote here and there, a poem occasionally but I wanted the book to be about music. I wanted to take something so very magical to the ears and turn it into a feast for the eyes. I wanted to capture images that told a story of sound and lives.

I told practically everyone I met this brilliant idea of mine and as I became a French Quarter regular quite quickly, I told a lot of people. And that is as far as the project went. It became either an unfinished dream or one that played itself out in my head and completed itself in my imagination. It doesn't matter because that's as far as that project went.

Today, or yesterday now, was Mardi Gras. I was thinking about that conversation and that memory from decades ago. I've been to New Orleans a number of times since I lived there, both pre and post Katrina. In fact, my son lives there now.

Tonight I realised the saddest thing, the greatest loss, of not completing that project is knowing that time and place doesn't exist anymore, will never exist again. And who I was then, the artist without a medium, someone in a French Quarter bar once called me, will never exist again. I had an opportunity to capture some fleetingly magical, create something rare and significant and share it and I didn't do it. I let it slip through my fingers... like so many things.

And from there I'm reminded of Bowie again and his final messages to us...

You know that one outrageously creative thing you've always wanted to do, that one sublime thing, that one thing? Do it now. Don't talk about it. Do it.


"Make the best of every moment. We’re not evolving. We’re not going anywhere." 
— David Bowie

"We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will." 
— Chuck Palahniuk (Diary)

"It's always Mardi Gras somewhere." 
— Tanya Huff (Summon the Keeper (Keeper Chronicles, #1))









Sunday, 7 February 2016

When the River Becomes Your Home


When the river becomes your home, when Virginia, with stones stuffed deep in her pockets, seems more romantic than tragic, you learn two things about yourself.

First, you were born in the wrong time and second, you've reached the limit of what you can handle in this nightmare called life.

It doesn't mean you won't go on. It doesn't mean you won't keep putting one foot in front of the other. It just means you'll never be the same. It means the joy of walking is lost in a tempting image of Virginia with stones stuffed deep in her pockets.


Friday, 5 June 2015

Last Things

I am remembering her
We were saying goodbye again
I have always been leaving
She had always been
The one who stays
Now he is the one who stays

For so many years
I forgot the goodbyes
I remembered the hellos
So very many hellos
So very many first kisses

I can't remember
Any of the last kisses
Even now
I only remember
The catch in my breath
Before that first kiss
The soft whimper
From the back of my throat
As my soft body
Involuntarily sinks into yours
And your arms tighten
Hold me up
Even as my knees buckle

But today
I am thinking of last things
Last meals
Last laughter
Last fights
Our last dance
Your last touch
My final lingering glance your way

I sit at my kitchen table
For hours and hours now
With sweet milky hazelnut coffee
With crisp cold white wine
And look out my French doors
To my neglected garden
Which mirrors my neglected heart

I am thinking of Arthur
And how barren the land grew
In the wake of his desiccated broken heart
Until the Holy Grail was found
I wonder where my Holy Grail is
Are you my Holy Grail?
Is it your magic, your love
That keeps my heart from turning to dust?

And then I watch a black bird drink out of my fish pond
My fish pond, my fat orange gold fish that aren't my fish
And I remember years of loss and grief
And cold forgetfulness that feels like regret
And days and days spent talking to my fish
Who are no longer my fish
More last things

I planted a rose bush when we moved in
Virginia Woolf planted one at Sissinghurst
I was enraptured by her house, her gardens, her
When we got home I immediately ordered one
Dixie promptly dug it up when I planted it
Somehow it survived it's replanting
Will I?
Survive my replanting?

And then Dixie, the dog, learned to love my roses
Will she still love them when I am gone?
It has big fat barely pink blooms on it
More last things.

Soon there will be hellos
But right now my blood pounds
With too, too many goodbyes
I want to think about hellos
But I am lost in goodbyes
And last things

And a deep fear of that in between place
That place that isn't goodbye or hello
That place where so very much can go wrong

But today
I am watching my fish swim
I am listening to birds chirp and warble
I am watching rose petals fall into pots of lavender
While Dixie sleeps in the sun dreaming
I am craving your touch and your words
Even as I sink into my own silence
More last things



Monday, 1 June 2015

There are moments...

There are moments
In my endless days

Filled with the mundane
Worries of surviving life

When my heart
races with fear
My brain
conjures up facts
And terribly
sad probabilities

And yet

In the midst
Of all that
Confusion

I think of
You
Of the
Mere
Existence
Of you

And your love
And my love
Merge into
Our love

And my day
Pivots

From mundane
To extraordinary

From dusty, dry fear

To shimmering starlight


Home

Home

Today
I realised

As my heart
Cracked

And
Shattered
A little bit

That you
Haven't seen

That you
Are

And will
Always be

Home

Let me
Home you, baby


The truth is...

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
— Eleanor Roosevelt (You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life)

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
— Frank Herbert (Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1))

The truth is
I am paralysed by fear

It is a dark
Horrific monster
Leaning over me
So very close

Sucking my breath
From dry, cracked lips

I wait for my heart to stop
For my sight to darken

For time to still
For my life to end

So I can begin again


Friday, 1 May 2015

Just Keep Walking, Girl


I think a lot
I hurt a lot

I think a lot
About how
Not to think a lot

I plumb my depths
To look for a way
To not hurt so much

I love a lot
I hurt a lot

They whisper
They taunt

I try to love
A lot
I try to forget
A lot

Still...

I'm grace under pressure
Soft elegant movements
When I want to rip the walls
Down with bloody hands

A whirling dervish
Who feels too much
Crazy, manic, fucked up
Silly little gypsy girl

Just stop, girl
And start walking
Feel the earth push
Against your soft soles

Just keep walking, girl
Worship the moon
Fall in love with you
Just keep walking, girl