Wednesday, December 26, 2012
But that works in reverse; in my garden,
when the light fails the layers of green
merge into two-dimensions,
except that the white roses march
triumphantly out of the frame.
This is a metaphor
for the Connecticut shootings.
Pre-Freud they would have been condemned
as evil, the work of the Devil;
the Devil, Lucifer light-bearer
hurled by God out of heaven.
Was God taken by surprise?
Did God know? Did God choose?
Which answer would you prefer?
Post-Freud we look for explanations:
a skewed mind, an abused childhood.
If this, then that; if there is a that
there has to have been a this.
But, skewed minds and abusive childhoods
may lead to creative genius.
If you insist otherwise, it's like saying
“All cats are animals” which has to lead to
“All animals are cats”.
This poem isn't going anywhere.
It a heart-pouring of questions
brought about by this latest massacre
of holy innocents.
Friday, December 21, 2012
When I was young, I had strategies
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Friday, October 26, 2012
- - - - - - That's splendid news but does that mean you've been a 'fake' writer these last 50 years and now you have to become a real, genuine writer??
- - - - - - -
Bears thinking about, doesn't it?
My plan is over time to step back from my online business in web content services and spend most of my working hours writing fiction again. For about 10 years I have been primarily a business woman, just writing books for fun, without much thought of sales.
Retiring forms no part of the plan: bugger that.
Don't get me wrong: I love my business almost as much as I like writing fiction and poetry. But anything gets stale if you do it for too many years. Compare and contrast:
My Contented web site
My Writing web site
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Friday, September 28, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
I'm reluctantly lurching
up a steep spiralling road;
the summit is cloud-hidden,
the valleys billowing with fog.
Nearly half a lifetime journey
and I still don't know how far I've come.
There are no longer signposts,
shelters, lookout places, and the air
is becoming rarefied.
What should be an outward view
is only a smudge; at times,
below me, there's a landslide.
Whenever I try and rest,
the weather turns aggressive:
driving sleet and angry wind.
I have no choice but to stumble on.
There are no words to describe
the loneliness, the dereliction.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
I almost thought I saw her today,
slipping around my walnut tree
with a subversive smile.
I was all set to meander
through our shared past
and tweak it into
a new narrative mode.
But when I called out a welcome,
I was greeted by a long silence.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
that I'd encounter a good listener,
whose listening would bring me a full
awareness of what I'd said.
But then I had a thought:
my poetry is a good listener,
and even a teacher, skewing my
words sideways to create
a different pattern, a wake-up call.
As well, I can't influence
the outer world, only nudge a little
my inner self. So now my prayer
is that I become a good listener,
assisting friends find new meaning
in the stories that they tell.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
I've been taken to the edge,
shown the depths of degradation.
Listening to King Lear, I find
it hard to contain the suffering
and feel as if my heart will break.
In the last few lines, we are advised
to “Speak what we feel,
not what we ought to say”,
then the curtain comes down.
There is no catharsis;
no restoration of order and tranquility.
I cannot choose but weep.
“Its only a story”, you say.
“Is it relevant?” students ask.
But the myth still resonates; problems
related to the generation gap abound.
We still need lessons of patience,
generosity and tolerance.
So whenever I meet Lear
my heart opens and opens again.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
I am being hollowed out by pain,
which leaves an emptiness to be filled.
That's not why I'm wracked with pain,
but maybe I can put the wracking
to a good end. I can choose,
choose freely. No, that's not right.
It's not my choice; it's been given to me,
a mixture of genetic strength,
social mores and education.
So, here I am, praying
that the emptiness will be filled,
that the mirror of my perception
will be polished and shine brightly
even in the blackest of hours.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Here's the problem: I have too much time.
Sounds daft, we all have the same amount,
but I mean unstructured time. And even
the structured time is heavy:
It's a mammoth task getting me up,
and putting me down (sounds Dickensian)
I'm left with three between-minder gaps
with nothing at all going on.
“Easy!” you say, “befriend time.”
Would you welcome even the dearest friend
who took to visiting three times a day,
every single day of the year?
And befriending time means structuring time;
that takes initiative, a skill
stolen by the M.S. long, long ago.
So I have gobbets, undigested
chunks of never-changing time,
like bland food that needs spicing up.
My spices in the past were playing
the piano, reading Proust and stitching
my tapestry. Also long gone.
Three gobbets a day are unbearable,
even two consecutively are hard.
At the risk of being boring,
I will emphasise again
I have TOO MUCH TIME.
Phew! glad to get that off my chest,
but writing the words gave me insights.
Ages ago, I smugly wrote:
“the trick is to consent” and I'd have
believed I'd consented once and for all.
But now I know I have to renew
my consent gobbet after gobbet.
When other activities are filched,
there is always prayer; like a nun
I can spend time in contemplation.
Praying takes me on an alchemical journey,
where I'm endeavouring to transform
the gross matter of my damaged body
into the gold of spirit.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
I do not want to take on tomorrow;
for then, I have no choice but to say:
"Margaret died yesterday".
Already, I've lived one day without her.
Died, passed away, passed over, gave up the ghost;
I prefer the German verschwindet, disappeared.
Yesterday, Margaret disappeared,
and for my remaining tomorrows
I will play hide and seek with her,
till the tomorrow when I disappear,
and you'll be the ones searching.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
at times a chord, at others a ripple
and great long silences.
My inner self resonates
in very much the same way.
Yes: and I feel connected;
No: a black fog swirls around me;
Maybe: an endless waiting.
But the harp is governed
by the wind, which, as we are told,
“Like the Spirit, bloweth where is listeth.”
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
had the hope of a reprieve;
every seven years
he could come ashore
and search for the one true love
who would redeem him.
It's hard to imagine
his desolation at the start of
each seven year stint.
My illness will have a reprieve;a death.
Only I do not know when or where.
Already, it's as if I've spent a lifetime
sailing the open seas,
rounding, again and again,
the Cape of Good Hope.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
P.S. The hedgehog in the photo is not Diana's hedgehog.
Original photo: Creative Commons licence, by Justin and Elise
Thursday, June 21, 2012
I am stranded, as night falls
and a thick fog swirls in.
In this nowhere place,
sounds are muffled,
I cannot tell left from right,
forward from backward,
tomorrow from yesterday.
My courage plummets;
I lose touch with my inner self,
no dreams, no poetry.
I cannot fathom whatever,
however this murky black cloud
descends upon me, engulfs me,
and disappears whenever it chooses.
Days, weeks, months later.
I emerge into light.
My artistic self playing tricks?
The dark night of the soul?
Certainly, suicide territory.
My only theory, will sound
My inner self wakes up to the fact
that I am missing and reconnects.
I am grounded, feel secure.
Daft, yes, but you come up
with something better.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Consider Brueghel's painting
'The Flailing of St. Anthony'.
The suffering saint in the foreground,
in the background, a boy skating
and a man climbing an apple tree.
Man and boy seem oblivious
of the saint's agony;
but he has his back turned from them
as if unaware there are witnesses.
The events are simultaneous,
but not connected in any way.
For many years, I have managed my pain
by remaining outside the painting.
Yes, pain has been at the fore front,
but I have still enjoyed
pond and apple tree,
birds and walnut tree.
But recently the pain levels
I have found myself
drawn into the painting,
have identified with the flailed figure
and have ignored everyday life,
which has receded away from me
in both space and time.
I am not happy about this.
My prayer for the future is
that I learn to cope with the pain,
dissociate myself from the painting
and appreciate once more
the ordinariness of life:
a man picking apples,
a boy skating in sunlight.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
On Friday evening, 1st June, first day of winter, I had an occasion here: thirty-one people and a ten week old baby, for me, the whole of the evening was counterpointed on the lovely sound of a baby drinking (those of you who came may not want to be bothered reading on, although it's not quite word for word).
My good friend, Rachel McAlpine, is a well known writer and, in fact, her most recent book, Scarlett Heels, has been selected by the New Zealand Society of Authors to represent New Zealand at the forthcoming Frankfurt book fair, at which New Zealand is an honored guest. So, Rachel and I put our heads together and decided she would come down from Wellington and read some of her saucy stories to a group of my friends. Apparently, she tried out different stories that were different from those she had given at previous readings, which made us into successful guinea pigs. She did this with panache, in-dispersing the stories with clips of 50's music to arouse nostalgia in those of us who were the appropriate age.
Now, all that sounds quite easy. But, this is Christchurch! Some six weeks ago, EQC took down the chimney in my living room and in the process broke the gas flue which made the gas heater unusable. I was promised a new heater would be installed on Wednesday the 30th of May and I specially requested a heater with a remote. The technician arrived, removed the old heater which although only 13 years old could not be supplied with a different flue and had therefore become redundant. During this activity he registered that the owner of the house was elderly and disabled; he inquired why we hadn't got a heater with a remote. When we explained he agreed he would contact his manager and was sure something could be done the next day. You will not be surprised to hear that nothing was done the next day. I was faced with 31 people coming to a room with cardboard wadding between us and the outside air and no heater. Fortunately the transference of heat from my wood burner room does operate into the living room, but, otherwise, I will have paid a small fortune in electricity getting the oil filled heaters to warm the room up. It is very large and south facing.
Then we had the problem of aesthetics. There was a large cardboard area where the heater should be. I ceased on the idea of removing my curtain from my warm room which has no door into the kitchen, and, luckily, we found that although the velvet was so heavy that we expected it to immediately fall down, the rail fitted perfectly onto the mantle piece without the velvet falling. The room no longer looked so hideous.
Rachel commented about the stories in that she felt the need for sex to be out in the open a bit more, given that when she was a teenager an older sister got pregnant and the rest of the family (all girls) knew nothing about what was going on.
That made me realise how fortunate I'd been, but fortunate through someone else's misfortune. My mothers older sister married without any knowledge and discovered the facts of life on her wedding night. From odd things she let drop, I think she became frigid. Before my mother married, that Aunt talked to my father and together they told mother what to expect. She was determined that Nick and I wouldn’t suffer the same way, so I was told about sex so young, I cannot remember not knowing. In the same way, I learnt about periods and could recognise immediately what was happening to me unlike a Ukranian friend in Melbourne the same age, who thought she was bleeding to death.
My parents enlightenment went even further. When girls in the 1950's got pregnant, they either had to have the baby adopted out, were forced into shotgun marriages or were taken to a back street abortionist. Not so with me, and anyway I didn't get pregnant. When I was about 16 my father said to me: “If you get into trouble, don't do anything stupid. Come to me, and we will adopt the baby.” Many years later I mentioned this to Mother and she could remember that they had agreed that thats what Dad would say to me.
After the stories and the music my friends had wine, cheese, bikkies and dips. And, would seem had a great time catching up. I admit I was tired and cannot be heard above loud noise so I retreated. But, altogether, it was a fun evening.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
The inspiration behind 'codswallop' comes from years of collecting crass bromides when other people try and respond to suffering. I started at the end of 1984 when the M.S. came out of remission and added a lot more after Paul’s death in 1985.
One woman, having asked what was wrong with me, offered the information that she was an exorcist. She also said twice that when she saw me she thought “there, but for the grace of God, go I”. After the second time, I asked her what that was saying about me and the grace of God, which fortunately shut her up.
The idea that God tests you only to the limit of your strength, I found appalling. In the first place, I hadn't blamed God and in the second, at that time, I was not at the limits of my strength although I would say by now I am. So that's where the poem came from as if we are all sitting a life time exam.
After Paul had died I was still being told that if I prayed the M.S. would still get better. And even my explaining, that people were praying up and down the coasts of New Zealand for Paul when he was dying, didn't shift his earnestness. I distinctly remember that Christ on the cross called out in near despair “my God, why hast thou forsaken me”: which seems to suggest that God sometimes says “no”, not always a word that people want to hear.
I know I fit the Old Testament model: if I'm suffering like this, God can not be pleased with me but it's strange to detect such thinking in other people, although, I must say, most of their bromides consist of not saying anything at all which I suppose, is safer when you are communicating with a wordsmith.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
“God tests you only to the limits
of your strength.” That means an exam.
My mind goes back to a great hall,
tables and chair spaced out separately,
frazzled students waiting for the start command.
But thats not right; it will be
a take-home lifelong exam, with no concern
for the welfare of students, only for
the integrity of the subject.
Answers are absolute. You're competing
not with others but with yourself.
“Many are called but few are chosen.”
That makes three categories:
called, uncalled and chosen.
And not our choice either.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
She went out with a growl and a spit;
not grumpiness, you understand,
but arthritic pain in her joints.
She'd been fading for the last few weeks,
great weight loss, her fur no longer plush;
but it was her eyes, they looked haunted,
not fear of death but fear of life itself;
the long day-to-day endurance.
We laid her in a bed of autumn leaves,
under the hedge, below the smoke bush
flaming its defiance into the sky.
The house still resonates with her presence:
her curled sleeping shape
her daily dash down the hall
her deep-throated purr.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Many years ago I learned
about draughter's painters
who needed outlines
and painter's painters,
who merged colours.
It was good I appreciated both styles.
I am losing definitions
and inhabit a Titian garden.
As luck would have it
my memory requires words
to reconstruct an image.
When I now look at my walnut tree
it is composed of contours and colour
and long years of memory.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
I have discovered how to have a good day: have a hideous day first.
Last Wednesday, my catheter blocked and the bladder with it. I can't have the catheter changed unless I am on the bed and I had no- one here who knew how to put me there so I spent the day feeling sick and feverish; I foetalised even worse than usual, and I am already 36cm shorter than I used to be, which gave me a very sore neck and headache. It was a perfectly horrible day.
So, Thursday felt marvellous; although, actually, it was no better than the Tuesday or Monday or the weeks stretching back behind me. And it was such a change to have had an illness that could get better instead of knowing that how I am today is the best I can be. For example, the nurse today acknowledged that the pressure point on my bum, which has been described as an iceberg, will not get better. All their energy is going into making sure it doesn't infect and the skin around it doesn't break.
Unfortunately, Wednesday was such a horrid day, I am in no hurry to have a second one like it, so I will have to wait a long time until I have another good day.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Silence and time are the yin and yang
of poetry: inward stillness
and the creative urge.
It may take days, weeks or even months
for ideas to collide in my mind
forging new combinations.
I may seem to be just sitting,
but it's the pregnancy of waiting.
A stillborn poem is no good,
premature is possible, provided
I can give it outer time
to compensate for the missing inner time.
What is needed is longish spells
Time and silence.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
I am not pioneering,
nor charting new territory.
Each and every one of us
at one time will find ourselves
traversing the same terrain.
It's just that I speak freely,
feel compelled to acknowledge
every landmark, identify
each passing phase.
Many prefer to maintain silence;
very well, if they encounter my work,
they can turn their heads away.
I will be content if, one day,
my words can bring comfort
to one person in dire need.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Today I faced a turning point:
do I continue on my journey
or compromising myself,
swerve aside on to a path
which might take for ever
to rejoin the main highway?
Such choices occur four times a year.
This time was easy: I followed
my usual routine and decided
not to make a decision,
which sets me free until July 1st
I am still on track, no asides,
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Because Paul was so young when he died,
and had such a free spirit,
I couldn't bear the thought
of his being in the dark ground
so we scattered his ashes on the hills
where he has been filled with light,
held together by snow and ice.
As I approach my own ending,
at times I feel sad that not anywhere
in the world is there a stone
that records his short life.
My most recent wistfulness
was brought on by a keening gull.
I thought of my own death; my grave will be
on land which will remember me,
where I've walked barefoot countless times
as a child, the brow of the hill,
above the ocean, with a stand of trees.
The gull's lament a warbler's trill
will be my companions
for the long silence.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Adrift like the tides; surging
and then receding,
pulled by the moon's tug.
The moon is my life, soothing
and my death, playing with me
like a young cat with a mouse.
Day after day of the extra days
I have been given, I cannot decide
whether my life is a blessing,
a purring cat, the smile of a friend,
or a burden, the excoriation
of tender flesh; or whether
the crashing wave is exhilarating
or a threat; whether
long stretches of shallow water
are tedious, or a welcome relief.
This poem arose out of what I wrote last week. The difficulty is I can make “beauty a necessity”, but I'm having more difficulty making “necessity beautiful” (Ann Michaels).
I must say a word about the district nurse. I have known her quite a long time, like her enormously, and really value her willingness to tell the truth; the other nurses fudge.
It's just interesting how the same statement resonates differently: “you have passed my use by date”, “if you hadn't done yoga, you wouldn't be still alive”, ”the protein content of your lumbar puncture would not have suggested you would have lived past your sixties”.
Friday, February 10, 2012
“You're well past your use-by date”.
The district nurse announced this last week in a very matter-of-fact tone. I had already known that, but the way she said it took me aback and made me interested in how saying something in one way can illicit a different response. I would have said to you, and indeed have agreed many times with the nurses, that my years of yoga are what makes it possible for me to manage now. I also know my diet has had a hand. But knowing that I might have died is a different awareness than knowing I'm well past the time when I should have died. It's time I was discarded form the refrigerator of life, and I will reject the recycling bin in favour of the organic.
Over 6 years ago, my doctor discovered that my breathing had become so laboured that if I were to get a chest virus, I would immediately get pneumonia as I have no ability to cough. He made it sound as if it was imminent. But some 18 months ago he uncomfortably reiterated that I would eventually get a chest infection, which I, to his embarrassment reworded it as “He reassured me that eventually I would get a chest virus”. Meanwhile, the best I can do is get laryngitis.
After many years of no weight bearing, the calcium in my bones is leeching through my kidneys into the Pacific Ocean. I also have trouble with dead cells. The nurse was convinced I would get bladder infections, but instead, I get blocked catheters. So, I'm not going to die of kidney failure.
When I got the pressure point on my bum, the nurses were convinced I would get septicemia or, at the very least, the ulcer would get bigger and go into the bone. Instead the ulcer is shrinking, and the wound is clean, now free of the necrotic tissue.
These are the truths I live with, truths that indicate that I am doing better than would be expected. You can see why I was a bit startled to be told I was well past my use-by date.
Friday, February 3, 2012
Consider the first fish, struggling
to escape its hostile environment,
painfully gasping raw oxygen,
stumping on misshapen fins.
Everywhere, pools were drying out;
It needed to survive,
but did not know that survival
meant it would pass through
a one-way gate.
There would be no returning.
Its brain had enlarged; it had become
a land dweller; like us
it would drown if immersed in water.
If there had been anyone
to watch the desperate endeavour
of that failed Devonian fish,
the watcher would never have predicted
300 million years later,
that fish would walk upright under the stars.
We're a bit complacent about time;
if asked about the next 300 million,
we claim: “More of us; we are the future.”
And we muddle up time and causality,
assuming there is an underlying
That fish had intentions.
It never seems to occur to us
that time means change,
that in 300 million years
there might well be
a vastly different creature
looking back to its own beginnings,
merely glancing at
our brief span of time,
stigmatising us offhandedly
as failed human beings.