The performance poem I wrote for the exhibition, Solastalgia, at Fabrik, in Lobethal. More details about this series of exhibitions, here.
The drawing is mine, drawn with charcoal from my burnt home. It ended up being about 13 metres long on the beautiful wall of this gallery. It is as ephemeral as my home apparently was, and will be washed off that wall eventually. But all kudos to Melinda Rankin (director of Fabrik) for facilitating it.
Also kudos to all of the people involved in the exhibition, especially Jo Wilmot (creator of Solastalgia, The Exhibition) and Evette Sunset who said I mentored her when it was the other way around. We all learn from each other anyway, so who needs labels.
I wrote this poem a while ago and consider it successful because it means a lot more than it says about my life at the time. I was just beginning to recover from a major depression. I was relearning how to be more mindful, with less nitter-natter going on in my thoughts, especially less negative self-talk. Prior to that my head was so full that I could not even see beauty let alone my ‘way’.
Most of my haiku are much less layered than this one. Just as well. They should speak for themselves and not be obscure. But I decided to unpack this one because it is worth speaking of depression and the possibility of healing.
small hands pray life
into a battered bird
the fervent child
a kind word –
barely holding it together
a homeless man speaks
of her heart
This time Carpe Diem “Spiritual Ways” #2 Unconditional Love is about, as it says, unconditional love, so I thought, apart from haiku, I would share an older poem. It is from my soon-to-be-released book Sparrow, (shameless plug) and is written in my husband’s voice. It was during his trip across Asia to Europe in the sixties.
Kindness of Strangers
If you see a sign that says,
‘Water Unsuitable for Human Consumption’,
it is unwise to wash your grapes there.
Especially if you have not taken your hepatitis tablets.
Naturally I nearly died. I hitchhiked to Kabul in the back
of a fish truck sliding around on top of the fish, covered, as I was,
in shit and flies and woke up in the hospital with someone
waving a paper in front of me, saying, ‘Sign here.’
The man in the next bed said, in quiet English,
‘Do not sign that paper. It says they do not
have to take responsibility for you. They will
let you die.’ So I did not sign that paper.
There was a little boy with a goat in the room.
He was trying to swap the goat for the life of his brother.
It seemed the doctor did not need a goat
but I slept before I heard the outcome.
When I woke they were getting me ready to fly to Teheran.
The man in the next bed reached over. ‘Take these,’ he said
‘They will bring you luck,’ and he pressed into my hand
some Islamic worry beads much smoothed with prayer.
It isn’t often in your life that you receive a pure gift,
one from a stranger whom you will never meet again.
The man was older than me. He will have died by now.
But his heart is still warming my pocket.
An amazing experience, don’t you think?
Not sure who left this wonderful photo on my camera. Either my daughter Hana, or her husband Evan.
I was five when I first saw the coloured rays of the sun through half-shut eyes — my eyelashes refracting the light into rainbow colours. A few days later the school teacher asked us to draw the sun, so I did and she said, “The sun always has yellow rays.” I knew she was wrong but I drew yellow suns from then on…
and from the therapist’s room
A little illustrated haibun from one of my notebooks. Probably I’d change the odd phrase if I was polishing the haibun, but notebooks are filled with unpolished stuff. (‘Gems’ I was going to say, but mostly they are full of unpolished stones, everyday gravel).
The haiku at the end is (among other things) about recovering from the winter blues.
I saw a therapist for a while, and very useful it was too, after years of depression. Most of the time when I spoke to him, there was a lot of laughter. People were often surprised when I told them I was depressed, because I come across as fun-loving and gregarious, which I am also. There were a lot of tears in the therapist’s room too, of course. In any case it really helped me facilitate my recovery. And about time.
I don’t do rage. Indignaty yes, tears plenty, but not rage, not anger, not since I was twelve — boarding school, second month.
It was the vice-head prefect. On the third day she sent me out to polish my shoes. ‘I have polished my shoes,’ I said. She sent me out anyway and did so nearly every morning after that.
Then one evening she accused me of something else I didn’t do and I accused her of picking on me and she accused me of being cheeky and I accused her of being mean and she gave me detention and this went to and fro until the whole school was watching and we were yelling at each other and I had five detentions and she didn’t have a punch on the nose even though she deserved it.
But next morning, when I came to breakfast late because I had been sent out again to polish my shoes, the headmistress called me over and asked where I had been and I told her. She said, ‘Didn’t you come late yesterday?’ I said ‘Yes, the vice-head prefect sends me out most mornings because she says I haven’t polished my shoes.’ ‘And have you?’ ‘Yes,’ I said and she asked, ‘Why do you suppose she does that?’ But I didn’t tell her what I thought. I said meekly (and I’ve done meekly ever since), ‘I think these shoes are not a shiny sort of shoe.’ And we both looked down at the soft brown shoes and she sent me to my breakfast.
It didn’t happen after that but then neither did anger.