Oh Pilgrim, the way of life is long:
sometimes joyful, sometimes hard.
Still we walk, foot over foot, foot over foot,
sometimes into chasms or over rough terrain,
through storms and buffeting winds.
Sometimes through meadows
abundant with comfort and flowers,
butterflies and soft sunshine.
Enjoy it, smell the flowers,
lie down there awhile and rest.
Above you: the sun, that fire of fires
round which our small lives turn.
It dries our tears and grows our food
the friend of winter hearths
the friend of hearts
the spark of life
companion for the way
But one can’t laze in a meadow forever.
We rise and walk
foot over foot, foot over foot
carrying our spark of life.
We fall down, we get up, oh Pilgrim.
Oh Pilgrim, the way of life is long
breath deep of air that is laced with stardust
that is stardust, as you are stardust,
as you walk on stardust
foot over foot
on this path of stars.
You are not alone in your dark nights.
Beside you, companions walk:
foxes, owls, roos and people
We walk together trusting the earth
to meet our feet.
You have stepped through fire,
and you have survived.
Sure, the going is hard
and terrain will be rough for some way yet.
But you have survived and
you step forward, foot over foot.
Oh Pilgrim, surely
you can trust yourself by now?
Surely, despite your wounds,
some of which reopen and weep,
surely you can trust the healing?
Surely you can trust yourself in this world by now?
Surely you can trust
It has got you this far.
Step forward, step forward,
step forward in
this moment of walking,
this moment and no other,
This moment is free from the past
with its grief and wishes.
It is free from the future
with its worries and desires.
It is just this moment and no other
through which you step
foot over foot.
. . . . . . .
This poem was written for and performed at an exhibition called Regenerate at Fabrik Arts and Heritage, at the end of 2020, nearly a year after the area was ravaged by fire. I wrote it specifically for fire victims who still to this day have a long way to travel before they are healed, though I think it speaks to anyone who has experienced trauma, Covid, for eg. or loss.
Performance poems often don’t translate to the page, but I think this one does ok. It’s interesting that most performance poems are very much about the presence of the performer, but this one dictated that it did not want me to meet the audience member’s eyes, so that they could take the poem to themselves in a private way. Beforehand I explained that to them, and also told them that the meadow is a metaphor for their life before, or rather, their memory of their life before. Because when one is trying to get one’s life back, it is very easy forget anything that was not perfect, but it will never be the same anyway, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. In any case better to aim for the best it can be, rather than for some lost thing.
And it seems that the mental health of people in trauma is nurtured mainly by one thing, and that is to be in the moment in which one finds oneself. There is so much to think about when trying to get one’s life back together, and the past is full of sorrows. Mentally, one is busy the whole time. There is no rest and the only way to get rest, and to find joy, is in the moment. Simple things, like sounds and scents, what one’s own hand feels like. These are the things that nurture us, in times of stress.
And simple things, like the face of a flower:
. . . . .