Saturday 31 October 2009

Happy Hallowe'en!

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,

Had a wife, and couldn't keep her.

He put her in a pumpkin shell,

And there he kept her very well.

(Mum recited this poem to me last night, at half-past midnight. Can you believe the cheek of Peter???)
Illustrator: Maxfield Parrish

Wednesday 28 October 2009

The Year of Yes

- for Victoria and Perveen,
dearest, patient girlfriends
who nonetheless went off to Bury Farm
without me
and inspired this poem

I wish I had said Yes!
When you asked me out to walk
among the leaves
the turning leaves
You were offering me
the sound of dreams,
And I turned you down

Not today, I smiled
Maybe, tomorrow?

But I wish I had said Yes!
I wish we had shared this light.

Next time don't ask
Just take me!
Order me to dress!

I am going to need your help
To begin the Year of Yes.

Monday 26 October 2009

All This, And Heaven Too

Autumn breathes
outside a window
In a garden I knew before

Ripe colours I knew
in a different form.

Love letters
in orange and gold
trying to find their way
to free me.

- for Dr J.B.
Painting: 'Tanis' by Daniel Garber, 1915

Friday 23 October 2009

Patient #13915etc etc

The gleaming pebble
of my sparkly days
Rubs itself raw,
and ruinous
Here, on the Stroke Unit
I am just another Case
of Girl, Interrupted

I have lost my face
along the waterways
of little deaths
and unbearable truths.

I have lost my place
Lost the fluidity of my grace.
This is the last of the sad little trio, but it has become special, because the morning after my bleak night, a very handsome, dashing young doctor read my poem and declared it worthy of praise. Suddenly the veils were cast aside and the sun streamed in. I peeked behind the blue curtain on my right, past troubled Margaret, and realised there was a garden there. Right outside. It had been there all the time. And I was just too gloomy to know.
Don't you love this marble head from Constantin Brancusi? It is spooky in its stillness and yet breathing, and alive, warm and cool all at the same time.

Thursday 22 October 2009

The Curve of Learning

Well, I did as you suggested, and posted the grim little piece. But I woke up this morning entirely out of sorts. I have realised something intrinsic about myself. I do write at the dark hours, words that are hooked out of me; but such pieces are really like weeding an overgrown garden. I have to set to, and hack away until I reach the clearing. And it is in the light that my voice really rings true, for me. It is not enough that I write to rescue myself. It matters far more that I bring joy, and a little glee. I have been utterly depressed today, far more so than when I wrote the dashed things! So don't read yesterday's post anymore, ignore it entirely. Tomorrow I shall post something that breathes... thank goodness for tomorrow.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Crabs, After Eight

Most wards have an assortment of visiting hours. And most people obey these arbitrary rules. But, you know the film Good Will Hunting with Robin Williams and Matt Damon? There's a bit where Robin Williams' character is discussing his wife's illness and he says, "you wouldn't know about sleepin' sittin' up in a hospital room... for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes... that the terms "visiting hours" don't apply to you." My parents are like this. Visiting hours never apply. Nurses and doctors never disturb their vigils. My brothers arrive at strange hours. My mother is offered blankets and pillows. My father sometimes threatens to stay on in my mother's place, but luckily for him, no one has as yet taken him up on the threat. I am usually stoic and smiling at the final night's goodbyes. But sometimes, just sometimes...

Here is a crabby little poem dedicated to the dark fleece of my father's jacket as it departs, for once, just after visiting hours.

You leave me here
to rot
Among the carcass
of my words.

Do you know this place?
It is the place of my extinction.
I become obsolete
Death ceases to matter
There is too much of it around;

And Life
makes no sense
No sense to me
At all.
Image: Salvador Dali, Ascension

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Warrior, Rising

Sister Moon
I am rising too
upon a new wave
of learning.

Keep the tides high
I am not afraid
to wait until
the mourning.

- for Jeanne-Ming at Wu Feng Road
who is thinking of me in her studio as she paints extraordinary works, and who has named her latest exhibition 'Warrior' after me. Me! I am soaring like Pooh with his blue balloon, melting into the sky so the bees will be fooled... I am honoured.
This painting is called Lucky Pearls, and was sold at auction to an anonymous buyer, proceeds of which went to a home for the homeless in Shanghai. I have lucky pearls too - a string of words, kindness from you, and you and you.
Now how, dear friend, am I supposed to concentrate on the pithy evils of this ghastly disease when you write me such comments?!
"Shaista, I am in my studio tonight painting. I cannot relieve my mind of you. I have a show opening on Saturday and the gallery owner called to ask the title of my show. It seems a bit late to be naming a show but I welcomed the call and told her, "Warrior." So, this show will be for you." - Jeanne-Ming

Monday 19 October 2009

Falling Warrior

I am falling to pieces. This disease is taking its toll of me. There are craters within and without; I step into the puddles one by one and drown a little more. I am no one and nothing now. Just a single needle piercing the skin of a body in crisis from itself.
- Lewin Stroke Unit, midnight.
Dear Readers,
I am sorry to have been so blithering about my blog. I have been in and out of hospital so many times this year it makes my head spin. This month I have had two more rounds of monoclonal antibodies, and to be perfectly honest the poems I have gathered around me are of a particularly ghoulish nature. I read some to Dad last week, something about the shadow and the hangman, and at the close of reading, he rested his head in his hands and emitted a low, hollow moan.
Personally, I am quite partial to these goblin spooks of verses, and I wrote three deliciously dark pieces on the Lewin Stroke Unit over the weekend. The first is above, but I have written it as prose, because today I am home, and it is very hard to concern myself with needles and craters when I am snug as a bug in a rug... home, dear home, where the flowers bloom and the hooded look in my parents' eyes have disappeared once more.
Shall I share the others? Will you moan too?

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Almost Rabbit Stew

I am chasing the October sun, hanging on the coat-tails of his after glow. My grandmother tells me the roses are still out in Regent's Park, and they will wait for me someday, some year, to appear. But I have roses right here. Red for love. Red for blood. Life.

Yesterday I was watching a rabbit contemplate an apple. I turned to make my cup of tea, musing on the sweet predictability of it all. When I turned round, hot tea at my lips, a stripey cat was poaching my rabbit! Where had it come from? The rabbit was nowhere to be seen. Orange fur gleaming, haunches silky and sinister, jaws twitching at the lost rabbit stew. Well alright, I couldn't see the jaws twitching, but still...

I am observing Life, concentrating on the sweet happy apples of my days, but the watching cat is at my back - and I have no way of knowing how long he will stay.

Image: 'Garfield's Morning Exercise' by Jim Davis