The Blade Slices The Heart
The blade chops finely
knows it worth.
The hand that wields the blade
In a moment’s loss of concentration
a deep gouge
blood loss difficult to staunch.
A tourniquet, a blue plaster
disaster is hidden by
restricting blood flow.
The wound stitched seepage unseen.
So a heart used to giving
beats a syncopated rhythm
strong and steady.
Sliced by fear, shrivels
into a fluttering frenzy
forgetting the cadence.
defibrillation rectifies the blip
beneath lies buried dead tissue.
The gifted cake, seeded words
an unexpected surprise
it’s creamy succulence
as the fork sliced
allowed fonder memories
Poetry he’d thought dried up
Shelved and half forgotten
had sprouted a line
in the early morning
patterned two pages.
A remembered bus ride through
the countryside, nostalgic images.
Separation from his spouse
now seemed more bearable
she more accepting that
when visits ended
he went elsewhere but knew
the whereabouts of her room.
His son discovered paintings
he’d done years before
boldly coloured more vibrant
than his subtle water coloured landscapes
for the cover of his forth coming
poetry collection ‘Wordscapes’,
his lifelong ambition
being collated refined
for the print run.
As I leave he mentions his trumpet
In the garage, a memento of his jazz playing days
accepts breath is no longer strong enough
to echo the high notes
but there is a sense of hope
of life quietly edging forwards.
What is love?
Love is not passion
That burns itself out
Love is unheard
The comfortable silence
Between two people
Whose roots intertwine
Go deep and know dark places
Where despair is tendrilled with hope.
The roots they’ve woven
Will provide a web
As frail as a spider’s
yet resilient to mend.
Arms hug reassure
where words might fall.
working unseen this love
cherishes the other
is burnished by reassurance
nourished by compassion reason.
UNSEEN THE BUD OF SPRING UNCURLS
You took the time to say
Goodbye to granny.
Yes it hurts but you didn’t hesitate
You went to Manchester
Kept vigil by her bed
As she drifted in and out of consciousness.
Now in darkness you return to start tomorrow,
Another day. You don’t feel brave.
But remember you gave your healing
To help her to another shore.
You too seek a space of wholeness.
Time unravels, stretches out its hand
Gradually you unclasp the fear, petrified winter,
And in frozen earth unseen
The bud of spring uncurls.
The second brain
Releases its colour
Seeps into the subconscious conscious
The spaces between the spaces
Where part is locked
And part is freed
Like stitches being threaded
And then let go
Into a new place where
Nothing is certain
But the unknown is there to be explored
Fear opens new spaces
Extracts from “Rethreading My Life”
My solar plexus, “What’s that?” I hear you say, my gut churns, scrapes, whirls, and twirls in a cleansing action. The bus is moving very slowly, but steadily forward. Sometimes it stops, but doesn’t move back, and is gently proceeding on its journey.
When your mind was seized it would take you on tortuous trips where every word I said took on layers of meaning, reasoning gone. Fear unwrapped implied threats in an innocent phrase. I would pray for a seizure to stop this compulsive never-ending thought process. I would ask for stillness to calm an overactive imagination.
I got upset when I realised by talking to you on the phone that you weren’t well. I realised by the tone of your voice and the words you used. It was like reading sounds. A smile through clenched teeth outwardly expresses a grin, but inwardly something totally different.
I am angry that your condition was never really managed or treated. I did what I could. When you were working things were better. You decided you could no longer work due to loss of memory, caused by seizures and prescribed medication. Your fear of making mistakes made you resign from your work as a solicitor. A vital work routine was lost and things quickly deteriorated.
The day before your birthday I feel as though I am a tube of toothpaste being squeezed out to the very last drop. It is as though your hands are round my throat. I consciously keep breathing deeply and clear my chest and gradually the feeling subsides. You would have been 57 tomorrow. The tears fall as though a dam has broken and I let them tumble and do not hold them back. I remember times of stillness together and I know I will be fine on your birthday. I am.
I have even found a new way of living and making new marks on the page. Sometimes tears fall. Now re-united with my daughter and my granddaughter I find joy. I’ve found a different way to love. You do not have the burden of thought. Your laughter is echoed in a giggling grandchild, free to take a piece of completed puzzle and say it’s disappeared. We play a game of hide and seek. You have gone but your imprint remains.
It is extinguished from the print of court papers or legal matters, or account books, but remains in fleeting remembrances of you that I embrace and let go.
I remember when you were not well, stitching objects onto material for your nephews. The colours and textures absorbed and distracted me. Doing allowed me to focus. The action of the thread going in and out of the material mimicked breathing in and out. A child gains comfort in repetition as cotton reels threaded one by one grow and take shape into a long necklace.
The seedlings are growing. I deadhead the polyanthus and daffodils. The crocuses are dying but the new baby daffodils are growing. It’s letting the hurt go, allowing the new to bud.
I have also assumed another role in life as an active granny looking after my granddaughter and supporting my daughter. This, together with my art, writing, working with clay, doing the garden, having massage therapy and healing, have provided me with a skeletal outline for my life.
I regularly water the plants during the summer so the roots grow strong enough to survive. It becomes a daily ritual. I visit the garden and notice the slightest change during a prolonged period without rain. Weeds are pulled as they shoot, and the first buds from cut-down winter plants remind me that life endures. It is the habitual focus on nurturing the plants with water that nourishes them and me.
I take cuttings from established flowers such as fuchsia and lavender which will over-winter in the greenhouse and then, after the last frost, can be planted out into the garden. This mirrors the care I need to take of myself. With time I will be healed and be more resilient to your loss.
I choose to remember the good times and let go the bad. The dread and fear has gone
I go to my qigong class and my teacher likens breath to the waves rolling on the shore. They do not rush. There is a definite rhythm of coming in and going out. A circular action allows space between the inward and the outward breath. The momentum of the waves is ruled by the ocean and the moon. I feel an inner quiet whenever I visit the sea. Perhaps the breath subconsciously follows the rhythm of the sea.
The memories of the dead still ignite unexpectedly. They make us smile and cry as in life. Consciously death is part of life as the seasons continually remind us. We embrace each new season letting the former go. We learn to treasure the day and live in the moment.
Eyes can be open to wonder. Ears alert to sound. Hands feel texture and gesticulate. Nostrils sense smells. The tongue tingles with different flavours. Time is so precious; each of us needs stillness to be at one with ourselves.
My family, friends, The Whitehawk Inn, and the creative process have helped me appreciate my life. I accept each new day as a present, unfolding it carefully and enjoying the process.
It takes courage to reveal intimate details of a difficult marriage. It is hard to do with people who are close – and virtually impossible to do with strangers. But Alanna McIntyre draws us into the tragic but ultimately uplifting story of her 25 year marriage to the complex man whose suicide she describes with painful honesty. You felt the extremes of hate and love towards yourself.… I will keep the last poem you sent me. It tells me of your love and that you are giving me my freedom.
A solicitor, a lifelong Spurs supporter, a perfectionist and an epileptic, Andy had a cutting wit and liked debating and algebraic puzzles. He wore leather gloves in cold weather and hated the stigma of epilepsy. Alanna writes that You didn’t know the secret of life without me or with me, so you extricated yourself from this life altogether.
I tried my best, Alanna tells us. But her best was not enough. She describes unflinchingly how it was after he overdosed in a rented flat and lay undiscovered for many days: I knew you were dead when the policeman knocked on my door nearly a year ago. At first it was silence, followed by hysteria and then weeping. She describes the inquest, the funeral. She gives us harsh detail (his body was too decomposed to be used for medical research, as he had wished) but her deep care for him never wavers. I haven’t forgotten you. I cry in the shower, missing you. Small things still make her weep; driving certain familiar roads; seeing his birthday crossed out in the list in her address book; hearing Tambourine Man. She still sees him in dreams, wearing old carpet slippers and a striped t-shirt. My grief is like the back door: sometimes it sticks and is a pain to open, other times when the weather is fine it’s ok.
Alanna looks with searing honesty at the emotional cost of loving Andy: I am a tube of toothpaste being squeezed out to the very last drop. It is as though your hands are round my throat. Anyone who has ever been in a long relationship will recognize these moments.
Now she finds calm through therapy and qigong, where breathing is like waves rolling to the shore. She heals through her artwork,(she describes beautifully how making a felted picture brings comfort) finds solace in her garden. She describes her love for her family – daughter, son, lovely granddaughter – and the pleasure she derives from cooking for them and for friends; her charity work and teaching. My life no longer consists of waiting but is made up of taking opportunities as they are offered.
There are poems here, and passion. And above all, there is hard-earned wisdom. Grief is another country, and all of us will have to visit it.
Alanna offers us a hand to hold there.
I allow myself to be disassociated from grief, but at the same time I do not shed the love I have felt.