Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy new year

I am thinking of you, happy new year.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

As always, today I am thinking of you. Happy new year.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

Happy new year,
I am, as always, thinking of you,
I have not forgotten you.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Suicide Prevention Week

I have written several pieces on this blog which talk about losing my friend to suicide. The first,, was written days after she died and is simply about loss, my sadness in the days that followed her death. At this point we didn't know how she had died, just that she was gone. It was only later on the we understood that her death had come at her own hand, and then grief changed into something more complicated, mingled with confusion and guilt. 

After I discovered she had taken her own life I didn't write anything about her at all for some months, I couldn't find any words. The next time I found something i could say about her i wrote this,, just a few words which were not about her, but about my own guilt for the way we lost her. It took a very long time to let go of that guilt, and sometimes I still think, 'what if'. A thousand tiny things that, done differently, might mean she would still be alive.

A year after she died i wrote this, I thought that enough time had passed for me to be pragmatic, when I wrote this piece I thought it was measured and unemotional, but now I can see the hurt and anger bleeding from every line.

A year ago I wrote this,, and decided that it would be the last thing I would write about her. I wanted to stop missing her, stop thinking about her, lay it all down and move away. Easier said than done. 

Now, its easier to think about her. I have stopped trying to understand why she died. Still, I think about her often but I am less likely to start to cry when a moment in an ordinary day reminds me of her. Our other friends from that time have moved on, new lives, marriages and babies and now she is just a story that we never tell each other. 

I spent a lot of time in the past few years trying to find out why people kill themselves, but I don't understand. Now I think I'm probably lucky that this is the case, lucky that I have never been to the place where it is a consideration. I wanted to find some words to show people that living itself is reason enough to live. Arrogantly I thought it was just a matter of explaining things in the right way.

I don't think the words exist, but I do think that there are things we can do. We can be kind to one another, we can try to reach out a little, we can put supports in place, look out for signs of despair. We can look after each other. We can ask for help, and offer it. We can talk honestly and openly about suicide. We can do all of these things and try to make a difference to a life.

We will still lose people, it won't always be enough. 

When we lose them we can hold on to each other and try to mourn together. We can remember them and love them and forgive ourselves and them. We can write about them, talk about them and miss them. What we cannot do is change what has happened, we could torture ourselves with 'what if' but it will not change what was, what is. We will cry for them and think that we will never stop crying, but we will stop. As anniversaries pass the pain of it diminishes. Things get better, as they should. The dead remain dead, and we keep on living, hopefully we keep on living.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Poem: Omelas

...And then they brought me then to see the child
crouched in the darkness, desperate and deliberate
and my heart hurt then, wanting to scoop it up in my arms,
hold it to me and love it because it was a broken thing
but for thoughts of myself and thoughts of my world
the this I have, this I want to continue to have,
this I want for my children and theirs and it was weeping,
it had no words and I made myself reason and weigh
and the cost of taking it with me was high and
I did not want to pay so I turned from it and it was weeping
still and I did not do anything and I was selfish
and I called myself brave for the sympathy I felt for it
and called my guilt a noble sacrifice and did nothing
and it was weeping but I left it there in the dank black darkness,
I called my cowardice fair and said I could not make the choice,
I could not decide what would become of everyone else
and I did not rescue it and I could not bear it and I walked away form Omelas...  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Eve, 2012

Don't worry, 
I have not forgotten you.
This year I stayed up
Smiled for the company
But all of my thoughts
Were for you.
My dearest friend,
Of course I think of you
All of the time. 
I am not ready yet
To say goodbye. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Poem: Reality

Sheep do not look at eagles and wish that they could fly.
That would be stupid.
What I am is a real construct,
made up of memory and influence. 
Dreams are different.
I can no more take the things I want and live them
then the sheep can, 
it is not a question of determination
I am no more capable then them.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Poem: We Wish for Impossible Things

There are some things you should wish for
With your half-baked, heart ached toss of a coin,
These are your wishing well moments, your bubble dreams,
These wishes, they are impossible things.

Yesterday, once today, is memory
And blue black bruises fade to brown
She wished for clean white kisses, yellow mornings
These wishes, they are impossible things.

You reach right handed, left bloody
And one time caress is a slap
She wanted soft touches, babies, white weddings
These wishes, they are impossible things.

Sometimes she is so much smaller then this
And curls in a corner to cry
And in the darkness, there pain sings,
These wishes, they are impossible things.

Once upon a promise they spoke magic
And led us then to believe
Beneath our shoulders were angels wings
And so we wish for impossible things.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Poem: Cantata

Fills me with something, better than sensation.
Pure. Use it to blot out the world, and to be of it.
Trade touch for this, sight, limb and sense
to live bathed in it. Rise and fall, stops breath
thought and reason. Wells inside, consumes, feeds.
Fulfills and makes me want, everything in this.
For a moment, perfection, echoing. Enough. 
Joyous. Living.

Poem: Kindest Thing

The kindest thing you did,
Was to draw me a portrait
Of someone who never existed.
Gone while she was still an idea
You gave her form, face and life,
Pieced her together for me.

The blue of here eyes, like mine,
You painted her smiling
So I could imagine giving her
A life where she was happy.
A delicacy in the curve of her jaw
Because she was to be beautiful.

The shell of her ear, curl of her hair,
You made her real again,
Instead of a sad story I think about
In the darkness before dawn.
In the absence of anything like hope
All I wanted was to see her face.

You made her into a person at last
Instead of being a secret
That went away namelessly
Before anybody had found us out.
You found a way to give her to me
And it was the kindest thing.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Poem: Trade

Everything that I am.
All that I believe in.
If it means you are here.
Even if I do not get to see you,
Or know you,
Or love you.
They can have anything
Because this is too hard.
My heart is breaking. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Poem: Billy

It was not that kind of loss.
Not like those gone before who left me,
breathless and broken in my grief.
Someone took me to one side and whispered it
you had succumbed at last to the dying,
that everyone knew was coming.

Quietly sad, I thought about about
laughing with you while we smoked outside.
Snatches of your life told to me in illicit puffing.
This shared habit having us hide out back in the rain.

You reminded me of my grandad, 
of an older Ireland and men
in crisp white shirts with dirty collars.
A few pints after work and a way of telling,
the saddest stories that made them a comedy.

I brought you books to keep you occupied,
while you watched the door.
Playing with your incredulity by replacing
murder mystery with modern philosophy.
Delighted to have you give them back, 
read and pronounced bullshit.

Gruff and unyielding in old fashioned prejudices,
there was a kindness to you
that made them harmless.
An unobtrusive goodness,
that the world is worse for losing.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Poem: Estranged

There was a time when we would lie
Wrapped in each other, knowing every dream,
Secrecy meaningless because I could taste your thoughts.
You found the small broken places that could not be mended,
Patched them closely with silver threads of desire and love -
Because I let you touch me the world was better. 

Often we did not need words, my favored medium,
You read me silently with your fingertips and told me to myself
With the flutter of eyelashes against my neck.
If I tensed a muscle in my cheek you saw a memory
That you could wash away with a kiss to my wrist
And one slow delicious roll of your body against mine.

Had we been able to lock the doors and shut ourselves in
I think we would have spent forever breathing each other,
Happily sustained by bright silent desire.
The world intruded of course and we lost sight of us,
One small lie and suddenly your shoulders were strangers -
A slow white blink of your eye I could not decipher.

Now I see you and it is as if I never mapped your history
In the smooth of your back and jutting sharpness of your hip,
You have crows feet that I am not allowed to taste.
I have forgotten how to read your body as I used to,
A cold handshake tells me nothing of the years that have passed,
Your perfunctory brush of lips on my cheek is incoherent. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Suicide Awareness Day

Tomorrow, 10  September, is national suicide awareness day and I'd like to talk about losing my friend to suicide.

When she died we were initially told that there had been a tragic accident. We knew she had been spending Christmas abroad with her family and set to googling to try and work out what had happened. We found a news article about a car accident where there had been one fatality, the age was wrong but we thought that might be a mistake and guessed that this was how she had died.

As the days passed the story became more confused. We discovered that she had passed away at home, and that she had died on New Years Eve. Even then, knowing her as we did we never imagined that she had taken her own life. 

 She had seemed so happy, when we heard what had actually happened the shock was immense. 

I didn't believe it. I thought a mistake had been made, that she had hurt herself accidentally or that someone else had harmed her. Even when there was no question anymore I could not accept it. How was it that my beautiful friend had been so desperate and none of us had seen any warning signs. How was it that she could have died, alone in such sadness when there were so many people, just minutes away, who loved her so much.

As weeks passed I would imagine her in that moment. What she was feeling, how she negotiated the moment between living and deciding not to live anymore. How she did it. Why she did it. I crafted a horrible image where she changed her mind only when it was too late to turn back. Imagined her trying to stay awake, to reach for her phone as it buzzed with New Years text messages so that she could be saved, only to find that she was too weak now to move. I imagined her crying, realizing that it was too late, understanding that she was going to die alone, frightened and sorry. I imagined she despaired at the end, that life seemed worthwhile again in her last moments. 

I hope that she just went to sleep believing she had found some peace.

We didn't talk about it. We always used that original story and talked about a tragic accident. I had the word suicide stuck in my throat, terrified I was going to scream it out for want of some truth. I felt like I was part of an elaborate lie, everyone knowing but nobody speaking. 

Months after she died a group of us sat together in a pub and she was mentioned. For the first time somebody said suicide and the conversation changed. We honed in on it, now that it had been verbalized. The conversation we had was filled with so much anger that it hurts me now to think of it. For a moment we were united in hating her for it. All of our hurt and confusion twisted into complete rage, what she had done to her family, what she had done to us.

I am not angry now, our anger in that moment can be understood. Now I just feel very sad that she is not here anymore. The reason she is not here matters less than it did. It was important for us to be able to talk about it, to make it real and lay it down, to accept it and move away from the way she died to a more honest grief.

Sometimes I think, what if I had called her on the phone. If it had been at exactly the right moment would something I said have changed that night, stilled her hand until the moment had passed and she wouldn't have died. She would still be here. But we cannot rewrite the past, we cannot bring her back with wishes and regret. 

Now, I find myself watching. I see a small sadness in a friend and feel a horrible sinking terror that they are hiding a bigger despair. I worry because I missed it in her. I fear getting another telephone call to say that someone else I love felt so lost in the world that they thought it better to leave it. Selfishly, I'm terrified that I will have to deal with it again, that I will have to relearn every moment I spent with them to the tune of their dying. 

If there was any magic in the world I would use it to bring her back, or if that was to big I would use it instead to be with her again for a moment. Not to ask her why, not now, but rather to wrap her in a hug and make sure she knew that I loved her. While everything else has been boxed up and put away safely it is the thought of her dying without that knowledge that hurts now. 

I do not know that there is anything we could have done to help her. There is no way to work out why she took her life. What I do know is that the pain of losing someone to suicide is a singular hurt, all mixed up with anger and confusion and regret. Talking about it is difficult, people do not know how to react, often there is a sense of shame. 

I don't know if awareness will help people in despair, or if our being more aware could have saved her; but I do know that awareness helps the people who are left behind. Being able to say, 'this is what happened to my friend, this is how she died' allows us to process it. 

Many people have stories like this to tell, or stories they do not feel able to give voice. The importance of awareness cannot be underestimated, nor can the importance of reaching out, talking and listening to the things people might not be saying. 

This week is world suicide prevention week. Tell someone your story. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Poem: Mont Saint-Michel

In the brochure they promised a spiritual experience,
Doubtful but I climbed the steps, scoffed at tacky shops,
Complained my legs hurt, but liked the shape of it
The imposing majesty of buildings growing from the rock.

I wandered the maze of rooms with the crowds,
Blinked at the impossible beauty of human endeavor,
That runs in a wheel to lift supplies to make monument
To the story of a dragon slaying angel.

I wandered the cloisters and for one moment was alone
By chance one noisy group leaving before another arrived,
Head bowed in the setting sun it would seem like praying
But I was thinking of the past, lost in imagining how it was
That such an impossibility was dreamed and made reality.

At the top was an almighty room filled with a single cello
Mournful and hopeful, haunting, it filled my mind
Until it blocked out everyone else and I was alone again,
Sat in a pew, eyes closed and dreaming of forever and the world,
Bigger than me, endless and always, magnificent without divinity.

Walking from the muted light into waiting dusk to stand above the world
I was no closer to God than before, soothed by the peace of it
I almost wished I could feel that too but as always it was enough
To look upon the beauty of reality and love it as a precious thing
That needs no pretending, that can be touched and can be cherished.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Poem: An Ordinary Day

How is it that it was just an ordinary day?
I sat on the couch and drank coffee
Reading one of the Brontes, again.

For breakfast I had slightly burnt toast
That left crumbs all over the floor,
Showered and dressed and went outside
To sit in the sun with more coffee and books.

A precious day off, a day with no urgency
Leaving me relaxed and calm and contented.
I tipped my head back, closed my eyes
And basked in the rare bliss of Irish sunshine.

The shrill summons of a ringtone interrupted,
Mildly irritating but I answered, my hello abrupt.
Then the day splintering around me, the world altered,
Rushing away to deal with intruding life.

Midnight before I staggered home again exhausted,
Worn out with waiting and the outcome of the wait,
The sun was gone, the dishes unwashed, the day finished,
The crumbs on the floor to be swept away before I could sleep. 


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Poem: Baile Atha Cliath

It was the marching
heavy boots thumping through
what was once my city,
but a lot has changed here
since the last march.

Sing ‘rare ole times’
and lighters five for fifty
‘till your throat is raw,
it still won’t come back
and be our town again.

They thought hatred was orange
but it was only a way to mourn
what the tiger consumed
to bring us here
where we should not be.

It reminded us of what we lost.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Poem: Urban Children

The smell of smoke lingers still,
do you remember
how it caught in our throats
and made us splutter?

Those games we played,
dangerous games,
we dared each other to run on the factory roof
and leap over the gaps in the rafters,
heart stopping now to think about the rot
beneath our feet and how we were unaware
of any danger, laughing while it creaked below us
and threatened to cave in.

Remnants of machines
left a rusted tangle of sharp edged
metal that we climbed fearlessly,
catching our clothes and skinning our hands,
eight foot, ten above the concrete floor
playing monkey bars, hilarious to catch someone
and tickle them while they held on.

Slipping in under the barbed wire,
it was our playground
hide and seek heaven if you could
pick your way up the collapsed stairs,
the best spot I found was
squeezed inside an old fuse box
listening to the crackle and buzz
and you outside calling for me,
screaming with laughter
and a chorus of ‘you’re it’.

The bigger kids,
they lit the fires and left a black shell
but we played there still,
attracted by the bleakness of it
and the fact it was forbidden.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Poem: Reconciliation

Because we spoke 
the truth they burned 
the joy out of us.

Pushed us to our 
knees in small 
dark cages.

I feel the 
close smell of it 
still, all of the shame.

Sanctity in 
mumbled verses of
retribution and repentance.

The black veil falling, 
mesh distorting the 
face of judgement.

They made us 
sad and small 
and frightened.

Absolving us conditionally, 
feigning forgiveness for
 our imaginary wrongs.

We stopped speaking, 
too careful, a sin
this touching someone else.

a twisted, filthy 
black useless thing.

We stopped loving, 
a great broken pretending 
and so much unhappiness.

There was so much 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Poem: Storyteller

We will be honest about our dishonesty
weave a fiction,
make use of hindsight,
be careful of the tale we are telling.

Pick it apart,
this is the moment that defines me,
but this cannot appear in the story.  

We are selective regarding inclusion
plaster over the cracks,
paint the desired picture carefully,
thinking about propriety.

We will tell it warily
if tell it we must and
protect those who live in the past with us.