Monthly Archives: November 2011

Discussions With Death

A poem and a prose piece conversing with, and reflecting on death. Because it is a compilation of poetry and prose I have placed it in the I am what I am category
 
DEATH’S DIVERGENCE
 
Death your cycle confuses me
Is it random choice or plan
Do your allies pain and suffering
Lead you by the hand
 
I accept your inevitability
From the moment one is born
But your seemingly random harvest
I look upon with scorn
 
You took my brother at 11 months
My husband’s father at 49
What method do you use to determine
Each individual’s allotment of time
 
Some candles extinguish easily
Just one short puff of breath
Others keep flickering – reigniting
Pain filled drawn out death
 
My precious son was 26
When he called you to his side
He begged for you to claim him
Your refusal led to suicide
 
My darling husband was 63
When you stole the sparkle from his eyes
We’d just learnt to laugh again
It’s your timing I despise
 
There are those who say “God’s will”
But in that I cannot believe
Thanks to you I’m now an expert
On the many ways we grieve
 
I am ready for you to call
You no longer frighten me
I may yet beat you at your game
You’ll just have to wait and see
 
Tricia 2011
 
 
 
Death Waits
 
 
‘My death waits, like a witch at night’ so sang David Bowie.
 
Death waits for us all; sometimes so impatient he tires of the waiting and pounces. He is an intemperate bastard, with no thought for the effect his actions have on those whose lives he stumbles through; mumbling, roaring, staggering, strutting, full of himself and the power he wields. His perversity is mind blowing.
 
‘No I’ll not take that one, the one who is crying out for me to claim them; I’ll take the contented one, the one who is not expecting me, not yet ready, or maybe the wee babe sleeping peacefully in its cot, better yet the one still in the womb.’
 
There are some troubled souls who tire of the waiting game death plays; they take matters into their own hands, choosing to end lives that have become intolerable for whatever reason. I have heard it said that suicide it the coward’s way out, but I disagree, I think suicide is a courageous act. You see there are so many variables, and death is such a powerful shit. What if he refuses to claim us, if it amuses him to leave us in a vegetative state; drooling, unresponsive lumps no longer able to control our bodily functions, or worse, mentally alert but unable to communicate, stuck in some painful, powerless half life with no way out, waiting on death’s decision.
 
I got all excited the other day, was at the doctors when he noticed a mark on my neck, said it could be a basal cell carcinoma and I should have a biopsy.
 
‘OK’ I said ‘I’ll have the biopsy but if it is cancer I will happily let it take its course’. He looked at me with a gentle smile on his face, you see he knows me and my readiness for death.
 
‘This type of cancer rarely causes death’ he said ‘if left untreated it will eat at your flesh like an ulcer and cause you more pain than you already live with, your quality of life will deteriorate further’
 
‘Bugger’ said I smiling at him, ‘In that case I’ll think about the biopsy, because right now I’m not ready to have needles and scalpels poked into my neck’
 
‘Alright’ he replied ‘but don’t leave it too long because the larger it grows the more invasive it is to treat.’
 
‘Bet you don’t get too many patients who are disappointed when you tell them what they have is unlikely to kill them’ I said as I stood up to leave.
 
‘It’s not a common occurrence’ he replied, resting his hand on my shoulder for a moment.
 
So for now my death continues to wait. I refuse to plead with him to come for me, that satisfaction he will have to do without.
 
Tricia 2010
 
 

Apple

apple
 
slowly festering in the bowl
once brilliant red with mysterious hues
filled with juicy crunch
subtle sweetness developing
as you nestled on your branch
 
did your rot start at the core
or was it just a surface scratch
once the putrefaction has begun
does the cause matter
 
maybe only to other festering apples
 
do my words speak to you
of slow disintegration
helpless dissipation of substance
do you hear my confused compassion
or is it just metallic vapour
 
another slow festering apple
 
Tricia 8/2007  (previously published in Rememberings)
 

 

Two versions of one reflection

The first poem Darkness before Dusk, began life as a personal reflection, then the script for an animated short film on drug addiction that my son Ken was in the process of making when he died. After his death it languished in a file, until it was rescued, rewritten, and then distilled into Waiting for the Lights. No one wanted to publish Darkness before Dusk, but for me it is the more moving of the two.
 
Again I ask, which is your prefence and why?
 
 
Darkness before Dusk
 
You come to me at dusk on a city street
Hand out
Manner obsequious
Eyes glazed
Speech slurred
By whatever substance has you
Still a beautiful looking young man
Drugs have not yet ravaged you outwardly
But inwardly
The destruction has begun
Desperation driving you to beg from strangers
Some treat you with scorn
They cannot comprehend
The price you are beginning to pay for an error in judgement
My heart weeps for you
I think of my son
How daily he struggles
His body and being ravaged by depression and drugs
He now knows
What you cannot yet see
The price to be paid for momentary oblivion
Is far too high
If only we could see
Drugs put weapons into the hands of the torments that haunt us
Before drugs
The haunting
After drugs
Slow pain-filled destruction
Destruction that does not stop with the body
It reaches into the addict’s being
Stealing self control – self esteem – self respect
With some it even takes the will to live
Still not satisfied it moves on
Its voracious hunger feeding
On the families and loved ones of the addict
Drugs can slice through
The beautiful fabric of love
Leaving cuts that can take years to mend
In some cases all that is left of love
Is a tattered remnant that cannot be salvaged
 
You come to me at dusk on a city street
For Money
If my money could buy you insight
I would gladly give you all I have
 
                                       Tricia 7/98_
 
 
Waiting for the Lights
 
He comes to her at dusk on a city street
shoulders hunched in faded black t-shirt
torn jeans
hang
on his thin frame
downcast eyes glazed
by whatever substance has him
“Can you spare a couple of dollars lady?”
 
She feels the rumble of a passing tram
vibrating through her chest
as she opens her black leather wallet
 
She hands him a note
lifts her wrinkled, ring draped hand
to caress the stubbly, spotted skin
of his young cheek
 
He flinches,
raises his eyes to hers for the first time
 
lights turn green
the crowd surges
 
They stumble on in diverging directions
 
 
Tricia Bertram 2008   (previously published in reflecting on Melbourne)
 

Pink Floyd – An Introspective

Pink Floyd – An Introspective
 
‘Mother did it need to be so high?’  The last line in a Pink Floyd song titled simply Mother. And build the wall high she did. ‘Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you’. Fear was the mortar that held the wall together, fear that her son would suffer as she had growing up in a home with broken parents. The heart-rending thing was it took her many years to realise she too was broken, and so the wounding continued. Love was the motivator, but irreparable damage the result. No matter how hard she tried she could not protect him from suffering. What she could, and did eventually do, was work on her own brokenness.
 
The 12th anniversary of his death was approaching and the words of the song kept playing on the turntable of her being. ‘-mother should I build a wall? — Hush now  baby baby don’t you cry, mama’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true, mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you, mama’s gonna keep you right here under her wing, she won’t let you fly but she might let you sing, mama’s gonna keep baby cosy and warm, of course Mama’s gonna help build the wall. —You’ll always be a baby to me. Mother did it need to be so high?’
 
Her obsession with this song at this time of the year was not self flagellation, nor misplaced guilt; it was an honest acknowledgement of what was and what is. Like many mothers before and since, she was loving, caring, compassionate and imperfect. She no longer believed she was responsible for his death. He was an irrepressible mix of joy and sorrow, but within him these emotions were more than just the yin and yang of life, they were mortal enemies.  For years he battled a compulsive need to end his life; he succeeded on his fourth attempt.  
 
Wish You Were Here was the song she and her husband played as they drove into Wilson’s Prom each year on the anniversary of KB’s death. It was a necessary ritual to visit Squeaky Beach where his ashes were scattered on this day of sorrow, remembering and celebration of a life cut short. ‘How I wish you were here, we’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year, running over the same old ground, what have we found, the same old fears, I wish that you were here.’
 
It wasn’t just since his death that the lyrics of this song had spoken to her deepest self. For almost ten years before he died depression and drugs had often made him an absent presence, his body seeming to be inhabited by a stranger, a stranger who denied her access to the warm, caring young man she knew and adored. She would caress his cheek, look deep into his eyes, and see nothing but her own reflection in the dark, empty pools where laughter once lived. ‘So, so you think you can tell, heaven from hell, blue skies from pain —and did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts, hot ashes for trees and hot air for a cool breeze, cold comfort for change, and did you exchange a walk-on part in a war, for a lead role in a cage — how I wish you were here.’
 
They always left Squeaky Beach just as the sun was setting. The Floyd song for this part of the journey was always Shine On You Crazy Diamond because KB, like sunset at The Prom, was a spectacular, multifaceted gem. For her this song also, applied to both his death and the living death of depression and addiction. The words illustrate the price many pay for wanting to grow up too soon, for using a substance as a means of escape from painful reality, for believing they are invincible.  ‘Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun, shine on you crazy diamond, now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky, — you reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon, shine on you crazy diamond, threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light, shine on you crazy diamond.’
 
The closer the anniversary came, the more she dwelt on her inability to believe in a life after death. She wanted to, oh how she wanted to, she would close her eyes and picture him in life, longing to feel the touch of his hand on her shoulder, the warm, loving hugs he always gave, wishing fervently that one day she could feel that warmth again.  Whatever came after death, if anything, it could never be what once was, nothing could bring back the last 12 years, rerun them like the remake of an old movie, only this time with an upbeat ending; his young life continuing happily, with a partner, a home of his own, and children, her grandchildren, all the things he wanted but never had. Still she listened longingly to the following words of his favourite Pink Floyd song, the one he related to so strongly he wrote in an earlier suicide note that it was how he wanted to be remembered – as a Crazy Diamond – ‘Nobody knows where you are, how near or how far, shine on you crazy diamond, pile on many more years and I’ll be joining you there, — come on you boy child, you winner and loser, come on you miner for truth and delusion and shine.’
 
This coming anniversary would be the third year in a row that she would be unable to make the journey to Squeaky Beach. Her husband had died suddenly, just before the 10th anniversary of KB’s death, and she had a chronic illness that left her unable to make it from the car park to the beach on her own.
 
As she mused on their first trek from the car-park to the beach, the day they scattered his ashes, she was reminded of the grief process. You arrive at an unfamiliar destination, surrounded by people who have no idea of the journey you are embarking on. The pathway leading to the beach mirrors the grief journey. You start on rocky, uneven ground, then move onto a boardwalk that takes you over murky water, you hear the croak of a frog, see ripples created by things unknown, want to look more closely, but fear what may be hiding in the shadows. The boardwalk ends and you’re back onto the uneven pathway that has been carved through the bush. At first the sky is visible, but just before you reach the beach you pass through a dark passage covered by dense bushland where the trees link branches overhead blocking out the light. Once you have made it through the darkness you get your first glimpse of sand and sea, but you are not there yet, you find the sea has flowed into deep channels in the sand, you must struggle to cross these before you reach the beach.
 
There were others who would take her on this emotional journey but – it was such a private, personal ritual, a sharing of things only they knew and understood, like the way they would open the roof of the car, even in the pouring rain, and she would stand with her head sticking out singing along with The Floyd at the top of her voice while her husband drove out of The Prom smiling, and loving her ferocious free spirit. It wouldn’t be the same with someone else. Of course that’s the reality of death, nothing is ever the same again.
 
They were both gone, both died far too young, her son 26, her husband 63. ‘Breathe, breathe in the air, don’t be afraid to care, leave but don’t leave me, look around, choose your own ground, for long you live and high you fly, smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry, all you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be — for long you live and high you fly, but only if you ride the tide, balanced on the biggest wave, you race towards an early grave.’ They had both ‘balanced on the biggest wave,’ in their time, and although death had claimed their bodies, they lived on in her memory and in the music they had all loved. Their legacy was she no longer feared death, whatever death was they had been through it. If they could do it, so could she. She began her story with the words of Pink Floyd; she felt it only fitting to end it the same way.
 
The Great Gig in the Sky ‘And I am not frightened of dying, any time will do, I don’t mind. Why should I be frightened of dying? There’s no reason for it, you’ve gotta go sometime. If you can hear this whispering you are dying. I never said I was frightened of dying.’
 
Tricia 8/2011

Something Different

Time Warp
 
In the hollow between cheek and eye is the story of my life
age and destiny have done strange things to the face I once knew
cheeks covered by a flourishing lawn of fine hairs
too many now for a quick flick with hot wax
lips thinning into nothingness
often startled by chance reflections.
Who is that obese, ageing woman?
 
It can’t be me
I am my father’s outspoken daughter
singing aloud in supermarkets
devilishly waving a black lace bra to truckies at the traffic lights
just to keep a sometimes conservative husband on his toes,
the lithe young woman who knows the freedom of splashing naked
at the edge of a deserted sea,
who once made glorious lust on Lorne beach
on a cold, dank winter’s night,
the woman who sees a well set table as a work of art
the dinner party wiz, sautéing, caramelising, flambéing
loves the planning, preparing, presenting
and the eating – oh the eating.  
 
Where is the courageous, spirited, thirty something
who gave up her job to study accounting
discovered a passion for words
realised she could never be an accountant
the blithe being who celebrated her 50th Birthday
strutting down Chapel Street
wearing a flowing red cape, purple feather boa
loving clutching a large, soft, teddy bear
smiling benignly at everyone she passed
 
Is that obese, ageing woman the struggling, questioning, mother
who buried her only child three weeks before his 27th birthday
survived the white water ride of why and what if
awoke shipwrecked on Prospero’s island
but instead of drowning her books
built a raft to float them home
and now finds joy meandering through toy departments
pushing buttons on all the talking Elmo’s
winking and chatting to small children she passes on the street
 
Who is that obese, ageing woman?
I am sometimes less than my truth
always more than perception.
 
Tricia 8/2007
(Previously published in Coastlines – Poems from Bayside)
 

 Lust Lives On

 
I have lived the wonder of love
Having known the best
I have no interest in the rest
But
Lust it seems does not die
Inside this battered bloated
60 year old mound of flesh
Lives a slender 20 something
Audacious
Bodacious bitch on heat
As Jon Bon Jovi struts his stuff
Sings his songs
A voice within me
Sings its own song
My song is moist
Taut nippled
Longing
Not for love
But for the promise of pleasure
The knowing of the unknown
Wanting only to be nicely naughty
One more time
 
Tricia

Potpourri

POTPOURRI           
 
she was sitting on the old red gum seat
when a large saucer shaped petal
detached itself from her favourite rose bush
and wove its way to the ground
 
as she watched its slow, graceful fall
she was struck by the twin swords
beauty and loss
she picked the petal up
knowing from that moment
it would never be the same
 
the burnished orange with deep red veins
already seemed less vibrant
it would not be long
before its comforting, velvet texture
began to harden, become brittle
the perfume too would soon be gone
 
she held it gently to her damp cheek
then carried it reverently inside
placed it in the almost translucent white Spode bowl
with the other fallen petals
she would look at them in the years to come
and remember
 
but she would never add false perfume.
 
Tricia 4/2010
 

 

Vine

 

Vine

you grew and spread

learnt to climb

crushed obstacles

admiration and annoyance

jostled at the sight

of your tenacity

I tried to tender you tame

then

paid a professional

sadly

you were drawn

to the chemical solution

poison, slash, burn

after each assault

you rested awhile

rose from the underworld

garrulous in growth

gliding, seeking, gripping, climbing

eventually

the chemicals destroyed you

wild vine child of mine.

Tricia

Holding On

Holding On
Books fill my home
Too many for eight bookcases
Stacks of books on the floor
On top of the piano
Piled precariously on coffee tables
Pull out a dining room chair
Another little pile of books rests quietly
Poetry, mysteries, biographies,
Depression, addiction,
Psychology, suicide, grief,
Mythology, personal growth, general literature
A lifetime of truth and fiction
‘Let’s move some of these out to the garage’ says my friend
The young man who is helping me reclaim my home
From the chaos that has overtaken my life
‘The mice might get at them’ says I
Compelled by some deep inner force
To protect these precious books
These constant companions
The ones who are there for me
In early morning aloneness
Nights when sleep is an elusive stranger
Then there is the paperwork
A collection of who knows what on the kitchen bench
A grey plastic tray full of paid bills on the phone table
Two desks covered in mountains of A4
Printouts of completed poems – short stories
Written but not sent out
Odd scrappy pieces of paper
Hand written – half finished verses
Ideas for stories
Funny little notes my son had left on the kitchen bench
Cherished mementos of a life long gone
Copies of wills
Death certificates
Letters and reports detailing my ongoing battle for justice
In the face of my husband’s erroneous autopsy report
Investment brochures
Superannuation information
Numerous suggestions for things that should be done
With money that just sits in an everyday bank account
Paralysed by loss
Needing to hold on to
Surround myself with
Tangible reminders
Of intangible lives
Tricia 05/2011

A Question

I have posted two versions of my poem Silence. I edited if after a lovely comment made by my mate The Pirate from the Godless Gross blog sent my enquiring mind to youtube to listen to John Cage speak about silence. I believe poetry is like perfume, less is more. What do you think?

No egos live on this blog so let her rip.

Silence and Silence No 2

Silence

silence is not the same without you
there is no warmth in the quiet
no link of love to rustle as pages turn
no eyes to sparkle from the leather wing backed chair
no one to hear the perfect passage I want to share
metaphors lose their lustre
in this solitary silence
there was music in our silence
the shake and fold of your paper
a cha-cha
the slowly turned pages of my book
a waltz
the sharing of snippets
the supper at our dance party
I miss the intimacy of our silences

Tricia 14/12/09

Silence No 2

silence is not the same without you

there is no warmth in the quiet
no link of love to rustle as pages turn
no eyes to sparkle from the leather wing backed chair
no one to hear the perfect passage I want to share
metaphors lose their lustre
in this solitary silence

there was music in our silence

oh how I miss
the intimacy of our silence

Tricia 13/11/11

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