Monthly Archives: December 2011

Memories of a Boy and his Dad

In Australia it is the afternoon on the last day of 2011. I awoke this morning with my being filled with memories of past New Years Eves , and the ache of emptiness that comes on what were previously special days.
 
Instead of posting a poem of my own, I have decided to share with you two poems, one written by my son Ken, and the other by my husband Rod. 
 
The first poem Thomas, was written by Ken after the death of his beloved Poppa. My father was a loving, lovable man who battled alcoholism all his adult life. My father and my son shared a very special bond, as Ken’s words achingly convey.
 
The second poem A Woman Calls, was written by my husband a week after he had stood with his hand on my shoulder, supporting me while I made the call to America to tell my son’s former partner and lifelong friend, of the suicide of our darling Ken. 
 
These poems may seem sad, and yes in some ways they are, but for me they are also a celebration of the lives of two special men who were gifted with the qualities of loving empathy, and poetic expression.
 
Thomas
 
A picture is all I have
To remind me of your life
This emotion runs so deep
Oh why can’t I follow you
 
Your wisdom and your heart
Greater than your legacy
Of the ones you left behind
Oh why can’t I follow you
 
I long for the time
When your smile meet mine
Tucked gently inside a bottle
Oh why can’t I follow you
 
I weep at the reflection
In the eyes of your wife
For since you said goodbye…
O why can’t I follow you
 
A soul so weightless
The wind took you from me
I never got to show you
Just who you were to me
 
This lid is sealed so tight
On your final kiss
Tasting death on your lips
Please wait for me
 
Kenneth Bertram
 
 
A Woman Calls
 
It is late at night
when the phone calls out
in a room so far away
As a woman sits in a sunlight room
and ponders what she’ll say
 
The receiver clicks
and she listens
to hear the gentle greeting “Hi”
She steels her resolve to speak her piece
but first she makes a sigh
 
She speaks not of betrayal
nor of a man who has run
She speaks to tell the other
of the death
of her only son
 
Two women linked by a common bond
for a man they each caressed
Now linked in common grief
feeling only despair
bereft
 
Their tears touch cheeks
fall on heaving breasts
as they share the dreadful tale
And as their grief hits home
their sobs become a wail
 
The common link is broken
as they both put down the phone
the bond remains between them
‘though each must grieve
alone
 
In separate rooms in distant lands
they weep for one another
They weep for themselves
they weep for him
His Lover and his Mother
 
Rod Bertram 1/9/1999

The Fabric of Life

The Fabric of Life  
 
I have never known loneliness
Ah but aloneness
The red silk dress
I slip over my naked body
Allowing its softness to billow
Until it finds the folds
That settle me into serenity
 
There is a freedom like no other
In the simplicity of solitude
I never wear underwear when I’m alone
It’s a symbol
A letting go of societal norms
On occasion this symbol
Sneaks out to the shops
 
When the freedom of aloneness
Meets the don’t give a damn of age
Many wondrous things happen
 
Recapturing childhood joy
Talking to teddy bears
Looking deeply into their eyes
Until I see the subtle change of expression
In their beautiful teddy bear faces
Kissing my special bear as I settle into sleep
Feeling him in my arms when morning comes
 
Reliving the teenage years
Only now
I can listen to whatever music I want
At whatever volume I want
Belting it out on the back of the bike in Bat out of Hell
Harmonising under the Lemon Tree with Peter Paul and Mary
Swaying to the mystery of Chopin’s Polonaise in A-flat 
 
Some days I eat my breakfast in the middle of the day
My dinner at midnight
Time is – for now – mine
 
There are days I do the tough stuff
I grieve the loss of my only child
My headstrong heartsore loving loveable boy
I live again the final gentle pressure
Of my precious husbands hand in mine
The moment death suddenly stealthily
Crept out of the night to claim him
 
I can listen to the CD of my son’s funeral
Watch the DVD of my husband’s
Enjoy the music they loved
Savour the words of friends and family
Without anyone rolling their eyes
Or chucking me a cliché
My grief is mine to live
 
I talk to their photos
Tell them of my sorrow and joy
And I remember – oh how I remember
 
Aloneness nurtures me
Reclining in my faded pink velvet chair
My ailing body and ageing mind regenerate
Music and literature nourish my sensitive psyche
Reflection brings acceptance
Of physical limitations
And questions without answer
 
My life is full and rich
I have family and friends who love and care for me
My heart is full of gratitude
For so many things
But mostly for the giving and receiving
Of love
The gift beyond measure
 
Occasionally I venture out into the world
But for me nothing compares
To the red silk dress of solitude
 
Tricia 11/11
 

Words in the Woods

In the midst of reading I sometimes find myself compelled to write. The following poem came to me while reading Autumn Laing, a book written by one of my favourite Australian authors, Alex Miller. I love his books, but for me the story is often secondary to the snippets of wisdom that permeate his pages. Here is an example from page 183 of Autumn Laing –
 “Our truths are written in our hearts and are not a currency of exchange.”
 
Words in the Woods
 
I read a sentence
Suffused
By the opening
Of a doorway
Into life’s truth
 
After a momentary glimpse
Of the wonder within
I mark the spot
With a tiny post-it sticker
Breadcrumbs in a fairy tale
 
Birds come for my crumbs
I find myself
Lost in the words
Struggling to find my way
I stumble upon
 
The gingerbread house
Of growing awareness
 
Tricia 27/12/11
 

Giving up the Fags

As you can see by the date I wrote this little ditty more than 20 years ago. The irony is more than 10 years after I stopped smoking, I was diagnosed with a smoking related lung disease. I now struggle to walk up the driveway unaided whilst friends who have continued to puff away are fine.
 
Giving up the Fags
 
Giving up the fags
It’s driving me round the twist
Feel like heading for the pub
Getting well and truly pissed
 
Wake up in the morning
The thing I think of first
The dirty filthy smelly weed
Next comes caffeine for the thirst
 
Hardest thing when giving up the fags
Is making the decision
Then coping with my smoker friends
The “you’ll never succeed” derision
 
Having made the terrifying decision
Shit! I’m really going to stop
I need one last binge of puffing
Till my lungs are ready to pop
 
Day one without a fag
Resolve is really strong
Just the occasional nagging doubt
Could my decision have been wrong?
 
The second day without them dawns
Mouth is not so gritty
Think I’m coping fairly well
Just the odd bout of self pity
 
At daybreak on the third day
Feel I’m starting to weaken
Just a puff or two wont hurt
No can’t let myself be beaten
 
Halfway through day four
I would kill for just one puff
So much harder than imagined
Will I be strong enough?
 
Starting to see some positives
People don’t treat me like a leaper
Taste buds are improving
Need less salt and pepper
 
As time goes by I notice
I don’t think of them quite so much
Just occasionally when having a drink
I know I mustn’t touch
 
Must remember if I don’t succeed
In giving up the poisonous fag
Sooner rather than later will be
My journey in the Body Bag   
 
Tricia 1988                                                                                                                                                                                                         

GRIEF AND CHRISTMAS

In Australia it is lunch time on Christmas day. When I wrote the following I had no idea that 2 years later my darling husband would also be dead. I have chosen to spend today alone, remembering two wonderful men, and the loving impact they had on my life. This may seem a maudlin post for this day of celebration, but it is my truth and the truth of many others.

(i’ve just realised I put the wrong intro. with this poem. It was in fact written 7 years before my husband’s death in July, 2009)

GRIEF AND CHRISTMAS  

My darling Son
It is almost four Christmas’s that I have lived through without you
I thought it was getting easier – I seemed to be able to try harder
It is not for myself I try – it is for others
Those who seem unable to understand what your death has done to me
Some who don’t understand still seem able to accept me as I am each day
Others seem to take personally my inability to celebrate what were previously “special days”
In kindness towards them I try to believe they struggle to cope
With the sad reality of your loss and the ongoing pain your Dad and I suffer
They seem to think I should be able to be part of their joy
Some seem unable to comprehend, for the bereaved this can be an incredibly painful time
I am emotionally and physically unable to force my pain to take second place to the needs of others
I can socialise at other times of the year but at Christmas – Easter – Mother’s Day – Father’s Day
My joyful memories of times past
Cut into the depths of my being and I weep to survive
I have no idea how long this sorrow will last – no one does
We all grieve differently and the loss of an only child is beyond the norm
Parents are not meant to outlive their children
It is not part of the natural order
I find it easier to spend time with those who accept me as I am now
They refrain from trying to “cheer me up”
Accepting my tears and laughter as they come
Knowing on some inner level that my life will never be quite the same
These people are the ones who enable me to keep going
I am thankful for their presence in my life
Because of these special people my life is still
A work in progress
 
TRICIA   12/2002

Miranda and Me

Last month I attended the opening of a friend’s exhibition of contemporary art. The following day these words overflowed from my being and spilt onto the page.

Miranda and Me
 
We met in an inferno
Ravaged and scarred
We found each other
 
You are constant movement
Breathtaking contemporary creativity
I reclining reverie
Searing searching poetry
 
And yet
Together we are loving warmth
Wordless wonderment
 
Slipping in and out of step
Pirouettes and pliés
A pas de deux
Choreographed by fate
 
Accepting what life throws us
Holding it for a time
Then doing with it what we must
 
Women without choice
In so many ways
We question and create
In the centre of the maze
 
Tricia 6/11/2011
 

August Eyes

August is a time of reflection and mixed feelings for me. You see my son ended his life on August 23rd, 1999, and here in Australia August aches with the knowledge that winter will soon be ending. Winter is my favourite time of the year, and yet spring is full of new beginnings. And so in August I see the world through different eyes. I was going to wait until next August to post this, but with Christmas on the doorstep I find I’m filled with August contemplations.

 
August Eyes
 
see with a darkly depth
wispy visions of might have beens
illuminating empty spaces
 
find solace
in crimson purple skies
lighting the coming of night
 
reflect white water
rolling onto the sand
kissing curled toes with icy foam
 
glisten with joyful rememberings
sun shining on golden hair
the scent of a hug
 
sparkle in the strengthening sunlight
that warms my face
with September expectations
 
Tricia Bertram   2008
 

Fat Woman Walking

Fat Woman Walking
 
my spirit pained and fractured
during a childhood
raised by broken parents
I learnt to walk on
 
my right foot
a roughened red rock
formed in the suicide of my son
with a cane I managed to walk on
 
embedded in my left foot
a salt worn sand encrusted stone
that pierced me
as my husband collapsed and died in my arms
 
my lungs labour with disease
life choices – loss
and the armour of obesity
I struggle to walk on
 
it’s the obesity people see
focus on
try to fix
‘she wouldn’t suffer if she wasn’t so fat’
 
the first 15 kilos crept quietly by
as I tried to fight the spiral
of my only child’s depression
drug addiction and suicide attempts
 
the next 30 came after his death
a combination of eating and anti-depressants
immobilized by pills
and the pain of loss
 
after the death of my husband
I refused the pills
couldn’t stomach the food
I tried to walk on
 
I stumble
they want to zap my brain
I struggle to breathe
they want to staple my stomach
 
I wonder what they would do
if I was thin
 
Tricia    2011
 

Too Soon Dead

Too Soon Dead
 
A young man died the other day,
only a drug addict some would say,
no comprehension of the battle that rages
lives destroyed in agonising stages.
Picture this man as a little tyke
taking his first steps, riding his first bike,
a wealth of potential beginning to bud
yet the seed of addiction may already flow in his blood.
There are smokers and alcoholics in his family tree,
a history of depression, to name only three
genetic components that may warn of the danger,
a loving young man could become a glassy eyed stranger.
Glimpses of sorrow buried deep in his soul
with the death of a loved one become a gaping black hole.
What began as experimentation becomes a means to escape
the pain and turmoil of his bottomless lake.
Chasing the dragon becomes the focus of each day
but the dragon isn’t chased – he is leading the way
to destruction and death with his nectar for need,
humanity assists with their judgement and greed.
“Drug addicts are weak”  a common refrain,
no problem is solved by apportioning blame.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate, sidles up to any door
insidious epidemic, miss-diagnosed as war.
Erroneous perceptions keep the beast fed,
some addicts break away, others  too soon dead.
Yes a young man died the other day
I loved him, he was my son I’m proud to say.
 
Tricia  2000
 

Becalmed

Becalmed
 
she sits
fingers poised
her heart palpitates
as she stares at the blank screen
waiting
 
words carry meaning
in the vessel of her life
her words are storms
flinging debris onto the sand
purging
 
restoring balance
resonance
her words are the warm glow
softening the sky
after storms have passed
 
wild winds roar around her
yet they don’t touch her
she hears them
sees them
but can’t feel them
 
frozen feelings
frozen fingers
wearied by waiting
for her missing companions
her words
 
she is
afraid
they too
are gone
forever
 
Tricia 9/2010