Blog 8: It starts with an A and ends with an O

One word can cause so much pain, re-ignite such grief and resentment. “It’s just a word” I may say to try and explain it away. But I cannot deny my own eyes; this ‘harmless’ word has cut deep. I cannot deny my heart; it senses the heartache I have caused. I wish I could just disappear.

I was sitting at my local pub many years ago, one night with two older koori ladies that I loved and cared for very much. One was my mates’ mother and the other a local lady we knew well. We were enjoying a few drinks and many laughs. The word simply rolled off my tongue during a story, just like it had so many times before. I cannot believe I had managed to avoid such a dreadful situation for so long having this word in my vocabulary. I guess we really do know that there are times when this so called harmless word should not be used. It just flowed from my mouth like any other word as if it was completely innocent. As soon as it reached their ears I knew I had slung a vicious slur that I would have done anything to take back.

Their faces instantly turned from amused and interested to confused and concerned. It wasn’t anger that I sensed, it was bitter disappointment. They knew I loved them and I know they loved me, but this was an error that could not go unnoticed. I can still hear the way my mate’s mother so slowly and deliberately said “I haaaaaate that word”. I felt about two inches tall.

I will never forget this horrible moment and the shame it left me with. Nor will I forget the kindness offered to me from these two beautiful women. Rather than hurling abuse or a giving me a stern lecture, they took the time to explain to me the pain they felt every time they heard that word. They shared stories of how cruelly it had been used against them and their loved ones. I will always remember and cherish their patience and forgiveness. So many important lessons in life we learn outside the classroom.

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Blog 6: Allegory or Metaphor (I always get those mixed up)

Francis Webb often seemed to hide his meaning deep within his poems. Many times I have been surprised to discover the theme of one of his mysterious writings. It intrigues me to try and imagine why he did this: was he trying to be difficult? Did he simply enjoy this style? Was it the only way he could express such deep emotions and ideas? Was he merely acting as a conduit for an intuition he had to appease? I do not yet have the answer and there may well not be one.

A long time ago I had a go at writing in this style, but it was not by accident or an attempt to be clever. In 2008 I suffered a crippling bout of severe depression that floored me for many months. I was laying on the warm concrete one day in a desperate hope that the sun might inject some life into my defeated soul. With my eyes closed I had a vision of the flourishing tomato plants that used to reside in our now fruitless and weed stricken garden. At that moment I decided I would get up and start preparing it for some fresh plant life. This was a basic attempt to give myself something productive to do and maybe keep my mind active for a while to keep the demons at bay.

For some reason, and possibly by coincidence, this moment sticks in my mind as the moment the trajectory of that depressive episode turned for the better. Of course this is not the be all and end of my treatment; I was seeing a therapist and regularly attending 12 step meetings, and this was the true crux of my recovery. However I will never forget how my improvement moved along with the cultivation of the garden. By the time the garden was lush with delicious ripe tomatoes I was back at work, feeling much better about life and myself; and making plans to begin the journey that eventually lead me to university.

I am not so impressed with the poem as a work of art, but I love what it represents!

THE GARDEN

 

Desolate, barren, soil.

Scrawny, debris of lifeless plants.

Once so rich and vibrant.

An abundant harvest.

Now withered and decayed.

Dead.

 

We must remove the old expired vegetation.

We must eliminate the old,

To make room for the new.

Extract the weeds.

The devious parasite,

Yearning to take over.

 

A clean slate.

We turn the soil.

We add nutrients.

Create a place that will sustain life.

A place that will nurture life,

Promote growth.

 

Plant the seedlings.

They are tiny and fragile.

They will need our care and attention.

But they will need to find their own potency.

In the end, we can but watch.

It is up to nature.

 

We wait and see.

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Blog 5: (attempting to) Illustrate with Words

The past two weeks I have heard so many mentions of the limitations of language when it comes to conveying ideas and concepts in our class. Last week we discussed the monumental task of trying to capture the full scope of a natural scene with just adjectives and metaphor. This week we read and listened to Francis Webb’s description of the near impossibility he felt trying to get his intended message across. What chance do us beginners have!!!

I realised I have recently made an honest attempt at this (although my subject was somewhat darker) and would be curious to see how I went. I suffer from anxiety and depression and I have been under attack quite a lot lately by my inner demons. One particularly rough day I felt an overwhelming urge to draw this nasty son of a bitch, but sadly realised that I have NO drawing ability; so I decided to use the tools I have at my disposal; words.

I wrote the following poem and think that I captured this horrid beast in all its ominous glory:

 

Huge claws wrap around my middle

Crushing my insides

Stomach churns

Aches

Huge mouth lowers onto my head

Biting my skull

Sharp pointed teeth pierce the skin

Puncture the bone

Stabbing my brain

I cannot see a body

This monster hangs on my back

It doesn’t look angry

It doesn’t look happy or sad.

It looks insatiable

It looks ravenous!

 

To my amazement, less than a week later I saw a cartoon on Facebook containing an image that depicted, what I believed, was my own personal monster! I guess I will always have to deal with this insidious goblin, but it was sweetly soothing to see that I was not alone. I am personally awed by the similarity, but only I can know what was in my head. Of course it is not exactly the same, but what it is doing is so exact it’s eerie.

I would be interested to hear if the words I wrote produce a comparable image for you readers.

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Blog 3: “Bailed Up” by Tom Roberts

For me this painting offered a light hearted look at the practice of robbery at arms. I am pretty sure it was hardly anywhere near as relaxed as it seems here. The idea of having a loaded gun pointed at me makes me shudder regardless of how polite and gentle my robber’s legend may make them out to be. How would you even know they are who they claim to be? The slightest mistake and…

Alright I’ll stop there, I understand about Australia’s love affair with bushrangers. Also, I thought it would be fun to write a poem in the romantic and adventurous tone of the picture.

 

G’day ladies and gentleman

We’ll be your bushrangers for today.

We’ll keep this painless as we can

Then we’ll be on our way.

 

Pay no attention to our guns

Or the carnage they can cause.

We are the working man’s hero sons

We just do not like the laws.

 

What we do is not for greed

But a fairer share of wealth.

The rich have much more than they need

While we scarcely have our health.

 

So if you please would be so kind.

To hand over cash and jewels

Let fear of violence leave your minds.

We need not use these tools.

 

This deed shall end, we all shall live

And go our separate ways.

The tale of this a gift we give

To tell for all your days.

 

The time you met those roughish lads

So wild and tough and game,

To your mystique this drama adds

And you all may share our fame.