chance

Pigeon Residue

Into the heck

of my day-dream driven march

breaks this pigeon leg,

lying in the middle of the alleyway.

This livid-pink scaled foot,

camply poised, missing a counter-part

but counter-pointed by a gristly fan

of tendons, shredded body-meat, exposed bone.

Blood and feathers give me pause,

a moment with this residue of a bird,

a smear of a fantasy of flight

and the lost blue of possibility.

Amputated, grounded, wingless,

It’s just another addition

to the shit and wrappers

flapping in the alley.

I think this is where I will lay us down

so I can carry on into my day

unburdened.

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Some thoughts on an anniversary

Last weekend marked a year since we lost our home, which in turn marked the start of the gradual disintegration of ‘we’ back into ‘I’.

It’s been the longest year of my life and at the same time, it still feels as if everything happened last weekend. So much has happened, changed and not happened, not changed. There’s no reason a year should yield up particular wisdom, why a year after closing the front door on my old life that I should have any remarkable insights or life-changing advice. But it’s an anniversary and there are some thoughts in my head, so here we go:

1) The storm is part of me. It does not need to pass.

2) Thinking about writing is way more painful that writing.

3) Getting fitter made me feel better. Getting thinner made me feel worse.

4) Happy endings, just deserts and karma are fairy tales. If you turn to these ideas for comfort, if you offer those who are in the darkest moments of their lives these fairy tales as wisdom, you are denying the rawness and madness of suffering. Pain does not happen for a reason; to give it one by tying the pretty bow of narrative around it is to leave those in pain alone, silent and scared.

5) Time alone won’t make things better; it’s what you do with the time that starts to create the distance between you and what happened. New memories start to cushion you from the old.

6) Things do get better, but never in the way you expect and if you’re too wrapped up in fairy tales, you won’t notice.

7) Silence is the worst thing you can do to someone in pain. ‘Giving someone space’ when they haven’t asked you for it is the excuse we make when we are too afraid to face the vastness of suffering. If you don’t know what to say, find the person, phone the person, write to the person and tell them that you don’t know what to say. There is nothing to say in the face of trauma, grief, sorrow. But being there, being a presence, recognising the unspeakableness of what someone is facing, that is how you help people start to find their way back from the formless mess that’s swallowed their lives. Your presence and words alone are enough to start anchoring someone’s world again. Silence is the worst thing you can do, because you leave them at sea. Don’t give people space. Give them your speechlessness.

8) People are awesome, in the proper sense of the word. People will find ways to let you down, to twist a knife, to destroy the most basic foundations that let you exist in this world which are so beyond the horizons of what you can image that before the rage and pain can kick in, you are left winded and opened-mouthed in awe. People will find ways to reach into your darkest hour and hold your hand, will pull you into the safety of their lives when you’re spiralling off into danger, will make the smallest gesture that somehow captures what it means to be cared for and to care. It’s a quieter, gentler awe, but it’s equally breath-taking. What a fucking spectrum.

9) Leaving Facebook has done my mental health and my friendships a world of good.

10) Anniversaries mean fuck all.

5am Grief

I am reliably informed that what I’m experiencing now is grief. A totally expected and necessary response to everything that’s happened. And looking over this blog, I guess you can read it as tracking the course of grieving.

What I hadn’t realised was that it’s not just the loss of a living presence that you need to grieve. You can mourn the loss of your own life, the one you had and thought you were going to have. When things, huge things, drastic things, things beyond your control happen to you that bring about irrevocable changes in your life, you need to let what was move into the past. That full realisation of what you’ve lost because of what’s happened so you can start to rebuild and letting what was move into the past, that’s what grief is for. At least that is what I’m hoping it is for.

As I say, I’m looking at this blog now and seeing gestures of grief; moments where I’m trying to understand the bleakness and pointlessness of some of the huge changes that crashed over my life, peppered with efforts to think myself into the next moment, the space beyond the aching, the bit where life starts again. But I didn’t recognise it as this until now. It’s only now, when the absolute last remnant of the life I was hoping to lead has gone that I can see the loops of hope and despondency, creativity and stagnation for what they are – the cycle of grief.

Letting go of possibilities, leaving the hopes you held for one particular future behind altogether, leaving the lives you dreamed of sharing with people behind – I’m trying to figure out how to do that. Because grieving alerts you to the fact that those hazy, warm hopes will become daggers in your new world, ideas that will tear a hole in anything you try to do and lacerate your new efforts with the failures of the past. You can’t ever leave them behind totally, as much as you might feel you want to at moments, but for me, grieving is a process of blunting these newly- formed blades. Finding the hidden daggers that used to be your hopes and blunting the blades. That takes time.

It’s the rollercoaster nature of grief that makes it almost unbearable at times. Each peace you make will be punctured by something – a stray thought, a seemingly unrelated comment from a friend, a trace of your old life interrupting the new. And then you’re back in there, in the midst of anger at the injustice of it all, despair that anything is worthwhile anyway, horror at the enormity of what is happening to you and just pain. Throat-blocking, thought-blocking pain.

You work your way back up to some kind of peace again, although you know it’s fragile. I’m told that the spaces between peace and turmoil get larger, but it’s early days for me still. But even this early on, I guess the depths are getting less deep. The fact I can write this is telling me something.

The worst part about this process for me is that it’s something you have to do alone. And when part of what is causing you pain is getting used to being alone, it’s even harder to accept. Yes, you must talk to people about it, you can’t bottle it up. But talking to people is one thing. They can’t share your pain, even if they’re suffering the loss too, because the shape of that loss is so different for everyone. And no one can do the work of blunting the daggers but you, because no one else knows where they are. But you don’t want to be alone and you want people to understand and tell you the answers, and when they can’t, it hurts all over again. It’s amazing how angry and frustrated grief leaves you at the very moment when everyone is actually doing all they can for you.

And no one can do anything about the 5am grief (5am if you’re lucky – when it starts at 2am, you’ve got a long night ahead of you). You can’t call anyone because the world is resting, but even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to say anything that comes close to the enormity of it. It’s wordless, directionless, thoughtless. This morning, a single thought woke me up at 5am, especially to ensure that I got my daily dose of horror and hopelessness before the rest of the world began its day. A single thought. Oh my god, how has this happened to my life? Then, thoughtless, chest-heaving pain.

No one else can get you through these moments. You literally just have to live them out. I guess it’s the last gasps of my old life breaking in when I’m at my most relaxed and leaving me gasping instead. But if I just keep breathing, I’ll get to the next moment. And the next. And then the next.