Our next regular WordsFlow workshop, responding to only one prompt at a time, seemed dull by comparison — ‘without,’ I wrote, ‘Thom’s caressing voice and the birds in Bob’s penny whistle.’
I noticed, too, that there was a progression in what he did with us: it wasn’t haphazard. At the same time as urging us to respond to external stimuli, he had us look within, deeper and deeper as the workshop went on; yet always with positive results, no trauma.
You can see it, perhaps, if I share all the things I wrote that afternoon. I’ve tidied up typos and punctuation but otherwise have left them as written. They’re not my usual style of thing — much freer association — so that in itself is interesting to me. They lack the context and resultant accessibility that I like in my finished writings, so I’ll just explain that some are responses to questions Thom posed to us, others are triggered by looking at pictures, or lines of poetry in books, or objects such as CDs. Some are combinations of stimuli, e.g. ‘Same or different?’ was a question he asked each of us at one point, as he handed out photos to use.
I like the unexpected places the process took me, and the honesty of the writing. I particularly like the way they illustrate the journey we went on. Of course, each person’s journey would have focused on different details.
I wrote them all straight onto my laptop, except for the final piece, which was my contribution to an ‘instant anthology’ which Thom invited us to create, on the topic of what was most important to us.Then he gathered up all the handwritten pages. Hey presto! Instant anthology. (Well, we did add front and back covers later.)
I feel I think I know I am.
I start with this
I start with me —
me here now, me with poetry in this place
me with music wandering sweetly in the background
me with sunlight in the window
me with my husband sitting beside me.
This is where I am, this is how I am.
Is this who I am?
This is what I do:
I sit and write
I tap the keyboard
I dream in words.
She Says, He Says
She says goodbye to swallows.
I say g’day to lorikeets.
Three of them flew lightly past my head
as I walked here today,
darting and swooping
sweet as swallows.
I don’t need to know about goobye,
I like hello.
Slavery was never abolished, he says.
I am not a slave to saying goodbye,
I am not a slave to the fear of goodbye
I say goodbye quicksmart
to what I don’t like.
But I like swallows and lorikeets.
Are they the slaves of instinct? Maybe.
Or maybe they just enjoy.
Same or Different?
There is a tree wild and windy
in a small cage which perhaps stops it falling,
flattened by the wind.
The clouds stain the sky as they blow across.
Not the same, the flowers.
They brighten Wayland’s smithy;
how my heart sings at that.
And there are pages of poems offered too.
Are they the same or different?
We don’t care, we don’t mind.
Life in death, death in life,
inextricable, not unmixed.
It all goes on and on and on.
Wayland the Smith goes on and on
and the flowers are merely temporary.
The music too goes on and on,
and changes as it goes.
‘We are love, we are love, we are life,’ it says,
coming from the forest where all things
live and die, fade and renew.
Seamus Heaney Writes for Me
Seamus Heaney writes for me,
for me and Andrew.
What do we value?
We value each other.
Sometimes the bridges between us
seem to wobble and creak,
but the scaffolding’s strong.
We value our love
we value ourselves
we value our time that we spend together.
I value his tears when he says he loves me
I value the life that we share
I value his magic hands when they touch me
and the way he always wants to support me.
Right from the first, he has done that.
I am priming the motor of my heart
by gazing on a disc of poetry.
Remembrance, it says
and poets, and past.
It is pink, with blue flowers.
I visualise pretty poets,
girls with flowers in their hair,
in their arms. I visualise
young women from a past era,
floral dresses, pink and blue.
‘I dream a lot,’ he says,
this male poet of today.
And I am remembering dreams,
dreams seeking expression.
I imagine Expressions poetry nights
at the Bahai Center
in Austin, Texas,
and me in purple on the stage.
But I am not on this CD,
and that was too many years ago
and is not imagined but remembrance.
The instrument for which this was designed is a small plastic mandolin.
It belongs to a child of five, a little boy. He wants to be in a big band
when he grows up, but for now he has this mandolin. His parents
got it off the internet. It is painted red.
Who Am I? Who Do I Want to Be?
Who Am I?
A woman, an old woman.
A poet, a poet since childhood.
A wife, a mother
(but the kids are long grown).
A healer, a psychic,
a dreamer, a teacher.
Who Do I Want to Be?
Me, only me.
Unless I want to be
not a who but a what:
an eagle that flies,
a tree in the forest
with leaves touching sky,
a river that flows over rocks.
Maybe I want to be the sea.
Walking in the Cemetery
Walking in the cemetery
doesn’t appeal to me.
I like to walk in forests
or by riverbanks
and on beaches.
Do the birds sing
as delightfully as Bob plays?
Thom talks about movement,
waving his arms.
Andrew stands to snap him.
We journey towards life.
The cemetery awaits.
I’ll go there later.
Writing in My Sleep
Writing in my sleep
writing in my dreams
makes me smile
behind my closed eyes.
I dream of bird sounds
I dream of forest.
Be your own chaos, says Thom.
But for me the forest is peace,
haphazard is free.
I sleep in the forest
in my bed at home.
News To Me
I am my own news,
I am not who I was.
News is what’s new.
I am new, I am different,
I am not the same.
It’s not the same game
but I like it.
I like being me
who changes each day,
The news of the forest comes in birdsong,
in the sounds of the trees,
in the movement of ants.
The news of the ocean
waves like the wandering rhythm of the didge.
News comes in music;
nothing you can do about it.
(A response to a work of art with your own work of art)
The work is the book Organza Skies by Texas poet Marcelle Kasprowicz. As well as being starting points for sections of this piece, I have used some of her lines and phrases in the body of the poem too. Mostly, they will be fairly obvious.
1. Desert rains.
I remember going up through the Centre that first time
and just lucky we’d struck it after three years of rains, good rains
that made the desert bloom. We couldn’t believe it, ground flowers everywhere
and birds galore. Birds at waterholes. Waterholes! With real water in them.
The Todd River flowed. No Henley that year.
2. The sycamore is a peacock.
I knew peacocks
in Tassie when I was young,
up behind the Trevallyn pool,
the end of the Gorge.
‘Peacock spreads its tail’
my Tai Chi teacher says.
Yes, I can do that,
I know peacocks. I spread fluorescent green and blue.
I am proud. They spread around my tiny head
with its bobbing crown.
I cry aloud with my tiny beak.
Beauty is me.
But I don’t know sycamore trees. I like gums.
3. Dust Storm
In the Mallee we had just one in my two years
but there were legends.
The one we had was bad enough:
red dust in the cracks,
all over the windows, the walls.
4. Red shoes.
Red shoes, red shoes,
we love red shoes, we girls
whose spirts dance.
Thom’s nephew arrives in a red shirt
with two organic bananas.
Bob plays the didge,
the sun shines,
Andrew is writing beside me
I am happy.
5. Organza Skies
Texas visits me here in Pottsville
For the last time I was in Texas
Lamesa was getting cold.
I wore boots and a poncho.
Let me tell you
there were no organza skies.
Let me tell you
I did not see water in the west.
I saw a desert that bloomed
and I thought,
Is this what they call a desert?
I did not see mottled oak, nor
a red finch.
I saw redheaded Connie
sing and recite
over enormous amounts of food.
They feed their poets there.
I did see deer. Were they mule deer? I don’t think so.
They had white tails and delicate legs.
In Kerville they roamed
the streets at night,
down from the hills.
They were quick
and ran from people.
Pests, the locals said.
Mad with love
I watched the deer
wanted to embrace them, cried
when one fell and broke a leg.
You can’t catch them. It healed
The squirrels too
came down to the gardens,
bold and so little. I never knew
squirrels were tiny, from my
childhood picture books.
The wind with its morning feather
sent me a message of hope
but the day grew hot and still.
I sat on Connie’s verandah, watching
the flat street and the sky spread out
like a white blanket.
Poetry for Breakfast. It’s true, I wake and make haiku;
see the garden outside or the tree-leaved street
or the cats demanding breakfast, or the man beside me
stretching and smiling, and poetry, poetry pours out of me.
Life is a poem waiting to be written, writing itself
through a million pens, entering into a million hearts.
Love is poetry, happiness is poetry, what else is there but poetry?
Poetry for breakfast, dinner, tea. Poetry for bed, poetry for rising.
We ourselves are poetry, as we move through our lives
not knowing that we are ourselves poetry. But we are.
There is nothing else, only poetry. Many, many kinds of poetry,
many forms, many styles, and all one fount of creation
from which we spring.
We are getting to that stage
of the somnolent afternoon
when the music takes on a new sweetness,
the sun peaks before its downturn to bed
and writing is happening easily.
Are the birds outside or in the record?
We neither know nor care. So long
as there are birds. Their singing
illuminates our manuscripts.
The trees outside are still in the quiet air.
Write for Fifteen Minutes.
Fill the Page, Censor it Later.
‘For fifteen minutes you can do anything’ —
even write your blues away,
even write to save the world.
In fifteen minutes it will nearly be 2012.
Shall we remain?
In fifteen minutes
we’ll be packing up to go.
Shall we leave this place?
This place has been so pretty, this place
has been so nurturing.
In fifteen minutes to midnight ... no,
they say it’s only one minute we’ve got.
But we’ve made it, some to past 79.
And we’re here and we’re now and we’re alive and popping.
The music plays and we sing in our hearts
and our keyboards tap.
Music softens, fingers slow,
and the writing goes on and on and on.
We leave our traces, we leave our mark.
We were here like the dinosaurs, but we still are;
not gone yet. We are approaching Mars.
There is life on Mars. They have discovered water, they have found
evidence of microbes under the ground.
They think there was once much water on Mars, many trees.
We are the blue, not the red planet. Do we want to snuff out like that?
Now I am thinking of Stephen Hawking. There must be extraterrestrial life, he says. There is so much Universe. The odds are too great for there not to be. Even, he thinks, intelligent life. Like us, but not like us. Better not meet it, he says, It might be colonising like us, it might exploit our planet, rob its resources, enslave us, chew us up and spit us out. It might. That’s what we have done.
I think of my friend Kondak. Where is he now, that being of light? Back again on his own planet? He wanted to find a scientist who could speak to him telepathically. Not so many scientists sit and meditate and try to talk to ETs in their minds. His mission almost certainly failed, I fear. I liked Kondak. He was a column of green light.
I think of the Nine, collective, on a far distant planet. They travelled in thought, not in a space-ship. How can I say to the world, yes we have ETs and this is what they are like? They’d lock me up, or at best laugh.
The wind blows through the music, intensifies. This is our planet and here we are now. The Nine wanted to reach us, wanted to give us wisdom along with love. They had much to share. Yes, wisdom always comes back to love. How is that?
i) ‘For fifteen minutes you can do anything’ is an empowering quote from FlyLady (www.flylady.net)
ii) No, I didn't censor it, though I was very tempted to leave out the last section.
The Most Important Thing
The most important thing to me
is Andrew, my husband.
I don’t always let him
know this, but it’s true.
Other things are important too.
Poetry matters to me.
So does the ocean, so does
the river, the forest, so do birds.
Being here with friends
is important to me —
Listening together to music.
Love of course is important
to me and everyone. They tell me
when I read my crystal ball
and Tarot cards. Love
is what everybody wants.
I am blessed. I have that.
I have Andrew. I have love.
He doesn’t always know this, but
Andrew is the most important thing to me.