Creative Space

Poet’s Corner

This month I asked our resident Poets to contribute something for ISSTD News. I received such generous and diverse responses that it was hard to pick just three. Warwick Middleton’s poignant poem explores the discovery that an old friend has been a victim of domestic violence. Ericha Hitchcock Scott explores themes of strength in ‘BackBone Trail’ and Quentin Dignam describes the gratitude and grief of an ageing therapist ‘clearing out’ their office.

Song 33 – “Westward Waters”

By Warwick Middleton  © 28-03-2021

A glowing orb, still air and languid leaves…

Memory is poignant, but it rarely deceives…

We came to the river in the midday heat,

It’s gentle waters lapping our feet.

Shyly, softly, I held her hand,

Our feet embedded in cool wet sand…

The sounds, the images, the feelings of yesterday…

They float in the stream that comes my way…

I know it now and sensed it then,

We would never come to this place again,

We would never come to this place again…

We would never come to this place again…

We had met on the cusp of our future’s gate…

And for years we’d mailed each other, interstate.

The die had been cast and fate would chart the course,

Whatever I wished for, whatever the remorse…

Whatever my motives, whatever my dream,

I had chosen to throw a pebble in this stream…

No one at fault, no one to blame,

But nothing would ever be the same…

We spoke of plans and of the days ahead,

Of things we knew and things we’d read…

It was to this river that I had brought her.

Our words became ripples in the water…

Willows, eucalyptus leaves, a gentle embrace…

In the morrow we would take her to a new place.

Her inner struggle was yet to be clear,

As we prepared for the studies that came with the new year.

Nothing gifted, nothing owed…

I wrote her letters from my new abode.

A few meaningless words and scattered greetings,

Little explanation, no more meetings…

Then, in a few days she was married to a dangerous man,

And thus her torture began…

I had called in to see the pair,

And I was met with his hateful stare…

Much later, I learned that the glass containing the water that she gave me, 

Was shortly smashed and that she was beaten with glee.

Armed, dangerous and obsessed with control,

She was forced to pay his gruesome toll…

And to leave her child in his care…

She carried with her, the quiet despair…

Twenty-five years had passed…

I found her and I asked…

About a multitude, but also of her daughter, 

Not a possibility in my mind as I had watched the flowing water…

I know it now and I sensed it then,

We would never come to this river again,

We would never come to this river again…

The Westward waters of that leisurely stream,

Appear still yet in a troubled dream.

Whatever my motives, however it would seem,

I had chosen to throw a pebble in this stream,

I had chosen to throw a pebble in this stream…

Backbone Trail

By E. Hitchcock Scott. © 2.11.2021

Standing at the entrance

I see my initial carved in rock.

The labyrinth calls

and I stumble

around the lopsided circle

of my life

to my core self.

Is this all there is?

In the mirror of my grandmother’s

powder room, another gateway looms.

It is as if I stutter the same consonant

or word, over and over

in the reflections, like a Russian doll,

opening all the way down.

The Backbone Trail stands high

above the ocean.

I have backbone. I have stood

high, when I wanted to drown myself

in the cool, dark depths of the sea,

to breathe in the salts of death

to follow my love

to other dimensions

To avoid with passion

the alarm clock and traffic.

Columbus searched for riches

land, gold, fame, flesh.

How can I be so brave about death?

My whole life has been a revolving fool’s errand,

around a flattened eclipse

or a flat world.

Like a conquistador, I strike out for what cannot be seen,

with a compass that does not work,

an hour glass that cannot tell time,

and my telescope turns out to be a

single reflex, wide angle lens.

“Wound my heart with monotonous languor,”

a password, a code,

a secret announcement on the BBC,

“Ici, Londres”.

Do you understand me now?

The mystery is as important as science,

and people have more grief over

unexpressed love,

than they do about profound trauma.

At Chartre, the childrens’ gaze follow the old woman’s

broad gestures, their heads turn in unison

and their harmonious oohs and aahhs

sound like music filled with wonder.

So tell people you love them,

do not wait for the right time,

do not find excuses.

Be Brave, hike your Backbone Trail,

and shout love into the valley,

let the sound of your voice

echo across the mountains

and the seas.

Clearing out

[for W.R.]

By Quentin Dignam

Outside it’s blustery and wild, rain

gusting in swirling bursts over sodden ground,

slaked, surely, by now but yet still thirsty:

for the land has memory of drought.

Inside, you’re stranded amidst mounting piles of memories,

gratitude and grief eddying around you

as you prop and shuttle between files and records,

gifts and photos, aids and trinkets, charged fragments

of a hundred projects and insights, flashes of

how many hundred faces and lives and imagined hopes:

supervisee records from those now your peers and colleagues –

generation next in this measured heart-filled work of healing;

scrawled misspelled thank-you notes of long-grown children

with their innocent searing caricatures of an ageing therapist;

the remembered pleas of anguished parents – the shared smiles

and celebrations, the easing into mutual resignation and resolve;

a kind of recognition in adolescents seen and heard and understood.

They’ve passed now, we hope, into the unjudged anonymity of adulthood,

to a functional parenthood and a kind of peace; others, gracious and fragile,

 shuffle bloated and dulled by meds into the monthly clinic bearing

the abridged identity of lifelong illness behind their Covid masks;

or surface briefly, impossibly young, in the obit columns of the local rag.

And you, squatting in this clearing, know this too is how it is and is going to be:

the treasuring and the holding out, the tending and the letting go.