Tag Archives: suicide

Missing…Kings Cross, Sydney: Friday Fictioneers.

“Double expresso to go, please Tom.”

“Night shift, huh?”

“Should’ve stayed in Byron Bay.”

Night shifts at St Vincent’s were pure Adrenalin, but Saturday nights were insane. Yet, I couldn’t walk away. This was medicine. Real medicine.

“M…m..my daughter…Have you s..s..seen my d..d..daughter?”

The faces on the photos kept changing, but the anguish was always the same.

I refused to look at the photos anymore. Tried to zone her voice out. You could drown in Emergency,  if you didn’t hold a piece of yourself back.

“Sh…sh…she has carpe diem tattooed on her ankle with a p…p…purple b…b…butterfly.”

I couldn’t speak.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Butolt.

Last Friday afternoon, we took our son to Emergency at our local hospital for what seems to be migraine auras without the headache. We were very stressed and were naturally concerned he might have a brain tumour or some form of serious neurological problem. However, we were told it wasn’t acute and so we found ourselves down at the waterfront having dinner at what we would call a street cafe, but it looks very similar to a diner.

St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst is right in the thick of things near Kings Cross in Sydney’s red light district. Thought you might appreciate reading about  a typical Saturday night in their Emergency Department.

I Also wanted to share a bit of real-life excitement here on the home front. Last Monday morning, we were expecting a visit from the host of our local breakfast show, Rabbit, who was popping around with a prize. Well, the prize turned out to be a surprise visit from his co-host, Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef. They filmed it and posted a clip on their Facebook page. I thought you might enjoy hearing me, although my mother said they could’ve captured more of my serious side.Here’s the link

xx Rowena

The Drowning – Friday Fictioneers.

Watching myself through an oblique lens, I’d blown to the four winds. Defragged like a faulty hard disk. Mid-40s, degree, career …now stealing food off strangers’ plates and sleeping rough.    

“No, Julie! Don’t do it!”

Ravenous, she’d snatched the pizza straight off the table, and was scoffing it on the beach like a Bangkok stray… twisted, distorted, wild.

“Julie! Julie!” I slapped. “Wake up”

“Nobody gets me. Never has.”

“What about me?”  I beseeched, but my words fell flat.

Praying for eternal nothingness, destined for oblivion, she slipped into the surf. Floundering. Gasping…

I ran.

Safe on the beach, slowly our breathing merged…again.

…..

This week’s prompt brought many things to mind for me. The first thing which came to me, was backpacking through Europe and being so tight with money and rationing our food and then watching others leaving food behind and feeling like we could almost lick their plates. I still remember that ravenous hunger!

From there, my thoughts drifted towards being homeless and being that hungry, you could snatch that pizza out of a restaurant in what felt like an act of utter desperation. Who would do that? How bad would it have to get to take you there?

I wonder…

I don’t know whether you’ve ever wrestled with yourself like this before where you’re split in two. Perhaps, not in such an extreme situation, but a time where you’ve been through hard times and you end up talking to yourself. Or, you’ve experienced God comfort you. Or both.

Becoming homeless and being swept along that dreadful downward spiral, is only be a paycheck or two away for most of us. I’ve never been homeless, but I have fallen on hard times and have often found this voice within myself guiding me along. Giving me encouragement and strength I didn’t know I had.

Given the very dark nature of my piece this week, I just wanted to explain it a little further. After all, when you play with words arranging them into very dark and foreboding pictures, I felt the need to debrief in a sense. Let the reader know that all is well.

Well, almost!

xx Rowena

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff. This week’s photo prompt kindly comes from © Dale Rogerson.

The Motivational Speaker…Friday Fictioneers.

Amanda started typing…

“You can wrap your children up in bubble wrap. Do your utmost to keep them safe. Give them the best opportunities. Yet, that doesn’t help when your child’s greatest enemy is themselves.”

Amanda deleted that last line and returned to the drawing board.

No! THAT girl wasn’t her daughter but a thief…an alien intruder.

Is this what they meant by “mental illness”?

But, if it wasn’t her, why wasn’t it gone? And whatever happened to victory?

Amanda slammed her laptop shut.

How could she give anyone else the answers, when she only had questions?


This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt was provided by © Liz Young

This is a serious subject brought on by this week’s photo prompt. Most of us know and love people affect by the black dog or whatever you care to call it and know the difficulties and near despair trying to be there and keep loving no matter what. My heart goes out to you. Let’s hope love will ultimately triumph.

After reading a few of the comments, I was reminded of a humble Sydney man who has prevented many suicides at a notorious Sydney suicide spot, The Gap. He lived across the road and simply approached people and invited them over for a cup of tea. Here’s his story: The Angel of The Gap

Good to finish this very hard-hitting story off with a bit of hope and empowerment. We can make a difference!

xx Rowena

When the Mask Cracks…Friday Fictioneers.

“My life is an empty chair,” Madeleine lamented into her glass of red wine.  “And I’m drowning in my own tears.  Drowning! Hello!  Can you hear me? Why can’t anyone hear me? I’m trapped so deeply inside myself, there’s no way out.”

Madeleine hurled the glass across the stage. Wine dripped down the wall like blood, cascading over broken splinters of glass.

The theatre erupted in applause… her finest performance.

“I should be happy. C’mon Madz.  Change gears. Think positive…I’m a happy little Vegemite as bright as bright can be…

Brakes screeched.

All she could see was that empty chair.

______________________________________________________________

This has been a contribution to the Friday Fictioneers. Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here. PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been for the last month, we’ve spent three weeks travelling around Tasmania. We had such a fantastic time and the photographic opportunities were mind-blowing. I’m still trying to catch up on writing about the trip, but I’d love you to pop over and enjoy some vicarious travel.

xx Rowena

Slaying the Beast.

Frantic, Sue scoured the gaunt shadows waiting for the night bus to Byron Bay.

“Jazzy! Jazzy!” She screamed, her throat constricting until she couldn’t breathe.

She’d found her daughter’s note, her scrambled handwriting running away in a river of tears. No surprise, it was only the latest chapter in her exhausting, soul-wrenching battle to reclaim her precious baby from the devil ice. Watching Jazzy turn inward, closing all her petals around her like an impenetrable shield, Sue had become a frigging smiling alien. Now, she could only pray. Be her daughter’s shadow…her guardian angel.

Feeding her baby organic, wasn’t enough.

…….

This was a contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo prompt from © Shaktiki Sharma.

 

For readers unfamiliar with Byron Bay, it is located in Northern NSW, Australia. Known for its incredible lighthouse overlooking vast sandy beaches, it used to be a hippy haven but has long had a dark undercurrent. Many flee to Byron with serious drug, alcohol and mental health issues searching for answers or simply to run away. We have family living nearby and go up to Byron Bay at least once a year. Our kids have their climbing tree at the railway park where there are some homeless people camping out and is also a focal point for groups reaching out and giving away meals.

So much to think about…

Further reading: The Dark Side of Byron Bay

xx Rowena

Slide Night…Dumped in Paris.

Wafting.

Dreaming.

Absent friends.

Screaming.

Waves that thrash.

Skies that roar.

Your corpse still dangling

at my door.

 

Fingers swing,

dangle,

drop.

Hard-hearing hands…

tick-tock,

tick-tock.

 

Illusions,

screens,

all my dreams…

crack and drop.

Drop with each

tick-tock, tick-tock.

Plip-plop, plip-plop,

Dangle.

Drop.

 

The bell has finally tolled.

Our love is dead.

There’s nothing’s left.

Even the vultures have gone.

 

Alone,

lights pirouette

across the Seine.

It’s murky depths

absorb my pain

‘til I am stone.

My heart is numb.

 

Soon,

swooping gargoyles

kiss my lips.

Hold me tight.

Sing me off to sleep.

Mon ami,

I’m no longer afraid

of the dark!

 

Yet, tick-tock time

is moving on.

My train’s just left

Gare de l’est.

Au revoir, mon ami!

You’re now nothing to me,

but a postcard from Paris.

 

Yet, one day,

I know I’ll be

flicking through

the touched up slides of memory…

Le Tour Eiefel,

Le Musée du Louvre,

les Jardins de Luxembourg,

Cafe de Buci…

 

Moi?

Non,

je ne regrette rien.

Rowena Curtin 24/7/1992 and 6/12/2016.


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My feet in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, 1992.

Twenty four years ago, I wrote this original version of this poem sitting beside the River Seine near Pont Neuf sometime after midnight. I was completely alone, aside from a couple of Africans across the river listening to their ghetto blaster and dancing. If I could write a letter to this 23 year old self, I’d be telling her to get her butt back to the hotel. That no one is worth dying for. Nothing is. Tomorrow is another day and the sun will keep on rising, even if you choose to ignore it.

Paris is called the “City of Lights”, the “City of Love”. However, where there is light, there is darkness. Where there is love, there is also heartbreak, rejection and terrible anguish. Surely, we’ve all been there, even if it wasn’t in Paris.

In many ways, this is a fictional poem. I didn’t actually have a romance in Paris and wasn’t actually dumped in Paris either. However, the heartbreak was real and that is what I lived with in Paris.

I don’t know whether some of the greatest heart ache is caused my semi-requited love. Or, when that precarious balance between friendship and lover goes out of whack and feelings go haywire.

For better or worse, the usual “dance” intensifies when you travel.

In 1992, I spent much of the year theoretically backpacking through Europe, although I spent 6 weeks in Paris and lived in Heidelberg much of the time. Be in the one place, provided the opportunity to get to know people and naturally, certain people better than others.

I met an older guy at Church and we never even touched each other romantically. Yet, the fallout for me was catastrophic. I wonder if it’s easier to move on when such relationships run their course, rather than getting chopped off before they even start.

So, rather than a physical relationship, we ended up with an emotional, mental connection and added to that the vulnerability of travel and being on the other side of the world (I come from Sydney, Australia), the fallout was horrific. I really do remember walking round Paris with no idea where I was in an absolute wiped out daze.

Twenty-four years later, I can be quite philosophical about all of this. Married with children,  two dogs and we’ve been living in the same house for 15 years, I am well and truly loved and grounded, giving me the ability to go back and really ramp up the horror in the original poem. I couldn’t resist adding those dreaded gargoyles, which you see poised on the roof top of Notre Dame. They’re a horror movie in their own right!

What’s your view on flirting with the dark side in your writing? I’m a pretty upbeat person most of the time but there’s a part of me, which really thrives on it. It’s also a great form of catharsis. Letting the pain out in a more constructive way than so many of the alternatives.

After all of this, I need a good, strong cup of tea!

xx Rowena

PS After returning to Sydney, I stumbled across a great band ironically called: Paris Dumper with lead singer Dominic Halpin. Here’s a link: https://dominichalpin.bandcamp.com/album/paris-dumper

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Heartbreak in Paris…Flash Fiction.

Nobody warned Chloe that the City of Love, was the City of Heartbreak. Or, that the River Seine flowed with lovers’ tears.

Yet, what could she expect from a holiday romance? A wedding ring?

Instead, he’d returned her letters and wasn’t returning her calls.

The lights of Paris had gone out and as Chloe leaned over Pont Neuf, she felt herself being pulled in.

“Nobody’s worth dying for,” a firm arm grabbed her, pulling her back from the edge.

What was she thinking? He wasn’t worth this.

An infinitesimal flicker of light broke through the darkness.

She was free.

This has been a Flash Fiction Challenge from Charli over at Carrot Ranch

August 31, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a goodbye. It can be the last polka until next time; a farewell without end; a quick see ya later. How does the goodbye inform the story. What is the tone, the character’s mood, the twist? Go where the prompt leads.

writing in Paris

Writing on the Window Sill at the Hotel Henri IV July, 1992.

After graduating from university, my friends and I went backpacking overseas and met up in Paris for about six weeks of what turned out to be fairly intense soul searching. I don’t think I actually met anyone who actually found love and lived happily ever after. Indeed, I met a American from the Bronx at the Shakespeare Bookshop, whose lover had thrown his guitar into the River Seine in a rage. Isn’t that just a perfect Paris scene?

My tales of love gone wrong in Paris are hard to explain. More a case of meeting an attainable soul mate I met through my time staying in Heidelberg. So this was someone I knew really well and never crossed the line romantically but when he cut me off and sent me packing, even if it was for my own good, it hurt like hell. Soul mates aren’t easy to come by.

Fortunately, I was traveling with good friends who looked out for me and I guess I also wanted to reinforce the role that we all have as by-standers in saving someone’s life. This has been in the Australian news recently as an Australian woman who was critically injured in the terrorist attack in Nice on Bastille Day, and was saved by a stranger who stayed with her.

We never know quite how a touch of human kindness can touch somebody’s life.

xx Rowena

Dedication: To A Poet Dying Young #atozchallenge.

For the past six weeks, I have been writing Letters to Dead Poets for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. This wasn’t a selection of the world’s greatest, most influential poets. Rather, these were the poets who have touched me personally.

Due to the alphabetical nature of the challenge, it meant leaving some poets out and actively seeking out fresh sources of inspiration to fill those usual tricky letters along the road.

However, as I researched my list of poets more thoroughly, it became alarmingly clear that too many of these poets had taken their lives or had succumbed to some tragic accident. Indeed, that too many poets died young.

Throughout the challenge I was haunted by a poem we had studied at school: AE Housman’s: To An Athlete Dying Young. I have posted it here for your consideration and ask that you substitute “athlete” with “poet”.

To An Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay,

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut

Cannot see the record cut,

And silence sounds no worse than cheers

After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,

The fleet foot on the sill of shade,

And hold to the low lintel up

The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,

And find unwithered on its curls

The garland briefer than a girl’s.

A.E. Housman, 1859 – 1936

As a community, we need to look out for one another and reach out with love to the broken bird. Shelter, nurture the vulnerable, helping them to regain their own strength to return to the sky. While we can not offer professional mental health support or advice, I have to believe that love, acceptance and being part of community has to be some kind of help. Well, it’s doing a lot for me!

As poet John Donne wrote:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

Prior to undergoing this challenge, I’d never considered “Poet” a dangerous occupation. However, I am starting to wonder whether Stunt Pilots might have been survival rates.

It certainly reminds me of the need for balance. For taking the time to smell and inhale the roses and not just write about them. That as much as life needs to be lived, we also need to put down our pens, laptops and tools of trade and walk in the great outdoors.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

S: Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Letter to Dead Poets #atozchallenge.

Dear Mr Shelley,

I apologise for the late hour. Much to my horror, time has escaped its cage yet again and runaway. Since our children are away in Sydney at their grandparents, my husband and I went out for a Mexican feast. After locking myself away inside my cave for many weeks with so many engrossing poets, I needed to spent the night with him before he thought he no longer has a wife.

 Higher still and higher

From the earth thou springest

Like a cloud of fire;

The blue deep thou wingest,

And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

Shelley: To A Skylark

Coincidentally, as I thought about the To A Skylark, The Cloud and your sailing death at sea, my husband and I walked beside the beach. Voluminous clouds hovered like ghostly galleons out at sea. Serene and subdued, the ocean breathed in and out uneventfully. Indeed, I could almost forget the storm, which ravaged these shores, holding me hostage in my tin can, battered by the hail in the car park. Anyone else, would have known those menacing, dark purple clouds were trouble but I was only thinking with my lens. The storm engulfed me, before I could escape.

 

Yacht at sunset

Yacht at Sunset

You were not so lucky. The storm consumed you, devouring the Don Juan and all onboard like a snack. Your watch stopped, along with your heart while a book of Keats’ poems was hastily shoved in your pocket. Your remains were swept up on the beach.

Shelley Watch

Somehow, you became larger in death than in life. As poet Matthew Arnold wrote: “a beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain.”

Fishing through the many myths and legends, I am struggling to find you… you the man. The man stripped bare. There are so many, many half-spun truths that I almost wonder if there was anyone there.

While the jury is out on whether your death was an accident or suicide, I wonder if you have regrets? As much as I have loved the thrill of being under sail as the whole yacht tilts in a strong wind, was it worth it? Is dying doing something you love, very much like having your heart broken and as Tennyson wrote:

 

“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

-Alfred Lord Tennyson

Is it better to have adventures and push ourselves way beyond our capabilities to have fun, test our mettle and find out that we’re made of stronger stuff? Is that this thing I keep hearing about called “resilience” or did you take too many risks?

After all, you were only 29 years old.

I don’t know why I even ask. The jury’s been out on this case for a long time and how am I ever going to unearth the truth when I am only passing through.

So, instead I’ll return to the clouds. Or, to be precise, your poem: The Cloud. I decided to illustrate it with some of my own photos. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to see what is possible these days with colour photography.

I hope you enjoy it.

Warm wishes,

 Rowena

                       The Cloud

 I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,

From the seas and the streams;

I bear light shade for the leaves when laid

In their noonday dreams.

From my wings are shaken the dews that waken

The sweet buds every one,

When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,

As she dances about the sun.

I wield the flail of the lashing hail,

And whiten the green plains under,

And then again I dissolve it in rain,

And laugh as I pass in thunder.

Storm clouds & boat

The Coming Storm

I sift the snow on the mountains below,

And their great pines groan aghast;

And all the night ’tis my pillow white,

While I sleep in the arms of the blast.

Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,

Lightning my pilot sits;

In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,

It struggles and howls at fits;

Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,

This pilot is guiding me,

Lured by the love of the genii that move

In the depths of the purple sea;

Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,

Over the lakes and the plains,

Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,

The Spirit he loves remains;

And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile,

Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

Sunset Umina Beach

The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,

And his burning plumes outspread,

Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,

When the morning star shines dead;

As on the jag of a mountain crag,

Which an earthquake rocks and swings,

An eagle alit one moment may sit

In the light of its golden wings.

And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,

Its ardours of rest and of love,

And the crimson pall of eve may fall

From the depth of Heaven above,

With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest,

As still as a brooding dove.

That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,

Whom mortals call the Moon,

Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,

By the midnight breezes strewn;

And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,

Which only the angels hear,

May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,

The stars peep behind her and peer;

And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,

Like a swarm of golden bees,

When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,

Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas,

Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,

Are each paved with the moon and these.

DSC_0918.JPG

I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone,

And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl;

The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,

When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.

From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,

Over a torrent sea,

Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,

The mountains its columns be.

The triumphal arch through which I march

With hurricane, fire, and snow,

When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,

Is the million-coloured bow;

The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,

While the moist Earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,

And the nursling of the Sky;

I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;

I change, but I cannot die.

For after the rain when with never a stain

The pavilion of Heaven is bare,

And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams

Build up the blue dome of air,

I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,

And out of the caverns of rain,

Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,

I arise and unbuild it again.

 By Percy Bysshe Shelley

R-Rilke: Letters to A Young Poet #atozchallenge.

Dear Rilke,

I am writing to you during my series of Letters to Dead Poets.

Indeed, this series was inspired by your book: Letters to A Young Poet, which contains your correspondence with a young German poet: Franz Xavier Kappus dating from February 17th, 1903 to December 1908. Kappus sent you some of his poems, essentially asking your opinion. Was he good enough to be a poet? Or, should he abandon his dreams? That was pretty much the gist of his first letter.

Unfortunately, I only came across these letters when I was a middle-aged poet, whose poetry had been swamped by the realities of growing up. Yet, somehow my inner poet rekindled and we finally met finding that your advice for young Kappus still held true.

Recently, your letters inspired my own series Letters to Dead Poets… as well as their endless questions! I wasn’t intending to explore the great questions of life. Rather, I came up with the theme for a simple blogging challenge where you write your way through the alphabet during April and many of us have a theme. I had been intending to write about Sydney landmarks but didn’t have time to take the photos and thought this would be an easier choice. While the theme might sound rather morbid, it was actually meant to involve a bit of humour. The only trouble was that most of the poets who’ve inspired me, weren’t funny and had more than truly wandered onto the dark side of the force. So, this has actually been a rather probing journey and nothing like light entertainment.

However, as my husband pointed out, the” lightness of being” has never been my thing[1].

Initially, the plan was to keep these letters short and sweet, moving through the poets like an express train roaring through stations, taking very quick and limited stops. In retrospect, that was wishful, short-sighted thinking. After all, how could I ever engage in any kind of conversation with such minds and not explore the heights and depths of what it means to be human?

I can assure you that’s no quick conversation!

So, I’m retreating  to my cave with a different poet every day and on some days even two, while still trying to juggle the realities of life like what we’re having for dinner and needing to wash a stinky dog. To be honest, it’s become something of an orgy of ideas and I’m absolutely exhausted from so much delight. Indeed, I wouldn’t mind booking myself into some kind of facility where I could write all day and collect my meals at the door. Of course, I have no intention of staying. I’d simply be on “sabbatical”!

After all, I love my family and I love living life, which is what’s given me the strength and resilience to delve into some pretty hard questions and the journey isn’t over yet. Indeed, the end isn’t anywhere in sight. Or, is it? I’m so immersed in the journey that I don’t even know where I am.

rainer_maria_rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke

This brings me back to you. Indeed, as young Kappus said:

“And where a great and unique man speaks, small men must keep silence.”

Franz Xavier Kappus 1929.

While you exchanged letters with Kappus just over a hundred years ago, my question is: Would you offer the same advice to young poets now in the 21st Century?

The world has changed a lot but have people at their core still stayed much the same? Does a young person need to go through pretty much the same apprenticeship to become a poet? Or, would you actually advise them not to become a poet at all? Tell them to “go and get a real job”? That being a poet doesn’t pay. That indeed, too many poets have paid with their lives for the privilege and that’s too much!

Why become a poet when there’s such a smorgasbord of alternatives which aren’t such a risk? Safe, secure jobs, which don’t take you to the very depths and dump you there. Leave you  without a thread to find your way out of the labyrinth? Indeed, could it be that staying skin deep could actually be a better road? Just keep on looking forward. Indeed, peer deep into your phone and never glance away.

Of course, I’m not asking you these questions to just to fill the page. I have two kids. While many parents would be thrilled to have their kids follow in their footsteps, I definitely do not want my kids following in mind. Indeed, I pray that a river washes my footsteps away, so they have to blaze their own trail.

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My feet photographed in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris in July 1992.

After all, you ask any parent what they truly want for their kids and they all say the same thing …”I just want them to be happy”.

Yet, does being a poet make you happy? Indeed, is being a poet the exact antithesis of happy?

It’s not looking good. Indeed, suicide, depression, drug abuse, all seem to be our tools of trade. That’s hardly an endorsement!

Mind you, I also wonder whether writing poetry actually lets the darkness out. That it’s actually therapeutic.

I understand you were very influenced by Jens Peter Jacobsen who wrote:

 “Know ye not that there is here in this world a secret confraternity, which one might call the Company of Melancholiacs? That people there are who by natural constitution have been given a different nature and disposition than the others; that have a larger heart and a swifter blood, that wish and demand more, have stronger desires and a yearning which is wilder and more ardent than that of the common herd. They are fleet as children over whose birth good fairies have presided; their eyes are opened wider; their senses are more subtle in all their perceptions. The gladness and joy of life, they drink with the roots of their heart, the while the others merely grasp them with coarse hands.”

Jens Peter Jacobsen

What do you think?

Or, is the jury still out?

This brings me to the question of Paris. In a letter to Lou Andreas-Salome you compared Paris to the Military Academy and you “could not say worse than that” and “Often before going to sleep I read the thirtieth chapter of the Book of Job, and it was all true of me, word for word[2]”:

“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21 You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
22 You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
23 I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.

24 “Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.
27 The churning inside me never stops;
days of suffering confront me.
28 I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I have become a brother of jackals,
a companion of owls.
30 My skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.
31 My lyre is tuned to mourning,
and my pipe to the sound of wailing.

Job 30: 20-31.

I was rather surprised to read about your disdain for Paris. Yet, I related to much of what you wrote. Like you were pining for the vastness of the Russian Plains, I initially found Paris very noisy and claustrophobic. Indeed, I started thinking about a train trip I’d taken on the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth across that vast expanse,  the Nullarbor Plain. Oh to be an eagle able to take off and spread my majestic wings without flying straight into a wall!!

330px-Nullabor_plain_from_the_indian_pacific

The Nullarbor Plain, South Australia viewed from the Indian Pacific Railway.

Naturally, I couldn’t help but notice that too many poets have been casualties in Paris. Jimmy Morrison mysteriously met his end in a bathtub in Paris and Oscar Wilde died destitute in his Paris hotel. Is it no coincidence that the world most famous cemetery x is located there?

I don’t know. Do you believe in coincidence? Or, was there some dark influence at work? That at the very heart of the light, there is also the shadow? That life itself is all about this intimate dance and fusion of light and dark?

Anyway, getting back to young poets, my son is only 12 but I wanted to show you a poem he wrote recently for school. I was rather impressed and while I gave him a hand, it was all his own work. I would really appreciate your opinion and a bit of advice.

Do you still believe there’s a place for poets in our world or must we all go out and get a real job?

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

 Through My Window

Looking out my window,
I hear a sound.
Scutter scutter.
Scutter scutter.
Out in the garden,
there’s a little white rabbit.
Mum!
Dad!
But when we get back,
it’s gone…
just like a puff of smoke.

No one believes me.
They just say
that I’m dreaming.
Imagination overload
all over again.
But I know what I saw.

Now,
that I’m back here alone,
the rabbit returns.
It’s glowing gold,
red eyes flashing
in the darkness.
What is it?
Why has it come?

Then, I blink again.
The rabbit burns up into flames
with an even brighter glow
and is gone.

In the morning,
I found no rabbit prints

in the grass.

No sign of the rabbit at all.
Yet,

I know what I saw…

a mysterious rabbit

hopping outside

my bedroom window.

By Mr J

 

[1] Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

[2] Reginald Snell: “Introduction”, Letters to A Young Poet, Dover Publication, New York p. 5.