20 – 30 day poetry challenge

Day 20 – Write a narrative poem detailing a specific childhood memory.

***

It was a sunny day in March
Or maybe in April
The snow had melted away
Like one day my illusions would
But back then I knew nothing of these things
I was just a kid, playing in mud
On a walk with my dad
I did not know that other dads were not like mine
That not all dads threatened to leave
That not all dads drank a lot of bitter water
That not all dads made moms cry so often
But back then I was so small
And the sun shone so brightly
And dad wasn’t doing any of those things at the moment
So I kept on jumping in puddles and laughing
Until we came upon a ditch
One day there would be a house there
But that day was yet to come
On that sunny day in March
(Or maybe in April)
I found a little yellow flower on the edge of that ditch
Like a tiny sun
Defying all odds
Blooming there all alone
I was just a kid playing in mud
I did not know that one day this tiny sun
This yellow little flower in all that mud
Would become a metaphor
For my broken childhood

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Update from the void

 

…because why the fuck not. I need to get my creativity back on track somehow, so might as well try forcing it by doing a 30 day poetry challenge which I copied from here:

  1. Day 1 – Write a poem where each line starts with a letter from your first name (an acrostic). It can be about anything, but it should not be about you or your name.
  2. Day 2 – Who was the last person you texted? Write a five line poem to that person.
  3. Day 3 – Find the nearest book (of any kind). Turn to page 8. Use the first ten full words on the page in a poem. You may use them in any order, anywhere in the poem.
  4. Day 4 – Write a haiku. They’re often about nature, but yours can be about anything.
  5. Day 5 – Write a three line poem about lemons without using the following words: lemon, yellow, round, fruit, citrus, tart, juicy, peel, and sour.
  6. Day 6 – Write a poem of any length incorporating every word from your latest Facebook status.
  7. Day 7 – Take a walk until you find a tree you identify with, then write a poem using the tree as a metaphor for yourself or your life.
  8. Day 8 – Write a cinquain on a topic of your choice.
  9. Day 9 – Quickly jot down four verbs, four adjectives, and four nouns. Write a poem using all 12 words.
  10. Day 10 – Pick a one line song lyric to serve as an epigraph to your poem. Then, write the poem to accompany it.
  11. Day 11 – Write a list poem.
  12. Day 12 – Tell your life story in 6 words.
  13. Day 13 – Write a short poem that a child would like.
  14. Day 14 – Write a bad poem, make it as lousy as you can, do everything wrong, let yourself be awful.
  15. Day 15 – Post a poem (written by someone else) that you love (for any reason).
  16. Day 16 – Respond to the poem you posted yesterday with a poem of your own.
  17. Day 17 – Write a poem that employs a rhyme scheme.
  18. Day 18 – Write a poem without any end rhyme, only internal rhyme.
  19. Day 19 – Imagine yourself doing any household task/chore, then write a poem using what you’ve imagined as an extended metaphor for writing.
  20. Day 20 – Write a narrative poem detailing a specific childhood memory.
  21. Day 21 – Choose one of the poems you’ve already written and posted as part of this challenge and re-order it in some way. You could rearrange the lines or stanzas or even words in a line. Think of it as a puzzle!
  22. Day 22 – What is the first car you bought/drove/remember? Write a poem about it.
  23. Day 23 – Write a seven line poem that begins with “it’s true that fresh air is good for the body” (from Frank O’Hara’s poem “Ave Maria”) and ends with “this is our body” (from Gary Snyder’s “The Bath”).
  24. Day 24 – Write a poem that’s different in some way from anything you’ve ever written. Take a chance! Be wild!
  25. Day 25 – Write a poem that includes all of the following words: pistachio, ink, pebble, weather, varnish.
  26. Day 26 – Gather some magazines/catalogs you don’t mind cutting up and spend ten minutes flipping through them looking for words/sentences that spark your interest. Cut out the words as you go, and (at the end of the ten minutes) arrange the words to form a cut-out poem.
  27. Day 27 – Begin with the title “The Poem I’d Never Write.” Then, write that poem.
  28. Day 28 – Visit a virtual art gallery and look around until you find a piece that intrigues you. Write a poem inspired by the artwork.
  29. Day 29 – Briefly research a poetic form of your choice and write a poem according to the rules of that particular form.
  30. Day 30 – Write a poem employing extended metaphor to illustrate the experience of the last thirty days.

In other news, really briefly: 2017 has been a year of horrible disappointments. The Winamp prediction didn’t lie, even though I tried to find as much positive stuff in it as I could… Let’s face it, it’s been a shitty year. My back has been acting up more than ever before, although physiotherapy helps. I haven’t managed to find a job for a year now, even though I’ve come close a few times. The Handsome Gentleman did move in as I had hoped, however he also moved out very abruptly and managed to hurt me in new and inventive ways that I would not have believed of him. Oh well. I’m still looking for a job and hopefully at some point will find someone who is more worthy of my love. Until then – 30 days of (not so great) poetry ahead.

Going down, down, down

That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.

“Prozac Nation”, Elizabeth Wurtzel

*
failure

It’s autumn. It used to be my favourite season, what with the colourful leaves and gusts of strong wind and that melancholy rain drumming on my window sill for days on end. However, the older I get the more I dread the end of summer, as I become a lot more prone to depression when it’s cold and dark outside. I used to be angsty and tormented and oh so deep all the damn time and I really don’t care to go back to that state. I want to be creative without having the urge to slit my wrists open with a nail file, godsdamnit!

I want to be left alone but I hate feeling lonely. I don’t want to do anything but I fear boredom. I get hungry but food is tasteless and wants to come right back up… I think it shows clearly that I just can’t win.

Guess what was the first thing I did when I woke up yesterday? Those of you who placed their bets on ‘cried for no reason at all’ may collect their winnings now. So maybe I really should make that appointment with a specialist who can prescribe me some nice Fukitol pills and lie to me convincingly enough that it’s going to be all right in the end…

Good-bye, granny

Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, J.K. Rowling

*

276_big

My grandmother died early this morning. She would have been 89 next Saturday but I guess this time we’ll just light a candle with no cake underneath.

89 years is a lot and time definitely took its toll on her. Maybe we could still have had a celebration next Saturday instead of a funeral on the upcoming weekend, had she not stumbled in her own home and broken her hip. She was taken to the hospital and operated on but in the end it didn’t go all that well and words like “internal bleeding” were involved, so… yeah. Her mind was getting all scrambled, too, even more than before, so perhaps death was almost a kindness at this point. I know my paternal grandmother used to pray for death while she lay in her bed, completely paralyzed from the neck down. She finally died at the age of 94 but had to endure five agonizing bedridden years before that moment of release. My grandfather died at the age of 84, all alone in his apartment, and was discovered only after my mom got anxious that he hadn’t picked up his phone for two days. I never met my paternal grandfather, since he died before I was born. Both of my “step-grandparents” have also been dead for a while now, so I guess that’s that then.

I’m not terribly heartbroken, death is a part of life and it happens to all of us eventually, especially so when it comes to the elderly. I’m more worried about the implications this event has on my mother and her living arrangements – will she continue to reside in grandma’s apartment and pay for the communal charges? Will she return to living with my father? It’s a big can of worms either way. I know it’s not my problem to fix but I’m slightly anxious about it nevertheless.

Freedom

‘Where Are We Going?’ said Dorfl, as Vimes strolled across the Brass Bridge.
‘I thought I might break you in gently with some guard duty at the palace,’ said Vimes.
‘Ah. This Is Where My New Friend Constable Visit Is Also On Guard,’ said Dorfl.
‘Splendid!’
‘I Wish To Ask You A Question,’ said the golem.
‘Yes?’
‘I Smashed The Treadmill But The Golems Repaired It. Why? And I Let The Animals Go But They Just Milled Around Stupidly. Some of Them Even Went Back To The Slaughter Pens. Why?’
‘Welcome to the world, Constable Dorfl.’
‘Is It Frightening To Be Free?’
‘You said it.’
‘You Say To People “Throw Off Your Chains” And They Make New Chains For Themselves?’
‘Seems to be a major human activity, yes.’
Dorfl rumbled as he thought about this. ‘Yes,’ he said eventually. ‘I Can See Why. Freedom Is Like Having The Top Of Your Head Opened Up.’

“Feet of Clay”, Terry Pratchett

*

I’ve always felt ambiguous about the meaning of freedom. On the one hand I don’t fancy being controlled by anyone except myself, on the other hand… I guess I’m taking the word rather existentially, as to me it mostly means “not being tied to anything, at all”.

When I was very depressed a few years ago, I used to feel free in a rather scary way. I felt like I was bouncing along the world in a hamster ball, while even gravity had mostly given up on me. Imagine walking on the Moon – you just bound along in slow motion. So I was just a passive passenger who felt she could not reach out to anything and nothing in the outside world could stop my journey either. Just gently gliding through Stuff That Matters To Other People, from whom I have been separated by that hard curving wall.

It was really fucking lonely.

When I finally managed to break that Hamster Ball of Depression, one of my first goals was to create new and strong ties with people, so I would not drift away like that again. I think the main reason why I did not seriously consider suicide while being depressed was that it simply seemed like too much effort. I had stopped caring about mostly everything, especially myself.

I’ve come a long way since then but I still feel the need to check every once in a while if the ties I’ve made are still strong. Sometimes I haven’t tied knots very well or the rope just isn’t suitable for this purpose and it all comes undone. Other times the knots simply remain even tighter. And sometimes I just want to make a noose out of one.

I hurt myself today to see if I still feel

It’s an awful truth that suffering can deepen us, give a greater lustre to our colours, a richer resonance to our words. That is, if it doesn’t destroy us, if it doesn’t burn away the optimism and the spirit, the capacity for visions, and the respect for simple yet indispensable things.

Anne Rice, “The Queen of the Damned”

*

They say (and yes, it is the same ‘they’ as in ‘everybody knows’) that what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. In my psychology lectures I was taught that this is actually not the case at all – that which does not kill us (but gets pretty close to the mark), will leave us scarred. Some wounds are insignificant, others can take years or decades to heal, provided they are not experimentally ripped open over and over again – that bit I know far too well. “Does it hurt if I unravel the scenario in my mind like this? How about now? Ooh, yep, I could definitely feel that one!” What can I say – I love the scientific method.

I think it is somehow written into my national narrative that suffering will make you more noble, in a way. For roughly a thousand years we’ve always been the underdog, except for about half a century and even that little period of freedom was violently chopped into two bits. All of this has left a very strong imprint in our collective unconscious as a people, and that in turn has greatly influenced the way I see the world. If you want something done right, do it yourself because nobody else will do it for you. Trust nobody who has not proven their loyalty to you many times and even then you retain the right to remain suspicious of their motives. Be flexible like a willow tree – it can be bent in many ways but it is really difficult to break, and it will easily spring back to its former shape as if nothing happened.

Yeah. Even one of our (if not the) most famous literary quotes goes: “Do your work and toil; and then love will arrive.” This sets a very hard prerequisite: if you do not suffer at least a little bit first, you have no right to accept the reward. On the one hand it means that you should not turn back as soon as you see an obstacle on your way but should instead try to find a way around it; on the other hand it seems to suggest that you need to grit your teeth and bear it, come what may – in the end you will be thankful whether you like it or not!

So, here’s the ever-intriguing question on the subject: where can we draw that goddamn line of sanity?

Being somewhat of the emo persuasion (yes, I know what my username sounds like, thankyouverymuch) I sometimes tend to engage in the aforementioned wound prodding, perhaps even a bit too enthusiastically. Then again I completely agree with the quote above in the way that light and shadows are intertwined – you cannot have one without the other. People tend appreciate what they have a lot more when they have [almost] lost it; what they have achieved by fighting for what they believe in is always worth more than the stuff that they almost accidentally tripped over.

If you could line plot a person’s emotional ups and downs on paper, many people would be happy with a slightly wobbly result and that is perfectly okay. I am not of that kind, however, for me it should be a sine wave the size of a roller-coaster – that is the time when I feel truly alive. Trouble is, sometimes the decline is so abrupt that it is very difficult to spot any way up again… The ones who prefer to keep to their wobbling are definitely more at peace with themselves, it seems to me, and sometimes I secretly envy them. But not for long.

When I am overwhelmed by sorrow, I try to break it into small, manageable, bite-sized pieces that I can tackle one by one. All large things consist of little ones which, put together, form a whole and it would be insane to try and handle it all at once. I am used to analysing my thought processes and I already know the triggers which make me act irrationally (which does not mean that I can always handle them but at least I know to watch out for them). I can’t simply let things be – I need to understand myself and others to be able to make any sense of it all. This includes going through painful subjects over and over again in my mind until I have got the hurt out of my system and only facts remain. To some it may seem like pointless self-torture if you could just pack that kind of thoughts away in the back of your brain and after that let sleeping dogs lie but that is just how I roll. I have tried the .zip format of thoughts in the past and while it did work for me for a while, there’s only so much room in the attic, so to speak.

In short: getting hurt sucks but, sadly, life would not be half as interesting without it 😐 I just wish I had more of the uphill regions these days, seeing as I keep travelling on my sine wave. I have no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Matters of life and death

‘I think that at a time like this you can stop calling me Miss Flitworth,’ said Miss Flitworth.
RENATA?
She looked startled. ‘How did you know my name? Oh. You’ve probably seen it written down, right?’
ENGRAVED.
‘On one of them hourglasses?’
YES.
‘With all them sands of time pouring through?’
YES.
‘Everyone’s got one?’
YES.
‘So you know how long I’ve -‘
YES.
‘It must be very odd, knowing… the kind of things you know…’
DO NOT ASK ME.
‘That’s not fair, you know. If we knew when we were going to die, people would live better lives.’
IF PEOPLE KNEW WHEN THEY WERE GOING TO DIE, I THINK THEY PROBABLY WOULDN’T LIVE AT ALL.

“Reaper Man”, Terry Pratchett

*

As a little explanation to those who are not familiar with the Discworld series – the person speaking in capital letters is Death, one of my favourite characters in Pratchett’s creation. “Reaper Man” tells the story of what happens when the Auditors of the Universe decide that it is not right for Death to have developed a personality and therefore he must retire so that a new, impersonal Death could arise. As a departing present Death is given some time, so he could finally experience life first-hand. It is a truly fascinating tale about how Death tries to come to terms with the process of living, during which he learns a great deal about being human and especially what compassion means.

It seems that I am going to have to attend a funeral in the near future, as my grandmother had another stroke yesterday morning. Her mind has been wandering for some time now, she cannot remember things and is paranoid that people are always stealing from her (in reality she hides her things in fear of theft and cannot find them later). She is very old, next Friday is her 88th birthday. I spent half of Saturday at her place, holding the bucket while she was violently sick in it and doing other not so pleasant things for her because she could hardly sit up in bed. While I was there, I asked her several times whether she would like me to call the paramedics again and she kept saying ‘no, don’t call them’. In the end the ambulance was called for the second time anyway and she was finally taken to the hospital.

It is a pretty damn hard choice to make. On the one hand it seems like calling the ambulance is the only logical thing to do, on the other hand… had I been in her place, I would have said ‘no’, too, and hoped that maybe this is the end, finally.

It was heart-wrenching to look at her. She’s become so scrawny, pallid loose skin is hanging off her now-deformed skeleton like donated garments on a wire coathanger in a thrift store. She used to be a strong, independent woman who never took cheek from anyone and always stood up for herself. Yesterday she was nothing but a small shivering heap under her blanket and could not even hold a cup of water in her shaking hands.

My other grandmother died when she was 94, the last years of her life were horribly dull. She was paralyzed and her mind was completely gone. When she talked, she didn’t make much sense but she kept asking one question over and over: “Why hasn’t death come for me already?”

I hope I never make it to that point where I am nearly blind, deaf and unable to move about. I also hope that by the time I get old, we have a law permitting assisted suicide.

If you have not seen the movie where Sir Terry Pratchett talks about assisted suicide, now is a good time.