Above is a poem by my Great Uncle Harry, killed in action at age 23 during World War II, in the battle of El Alamein (1942). I’m posting this today, on Anzac Day, to honour Harry and acknowledge the deep loss felt by my family at his passing. I’ve written out a transcript of the poem below. Written for his wife Beryl, it’s a poignant and tender poem, speaking of love, loss and longing during wartime.
The train is winding slowly
Through a strange and foreign land
And as far as the eye can travel
Stretches the shifting sand.
Along the dying daylight
Into the darkening light,
The turning wheels are taking me
Farther from your sight.
But though I travel farther,
Even to the end of my day,
My love shall be as your love
For ever and for aye
This feeling of solitude and playing with petals while sitting in dirt is familiar. I feel calm alone. I am hidden alone. Nature is my friend. I breathe and I notice. Plush blue velvet on dry brown dirt. Clumps like rocks. Tiny veined yellow petals fall on my pants and get caught in the wind. The crop behind acts as a shield and keeps me warm and sheltered. The sun is diffuse through heavy cloud. The yellow is fading to green. The dirt looks pretty on my velvet pants. Rust brown powder on navy sheen. I breathe and I am here. I am safe out here.
You are of this world and you are not
I have inhabited your lands for 54 days and counting
I have been to Lapland and Helsinki and Stockholm and Bergen and over and through many a Norwegian hill (180 tunnels!) and I slid smoothly through fjords and on to Oslo and onwards further still to Copenhagen.
Scandinavia, I have nearly seen all of your lands, but only a little bit of you really for you are vast and varied and 54 days is no time at all when you’re getting to know a place.
Oh Finland —
You wouldn’t play the Northern Lights for me and I am so sad for I travelled far and it was cold and remote and it was the right time of year (or so I was told) but it seems there wasn’t really even a chance anyway. I want my money back and my disappointment erased.
But Finland I forgive you because you are home to the dish drying cupboard, a simple yet clever invention that makes one scratch one’s head and think “why aren’t these everywhere?” It’s brilliant that one can dry dishes while hiding them away behind closed doors so nobody can see them.
Oh and Finland, you make great licorice too, especially the little salty balls coated in white chocolate and then in bitter licorice powder. Yum. Why can’t I eat you forever?
And in the countryside you put on a grand show for me with snow and icy lakes and sunshine and bear paw prints and great cranes flying and calling and dancing in pairs and all your little houses are made of wood and painted red and yellow and blue and sometimes pink and I don’t know how you did it but you always looked beautiful and exactly as the countryside should so thank you for exceeding my expectations and for giving me joy. Read More
I was looking for the path the other day and I couldn’t find it. All I could see was forest: slender branches and tiny twigs in my way, snow billowing underfoot filling gaps between trees that stood so tall and so close together. Where was the path?
Not knowing anything about snow and how it behaves made it feel dangerous, even though it glinted in the sunlight and tempted me in. Would I slip? Would I sink down? What was under the surface? How deep would I fall? Everything was so new, so enticing yet impenetrable. I carefully took a few steps, marvelled at the sparkly crystals underfoot, captured the moment on camera, and turned back, equally excited and frustrated.
She wanted to play in the snow. Put on her mittens and scrape it, scoop it, taste it, mould it, throw it at her brother. She was amazed at how it packed down in between her hands, got harder and icier with each slap. Big clumsy mittens flapping around on tiny little hands. Four-year-old hands so small and smooth, encased in mittens with smiling faces on them. She would grow into them. A green plastic rain jacket with white buttons like giant peppermints. A beanie matched the mittens: red, green and white. Little leather ankle boots, tan with striped laces. The snow came unexpectedly and was gone just as fast.
With each step my foot lands and falls, lands and falls. Momentary stability gives way to the unknown then finds it again. I find the path easily. I realise that I didn’t know a path could be made of snow. Until now, in my mind, there was only one kind of path: dirt. As soon as my mind cleared I could see the path. A new path. A new way of seeing. Read More
I’m very pleased to announce that I’m a contributing writer in both of these necessary and timely anthologies, both recently published in print and e-book. Two of my poems can be found in We Will Not Be Silenced, published by Indie Blu(e), and my creative nonfiction piece Not Quite Here Yet is in You Are Not Your Rape, published by Rhythm & Bones Press.
Both anthologies give a vital voice to survivors of sexual assault and include poetry, creative nonfiction, essays and artworks. Proceeds and royalties from each anthology benefit a number of organisations that support survivors of sexual assault, abuse, harassment and trauma. Click on the links above for more information and to purchase.
One of my biggest loves and projects in recent years was a fragrance and olfaction blog, which is sadly no more, due to chronic illness and allergies stopping me from both using perfume and writing about it. During this time, I submitted a piece called Four Loves to Odou magazine, a boutique magazine about olfaction. The piece was going to be published a couple of years ago, but sadly the magazine ceased production soon after my submission was accepted. For this piece, I wrote a series of four tiny short stories, each connected with a significant love/relationship of mine, from the perspective of scent and smell and their unique characteristics in each relationship. Read More
I christen thee Asshole
You called me a slut, when I told you there had been others
And then punished me by treating me like one
For no money or benefit, mind you Read More