What a journey.
It should be clear to anyone playing along at home that I haven’t really had the time or the energy to write much poetry of late, but that’s not the only thing that’s been stopping me from writing anything for this blog. Well, at all really.
When I first started publishing my poetry I did so anonymously, and it had very little reach (I mean compared to now I guess, and even so it doesn’t really have a huge amount of cut-through which I am okay with honestly). I then started sharing on a Twitter account – follow me at @abitofpoetry if you want to support me there as well – and then to my personal Twitter and finally on Facebook to my friends and family. For most of my mental health journey (i.e. the main reason I really started to like poetry in particular as it is a wonderful tool to express the emotions I have been processing) I have really been dealing with internal stuff: my negative thoughts about myself`, working through my depressive episodes and anxiety attacks, worries about the future, understanding fatherhood when my dad hasn’t been around for most of my life, learning to have compassion for myself, accepting my diagnosis of ADHD, dealing with the trauma associated with being bullied, harassed, assaulted and so on throughout school… honestly I could go on for a long time.
Since my son was born however, things have changed a little (read: to an unfathomable extent); my priorities have shifted from dealing with my thoughts, feelings, and emotions for me, to dealing with them for my son and my wife. Both my wife and I have been exploring what it means to be a family, what it means to have family, what relationships are and which ones are worth actively maintaining, and how to make sure that we are put our relationship as a coordinated system before anything else. We have both had to deal with our own significant emotional struggles during this time and while it is not my place to talk about my wife’s experiences, I am not ashamed to admit that I went through a number of months of pretty deep-seated post-natal depression, and if not for my wife’s unwavering support and my already-established access to mental health professionals (shout-out to Melissa Ferrari in particular) I don’t know how I would have navigated it. My friends – from those I have had since before I had even entered my teen-years to those amazing peers, colleagues, and mentors I have surrounded myself with that journey through the education system – were and continue to be a huge support too, and along with the aforementioned these friends have helped me not only to establish myself as a better and more confident father than I had ever hoped I could be, not only supported me at my lowest moments, but have encouraged me to have compassion and patience with myself, and learn to back myself, rather than simply roll over and blame myself for all of the problems that occur in my proximity.
So what’s missing?
Well, without going into specifics so publicly, my newfound ability to define what is my fault, what is outside of my control but my responsibility nonetheless, what is not my responsibility, and what is the responsibility of others has caused some fractures in my close family. Some fractures are clear, and out in the air and some are unspoken. There are people around me who love me for who I am – who I apologetically am – and there are some who still want me to come crawling back to them, apologising for their own missteps, misunderstanding, apathy, and in many cases prejudice against me for my mental illness, including the traumatic experience of being diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder at the ripe old age of 28. Those who know me, not those who think they know me because they have known me for a long time and think I am the same kid I was ten or fifteen years ago, have accepted and embraced the person I am becoming. Unfortunately there are some people around me who expect this round peg (a more appropriate shape for my peg-type than square, I feel) to fit in a square hole because I used to damage myself just to fit into their conception of what and who I should be.
These poems are about them.
I write my poetry by hand first, and I will continue to sit here typing them while burning the proverbial candle and watching my son sleeping on the baby monitor. He is beautiful, even in the black-and-white of the night-vision that is being live-streamed to my phone. I would do anything for him.
One member of my family recently called me a narcissist and acted like they were doing me a favour by telling me. They indelibly accused me or apathy, paranoia, and self-absorption, enacting a one-person intervention-style attack on me that ended with the following words (note: I am paraphrasing here because it hurts too much to go back to that email to get the exact quote and because I don’t want to publish my wife’s or son’s name):
“You need to change. You owe it to your wife and your son.”
This person barely knows my wife, and has actively worked to clearly delineate the divide between my wife’s family and my own throughout the almost 10 years I have been with her. Sometimes this person has done so with a clear disdain for my wife’s culture. This person has never met my son.
This person, clearly, barely knows me.
I haven’t been able to respond to them personally, and I won’t – it hurts too much right now.
This is not a response to their actions.
These poems are not just about them.
These poems are surely going to upset people.
These poems are not for anyone but myself and those people who have tried so hard for so long, and upon reaching the top of one of the endless mountains we mentally ill must climb have had the people they trust most make it clear that they prefer you at the bottom.
They’ll kick you back down sometimes, but if you’ve climbed it without them before, you sure as hell can climb it without them again.
I have changed. I will continue to change. I am a better me than I ever have been.
You tell me to change for my wife and child? I beat you to the finish line before you even realised the race was on.
You don’t want me to change for them, you want me to change for you.
Enjoy the poem.
P.s. I honestly don’t know if these are any good – I am too emotionally attached to them. I feel like there is some good stuff here, but it is not consistent. Let me know what you think!
Is “I just don’t understand”
the best that you
can do? You roll
your eyes and turn
towards the other too
because the more you see the
refuse of my mind;
the more I hold my ground,
refuse (un)kindly sympathies and
living elegies to he
the moment that I broke free from
your silken bind; the more
you see you cannot find
the person that you thought
that you had made,
the harder that you try
to punish me for
Remember that: they’re
choices that you made.
And I’ll recall
their choices too;
your choices too.
I will remember this:
And it is more than time
for me to see this through.
The other day, or thereabouts,
when shadows dusted earthy ground
the mirror-lake you led me to
began to sing a tune.
A tune of love, or quite alike,
did echo forth from out of sight:
you brought to me a siren’s song
to hold my gaze anew.
You see: that lake you gave to me?
It was the thing that set me free
from mind-forged daggers of your make –
it let me see my fate.
Beyond the cracks, beyond the glass,
beyond the freezing, painful past,
beyond the lies, beyond the proof,
is final, purest truth.
If this was love just as you say
you’d draw me closer day on day,
but as you think you rightly make
a martyr’s sacrifice
I’ll hold you to that Faustian pledge –
you tried to pull me to that edge
but with my strength I knew I could
resist the serpent’s wrath.
So when you throw me to the ground
and like a toy gods toss me ’round
remember this: perched on his throne
Narcissus dies alone.
If words are mirrors that we
hold up the the soul
then yours are broken:
those sharpened shards of
polished glass slide from
your shaking fingertips and
cross the aching space
between your now-clenched fist
those pointed words of
loving-hate slide from
your shaking fingertips and
cross the aching space
between your now-clenched fist
and my long-pained
Entropic words have
silenced me, you’ll find, but in
their chaos they will
leave you blind
and lead me to the refuge
or my new-discovered mind
whose thoughts to which
in final ecstasy
I sit resigned.
The banquet hall is empty. He stands alone, entranced. Somewhere off-stage the actor for his wife – the Queen – falls to her knees. She’ll never rise again.
The theatre is silent, and he breathes shakily – alone and abandoned. His thanes have left. His wife as well.
He wasn’t ready. Not yet.
“It will have blood, they say.”
He walks slowly towards the audience and draws his sword. Someone in the front row whispers to the person beside them, “Gosh, that looks very realistic.”
He speaks again before wading into the crowd, sword-arm raised above his head.
“Blood will have blood.”