I’ve composed, and shaped several new poems whilst away. I’ve been surprised by how physical, geographical distance from home (and everything we might associate with our trauma) can bring about a deeper understanding of it. New landscapes give rise to new creative manifestations, which is perhaps a testament to the power any given trauma can have. It can re-attach, remake itself almost, in the fabric of a new place, offering new perspectives of course, but also relief.
All the new sensory delights of a different country – from the coastal influences of the sea and sky, to the incessant thrum of cicacda music, has transformed my own personal understanding of the event of Matthew’s death. The creative horizon collapsed and opened simultaneously after the first few days of scribbling, leaving enormous scope for change. I was provided with new robes or fabrics within which to bundle and carry my grief, and when it wasn’t felt (which it often isn’t) new visual gateways (though remarkly distinct and totally unrelated to him in any way) acted as hooks on which I could place a Matthew poem or idea. I thought a lot about home, too, family and new life, again perhaps somewhat unrelated, but steppingey back in this way – naturally and without guilt – helped me find the tenuous, yet beautiful relevance. Exploring them fully has been a crucial part of my personal trauma writing process.
Working out any given trauma through writing itsn’t just about hammering away at the event itself, or the pain of it (though this as its place). It’s about all the litte dust pieces that connect. And in Greece I was able to walk through, as if through sandstorm, the many sesmic waves that continue to pulse, purr even, after Matthew’s death.
Once such ring was for my unborn daughter. My first, Josephene, had two uncles. This baby will still have two, but she’ll never meet one of them. This was something I’d never consciously thought about, until I came across ‘the field’. A golden, hazy expanse of land secluded just a few paces from the Agean coast, protected by long tufts of ragged, sun-beaten reeds. It’s at its most alluring in the evening, before dusk. It’s most haunting at night. I walked past it almost every day on our little family outings to the cove to swim. And every day a line or two would come.
It was a clearing beyond itself.
Formed the instant it appeared, yet held together by memory.
Threads hung from the corners by light. The haze
warmed and christened my brow, the gold made
new silt of my body.
When I read over these lines I could see they weren’t just desriptive notes. Something very new was coming.
I wasn’t carrying you anymore. I was looking towards
where you and I were headed
seeing you clear, through the grasses that rocked
seeing, for the first time
a cradle of peace…
and beyond that, the place my brother had died
This was a resting place where nothing
had been buried or born. You,
and him, your imagined skins met tentatively in the light; a wing, his shirt
a dust mote, your eye.
This was the first time I’d written directly about my unborn baby. And it intrigued me that she came hand in hand with the gentle appearance of my dead brother. He’s been present in many of my poems, but never in a tender way as this.
brought my seeing to tatters, such was the life.
Life? How can the visual manifestaiton of a dead brother, and an unborn daughter, radiate this? But it did, with ease and beauty, there in the empty but field. And again and again in the poem, which I’m deliberately taking my time over writing, simply because it just feels so good to explore this sort of soft, unfolding connection to Matthew, one that continues long after his passing. It’s a comfort if anything and dare I say, theraputic.