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Read, Write, Love

Going One Way

By | Read, Write, Love

By Kathryn Fry

Among the fortunes of the Lane Cove River,
its shaded shrubs, its wet–weather falls,
a place for breathing long and deep
and flannel flowers, holding what winter light
they can and bringing you

to my thoughts. And in the Berowra Valley,
lobelias rise from fire-grit, blue in their hair-fine
greenery. This country is a sandstone song
that’s flowing now with boronias spreading pink
under angophoras and gums.

It shows me a fern I’ve never seen before
how the creek widens here (its ancient sands,
its stone-crush of ochre at the edge), adds
rapids there, how cocooned it all is from
the sky. In my heart I show you.

Grasstrees crown the slopes with patience.
The track brings a treecreeper, a party
of wrens, a pair of yellow robins. They sing
the score these waters write from sky
to sea. All day I walk, my bones singing us.

It’s the music of you I walk with. In August
wedding bush is white brilliance and lace,
eriostemons could be bridesmaids though
their pink is everywhere. Red grevilleas
are fists-full of hope, as winter slips its grip.

At noon, descending to Galston Gorge in mid-air
I want us, you and I, in mid-life’s heat and peace.
Isopogons near a sun orchid, mat rush
by the track. As if I see more, knowing you.
Pea plants in bud, the cluster of christmas bush

to bloom twice (white petals, sepals in red).
Later near Crosslands with the tide ebbing,
the light slanted thin and the day effortless
it seems as the birds, those two flying over,
only where they know.

For My Father

By | Read, Write, Love

By Patricia Green

You sat there tethered to the wheelchair by a belt to hold you upright, incapable of standing; your left arm a leg of beef, useless, heavy; half your body gone; unable to comprehend; able only to cry as our eyes met. We could not show our devastation. The bodies you gave us obeyed our brains. We stepped on feet that danced. Our skins were plump with youth and wrinkle free.
    We did not lose you to death—not then. We lost you to that terrible struggle for rehabilitation, therapy to exploit what remains of the brain after the implosion—making good the detritus. I watched you seeking absolution despite our love—making tea for mum using only your right hand, insisting on independence to prove yourself a worthy partner and father, trying to shuck off the barnacles of life’s failures.
    All our lives you had been the anchor, despite so many setbacks. A young man of twenty-six returned from the war full of confidence in the future. Then, another fight; so many mouths to feed, so many children to educate, the world a whirling uncontrollable cycle of failure and new beginnings, always cheerful, always covering up the hurt. We were like parasites leaching all your energy, your hopes, your dreams as you enveloped us with your unconditional love.
    Now, you despised yourself. “Weak as a baby” you spat out, in frustration. We could not show how overwhelmed we were. We were bereft. The initial loss was your stroke robbing us of the person we knew. We hid our pain; its violence would have suffocated you.

In years following, I avoided flaunting my wealth – my total control over my body, my strength, my energy, my mind. I tasted shame for my good fortune. Now, as I age, I dread the annihilation that arrives with the loss of independence. I dread living in a body, refusing jumps that once were easy. Now I tread the steps you left behind. I believe I understand.
    It was cruel to ask you to step up to the plate as you had done so many times before and become whole, become your old self. We hid our sorrow behind the smokescreen of jokes and bustling activity.
    Your death ten years later was as powerful a blow despite our awareness of your deterioration. The pain was as acute – a piercing, piercing loss. We found the words for grief foreign, heavy in our mouths. We had never practised them with each other; had never explored our feelings with each other. We were always too busy pretending nothing had changed.
    Now, not one of us could name the sorrow, name the loss. So used to banal jokes, we smothered our grief in platitudes—“He’s at peace now”; “It’s been a long journey.”—and yarns about a vital, laughing father, forever young in our memory. Grief and love trapped inside each one rendered us mute.

Last Poem

By | Read, Write, Love

by Magdalena Ball

Every moment is risky.

There’s no mistaking the signs
fingers crawling about
in bed, a sigh, another sigh
the ennui of loss
tossing me left and right.

It’s easy to dismiss all this as
my neurosis
and you’d be right
as you’re always right
but you know
though neither of us has words
to say it, my vulnerabilities
as intimately as the inside
of your own wrists
and cherish them.

You can wave a finger
and I might cry in the bathroom
but at the end of the day
when I choke out the last poem
we’re fighting the same fight.

Writing as I breathe
until I can’t

itching and fighting
grief has always been
the flipside of love
the deep current in the ocean
water flowing always
even as we age, we crumble
our bodies already dust.

Those long nights
between wailing and motion
these long days
of peace and pain
a memory only, an imprint
and permanent.