Writing Myself Alive: An Episodic Poem
– Poetry by Ann Rosenthal – March 29, 2019
Writing to keep calm
Haiku in the seminar
Villanelle at dusk
Desperation firmly anchored in the stormy sea of night-wraith words.
Phrases jar, shudder, fragment into froth and foam. The verse swells
Some lines last longer than others, like the pain which rages on and on
And has no apparent form or shape or rhyme or reason or
It happens, though. Peace
Drops dew like dawn. Word-fall soothes
The torrent. Rest now.
I break the rules, punctuate haiku
As though to say I, imperfect, am.
The daylight stills the bored desire
To suicide out from reading life,
Jettison the wavering ship, slump overboard
After the rats, abandoning the sinking text.
So far this biography is unsatisfactory.
But I know the author. She had promise.
The writing may improve. Read on.
In bed, and the familiar aching tug
For death. I am practiced, by now,
At shutting down my heart, not
Following the sinuous hiss out of bed:
I lie still, wait, let the thoughtsnake be
It slithers across my mind, its hanging fangs
Do not distresss or calm me, until the moment comes
When I notice my longing has shed its skin, for now.
I want to get up, yes, but find the page
That I was reading: I want a book, not death
(Or rather, I want both, but can unwind
The love of story, words, from the one
That does not curve together safely,
Interconnecting life, a whakairo twist)
I want to read. That works, for now.
Shadows shudder, sidle, shiver, shake.
The carving rests, still, bone-white.
Firmly, I sit up, switch on the light.
Learning to read again, and my book
Stirs warmth within me, like the early light
Sending fingers of mist, bright through the sleeping trees.
A gallery leaves a message: they want my art.
Accepted, it weaves a ribbon of light
Around me, as if the weary time
Spent splitting, softening, boiling flax
Is worthwhile preparation, not an empty mess.
The weaving into form comes only when
The material is ready, prepared, and cooled.
Drive on. The mountain of Pirongia rises up
A sleeping giant, tiki-shaped: perhaps
Both of stars, or the first man. Who knows.
I read these ancient symbols fresh, like a book
New to me, mysterious like the webbed feet
Of a tiki from the stars, or perhaps the sea.
Whatever, he brings luck, and life. I hold him.
He is numb, and cold, like me. A survivor
from the dark: bridged by eternity,
A memory of love before the pain of time.
All of us are stardust, in the end. Perhaps,
like stars, and tikis, we light each other’s worlds.
I wince at optimism, the work of friendship:
But the woven moment clings,
A greedy, hopeful burr edged onto my daily wear.
Love is raranga, kete, flax gifted to a friend.
The death wish stirs, a lonely cloak
I do not need to shroud myself, for now.
That one night
I will not be calm and safe
And will not know not to take
The dose that is not correct
And then I will never know
How it ended
I would like it if
I could survive
Long enough to finish
The final chapter of my life
Even if I was the only reader
And the plot twists
never made sense
To anyone else
It would be even better if
on the day of the dead,
Bothered to say, I knew her
She mattered to me
But if not, and
the death certificate
And if possible,
A doctor to observe,
‘It was time,’ or
‘She’d had a long life.’
To a completed
My fingers clench into my palms,
Like a punch against my life.
Painfully, I unpick the knot,
remind my hands
How to weave,
The Maori way:
smoothing out the strands
Planting patterns in the world,
As profound as the kahu kiwi,
cloak of birds,
Hung wisely on tupuna
In dark, consoling warmth.
My fingers are the shaking flax,
My voice the steady shape
Harekeke twisted into kete,
The three wananga baskets
Kete tuatea, kete tuauri, kete aronui.
The knowledge of evil,
the sacred and the world.
Gift of the gods, we must keep them
Wrapped safe like the kahu kiwi
(Woven from a thousand sorrows)
Like the trials Maui endured
To bring that knowledge down
Light wisdom fire in the world.
My fingers yearn to mend
These tattered baskets
Stop the wisdom leaking away
My voice dreams of speech
From within that kiwi cloak.
We can only patch the past
By being present, now.
Evil, the sacred, life
Muddle into the wreck of today
I open my palms to the healer, time
Weave words onto the page.
About the Author – Ann Rosenthal
Ann Rosenthal is holder of the International Student Playscript Award and is a creative writing student at MIT. She has over a dozen fiction and nonfiction publications including in the London Times. She has publications upcoming in Chronically Lit and Wordgathering, both journals that specialise in the relationship between writing, disability and health. Her poetry and art is currently featured in a national exhibition of women trauma survivors in New Zealand. She has PTSD.
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