Tag Archive: Poetry


This week a young girl I was an inpatient with was cremated. A shockingly stark reminder of Anorexia’s power to take lives. It’s so easy to forget the facts. Eating Disorder charity BEAT are clear that “Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, from medical complications associated with the illness as well as suicide. Research has found that 20% of anorexia sufferers will die prematurely from their illness”.

Hard to deny the seriousness of this illness. Yet, it is so often misunderstood and misjudged.

Star Fall – for S & C

Same sky, different star

Eighteen years

fly fast

Moon behind the clouds August 2015

Moon behind the clouds
August 2015

Sometimes glimpsed

on clearer nights

your incandescence

burning bright

Other times,  faded,

harder to see,

a thin ship to sail

on the widest of seas

Sometimes the darkness

covered your face

but couldn’t extinguish

the core of your blaze.

Now, I search the sky

ravage constellations

cry

eyes blind, stream like rain

calling to see

your star again

I reach out

tear black canvas

fingers finding

vacant nucleus

this dark hole,

from which your star fell.

And I howl

at the heavens

And the heavens say to me:

Cry not

for those who fall

for stars who drop

don’t land at all

At once caught up

by beams of sun

the point at which

we’re all begun.

Drawn close to heat

and now they shine

with greater brightness

all the time.

Firefly ©2015

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wpid-imag1676_1.jpgA poet like Dickinson has the enviable ability to load a verse with meaning so deep and so heavy you wonder how such simple words can bear the weight.. Her gatherings of commonplace words so often made to shine by their careful ordering, carry a grief so weighty you wonder the words don’t crumble beneath the despair.

This simple little verse almost sags in the middle with the enormity of her existential reflection!

I wanted to put it out there because I think it’s something that every one of needs to have asked and explored. Not in a naval gazing way, more in a back-of-the-mind type of way.

Because I think it’s sometimes good to widen my frame of reference. To briefly place my life on the time / space continuum. It’s sometimes good to feel humbled by the stars. To put my pain and suffering in the context of world history.

And sometimes, it’s good to rethink the areas of my life I can control; and the areas that I can’t. Personally I find it useful to remember that life is short, and wanting control over something doesn’t grant me the right to it. More than that, I know that there are things WITHIN my power, that I need to take control of, rather than deny or disown.

THAT is the hard thing. That’s where Dickinson’s innocent thought is a smack in the face!

Every so often, I come across a poem or a quotation or a song that holds such a deep, weighty resonance, that I almost feel it in the very bowels of my being. Incredibly, a string of words can have the power to somehow infiltrate me; to bypass the sentry who guards my reason, and speak directly to my soul.

I believe that every human being has had this experience, to a greater or lesser extent. And although it’s a little hard to define, and sometimes difficult to see in some people, I think that human beings have an innate desire to be understood by something outside of themselves. This need is fleetingly and powerfully met when they stumble upon something that, on some level, speaks the words of their muted soul / heart. Sometimes a poem or a song can understand you and make sense of a part of you that, by it’s spiritual nature, cannot be voiced, but is silently woven into the very essence of your being.

Phew! This is deep, perhaps TOO deep!

All this verbosity is really an introduction to a beautiful poem I read recently by American poet Mary Oliver.

Simple in language and in form, “The Journey” spoke to me in the way that I describe above. It is an apt description of where I am on my journey towards recovery.

We all have ‘voices’ / things that try to drag us back, to hold us captive as we trudge along the ‘road full of fallen branches and stone’. For me, the Anorexia screams at me to turn back. For you, perhaps it’s something else. No matter, it is a struggle that many of us experience, particularly as we attempt to shake off ‘the old tug’ at our ankles.

It is my hope that, in posting this poem here, it will somehow encourage you and speak some of your unspoken words.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.Image

First Frost

First Frost

As I drive to my place of cold

Morning sun streams

over frosted fields

Recovery is a wing

pierced by blades

of winter grass.

Emily Dickinson, one of my favourite American poets, didn’t have a single poem published at the time she died. Subsequently, her poetry has been flagged as some of the greatest literary work

Imagein the nineteenth century.

Biographers and researchers have scrutinised her poetry and letters to learn more about her reclusive life although, It doesn’t take a genius to understand that Emily was more than familiar with poor mental health. Loneliness and self imposed solitude were, no doubt, unkind relatives to the deep depression and anxiety she suffered.

One of the best descriptions of depression (to my mind) is to be found in her poem, “I Felt A Funeral In My Brain”. Contrary to this, I find one of the most uplifting metaphors for hope in a poem where she famously likens hope to a little bird, who carries on singing through the darkest of storms, making no demands (despite extreme conditions) and remaining alive throughout.

The poem is a reminder that hope, although fragile as a feather and tiny as a bird, can withstand our darkest and deepest depression, our cold fear and our flustered anxiety. It can survive the tunnel of sadness and it will not drown in the well of grief.

During recovery, there are moments of screeching inner agony, where the illness claws at the very lining of our guts, our gullets and our skulls. The challenge is to stay still enough to hear the sound of hope, singing its song, far, far beneath the aching and the clawing and the piercing scream

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops at all.
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

What gives you hope? 

Feathered Hope

Feathered Hope

Emily Dickinson on Hope
(1st Verse)
Dickenson knew what it was to feel despair, yet she writes with such tenderness about hope. As an inpatient, I made this to hand on my wall.

Moments Like These

Moments Like These

A moment of sheer beauty. I snapped this pic of the unfathomably blue sky, a backdrop for little daubs of white floss.
Poet W.H. Davies wrote the poem, ‘Leisure’, asking
‘what is this life if, full of care,We have no time to stand and stare?—No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.’

It’s simple message stands the test of time. Life is a series of moments. In recovery, some of those moments feel like the jagged edge of the ripping saw, others like the sharpened tip of the sabre. That makes it all the more important to take the time to ‘stand and stare’. Catch the moments of purity, of otherness.
Mindfulness, CBT, DBT, NLP (acronyms on a postcard to…) I’ll take poetry over any of them.