My word. What a journey. by Sue Bevan

My word. What a journey.
When I was fifteen, many years ago, I fell pregnant in a tight community in the Welsh Valleys. It wasn’t the done thing. My mother must have been devastated, though we never spoke of it. Instead she marched me off to the doctor’s to confirm her suspicions.
‘Yes, Mrs Jenkins. She’s definitely pregnant. About five months, I reckon. Have you thought about what you’ll do about it?’
I wasn’t ever part of the conversation. And then she sent me hundreds of miles from home to see out my pregnancy in secret. As I say, it wasn’t the done thing back then. When I gave birth alone in a bare hospital room, pretty much abandoned by the nursing staff, my daughter’s adoption had already already been arranged. Without my say. Without my agreement. I wasn’t asked, of course. I was fifteen and did what I was told. Growing up in a family in which my mother frequently ‘sent my father to Coventry’, who was I to argue. Who was I to speak out.
We all process out trauma in our own individual way, of course. But for me it’s been through my writing, my solo show on the subject having travelled the world now – South Africa to San Francisco, Sweden and Prague to New York – and with many a tear shed on the way. Not just by me, I might add.

But today I find myself discussing with a venue manager the possibility of bringing the show to his theatre space. I share my story with him. He asks about my daughter. Did we ever meet. Did I return to school. How did I cope. I answer everything as best I can. Just as I do after my show each night, when audiences want the real story fleshed out. He listens. He agrees to the show being booked. He offers to buy me a tea.
Moments later a man approaches, tentative. He’s overheard some of the conversation but didn’t get it all. He asks me what the show is about. I begin to explain.
‘When I was fifteen I had a child who was taken for adoption…’ And I continue. But he seems agitated. I ask if he’s okay.
‘I was taken from my mother and adopted,’ he tells me, his eyes full. ‘There were three of us, and we were all taken away when I was about six months. They separated us, so I never knew about the others when I was growing up. Then when I was thirty I suddenly discovered I had two sisters. It was terrible. I never knew.’
He went on to tell me of his mother’s emotional and physical abuse from the man he assumes to be his father. And then he tells me of his own emotional, psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of his adopters. It’s a lot to take in. I don’t let him know how it makes me feel, and at least I have the comfort of knowing my daughter was raised by good, loving parents.
He tells me his mother had died back when he was in his teens. He’s still looking for his father. Or rather, he’d like to. He doesn’t know where to start.
‘Have you spoken with anyone about all this?’ I ask.
‘Yes,’ he says. ‘You.’
‘I mean, somebody professional. Some support. There are people out there who can help you. There is help.’
Even as I say this I reflect on the fact that I was in therapy for years, and still I’m only part recovered. Maybe that’s how it is. Always. For some.
‘Have you?’ I ask again.
‘Where do I find somebody?’
I look into his eyes.
‘If I help find somebody…do you think you’d like to talk to them?’
I’m aware I don’t want to push. This is his path. His choice. His life.
‘That’s really kind of you. Will you really do that? For me?’
‘Of course I will.’
‘Please. Yes. Yes, please.’
I weep afterwards. After I’ve left him. While I sit, cold, in the car, shivering. After he’s brought over a mince pie for me to have with the tea I’ve ordered. After we’ve shaken hands, and I’ve held his in both of mine for a moment, and then for another.
I’ve never been keen on mince pies. I don’t normally eat them. I don’t really like them. But I ate this one, as he sat there taking bite after bite from his, chewing it over and over, eyes fixed on the plate, one knee shaking with nerves. And I have to say, that bundle of sweet fruit wrapped in short pastry and sprinkled in fine sugar…that pie tasted sweeter than any I’ve ever had.
That night I wrote him a poem he’ll probably never see. But I wrote it anyway.

FOR HIM
I watch as you catch a falling star and put it in your pocket.
You’ll keep it, you say, for every day.
Rain or shine.
Weightless, it settles between the seams, carries you,
Warming your thin skin, melting the ice.
And you lighten.

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SIX POEMS by Nick Maynard

I Am A Shadow

I watch
I see but I do not look
I know but I do not understand
There is a flash of insight and then it’s gone.
I am ether.
I am either or…
From the moment of conception
this protection is ambiguous
All sights and sounds, and movement is filtered
scrubbed within an inch of its life of every nuance
No secret ever escapes the vault
No tell tale glances
No discrete whispers and hidden grins…
I’ll leave no clues for you
I am a shadow
A dark cloud
I cannot survive in the sun
or swim free into the sea
for if I do, I fear I’ll give myself away.
People will see me glisten
and they will see me…
They will look and they will not understand
They will not have any flash of insight
They will despise me.
In my eyes they will see reflected back
All the hate they bate me with.
Ambiguity will be gone
All sight and sound, and movement will be analysed,
criticised and brutalised.
I will not be able to escape their glares
Their stares…
I’ll be able to go now here without their judgment…
I watch
I see but I do not look
I know but I do not understand
There is a flash of insight and then it’s gone.
I remain ether.

 

We Are All Made Of Stars

A fellow passenger travelling through the dark backside of night
I notice a kindred spirit in him.
A hug from a stranger
Stranger hugs than looks.
We have stars made for us
and Lou sings…
But it’s over before it begins.
A dark spirit travels through the night
and the fellow passenger notices him.
I look at my reflection in the window
and see a devil on my shoulder,
scrying glass clear…
a tear falls…
some one calls from the other side…
and the daemon wakes…
a pinch of salt will blind him…
a spell will bind him.
A fellow passenger travelling through the other side of the looking glass.
He sits at my shoulder
and Lou sings…
The stars are made for us
and they all fall as we fall…
We are all made of stars.

 

The Last Thought

That last thought –
That letting go –
The anticipation of what will follow…
as the train pulls away –
that Brief Encounter
that Casablanca…
that grit in the eye
that stiff upper-lip –
quivering…
hiding everything..
No Celia Johnston –
Just you and I, on a platform
saying, ‘good-bye’ –
Public –
Not private –
Open –
Not closed…
In –
Not out…
as the train pulls away,
and I wish I could say,
‘I love you…’
‘I’ll miss you…’
but I’m too much of a Coward
and not Wilde enough.

 

Going

Standing in the way of something –
Obscured by my own sight,
I cannot see the horizon anymore.
Scales have formed in front of my eyes.
I’ve become cold blooded –
waiting for the sun to rise in the East.
I gaze out towards a setting West –
dreaming of slows boats,
and floating junk upon the water…
of the spires of light,
and heavenly nights of sticky dreams,
and sweaty, sweet meets –
and fleeting treats –
and nothing but that matters –
but that which the sun has burnt upon my retinas –
White hot and ice tea dreams,
of nothing but blind forgiveness.

 

Summer

Dancing in corn flowers –
baking in the sun
running through the endless fields –
when you and I were one.

Those memories of endless fun
of summers without time
of swimming in the ice cold stream
with nothing between yours and mine.

To have the chance to go back there
and know what I know now.
What would I do so differently,
to change the here and now?

 

Take Me Away

‘take me away’ –
the train seems to say –
‘take me away
from all this…’
No ticket I fear,
could move me from here
from the rumbling sound of all this.
My pain seems to wake,
in the screeching of breaks,
and the mumbling sound of it all…
An engine gilds into view
I’m reminded of you –
When we met and we parted
from here.
It’s the beginning and end,
my lover – my friend –
and the trains trundle by just the same…

Ode to My Cancer Journey by Jackie Smith

Ode to my Cancer Journey by Jackie Smith

Part 1. The fear and the funny

This year started off with words no one wants to hear
Grim faces in the consultant room filled me full of fear
The doctor relays the news that l have cancer
That’s not what l expected is my tear chocked answer

Leaflets and appointments in hand
Detailing what treatments have been planned
Drive home with a mindful of trepidation
New year had just passed and having to tell family, friends, colleagues, filled me with frustration

As the news spread the love and support I received was beyond my expectation
Flowers, cards and words that have filled me with motivation
Sympathy has not been sought and not been received
Just words that have encouraged me to get through this and not let cancer succeed

Chemo a word you don’t expect to be part of your everyday vocabulary
Six months of three weekly therapy
A cocktail of drugs to kill the bad cells
Ten days plus of feeling like hell

Hair fell out after second chemo treatment
Bald at 50+ was not in the life choice agreement
Bandanas have been my choice of head gear
At least me head shape is not as l feared

Toxic body, toxic poo
Make sure no one follows me at least 3 hours after going to the loo!
Drugs to help you through the chemo effects
Including steroids which l am hoping don’t result in muscles that are too big to flex

My last chemo treatment is due to come to an end
But the journey continues a little longer my friends
Scans will be done and results relayed
Let’s hope it’s the results for which we all have prayed

Part 2.
Scan results day
Has the chemo worked and blasted the tumour away.
Nervous smiles as my name is called
Everything crossed even my toes.

Consultants head down flicking through notes
No expression as he clears his throat
We are pleased to say the chemo has been successful
The tumour is no longer detectable

The journey continues just to ensure
Any stray cells are captured and shown the door
A bit more treatment to have to swallow
Surgery is planned and Radiotherapy to follow

New procedures maybe ahead
Some that fill me with a sense of dread
But the end of treatment is in sight
And all this will have been worth the fight

Part 3
At last the day of surgery
The next stage of this journey
Early start to the day
Up at the crack of dawn as they say

Nil by mouth so no breakfast for me
Not even a sip of tea
Stare at the toaster but not today
Hoping my food craving would go away

Castle Hill Ward 16 was my destination
Found it easily without any frustration
Booked in and all ready to start
Nursing staff guiding me through each part

Consultant, anaesthetist, gained my consent
My trust in them one hundred percent
Injected, just a small scratch
Wish l had a pound every time they say that

Tubes inserted, scanned and filled with nuclear dye
It turns your skin blue for a while
Ready and waiting watching tv
Wish l had been watching England’s semi final victory

Instructed to get dressed in stockings and gown
It was my time to go down
Walked through to the treatment room
Trying to shrug off my sense of doom

Staff checked paperwork to ensure they have the right person
Don’t want to wake up missing the wrong organ
Lie down for one more injection
Take a deep breath from this oxygen mask no time for reflection

Dreaming but voices telling me to open my eyes
Feeling battered and bruised mouth really dry
Babbling words of no sense after surgery
Back to the ward for my recovery

Eat, drink, a pee and you can go home today
Performed all three l am glad to say
Consultant informed me all had gone to plan
Filled with joy l thanked him and shook his hand

Homeward bound
Exercise plan in hand
Surgical stockings to wear for a week
It was torture in this summer heat

Recovery is going to plan
Time again to wait for results of surgery and scans
Sometimes this journey has been close to hell
But l am winning and will soon be ringing the bell.

Part 4.
The seasons have passed since my cancer battle started
The Beast from the East and no heating left me downhearted
Summer arrived with temperatures smashed
My hot flushes made summer a blast

Prescribed Tamoxifen to keep the cancer away
5 years of 1 a day
Hair growing back, its currently short and grey
Think l will probably keep it that way

Radiotherapy was the last stage of treatment
15 sessions to help ensure l never get back the demon
I counted down each day
When I didn’t have to undress and have my breasts on display

There is a bell that you ring on your last day of radiotherapy
3 rings as a gesture of the Cancer Warriors victory
The final day of treatment has arrived l can yell
Yes it’s my time to ring the bell

Doctors, nurses, volunteers, the support teams too
Have made this journey easier to get through
A chat, a laugh, a smile was never too much
Each one providing that common touch

The cancer battle takes almost a year of your life
The gift at the end has no price
It’s time to end my cancer story
And for me the cancer battle has ended in glory

Dedicated to family, friends and all the staff at Queens, Castle Hill and to all the Cancer Warriors.

John O’Hare – Learning to Fly, Moving On, In With the In Crowd

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In_With_In_Crowd_2018_300dpi

“The works relate to themes of escape and transcendence. They are based on a short film of a performed action which is broken down into frames, drawn and put back together into a composite image. I like the effect of the traces of ourselves in a former situation or state forever following us then forming part of the next place or stage we reach. The idea that the more elaborate our attempt to overcome the mundane and ordinary the more rooted in reality we become; weighed down by ambition and all the more real and human for it.”

The image “Learning to Fly,” is based on a short film of a person flapping their arms attempting flight in an empty car park.

The image “Moving On” is a recorded snapshot of an expressive dance whilst the overall impact of the composite image is that of someone haunted by ghosts that wrestle to pull the body up from the ground.

The final image “In With the In Crowd” uses the recorded act of getting up as a metaphor for progress. In this case progress is the attempt to be accepted by the majority and the result of the drawing process is a group united by their differences rather than their similarities.