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Words To Live By 2020

Published by holly, 2020-09-29 11:57:58

Description: This book is the result of The Word Association’s second Words To Live By project – a six month writing course that benefits individuals who have battled long term mental illness. The project was supported by The National Lottery’s Community Fund and features a collection of poetry and prose from a gifted and diverse collection of writers.

Featuring the work of: Alison McIndoe, Memoona Ahmed, Rosie Elizabeth, Rhianna Levi, Michelle Barnes, Emma Lord, Colby Fierek, Jay Rose Ana, Oliver Bliss, Becky Leonard-Dixon and Nicola Longworth-Cook.

The project was originated and coordinated by The Word Association.

www.the-word-association.com

Cover image by Emma Lord.

www.sagaciouscatcreative.com

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ROSIE ELIZABETH (She/Her) Rosie is an accomplished horticulturist, procrastinator, trainee agoraphobic, cake eating, wordsmith. She can be found in her natural habitat, called home, tapping away on her electric notebook or disappearing between the pages of a book. WORDS TO LIVE BY 51

The Final Goodbye I woke that morning feeling something was not right, a silence that swallowed the once comforting space I called home. The cold uncomfortable air forces me to hide under my thick blankets, the dim light shining through my curtain being the only thing keeping me from going back to sleep. The day was considered a day for celebrating. Every other year we celebrated like everyone else, but not that year. I remember looking out the back window, the grass frozen in place, in the gray emptiness of diminished growth was one rose that had flowered as if it was a final goodbye. The Colour Of Life The colour of life is bold and divisive. The colour of life flows through each culture with many meanings. The colour of life can be the colour of disaster, death, rage and warnings. The colour of life is also the colour of wealth, prosperity, love. The colour of life connects us to the world. The colour of life is thicker than water but thinner than communication. 52 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Five Grans The girl that grew up surrounded by five grans. The girl was taught by them to not care what others think and to be able to smile. Now that girl only has two grans whom she loves very much. The girl grew up with a strong mum who taught her to be able to make her own decisions and be confident in them. The girl grew up with a stepdad who taught her independence and that life was not that scary. Now that girl is learning how to drive. Hell Busy was the shop, in the middle of the day shoppers frantically buying essentials as if we were on the verge of an apocalypse. Filling their trolley and baskets to the maximum. Rudely shoving past in a mad panic. The loud noise of never-ending feet and agitated voices fill my ears blocking out my thoughts. The thick streams of people against narrow maze passageways makes it almost impossible to breathe. In the end supermarkets are just a special kind of hell. WORDS TO LIVE BY 53

Anxiety Anxiety is a small blue blob that stretches to constrict my movements, whispering its needless warnings of despair. Anxiety holds so tight, I cannot move, I cannot breathe. Anxiety with big fly eyes and sharp fangs refuses to let me explore. Lockdown Isolation. I am in a world of my own, unable to leave this comfort space. Starting to go a bit crazy being here all alone as the world goes into utter meltdown. This is a strange time indeed. 54 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Toenail Clipping Science has proven that the moon is in fact a toenail clipping. This shocking evidence came after testing of the surface by world famous scientists from Cambridge University last Tuesday. The head scientist has confirmed as of this morning that DNA testing is ongoing, and we should have an update in two weeks’ time. The Fairy Pools On The Isle Of Skye The sky is filled with brooding ever present dark granite clouds, that loom over the swirling green sea of grasses. Small termite mounds like pyramids rise above the ground covered in silky pale grass, shaping this serene landscape. I stand there huddled in my waterproof coat as I try to stay warm against the stream of cool air that passes through me. WORDS TO LIVE BY 55

School Hyper, loud and excitable, you were a terrifying force to face day to day. There was never just one, but dozens of loud excitable smiling faces. However, over time I grew a thicker skin and saw past the noise, but by then it was too late. Panic Attack I am in pain My energy has been zapped I can’t take any more information right now I know I look odd but please do not stare For I am in pain. 56 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Mummy Mummy why is daddy mean? Mummy why does daddy shout? Mummy why does daddy not listen to me? Mummy why does daddy laugh at me? Mummy why did daddy hurt you? Mummy why did daddy hurt my brother? Mummy why do I have to see him? The Spider Spindly legs that look like fine strands of hair, a small framed body that looks like a clump of dust. Fast moving, scuttling across the room, the world’s finest gymnast. It scrambles away from the big predator eyes, seamlessly slipping into shadow, into safety where it watches the world go by. WORDS TO LIVE BY 57

Spring In Malvern Exploring the peaceful environment, the only noise is that of the individual songs of wildlife creatures. The breeze whistling through the trees and rustling through the plant life. Slowly walking through nature looking at the bluebell meadow, in the far distance the farmer’s deep golden fields stand amongst the green patchwork of endless countryside that runs on for miles. The gentle breeze cools me from the spring sun. Recovery Acceptance of self, lifting the fog that clouds the mind Acceptance of help, leads to understanding and self-forgiveness Acceptance of others, knowing you are not alone. 58 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Digital Girl I feel the electric buzz as my fingers slip through the vibrant screen of my laptop. The screen moves like a ripple in a pond as my curious fingers reach out for the object on the other side of this thin layer of plastic and electricity. I eagerly pull back my hand, out from the screen, having grabbed the object. I feel the pull of the plastic as it struggles to keep a hold of me and of the object I have taken from it. The electricity running through my veins, burning, fizzing and filling me with adrenaline and excitement. I know that there is nothing that could hold me back now. WORDS TO LIVE BY 59

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RHIANNA LEVI (She/Her) Rhianna is a recent English Literature graduate aged 21, qualified as a TEFL educator, going on to train as a secondary English/PSHE teacher. Her passions include mental health advocacy, education, animals, social media and films/television. WORDS TO LIVE BY 61

A Shiver Of The Spine A shiver of the spine makes the hand drop a pen, A shiver which has not been grasped by the courage of the cold. This shiver continues to be consequential of the anxiety in my head. This shiver pierces my eyes, tormenting troubled tears, I register the shiver as an expression of agitation. Dense in its burden on my biting back. But as the tears fall, they evaporate in this sunlight. I remember who I am, Far more than a shiver of the spine. 62 WORDS TO LIVE BY

One Book A primitive book in its solitude on one stage. Dedication to educate; kindle those spirits buried within grainy attributes of the mother nature’s ground. Pages creased in intimacy, produced through philanthropy. Elementary in its input in the formation of self-care. Never are you alone with a book in your presence, A material vocal in its dedication, revisited time after time. I will never not advise literature to be the most prominent weapon of the world. Crafted on the worktable, tables which have seen so many books. Each a collection of history, philosophy, stories, passion. Paper an expression of the history of human history. There is peculiarity in focusing your head on something that will outlive you Perhaps it will endure upon the end of time. But for now, I shall not dwell on the facts of oblivion and mortality, Instead I will pick up a book in its solitude on one stage. WORDS TO LIVE BY 63

Sleep Visions My eyes may be closed, Yet my mind is on fire. The dreams grasp my being, Swallowing me whole. Sleep enchants, yet haunts the sensations. Russian Roulette of what the mind will next conjure. Shall it be a dream filled with aspiration, hopes, desires? Or night terrors built upon fear, apprehension, isolation? Upon awakening, my recollection is small, Yet the sensations remain for days on end. Weeks. Months. Sleep is made of mystery. There remains uncanny uncertainty surrounding my mind palace at night, fuelled by lucidity. Uncertainty of entering the unknown each night. Uncertainty of the contrasting dark and light. Uncertainty of the lack of control through mind’s interior eye. Am I truly here or is this yet another dream within a dream? 64 WORDS TO LIVE BY

An Ode To Type One Bipolar Disorder My mind can at times be engulfed, like a stream suffocating in the fire. Fire embodying a constant fluctuation. Mania and depression. At least five times a day. Am I broken? No. Am I relieved? Absolutely. I have only recently become conscious to the idea that we are all flawed, but those flaws have not be fastened by the devil’s call. My brain merely needed its voice to be heard and understood. Therapy and medication will be a life long duration, But quite frankly I will take that and finally feel worthy of living. It is the name of the game to often feel like a slave to the mind. Trapped by tears caused by enthusiasm and the longing to gage control. Control which is never really grasped, swiftly witnessed in passing. But this is far from a poem of hatred. Instead it is an ode. An ode to my bipolar disorder which continues to be part of my very being. My being which strives to help others and to make the world better off. People have asked me recently how I feel? I just say “It is what it is, a dice has merely rolled”. I have a diagnosis, quite the opposite of a deafening sentence. WORDS TO LIVE BY 65

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MICHELLE BARNES (Bunnylove) (She/Her) My name is Michelle, I am a Mum to four beautiful children, and a Nanny to three adorable Grandchildren. I am blessed <3 XXX I write poetry from the heart... A moment, A feeling, A person, A situation, Everything has a purpose, Has a meaning, I write to express how I’m feeling inside, An outlet, A release. You don’t have to write poetry, You don’t have to write stories, It doesn’t have to make sense, To get your mind on paper, Mental health is difficult, Everyone copes differently, Maybe this could work for you … X I hope you enjoy reading my poems ... <3 XX WORDS TO LIVE BY 67

My Earth Angel (Dedicated to my Auntie Lin Lamb) Prayers are said in times of need Help her - I beg, I plead… My world and more she is to me She’s just like a Mum you see She listens She helps She gives advice She’s got a heart of gold As pure as can be She’s loved by everyone, not just me My happy place My escape I chill-out there And I feel great Just chatting sometimes ‘til late She protects me from all I hate As seeing is believing, that is what they say But we can’t see inside her, if she really feels okay I know she’s been through so much turmoil and it seems she’s on the mend And seeing is believing, but when does it really end It was nice seeing her yesterday It meant so much to me I’ll hold her hand every day, just to make sure she’s okay It meant so much just to see her face Looking good, although she did ache This last week, my heart’s been shedding a tear Emotional as I hold her so dear Knowing that we almost lost her I couldn’t bear the thought What would I do without her? I’d get captured in my thoughts I’d be lost with no escaping You’re asking why this that I do tell? 68 WORDS TO LIVE BY

People don’t get to hear it But my life would be like hell I admire the way that she is People love her even from afar It’s like she’s everyone’s shining star She gets tired from her visitors As there are so many that do love We’re being a little selfish, but with Auntie Lin we can’t get enough Our needs are met when we see her face, love and care and sweet embrace But we know she needs her sleep as well Just five minutes to see her is fine Then we’ll leave her, but forever in mind I know that she will fight this, there is so much left to do Holidays with Corinne, Jenny and also Lou I’ll be around, just keep me away sitting on the sofa as I rant away I know that I maybe negative and I talk and maybe stress her out But she’s my safe zone and I know she won’t shout You usually have your Mum for this best friends so they say She’s like a Mum so very true perfect in each and every way My Auntie, who I truly adore Love forever and so much more She’s helped me out with love and care Just by being her and being there Thank you from the depths of my heart You’re my angel on earth through light and dark My thought, my prayer, my every wish Millions of hugs from me and a great big kiss xx WORDS TO LIVE BY 69

Appreciation (Dedicated to Pete Roach 1959-2019) Things are so different now It hasn’t really sunk in Feel it can’t be true We’re living in this life now This life now without you You were the one we’d turn to When our kids weren’t at their best You were there in an instance In the bad times but also best The holidays, the time we shared with you and Mick there was no test The time, the love and care, you never loved us any less A Godfather you’d put to shame, the Dads that were the best The gifts you bought The time you taught A caring ear to listen Now we’re left right here on earth, and with you we are a missing The cakes you made just so divine, skills passed on to Cody in time The arts and crafts and all the laughs,‘cause you, Pete, could be totally daft The lifts, the help, the mealtimes out Financial adviser without a doubt A true support our contact line, when there was a problem or we were feeling fine You calmed things down You’d understand We’re so going to miss you being around You lifted us up, made us see sense Heaven surely has taken the best Your selflessness, the way you were My children didn’t want for nothing at all You made it so much easier being us, and helped us through in times of need To console my children because you care What will we do, now you’re not there? 70 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Sentimental Heart Walking to work with tears on my cheek He’s on my mind always, even when we speak He has a place in heaven now and I know he’ll be loved But he has so many plans time wasn’t enough You live for one day and this is so true But you don’t expect to wake up one morning and your life become blue I still can’t believe it, it still can’t be true How can we live in tomorrow and not be with you? I remember that conversation, you made me cry I walked away with a heavy heart ‘cause I try my best to get by I’m a sensitive soul with a jealous inside My children are my world, I’m not going to lie You were there protecting them. Cody for sure The words you said, I didn’t want to hear them no more Maybe I’m too soft but I love them with ease… Words get to me and I pick out bits to believe My heart is hurting and part of me died Just want to talk with you I don’t want to say goodbye Show me a sign, so I know you’re there I love you so much and I really do care Just wish every tomorrow you could be there WORDS TO LIVE BY 71

Dedicated To Yvonne To the little lady upon the street Who’s so polite each time we meet To the little lady upon the street Full of smiles and extremely sweet To the little lady standing there Just want you to know I really care You’ve touched my heart so very true I wish the world was better for you I don’t know your story the reasons why But sometimes thinking of you, it makes me cry To the little lady full of care Loads of love you have to share To the little lady with stories to tell I wish you always to be well To the little lady I have the privilege to know Be safe wherever you Yvonne xx All my love Michelle x 72 WORDS TO LIVE BY

I’ll Be Your Friend Hey you!! Right there!! Are you alright? How was your day? How was your night? It’s contagious when you smile at me It sets my spirits high Uplifts me… It warms my heart to know your name A warm welcome That’s my aim I’ll look out for you as I do for all A message, a wave maybe even a call It’s contagious when you smile at me Shows the world can be friendly I’ll reach out and give you a hand When you’re lonely and no one seems to understand I’ll be your friend You can count on me It’s contagious when you sing that song The lyrics sound like a familiar song I’ll sing it with you I’ll be right there I’ll hold your hand As the lyrics we share It’s contagious when you sing that song Makes me feel in my soul I belong On the stage right by your side I don’t need to be alone I don’t need to cry I’ll be your friend if you’ll be mine WORDS TO LIVE BY 73

I’ll be your friend You can count on me It’s contagious that laugh Thanks for sharing with me It’s so nice to meet you I hope you remember me Times are so precious Moments go fast But time spent laughing Is a time made to last It’s contagious that laugh Thanks for sharing with me I’ll be your friend You can count on me 74 WORDS TO LIVE BY

The Mask We Carry You paint a picture Full of delight Yet inside it’s heartache A dull aching fight Torture! But beauty shone to the world Strong Brave But inside a little girl Your head’s messed up Full of dread Wanting an escape Arms of safety Not torment You battle You face it Day by day You won’t let anything stand in your way Anxious days A scream in sight But Your babies need you Day and night No escape Standing brave Carrying on But needing to be saved Laughing, singing songs What you do best Happy and feeling blessed But what’s beneath emptiness? The dream of sleep Staying strong But feeling weak… WORDS TO LIVE BY 75

She Was She was damaged Bitter and bruised Unloved and feeling used She wanted to move on Find that place to belong Be in a world full of birds singing Like a beautiful song She was scared Afraid Lonely Found it hard to reach out She wanted a friend But she couldn’t shout out She was ashamed to be her She was ashamed that she failed She was ashamed she didn’t see She was ashamed that love was blind That the mind couldn’t see As the heart blocked it out Now a prisoner of misery It’s hard to escape when you know that it’s wrong But the immense feelings of love Makes you believe they will change somehow She forgives and forgets But it’s a sequel of torment Then she’s lost, but she realises Although left with a feeling of regret Wishing that they hadn’t even met 76 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Wasted time Now a lost soul Trapped In her own thoughts A mind of thunder She always goes over things Often wonders Was it her? What did she do? Could she change that dark world to blue? She blames yourself She just wants to forget How can a love so strong Be one she regrets? She’s stronger now But she’s lost her trust Twenty questions, she doesn’t just want lust A love to treasure Be by her side Hold her hand Be by her side No lies No drink to get in the way Compromise Be a team She wants to have that perfect dream A trust to take the pain away She wants to be happy That’s her aim WORDS TO LIVE BY 77

May You Be Accepted May the trees always blossom May the flowers always grow May the sun always shine May it rain or maybe snow May my family always be healthy Along with my friends and suffer little pain May the world live in harmony May people see the right from their wrong May we all rejoice and be together as one May each individual be accepted Until they prove us wrong Show them that this world is somewhere where they belong Listen to the silence Listen with your heart It speaks with so much energy It’s the shouts that wound and scar May you be there and put your hand out Be strong and don’t let go Mental health is silent Where it is you just don’t know It’s in the face that smiles right back at you It’s in the brightest song It’s in the laugh and joyous place It’s right there all along It’s in the mind and erupts the soul It’s a mask hidden all so well So be that someone be right there Don’t judge you cannot tell 78 WORDS TO LIVE BY

May the mind take away the painful thoughts May our minds banish negativity from our head May our minds realise the good Escaping from the dread In a world where there is evil Let’s take a step that’s right But your battled with your choices days and also night Live in the happy shadow Stay away from gloom and hurtful torment People aren’t out to get you It’s all the words stuck in your head You’re a person that’s so special We’re loved each one and all Stay upon the right track don’t become the fool Be thankful for what god hands us Don’t let greed get in your way Each day when life’s a struggle, Remember everything will be okay Be happy with your blessings Appreciation won’t be far In heaven our loved ones lost, shine down from every star WORDS TO LIVE BY 79

I Am Me Born Black I stand here strong Yet this world Makes me feel I don’t belong Is it my skin? As my heart beats the same My blood is like yours So what is your pain? I have the same soul But I’m black Is that what I’ve done wrong? I’m a hard-working citizen For my family to keep And my heart cries for you But I will never lose sleep A victim Yeah, here I stand Wanting to do right But no one’s hand to hold No one in sight It’s not everyone Yet this is how I feel My brothers may fight May beg or may steal Yet here I am trying to make things real Plus, that cannot go on the colour of my skin Anyone can make those choices within 80 WORDS TO LIVE BY

I’m gay I’m lesbian I’m transgender That’s true I may dress up like a woman for fun that’s what I do I may be confused Trying to figure things out But I want to be happy that’s without a doubt I was born in my body without a choice The feelings I faced Buried deep within me As this world made it hard for me to be free To be happy To be who I am Is it my sexuality? As my heart beats the same My blood is like yours so what is your pain? Am I hurting you? I’m just here trying to be me I don’t want to be disgraced There’s nothing wrong with me I’m human I have feelings I have a heart Just in this world want to be a part Be accepted that’s a start. WORDS TO LIVE BY 81

Be Free Truth can be buried Deep in one’s heart Scared of the answers That stand in one’s path Truth can be buried May never be shared Loved ones untold and so unaware Truth can be buried Like living a lie Life carries on Time passes by But truth can hurt and cut like a knife So, you hide it away as you think that’s alright But yet Truth needs to be spoken Truth needs a voice Truth needs honesty Truth needs choice Speak out Don’t torture yourself or the ones that you love Don’t hide Confess, its time You might be hiding something That people need to know Family and loved ones A whole world maybe even so 82 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Don’t bury the truth To protect a lie Even though you’re scared There may be times you’ll cry Loved ones will be hurt that maybe so But least the truth they then will know Speak out Be free from yourself Be free from that doubt Loved ones will stand by you Although it may be hard at first Don’t let truth be buried Let truth speak out WORDS TO LIVE BY 83

We Really Got To Think All the dangers, all the diving All the drugs and all the knifing We really got to think… All the friends but then the enemies All the trust but then the lies We really got to think… All the kindness but then the hatred All the sly kinda misbehaving We really got to think… Be true to who you are Don’t follow no one’s lead You think they are there to help you But it’s just a selfish need They take advantage of your kindness ‘Cause your always there behind ‘um It’s just pure greed We really got to think… There’s a path that’s always judged though Cause we smoke a load of drugs though It’s illegal maybe true But am I really hurting you? Drink has a lot to answer too but it’s ok to be able to We really got to think… There’s the Mums and all the Dads too We make mistakes that’s life too It’s held against us fiercely But mistakes are a reality We got to learn somehow No one showed us how to We really got to think now… 84 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Then the guys they get all hurt now Children kept as weapons how They helped to create the child now They wouldn’t be here any other how We really got to think… If they prove to you they’re ok They limit the contact anyway Can anyone take the pain away? The child is missing them daily It’s the children that are missing out Surely it can be sorted out Not everyone deserves the chance But until they prove the opposite Can’t you just cooperate? We really got to think… It’s hurting and it’s payback You think back to memories that are amazing The negative takes over and clouds that Our mind takes over and drowns that But that child deserves two parents Now that’s a fact We really got to think… All the suicides through the torture ‘Cause they want to see their sons or daughters They want to do it the right way But they try with all their might though The support not there for them anyhow So, they turn to drink and drugs now We really need to think… WORDS TO LIVE BY 85

One Dad, One Mum, that’s the truth But some situations change that too Blood may be a connection But pain can cause the rejection You got to prove your worth not to others but to you I will always do what’s right Mistakes? Yeah, once or twice But in all I’m rather nice Won’t put up with no one’s lies Just hate the word goodbye I like to hold on to people tight Yeah, we really got to think… All the homeless But we judge them We don’t understand or realise the reasons though Some they don’t help themselves though But others have no choice though The addiction is their illness Although it’s their choice to take the pill though But it doesn’t make them bad though We don’t know the life they’ve had though But the gangsters that push the drugs though On the youngsters to do their runs though Vulnerable and want to impress Then the drugs run their lives leaving them in a mess We really have to think now.. We have to protect our children now Life is just so cruel now We really have to think… 86 WORDS TO LIVE BY

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EMMA LORD (She/Her) Emma Lord is a writer and photographer. Her writing focuses on poetry, and short stories. As a photographer, she specialises in animal portraits, and creating fine art. Based in Wiltshire, Emma lives with her husband, son, and many rescue animals. Emma uses personal writing and photography projects to help raise awareness of various causes, all of them concerning subjects close to her heart. These include mental health awareness, parenting, and animal welfare. Find out more about Emma at her website: www.sagaciouscatcreative.com And follow her blog at: www.thephotographersway.org WORDS TO LIVE BY 89

Kindness “Knowledge is power” Is a strange way of seeing life. Not that knowledge isn’t a grand thing, in itself Don’t think though, that it gives you power. No. Power comes from the heart, the soul Every time that we pause a while, and Show kindness to others, we are also Showing our power as human beings. 90 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Black Dog People speak of the ‘black dog’ As though the words together mean something too terrible to say out loud. But I like dogs, and I like black too. And when my black dog visits, I don’t see a black dog at all. I call it by its name; depression. Black is the colour of the night sky deep and unending, the canvas upon which the cosmos is painted, in glorious bursts of light. Black is the pupil, the window to a soul flexing to express uncontrolled emotion, opening wide to release love from within. Black is the crow, who came to our garden and stood looking at me proudly as I looked back, admiring its beauty. Black is the deepest of colours, a bottomless well which holds opportunity. Today, the crow is back and I pause, to admire it. Because black is beautiful. WORDS TO LIVE BY 91

Learn With Mother Walking together not hand in hand, but close to one and other, we explored the country lanes on foot. The yellow beam from her torch, and the jingle of the dogs’collars leading the way. Looking upwards, she would point to the sky, telling me of the Moon cycles and showing me Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, Orion, and his belt. And occasionally, if we were lucky, the Milky Way. These were some of my favourite times of the summer holidays. Mother and daughter, looking up, and falling down, into the never-ending night sky. I took my own son walking one evening recently He’s two; we held hands as we went. Stopping to look up, he pointed … “star”he said, his eyes alight with wonder. I knelt to hold him, and we looked for more stars. As I reached up to trace The Plough above us, my mind wandered back to those warm summer nights spent exploring with my own mother. And in that moment, three generations were joined as one; all of us children of the stars, travelling together through the Universe. 92 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Rewind On returning home I rewind the evening in my head. Entering through the exit door and handing my coat to the usher then walking backward into the room, where I pick up my empty glass from the tray. I stop, to look for you and see your shirt, as you blend into the crowd. Stepping carefully between people I catch you up, and as you turn to face me your features are set in the hard lines which were created by my words. I take it all back Everything. We start again But this time, I open with “I love you”. WORDS TO LIVE BY 93

Limericks Pink was a black and white skunk Whose home in the woods really stunk Please help me she said And big elephant Fred Hosed it all down with his trunk. There once was a moggy named Tish Whose food was served up in a dish She found this quite dull Her options did mull And decided to learn how to fish. A small stick insect lived in my ear Quite why, I have no real idea His name was James Or so he claims It really was quite hard to hear. Harry hamster just loved his big bed “It’s so snuggly and wuggly” he said One day he fell out And gave a great shout As he landed upon his wee head. There once was a puppy named Chloë Whose collar was terribly showy When she walked through the park It glowed in the dark And sparkled on days it was snowy. 94 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Flesh Cutting through the skin, I anticipate what is to come. Ready, not ready, more than ready? Easing the fruit apart opens old memories. Of living with my grandparents and experiencing the soft flesh for the first time. Digging around the stone, before scooping the smooth content onto my childish palette. My thoughts switch to you. We didn’t have avocados at home, because you wore plastic bags in your shoes and what was broken was fixed, not replaced. We had apples, often from the tree in the garden. Gooseberries, and raspberries too. But not avocados. As I pull apart the two halves, I find the fruit inside ready. Not more than ready, or not ready. I consume the flesh, and continue to think of you. I remember your youth, and vibrancy your power, and passion. But the avocado vanishes as I eat, leaving just a shell as proof that it was ever here. Your mind is vanishing too Day by day until, at last, your empty shell will remain. Damn Alzheimer’s. Damn it to hell. WORDS TO LIVE BY 95

Let There Be Light People told me that there would be light at the end of the tunnel. Apparently, there always is. I began thinking about tunnels. During waking hours, it became an obsession. Digging downwards into the ground, one only has to look back over one’s shoulder to see the light. The end of the downward tunnel is also the beginning. A quantum wormhole. No time passes between beginning and end. Just light. And a tunnel. Lying on my bed, I looked through a straw. There was light at the end of it. Each time I raised the straw to my eye, I saw light. Time slipped past and I existed. Trapped within my own darkness. The straw came to represent sanity, it was my literal last straw. Looking through the slender tube was less mind bending than thinking of wormholes and quantum mechanics. It crossed my mind that perhaps when death comes, there is a transition. From life, through a one-way passage, towards light. And on arrival at the light, we find answers. Or not. People told me there would be light at the end of the tunnel. But days have passed and there is still no sign of it. 96 WORDS TO LIVE BY

The Chosen One Green eyes meet mine; we stare at each other across the top of the duvet. A swish of the tail, and she creeps closer, stretching towards the patch of sunlight which has broken through a gap in the curtains, and is warming her favourite spot on the bed. A purr begins, quietly at first, then building towards an uncontrollable crescendo, the rumble vibrating across the bed covers. Her eyes remain on me, inquisitive, wondering what my intentions are. Will I get up, or will I disappear further under the duvet? I know that if I retreat under the cover, she will pounce. Age makes her no less feisty. Yet she is the most loving creature I have ever known. From the moment we met, something connected, bridging the gap between us. Two souls drawn together. Of all the people in all the world this cat chose me. WORDS TO LIVE BY 97

Sunflower We passed it each morning as we drove to the station, winding our way through roadworks and traffic cones. By day, the diggers reached deep into the earth clearing the way for new road. Somehow, though much of the rest of the verge had been destroyed, the sunflower remained. Tall and cheerful, reaching upwards, it appeared unaware of what was happening. The diggers eased closer to where it grew, nibbling at the edges of the land as they continued to grind, metal on stone. And every day, I fretted. Fearful for the happy sunflower, that one morning, it would have been torn by its roots and cast aside, with the piles of earth and rubble. One night, quite late, we drove to where it grew. The machines were resting, all was quiet. He waited in the car, while I scuttled across the road, dark figure beneath orange streetlights, shovel in hand, pot at the ready. Glancing behind me, and seeing his thumbs up, I began to dig. We took the sunflower home to the safety of our garden that night, so it could continue to turn its face and welcome the Sun as it rose each morning. 98 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Moon Much truth is hidden within legend. Words crafted to create enchanted worlds of fantastical beasts, and mythical people. Shake the pages, and out fall the truths upon which the legends are built. And I should know. I am written into stories centuries old but I live. I exist outside the books; beyond the words, and the pictures. My heart drums the wild rhythm of a child of nature. Today, I feel the familiar lure, the calling of the siren in the sky. For tonight she will reveal her full face, and I will drop to all fours and howl as I worship her. WORDS TO LIVE BY 99

They’re Speaking Listen; do you hear the stars speaking? Look at them, and wonder whether you are looking up, or down. Hear them call through time and space. An interstellar journey across frozen darkness for their light to reach you, as you stand gazing, feet on earth, looking up, or down. Can you hear them? The chill at the back of your neck as you think of how distant they are. That’s the stars, speaking. The tingle in your arms, as you wonder how many there are, and which are suns, gifting life to other planets. That’s the stars, speaking. The feeling that your stomach is falling as you realise you are part of this, you have a place here, in this universe. That’s the stars, they’re speaking to you. Listen. 100 WORDS TO LIVE BY


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