Monday, February 27, 2017


who taught my heart to live
outside my body? as if it were
a creature always looking for a home
I am more than a shell but still
it leaps lion-bold after new smiles
frog hopping towards tiny fingers
growing wings at the sight of sunsets

sometimes I have to chase it down
when it's given itself to someone far
away, only the elastic of my veins to
keep me on the trail of the hunt

sometimes it tries to run in every
direction at once, aspiring to crimson
starburst, a carmine firework overhead
I ache, I ache

I had it locked away once, caged so
it could only sniff at the scent of
others passing; rattling my bones and
murmuring in my sleep. I tried to hide
its teeth and claws, its yellow eyes,
the hunger, the hunger. I still carry
the padlock of fear, rusted with resolve
but it does not hold for long

every time the beast escapes me
it feeds, grows. my skeleton grows brittle. when someone hands back
my heart, torn and bruised
strangely sated - it hurts
to squeeze it back
into the cave of my chest

I have to nurse it back to health
together we water the garden
beds of my ribs and watch the
tender shoots of peace curl up
and I rearrange my innards
making room for what we've taken
in, what was learned

but it's restless, this impish heart
and quiet days alone do not sate
it for long. Soon it will be hungry again
nipping at the underside of my skin
thumping     hungry    hungry
find it, find them, find him!

Who taught my heart to live
outside my body, hunting for
the love of anyone
but me?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Loving yourself in pieces

Self-love is a tall order - a skyscraper to climb over, without ropes - when you're used to beating yourself up on behalf of other people. You know, to save yourself the effort of feeling the shock and bruise of it, the next time it starts. When a fight with yourself leaves you lying bloodied on the ground.

So the answer isn't a must, a giant should, an impossible goal. Start small. Start somewhere.  Start with the marvel of your hands gripping a door handle. With the way your lungs keep fluttering without your thought to guide them. Start with your strong legs that carry you everywhere, even when you're tired and angry and aching.

Start with the pieces of you that someone has loved before (but maybe you didn't really believe them). Look in a mirror and find one thing beautiful. What did they tell you about your eyes? Maybe the way your neck curves into your shoulder, the way your hair falls over your ears. Has someone loved the sound of your voice? The way you put words together carefully before they come out of your mouth? Start with what they told you your smile did to them.

Start with the things you think you're not supposed to love. Start with the way you insist on loving someone that you've been told you should give up on. With your resistance and stubbornness. Start with your obsessions. The way you have to straighten up the cutlery on a table, just so. And the way you keep your anger to yourself, because you don't want to burn anyone else with it. Start with your clumsiness, your sensitivity, your hurry, your yearning.

You are loved and lovable just as you are. You don't have to believe it. You don't even have to feel it, in your bones or your belly. But it's true, you are lovable. I promise.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Life in an angry city

Sydney is an angry city. And today I feel angry too, because it doesn't seem possible to live here and not be impacted by other people's rage, impatience, and lack of consideration.

I lost hours of sleep last night because once again my neighbours put their own comfort and entertainment far above anyone else's needs on the early hours of the hot morning.

On the way to catch a ferry I saw that someone desperate or angry (or both) about getting a park had somehow forced the rear of my car out about a metre from the curb. I almost cried.

It's just a car, just a thing, but it's hard not to feel something about it. To not sense the acrid aftertaste of whatever emotion or intention those now absent people leave on my property, in my little cluster of spaces that are my own.

Travelling anywhere in this city calls for a constant balance between the necessity of leaving the house and avoiding an experience that frays my nerves. Even travelling one suburb over to go to a yoga class is an exercise in stress management. Sometimes just getting to and from the class undoes the benefit of the practice, pulls me harshly out of the post-meditation ease.

I understand that it's possible to choose another reaction. To try to shrug it off, or sink into a numb complacency that "this is how it is". Perhaps even choose to believe that this is a lesson, a gift from the gods to teach me something I lack right now.

Of course it's not everyone. There are other experiences sprinkled in between the bitterness. Sometimes the convenience store cashier will make a point of catching my eye and smiling as he rings up my purchases. Sometimes the bus driver will say "good morning", or "have a nice day", and mean it.

But those who doggedly follow and spout the mantra of 'focus on the positive' have yet to give me a satisfactory solution for what to do with all those grating, very real experiences. Even if I distract myself with other things, other reactions, happy thoughts... they accumulate like sand under fingernails.

I've been here for almost ten years, and only in small pockets of time have I felt like I was truly home. There's been an undercurrent of unease the whole time, a feeling of not quite belonging. I've often said that I want to leave, only I don't know where to. That home is where family is. And it was true, for a time, that was what anchored me here.

But now some of those knit to me by blood have left, in physical and relational ways. My sister is married and lives an hour's drive and $18 in tolls away. My brother has kicked me out of his life. My closest aunt moved interstate. My grandmother is dead. My cousins are all in relationships or marriages and live far away. The family gatherings that once happened regularly have dwindled. Nobody has time.

What is left is an abiding loneliess and quiet grief exacerbated by how disconnected I am from the thousands of people I cross paths with. By all the "we shoulds" that are never followed through.  What I am left with is memories and a few close friends and a lot of sand under fingernails.

So what am I going to do with all this? Write it (I feel calmer already). Speak it (to my friends who understand what it is to be sensitive in this world). Dance it out (I'm on my way right now). And plan, search for a place that will feel like home.


Photograph of an artwork by Tatsuo Miyajima