At the workshops, I enjoyed attempting to describe ‘the indescribable’. I realised that just by trying to write about a mystery is enough of a process to turn a handle (or a page), toward the direction of yet another mystery.
During the first workshop our group was given an opportunity to speak about our religious or non-religious lives, our early spiritual upbringings and how many of us, over the years had strayed from whatever faith-based religions we once grew up with. I was curious to hear how other folk, later in their lives, had realised and accepted varying conversions to different organised faiths.
I enjoyed thinking over the potential of one particular moment— capturing present time and place to one particular sensation. Alan’s example was using the register of reading and writing Haiku. He read his own poems and read the work of other Haiku poets, many of whom I didn’t know. I enjoyed his personal selection of international poets. I have not written Haiku but will certainly try my hand at doing so in the future.
This poem developed during Alan Spence’s workshop…
I remember late at night eating cold Sunday lunch on my parent’s bed.
I remember standing in the Cathedral waiting for something to happen.
I remember kneeling with my palms open, ready for the sour taste of a blessing.
I remember the Soldier’s Chapel, but where were the soldiers?
I remember jumping long jumps in a shortish playground.
I remember balking before a wooden horse.
I remember Phar Lap’s heart pickled at the National Museum.
I remember my aunt’s vicious Siamese cats.
I remember my dad’s hard arm-swing on a chocolate wheel.
Some other things aren’t worth remembering.
I remember fish bones sticking in my throat.
I remember someone’s palm offering white, crustless bread.
I remember Christmas on the beach, gifts hidden deep in sand.
Was it the old toaster that burnt my hand?
I remember the Diphtheria Ward at the kid’s hospital,
my basement room in the nurse’s home.
But I do I remember the bald young boy with leukemia.
Because his parents lived too far away,
I took him home at weekends.
I don’t remember when he died.
Victoria Ramsay, November 2016
This poem was written quickly (within 10 minutes) during Alan Spence’s workshop.
The repetition of writing, ‘I remember’ became a clever exercise to dredge up past experiences, and in a sense be surprised at the revelatory nature of the experience. Without thinking, without too much constraint I found myself in a younger state of mind, remembering both the good and difficult experiences of childhood. Suddenly, the painful detail of a fishbone stuck in my younger throat surfaced, though I was quick to move on from it with the remedy of warm fresh bread. This poem is pretty well disclosed as it was originally written. It’s curious to understand the sequencing of memory, how one image follows another, how childhood memories see-saw weightlessly between difficult and memorable, ‘I remembers’.