This is a very late delivery, and it’s not because I’ve been stuck in the snow somewhere. It’s due mainly to having written it last week but then feeling that I hadn’t written much about the creative writing group and too much about my own stuff and I wasn’t sure that my stuff is what people want to hear about (although it is quite thoughtfully done, I think). So I left it for awhile (as all good writers should) and I’ve come back to it and made a few changes (but probably not enough).
You don’t need me to tell you that being homeless or having a problem with a property or tenancy is a common theme at Doorway. Many of our guests and/or bloggers have stories to tell of the trauma and disruption such experiences produce. In the writing group we touch on the subject but, as yet, very rarely in its particularities. I suppose what comes up for the group is how mood is often affected by a whole raft of experiences and pressures—from such a volcano (to get ever so slightly over dramatic) an eruption of emotion can flow, or at least be tapped into. Of course this can lead to a burst of creativity or be so overwhelming nothing can come out except the destructive force that leads to physical and mental disruption.
I have never been homeless or been in threat of losing my home. I’ve never had to sleep in a doorway or in a hostel. The nearest I have got is spending a couple of nights sleeping in a car, once when our tent was nearly blown down in a gale on holiday in Cornwall and on another occasion at Calais when waiting for a space on Eurostar trying to get back to England during a French fishermen’s strike (this was one of those years when the farmers were also up in arms and blocking roads and burning sheep). I suppose for me (and others) homelessness is more a state of mind; that never feeling at home, even when in a familiar space and with friends. Not fitting in easily is a difficult road to travel but having had plenty of practice I often think I can pass through places and feel they are homely enough without ever becoming comfortable (indeed comfortable is something that the artistic side of me is suspicious of as it has that gloss of self satisfaction and laziness). Which when I think about it (as one does when self absorbed in blogging) may be why I run a creative writing group—it’s there where I can often be at my most uncomfortable; in a group, very often all male, grappling with intangibles and uncertainties and being responsible for it, too (when I’d sworn to live life with as few as possible).
I’m not quite ‘born under a wanderin’ star’ either (although I do sing like Lee Marvin) because I’m very parochial, so I at least have a place to stand. And despite (or in spite) of what I have said about not feeling at home I do like a place to stand or sit, even when it’s me clinging on. I call this me in my ‘boy-stood-on-the-burning-deck’ mode. For anyone who doesn’t know of this oft parodied poem (Casabianca, to give it its correct title and written by Felicia Hemans) it relates to the dilemma of a boy on a burning ship who has been told by his father (and captain) to stay on duty and thus he calls to his father asking him if he can leave his post and save himself, unknowing that his father is already dead. The boy stays and perishes in the flames. I certainly identify with the boy, not for being dutiful or heroic but for needing permission to act. Like many people I have stayed ‘on duty’, as it were, (in relationships and jobs) when I should have been long gone. As the poet Mary Oliver says in her poem ‘The Journey’:
‘One day you finally knew/ what you had to do, and began…/ determined to do the only thing you could do/determined to save/the only life you could save.’
There is part of me that believes you can only save yourself and you need no one’s permission to do this except your own, but how many of us stay on playing chicken with the flames?
Well, that’s more than enough about what I think and feel, and I’m not sure that this blog should be anything to do with me other than as facilitator for the group, but to be so anonymous is quite difficult when doing something very public. A little voice in the back of my head keeps saying ‘What about me? When do I get my go?’ I know all about waiting in turn, but can you do it forever (I’ve been working very laboriously on a poem about tending shrines—so this might be colouring my thoughts)?
We did have a writing session this week and the best attended group yet (we couldn’t quite all fit round the table, so cosy too) and as some attendees had things they wanted to write about we had an open session that was playful and random. Music was a feature. T wanted to know the musical notation for a line from the chorus of ‘(Is this the way to) Amarillo?’ J was happy to help him out using a xylophone, but when D wanted to use said instrument to play a tune that would help him remember the words to a song he wrote a few years ago it wasn’t as successful mainly because D couldn’t remember the tune either. There’s always next time, so no pressure, D. Memory is such a haphazard thing anyway and so easily affected by internal and external factors. I always think… (no, let’s leave that for another time)
J has given me the piece he wrote and would like it posted even though it’s not finished. He’s going to work on it and then post the next version so we can see what has changed (like spot the difference—we may give prizes!!).
Our kid, you could have gone so far
more than dots and dashes in a grown-ups war?
No reason whys, no what fors
Maybe you still wait on a stranger shore.
God knows if somebody sinned
against flaxen tresses in the wind.
Leaving the need, leaving the lack
that’s always there until our kid comes back.
In all our suffering we try to forget
The suffering of a child is the hardest yet.