I’ve got a more cheerful poem for you today, I hope. That is to say, I think it’s more cheerful, but maybe you’ll disagree! If you’re wondering what’s going on, you probably missed my post yesterday explaining my plan to share a poem each day until Christmas, most of them from my first collection (Crossroads Poetry). tl;dr: I’m giving you a poem and a few thoughts about it, wahey.
This poem’s called “Fireworks”, and as the title might suggest, it was written at the beginning of November 2013 (probably on Guy Fawkes Night itself, or the next day). If you weren’t reading my blog at the time, this was a time when I was suffering a lot from RSI/hypermobility-related injuries in my wrists. It started in late June, and in November I was still at a stage where it was painful to hold a pen or type, so I wrote my NaNoWriMo novel that year with voice recognition software.
This inability to write and to express myself was one of the main reasons for my poor mental health at the time, since it robbed me of all my coping mechanisms, and it was also a preoccupation in a lot of my poetry since, y’know, it kind of dominated my life. Every day was a case of dealing with this injury, wondering whether I’d ever get better and ever be able to write again.
Well, two and a half years after the original injury, I can say that I got better, but it hasn’t gone away yet. I still have bad days where writing is painful. I still have to be careful not to overdo it, and I have to take frequent breaks. But I can now write and doodle and type to a reasonable extent, so things did get better. (After all, I’m typing this right now.)
What does any of this have to do with fireworks? Not a lot, but while I don’t remember the day itself, clearly the powerlessness I felt because of my wrist problems was a concern when I wrote this poem, as you’ll see quite clearly.
In an effort to understand the mindset I was in when I wrote it, I went back to my journal from 2013, and looked at the entries for the fifth and the sixth. I wish I hadn’t (but I’m also glad I did). This was such a low point in my life, and it’s painful to be reminded of how depressed I was. How I decided to do NaNo to distract myself but hit 50k in three days and somehow felt even worse.
I should go. I don’t want to. I feel like I’m talking to someone. The distractions, they’re not enough. They’re too fleeting. Everything is. The good times, they just flit away in a few hours. Nothing lasts. You wait. Time passes. What for?
I’m tired, and everything is so overwhelming and takes so much effort. A great deal of that is to do with my hands hurting, but more is my brain. […] I want to sleep. I want to cry. I want a book I can read without it giving me a headache. I want to write without speaking. I have a lot of poems inside my head. Some of them emerge, slowly, over time. Others burst out. But many die. I wish everything took less effort to do.
Writing these extracts made me think perhaps I’ve failed at making today’s poem less depressing. (Sorry.) But I think it’s important to remind myself that however terrible I feel sometimes now, it’s still better than how I felt then. Looking at where I came from makes me realise how far I’ve come, and that’s important.
So, all of this was to give you the context for the poem below, and now I’ll shut up before I make you feel even more sorry for my seventeen-year-old self and all her totally-justified angst.
— — —
I can hear fireworks burning the sky outside this box
but I’m hiding under blankets, behind music,
as they burst like gunshots into the night’s flesh.
They skitter across the bow of a spaceship you can’t see,
blowing holes in wood grown in another world.
I’m hiding, and trying not to think too much,
and there are poems filling every corner of my brain
and these useless hands won’t write them for me
so I stay in a room lit by a blued-out screen,
and occasionally falling fireworks illuminate this mess.
I want to feel them against my bare skin.
I want their colourful touch to burn itself into my body
and set my blood on fire with chemicals and fury,
to drag me from a place of retreat and smothered tears
into destruction and gloriously bright fire falling.
I can see myself in every artificial falling star tonight
like there are wishes made I’ll never fulfil for them,
and all I mean is a bright too-fast descent from on high
with a bang that jolts all sleepers into the waking world
and torments the broken poet and her aching hands.
— — —
Okay, I promise I’ll find you a more cheerful one tomorrow, even if it has to be from one of the other collections. I hope I haven’t made you all too miserable…