I was in an interesting place for most of last summer. Aftet my father died, I spent a lot of time at my mother’s house on Anglesey, and the fact I was already off work was something of a godsend. To be honest, there were just lots of days, one after another, with me and my mum just getting on with living, watching tv, cooking food, idly chatting about something and nothing.
There was something of a distraction in the middle, with our wedding – which would never have happened if not for some of the best friends a person could ever wish for – but I was very much a bystander in my own life for quite a while.
But the world, ignorant bastard that it is, keeps on turning. Shit keeps happening. People live and die without so much as a by your leave. The pictures of the two little brothers washed up on a Turkish beach did send a spark of reality into my wooly haze. The reactions of the press and social media actually impacted on my thinking, and I started talking to people about it, especially on facebook. I undertstood the effectiveness of shocking images in creating a real public outcry, but that didn’t mean that all and sundry should share those pictures in their statuses like random clickbait. We couldn’t do much for those children, I couldn’t do much, but I could ask people sharing the pictures why they were, and if they would consider using another image, because maybe the one thing we could do was try to give them some dignity in death.
I had some really interesting, thoughtful discussions with people I hadn’t spoken to for a long time, and actually felt like I was starting to think again, in some small way. I lay in bed, still thinking over what had happened, and how people were responding to it, and also, the awful, horrible reality of what had happened to that family. I had an odd, recurrent image of an illustration from Charles Kingley’s book, The Waterbabies, of a small, cherubic child sinking down through the depths of the sea, and it wouldn’t leave me. More than the image, the words, ‘Oh my babies, my poor waterbabies…’ kept running through my head, and it took me a little while to recognise the process; I was writing. Writing like I used to. Writing a poem, by repeating and repeating word and rhythms until it would take shape. Part of me was watching myself do this, fascinated, as it had been so long since I wrote anything like poetry.
So, I wrote a few lines, slept a while, dropped them onto facebook for want of anywhere else to put them, and that was that.
I had some really nice responses and a few shares over the next few days, which was lovely. But much more importantly, I felt like I had something of myself back that I had been missing. Times have been up and down since then, but that part of me that wants to craft words into a shape and share them with other people is still there. I’ve written a few things since then, and I’ll share them here with a little bit of context around each one, as suits.
But here is that first one. It’s not perfect, and I think the rhythm isn’t ideal, but it’s the one that my mind wanted, and so it’s the one it has.
I was once told a story about Waterbabies,
And how they were lost, unloved and alone.
Til at last they found sanctuary under the waters
And were taught of the kindness from which love is grown.
But oh my babies, my new Waterbabies,
You were loved so much more than comfort and home.
But you have learned nothing but ruthless exclusion,
And how crocodile tears swell the morning tide’s foam.