Category Archives: remembering

Ochre afternoon

Ochre afternoon sifts as dry as daydreams
Dim horizon lies brittle-hard as bone
Just shadows play – just echoes laugh and scream
Who hears my aching heart singing alone?

Hoop and hopscotch memories are all washed out
Bleached arcades will not echo to my voice
Tears of ripped up rainbows fail in the drought
My soul weeps quietly at the end of choice

Ghosts have no shadows by night or day
Yet creepier far than the midnight hour
Are these sad streets where only shadows play
A childhood shorn of youth’s maturing flower

No living warms these streets we used to know
Just empty dreams that faded long ago.

Thanks to Christine for sharing the image above , “Melancholy and Mystery of a Street,” by De Chirico, which triggered this poem – this is all part of a read write poem prompt where various people shared different poems, pictures or songs that have inspired them.

Sorry to share two melancholy poems in a row… things are basically fine but I just need to work a few sad reflections out of my mind!


What remains…


some things are smashed beyond recall
some truths can no longer be spoken
the path between us, like a wailing wall,

littered with fragments of two hearts, broken
so that with any step closer, a fragment is crushed
a soul is seared to feel old wounds reopen

how sudden were the days that rushed
us headlong to this wounded end
all our sweet harmony so rudely hushed

I know what you want, but will not pretend
can’t protect myself without causing you pain
only walk away from what I cannot mend

how beautiful our world when love reigned
how bright those days before our fall
but now, ah, see what remains!

Sometimes prompts and events come together. Today I received an e-mail from my ex – I hadn’t expected to hear from him again, and sadly everything he said brought home to me how badly our communication is broken, and how much pain he is in right now. And with this in my mind I came across a  visual prompt on poefusion called “stages of grief”. Touching off words that slipped naturally into a terza rima structure. And all the time, echoing in my mind, the melancholy passion of a tango:

Hoy vas a entrar en mi pasado,
en el pasado de mi vida.
Tres cosas lleva mi alma herida:
Amor, Pesar, Dolor.
Hoy vas a entrar en mi pasado,
hoy nuevas sendas tomaremos.
Que grande ha sido nuestro amor
y, sin embargo, ay,
mira lo que quedo!

Today you will become part of my past
the past of my life
There are three things in my wounded soul –
love, regret, and pain
Today you will become part of my past
Today we will take new paths
How great our love once was
And yet, ay!, see what is left of it!

~Los Mareados, lyrics by Juan Carlos Cobian, my own translation

Flotsam of broken dreams

I walk in sunshine, yet clouds still dog my feet
My hopes are still tinged by the residue of old pain.
Endlessly in my mind fantasies of healing repeat.
How can I clear this debris from my brain?

This shadowy flotsam of broken dreams,
Of half-healed wounds and unspoken words…
I seek to escape these wistful themes
Yet they circle in my mind, like scavenging birds.

What nourishes this sullen, persistent cloud?
It feeds on my wishes for wholeness and healing.
My fantasies of speaking my truth aloud;
Of tying off the strands of our love’s unravelling.

I have scoured the darkness for wisdom’s rain
And healed my wounds as I sifted old tears.
But now there is nothing left for me to glean.
The searching is a habit, but nothing new appears.

The clouds are more a nuisance than a source of pain
And cold truth tells me there is nothing I can do
Scratching the scar just makes it hurt again.
Only refusing to look backwards will clear my skies anew.

I know this, yet my heart yearns to give its all,
To reach out and try to heal those shadows again,
Pouring the energy of my hopes into the pall –
Yet knowing there is nothing left at all for me to gain.

Soon now, I must leave those clouds to roam,
Let them drift unheeded until they erode.
But oh, the sadness of seeing clouds drifting alone
In a mist of old tears, at the end of that love’s road.

“Part of letting go is learning to live with the misunderstanding, the incompleteness and the messiness of it all” – Paul McKenna

Out of nowhere…

… a sudden pain like a stab to the heart. Why? I caught a glimpse of a photo of my ex on facebook. After all this time, sometimes there are moments when the hurt springs out of nowhere and spills over into my new life like some sludge of polluted dreams. It’s so rare these days for anything to do with him to hurt, indeed the last time must be well over a month ago, but somehow it hurts all the worse for that.

It’s strange too – it has nothing to do with wanting to see him again, or wishing we hadn’t split up. It’s just simply a flashback to the pain of breaking up… heartbreak reflux?

Songs to heal a broken heart – the memory of the feeling


“His memory will come creeping back occasionally. Only the other day I found myself weeping over a lost love, only, luckily, to wake up and remember what he was like in real life. But the pain wasn’t really anything to do with him. It was the memory of the feeling of what I imagined we had together.” Virginia Ironside

I found this quote some time ago, while still troubled by sudden pangs of grief for my old relationship. And it really put into words what I was feeling sad about – not the loss of the relationship, but the loss of the hopes.

A while back I turned this idea into a poem. And as soon as I can get to a piano I plan to turn it into another song in the set I’m calling “Songs to heal a broken heart” (see previous posts here and here). I already know what I want the refrain to sound like… I just need to find the music for the verses and the song is there.

At the moment each refrain is slightly different – I’d really welcome your thoughts on whether having different ones works, or, if I made them all the same, which one works the best?

The memory of the feeling

Sometimes my happiness falters
Tears well up with old pain.
I’m happier now it’s over –
Why do I long to see you again?

I miss the memory
Of the feeling
Of what I imagined
Our love could be

For it’s not you who I miss
Not you I’m aching to see
I simply can’t stop yearning
For the person I dreamed you to be

Just the memory
Of the feeling
Of the illusions
I dreamed of you

The man I miss never existed
Or at least, no longer exists.
I miss someone my mind created
Yet still the longing persists

For the memory
Of the feeling
Of the hopes
I cherished for us

But slowly the illusions are fading
And with them fades the pain
And the happiness my hopes created
I will someday create again

Brand new memories
Brand new feelings
Brand new hopes
Of someone new

Photo – Our memories, originally uploaded by andy-chan on flickr.

Persistent memory

Why is it that now, of all times, I find my mind constantly drawn back to thinking about my ex? Now, many months since we split up and almost as long since we last communicated? Now, when I’m starting a new life in a new city and a new country. Now when so much is happening? For weeks I’ve barely thought about him at all, and then, during the last few days before leaving the UK, the thoughts started to resurface. Not distressing, not even particularly strong. Just a constant low grade wondering how he’s doing and whether he’s reached a point where we could talk about things.

Perhaps it’s that, having started a new life myself, it nags me to have these little bits of the past left unresolved because of his unwillingness to talk. Perhaps because of the anger still inside me that I have never expressed to him. Perhaps because, having come so far in my own healing and personal growth, I have an irrational hope that maybe he has made a little progress himself, and might be open to a real discussion. Or is it just that, in transit, I have had a lot of time to think and my mind just drifts back into the worn old tracks?

In my memory he is two people – one that was open, affectionate and vividly alive, and as I thought at the time, honest and committed to truth and personal growth and communication. That person I would love to hear from again because I truly loved him. But he was suddenly replaced by someone very different, someone arrogant and driven by fear. Someone who, despite his claims, was unable to face up to the truth, and who took out so much of his pain on me at a time when I was utterly open and vulnerable to him. That person I would also like to speak to again – but with a very different purpose. I want to tell him clearly what he did and how he hurt me. I want to express the anger that I started to feel only after he had closed off communication between us. I want to make him see, not that I was perfect, because I wasn’t, but how unrealistically negative a picture of me he constructed in his mind towards the end.

These two versions of him are very different – but either way, I find myself wanting to speak to him.

But it’s fairly academic. Given our last conversation, I don’t see how anything good will come out of a conversation that I initiate. And with each day that has gone past, it seems less and less likely that he will ever have the maturity and courage to face up to the way he behaved towards me and initiate contact from his side. So communication remains as unlikely as ever.

Part of learning to let go is learning to live with the incompleteness and the messiness, the words unsaid. I have come a very long way in doing that, and rebuilding what really matters to me. And tomorrow I start my new job, which will give me more than enough to occupy heart and mind. I suspect that this period of wistful memory will soon vanish in the rush of new things to do.

But sometimes those loose ends still itch.

Returning from the dead… a patchwork poem

If you read this poem, write to me.
I had grieved, I had wept for a night and a day,
A gaunt nun in the mirror, touching herself, I learnt that
I liked you better the way you were.

(Does that come as a surprise?)

In restaurants we argued,
My shoulders falling down like teardrops.
You might have killed me with your hatefulness;
With your bitter, twisted lies.

(Did you want to see me broken?)

But finally there came the night
I looked into your blank eyes
And I knew. I knew by the sly light,
You were going away from me, dwindling.

(Why were you beset by gloom?)

Then you were gone. Then you were legend, language:
Lugging your fretful love, pathetic and hollow.
I grieved. I wept for a night and a day –
Weakened by my soulful cries.

(Didn’t I take it awful hard?)

I always believed this – “Still I’ll rise.”
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
In which at last the door fell open.
“I am going to have it”, I said.

(Does my sassiness upset you?)

And I greeted him, and asked him into the house.
My unfastened blouse gathered around, he took my mouth.
Holding each other’s splendoured things.
Pumping in the living room at the meeting of my thighs.

(Does my sexiness upset you?)

When I rose out of my sheets, his lower lip
Returned from my breasts – I howled, shrieked, clawed,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide –
Crystal swamps and the death…

(Does it come as a surprise?)

It’s then on waking I rise up glowing –
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear,
In a shawl of fine air, healed, able.

(Did you want to see me broken?)

You may write me down in history –
Croaking your cuckold name, disinherited, out of your time –
But if you read this poem, write to me:
You’ll see what our love might have done, had we loved in time.

(Does my haughtiness offend you? Does it come as a surprise?)


This is a patchwork poem, using lines from the following poems:

As Children together – Carolyn Forche
They eat out – Margaret Atwood
Still I rise – Maya Angelou
from To restore a dead child – Keith Douglas
Mrs Lazarus – Carol Ann Duffy

A visitor – Mary Oliver

This poem was produced as part of Patchwork Thursday – click here to see what other poets have done with the same source material.

The idea is to use whole lines from other people’s poems, aiming to change as little as possible, though it’s OK to change persons and tenses and conjunctions if necessary (I’ve done this a lot in this poem – I’ve also stuck some short lines together because four-line verses looked much better on the page).

I loved reading the poems that people suggested – such a strong voice in them! I was struck by the idea of sleeping with someone else after another relationship ends that comes through in the Carol Ann Duffy poem – which seemed to be echoed by some fantastic images of grief, recovery, vitality and sexiness in the other poems. And slowly it all came together – the questions in the Maya Angelou poem seeming to give a natural shape to the poem. It was quite tricky incorporating lines from poems where the line breaks fell in strange places in the sentences, but it was very satisfying when I managed to find two lines from different poems that fitted together!

It’s interesting that, as with the last patchwork poem I wrote, it’s pastly my story and partly not. The description of the fighting in restaurants and the delight in the strength of the recovery are very much mine. As, I must admit, is the feeling of wanting an ex to contact you, not because you want them back, (as they might think, and as it sounds at the beginning of the poem) but so that you can show them how vibrantly you have recovered, and how wrong they were about you.

But I’ve not used sex as a path to recovery – the sex came in because I loved the lines and enjoyed putting them together in this way. And I’m nothing like as bitter as the mood of the last verse suggests – none of the poems had lines that quite allowed me to express my real thoughts about my ex, but there were some great lines that I decided I’d use instead even if they gave it a much angrier ending.

The title, of course, reflects the Lazarus story in Carol Ann Duffy’s poem – but here it’s the woman who returns to life.