Tag Archives: breaking up

impossible bridge

like a roman arch
the bridge of a conversation
stands through the stones’ trusting alignment
and the solid support
of both sides.

When it stands solid
it’s child’s play to run from one side to the other
lean on the balustrade, hand in hand
and watch the world flow by.

but then one day you started kicking away
the foundation of your side of the bridge
testing each word to destruction
analysing motivations
with a chiselling eye
I lurched and fell,
mortar dissolved
in bitter tears
you kicked harder
until the keystone

and now the words of our conversations
are not a solid arc of flowing words
but stones thrown across a river
in the dark

so I sit lonely
among dust and stone and half-words
piling one stone on another
trying to build an impossible bridge
with only one pillar to support 
the half-span reaching out into empty air

in my attempts to reach you
sometimes a brick falls on you
and you throw it back, harder

so now I find myself
just sitting alone
in a futile rubble
of words you will not hear
learning bitter lessons
in engineering.

The photo is ruin, originally uploaded to flickr by annette62.


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

The room in my heart

There was a room in my heart
its walls stained by the tides of tears
and the jagged graffiti of hurtful words
its floors sagging from old expectations
and cluttered with the lead-grey jetsam
of our broken hopes.

I spent a year cleaning the room in my heart
Scrubbing the walls with shredding tissues
soaked in the tears and snot brought up
from the deepest secrets of my heart.
Separating out what was mine to repair
from what was yours.

Now, outside the room in my heart
Sits a bag full of the clutter that you
left behind you, said you did not own.
If you dare to open the zip, you’ll see
the parting gifts that my hands have made
from our love’s flotsam.

Your private door to the room in my heart
has vanished forever. So you’ll have to imagine
how freshly the colours gleam. How the walls
(stripped back to stone and plastered anew)
are damp-proofed and caressed with sun.
But not for you.

For the room in my heart is at last swept clean.
And its new door is ready to open.

A few days ago I sent my last message in the recent e-mail exchange with my ex. Gently, and affectionately – but also firmly, having set my boundaries and said what I needed to say. Which actually was surprisingly little!

I’m now pretty sure that he won’t respond. Which is absolutely fine with me. There was very little chance we could regain anything meaningful. What I wanted was to express some things I had been unable to say at the time. And feel that I had brought the messiness of last year to an appropriate end. An end that is fitting for the spirit of the good times rather than fraught with the pain of the bad times.

For several hours after I sent the message I felt a deep sense of peace and joy. And this poem tries to capture some of that feeling.

Unsent letters

tears mixed with the ink
make tender words fade
into vague memory as
with the passing of time
memory hardens into
unchallengeable myth
and all that bright hope
of healing these rifts is

This was inspired by a Poefusion prompt -to write a poem starting from the lines “Women in the silence”. And by the memory of several unsent letters I have written in my life, one of which began:

“I almost certainly will never be able to share this with you. But I have written it as a letter to you because do I want you to understand, and because I think that it would help you too, if you are ever able to open your defences sufficiently to read this with an open heart.” (me, 28 November 2008)

My muse isn’t very talkative just now, and I haven’t the time to court her. But this came to me and seemed worth sharing.


In the reunions my mind choreographs
I’m wearing that new red dress
(which flatters my figure so well)
and dancing my heart out. My feet
whirl around the axis of my heart
in the balance and joy of my return
to the centre of my self, to my confidence.
Perhaps even dancing with my new lover
(who of course has none of the flaws
of my old one.
And no flaws of his own either –
the way it is in all the best fantasies!)
Perhaps – but however gorgeous he is, it is
my own swift feet that bear me across the floor
with a sensual elegance (that in real life
they are still working on learning!)
And from the centre of that blissful spiral
I glimpse him again – that once-beloved,
half-forgotten face, watching, wistfully,
from the sidelines, seeing in a moment
the beauty and kindness and strength
of the woman he rejected. (Qualities that are
so vivid – how could he have failed to see them
even for a moment?).
He sees what he threw away.
But knows it’s too late. And as I dance on
there is compassion for him in my heart
even as my skirt swirls red and bright
with my happiness for myself.
(and maybe it’s just a dream –
but it’s a good dream!)

For weekend wordsmith’s prompt of “reunion”

The photo is red swing, originally uploaded to flickr by educated rabbit.

Enthralled heart

I look back at memories blurred by long-ago tears
And cannot recall why my heart was so eager
To trap itself in a cage of hopes and fears
In the hope of a reward that now appears so meagre

Locked up my willpower, threw away the key
Abandoned my self esteem for the poor substitute
Of glittering compliments that seemed as true to me
As the later criticism I gave up the power to refute

And peering back at those tear-faded remembrances
I feel pity and anger for him as well as for me
For the fear and confusion that were such hindrances
That they ended our love short of what we dreamed it could be

But even after months of working to free my heart from pain
Still there’s a part of me that longs to be enthralled again.

Why is it that, even when we know how painful being in love can be, we still want to fall in love again? Of course our wants change – I certainly don’t want to end up feeling so trapped and helpless again. And I’d happily swap the dizzy happiness of love’s intoxication for the stability that was so lacking in my last relationship.

But still there’s part of me that hankers for that intoxication. Those days when the world just seems brilliant with emotion. I don’t know how to explain its attraction – but I know that while the wiser part of me is cautious, there is still a part of me that longs to be enthralled again. (Enthralled seems the perfect word for this blissful imprisonment!) I suppose part-cautious, part-hopeful is a good position to be in, given the pain and the happiness that relationships can bring.

For the monday mural at poefusion – artwork by Brian at photobucket.

Untangling the last knots

One by one I have been undoing the knots of my last relationship and turning each source of pain and anger into a lesson learnt, a new strength to live by. Most of the knots were undone several months ago, and I have not been feeling miserable about the ending for a long time. But always there has been something hanging on at the back of my mind, something that I had to face before I could let go. Unfinished conversations haunting my mind like ghosts.

I think I am, at long last, reaching the core of that now. It is not easy to face, but I have been coming to understand the extent to which I was responsible for hurting myself. Yes, he abused the trust I placed in him – but I had placed that trust in him too freely, more unconditionally than was wise, and I did not withdraw the trust until it was too late. I need to forgive myself for being so foolishly and wonderfully heart-open.

And more. I don’t want to say this, and I keep dodging away from it, but I can see now that the state of vulnerability I ended up in was genuinely unbearable for him. When you are confused and hurt yourself, the last thing you need is someone who is wide open to your words, and hurt by your confusion. Sometimes things you’re going through make you lash out, and it makes it harder when someone is standing close to you, even if that closeness was welcome in happier times. I can see how difficult it must have been for him, how suffocating my vulnerability must have become.

As someone who has tended to be too independent for most of my life, I really don’t like to see myself this way – but reading some of our old e-conversations again, it’s undeniably there. I have made a huge journey in my life from separateness and independence to openness and the willingness to trust. The fact that, in particularly difficult circumstances, I went a little too far does not in any way detract from the importance of that journey, or of the value of the trust and openness that I have learnt.  

I have been resisting seeing this because his accusations of neediness were so painful to me, because they confirmed the longheld fear that, if I expressed honestly who I was and what I needed, I would be rejected. So to have my trust and honesty rejected so abruptly was deeply painful. To begin with I took his criticisms to heart. Then I learnt to see that his criticisms were vastly exaggerated and unkindly expressed (it was fairly obvious to friends of mine, but took me a while to accept because I didn’t want to think badly of him). It has taken rather longer to be able to accept that there was a small amount of truth to them.

But not much. A few weeks where I had an increased and uncharacteristic need for reassurance of affection and respect (which was rarely forthcoming) lasting a few weeks. And a heightened sensitivity to his comments about my personality and reactions that led to some angst-ridden e-mails and two evenings where I cried a lot, once in public. OK, he was a vulnerable person in many ways, but to claim he was traumatised by that to the point of being unable to cope with being in touch with me seems just a little excessive!

Of course there are also reasons that explain why I got into that vulnerable state, which wasn’t characteristic for me at all. I can’t ignore the ways in which he increased my vulnerability, encouraged me to need him, nor the way he treated my trust and my love with harshness, and certainly not the way in which he projected so many of his own difficulties onto me.

I don’t think it is fair for me to accept more than a small share of responsibility for the failure of this relationship, but I think it is vital for me to recognise the share I did have, and forgive myself for that, so that I can move on. And, even more importantly, to learn how to stop myself repeating this pattern.

One important part of not repeating the pattern is changing the way I relate to other people’s opinions, as I said in a recent post.

Another, perhaps paradoxically, is to be more explicit about my needs and wants, based on acceptance that it is OK for me to need and want them. Spending time with my parents recently, I noticed how rarely we express what we want – our family tends to negotiate in a much more indirect way, each tending to argue that others should receive a benefit that can’t be shared equally. And if someone does express a want clearly and explicitly, that’s generally unusual enough that it gets immediate action. So I grew up not really expressing what I want.  I tend to feel that, if I explicitly say what I want, I am in some way binding other people to deliver what I want, and so am responsible for the consequences and for depriving other people of the pleasure. So I end up reluctant to say what I want – indeed sometimes I’m so busy trying to predict other people’s wants that I end up not paying attention to my own.

As a system, this works fine when everyone plays by the same rules, but leaves me trailing when surrounded by people who are used to much more direct expression of wanting (a bit like the game of Prisoner’s dilemma!). I think I need to adjust my behaviour so that I can be on a more level playing field. I’ve already taken some important steps in this direction. By being more aware of my needs and wants, I’m more able to take conscious and appropriate action to meet them, and so address them before they grown too difficult and painful for me to deal with appropriately.

A third and related dimension is to accept that it’s OK to want things, even if those things are impossible. I notice myself not even asking for things I want because I suspect they may not be possible. For some bizarre reason I catch myself thinking that even wanting, let alone asking for, something I can’t have, is somehow ridiculous and shameful. Rather than just a fact of life!

Yet again the aftermath of this relationship has taught me a huge amount about myself, and about relationships. It has been a long tail of processing for a quite short relationship… but it had an intense connection and an exceptionally painful ending, and the brevity in many ways made it harder to deal with.

I hope that processing my reactions slowly, patiently and in its own time will ensure that all the emotional baggage is turned into wisdom!

And I hope that it won’t be long before I have the opportunity to put these lessons into practice….