The Balcony of SBSC

The Balcony of SBSC

The wind steals like a thief through the gaps in the railings:
rusty, neglected, empty of children and childhood squeals.
The paint flakes into old waterproof chairs the crouch, trailing
secrets with dignified silence. Proud, like martyrs, they reveal
a past lost in a thousand storms. Hunched like fishermen
with their backs to the rain, the bar-be-ques sit quietly nodding
(agreeing with the windowsills that times were better back then),
and above this scene the misty, single glazed pane sits sobbing.

The echo of a faded glare lights up red on the cold, rotting floor,
the balcony shuffles and moans. And the years try to forget
the night of tired, loose-haired women crying and closing the door
and never returning – “for those in peril”.. tuneless, disquiet regrets.

ByRD, July 24th, 2003

SBSC, or Snettisham Beach Sailing Club, is one of the most special places in the world to me. I grew up in and out of it’s rooms – it’s members consisting of my extended family, the families of my friends, and faces so familiar I could not distinguish them from each other. It’s a members-only sailing club, which sounds very posh, but really was an active club for active sailors: a place to gather round whisky and beer after a day of racing on the rough North Sea.

The Snettisham sailing community has existed for generations, since my own family bought their bungalow on the coast when my dad was only a few years old. As they grew up, my dad’s childhood friends took over their parents bungalows as he took over his, and their children became my friends: Lucinda, Jodie, Lawrence, Martin, Michael, Anna.

The current sailing club was built on stilts to be a point of refuge for flooding. I wrote this poem as a tribute to the storms it has weathered, the families it has sheltered, and the changes it has seen. Even though today the club has been renovated with new wood  paneling, carpet, and built in chairs, I will always remember it with the ramshackle furniture, and damp floors of my childhood.

Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

Stale sunrises taste of the drinking nights
saying goodbye to you. The salty tears
of salted eyes make the homeward lights
shake and bend. And silhouettes of years
behind us mime on empty bedroom walls:
a mime of loss, a mime of grief, of love.
Of friendship. Of finished years. All appalls
in memory’s eye. All signed in fate above
and sealed with a longing, desperate glance
at a photograph. Somewhen. This is lust
losing to an inevitable night, a final dance
never danced. And fading as all songs must.
All the nearly maybes haul through the dark.
And morning shakes enough to fall apart.

ByRD, June 1st, 2003

This poem… Well! This poem was written for a very dear friend of mine – a male friend – who was closer to me for a number of years than anyone else. We really were best friends – familiar enough to each other that our parents allowed us to sleep over at each other’s houses and never doubted that our friendship was only that. For many years prior to, and after, June 1st 2003 I had a feeling that he and I were soul-mates. If I believed in soul-mates (which it turns out, I don’t).

This man is not my husband, now, but I do believe that we were in love with each other for a long time. He did once try and proclaim love to me, but I resisted, feeling that our relationship would have been doomed from the beginning. I thought that we knew each other too well. I actually still believe that this boy-man (remember, he was eighteen at the time) probably loved me as unconditionally as anyone ever has.

By the time I wrote this poem I had started to feel, and possibly regret, what we were missing out on. Friends-turned-lovers. (Incidentally, I only ever had to make this decision one other time in my life: that man is my husband). I remember riding the early bus home from school with him on this day, June 1st, sitting next to each other as close as we could despite the fact we were two of the only people on the vehicle, and breathing in the way he smelled. It brought a rush of feelings to me that I had never felt about a person – even about my “first love boyfriend” (who crops up again in many later poems).

I remember at that moment really wanting this person in a very physical and possessive way. Maybe it was sexual, I don’t know. All I know is that I think this moment will stay with me forever – this first moment of feeling real romantic love, and simultaneously knowing that it was doomed. I felt it and grieved it at the same time.

A few weeks later this boy and I spend a wonderful and terrible evening together – one of those evenings that only teenagers have, where every hour lasts several days, and every conversation is deeper than the last. We probably broke each others’ hearts that evening. Our friendship never recovered and we didn’t speak for nearly a year. A week later I rekindled my relationship with my first boyfriend, who I adored, but who I didn’t ever have a moment of such intense feeling with as the moment that inspired this poem.

In case anyone is wondering, I have reclaimed a kind of friendship with this person – although he lives in England and I haven’t seen him since I got engaged. I think of him all the time: I find him sneaking into my memories, and sometimes I do wonder what would have happened had we really taken a chance on each other at age eighteen.

This Shattered Scene – May, 2003

This Shattered Scene

To live is like the silent, grasping breath:
a plume of smoke fading into the sky
like the stuttered, staggered, stunted death
of a butterfly in glass. The low sigh
of a moaning wind. The old empty dreams
rattle like tin-cans on faded playgrounds,
old photographs shredded to ripping seams,
old letters now nothing but empty sounds
mouthed to an unmoving night. Endless Flight
to wherever I’m running tonight. Scream
echoed goddess, a shadow made of lights.
I’m running through this shattered scene.

By RA, May 24th, 2003

May 24th, 2003. To give some context: this was the day of my last examination before I left high school. I don’t remember the subject. May has always been a strange month for me – a month of reflection and ultimate sadness, although I don’t know why. I’ve always been irrepressibly sad in May. 

This poem is the first one I have chosen to publish, primarily because it is one of the earliest poems I have on record, but also because of it’s content. It is a poem written about the transition I was facing in my life at the time – leaving high school, going through a break-up with my first love, and facing the prospect of college life.

I was ultimately totally unprepared and uncertain about going away to University: the course I eventually settled on was more out of default than anything else, and I have always felt as though I should have been educated somewhere else. Without sounding snobbish, somewhere betterBut I was not really advised as to where the “good” universities were, and so I just randomly selected courses from a list and applied. My grades were good enough to afford me acceptance into any school and, although the university I ended up at was a very respectable school, I always felt as though I would have been more enthusiastic about another path. Very few people are aware of this, but in my second semester of my first year I was mere days of leaving my course and applying for other schools. The thing that changed my mind? A new boyfriend. A history my life is doomed to repeat, I think!

This poem, when I read it back, tells me the story of the place I found myself in at that time. I truly felt as though everything I had known was disintegrating before my eyes, and that the future was completely unknown and ultimately a poor substitute. In my final 18-months of high school I found an identity and sense of acceptance that I had not felt before, and that I have strived for since then – a group of people who actually really liked me, who thought I had potential, and to whom my awkward teenage appearance was irrelevant. Leaving it behind was a terribly transition, and this poem reflects that. 

For me, personally, this poem also rings of the sense of guilt I was haunted by – a permanent and obvious feeling I had betrayed my childhood self. Of course, looking back, I had done no such thing, but I always felt such a debt to the strange, bookish child I had grown from, as though I needed to prove something. 

 

NB: “playground” in England is a term applied for school yards. The theme of shattering is one that reflects consistently through my poems, but it started here.

Introducing the poems

I’m trying to revisit these poems in chronological order, and I’m going to try and include as much information as I can about the context of the poem, what inspired me and other details.

Most of my earlier poems are inspired by teenage boyfriends, leaving home, and other coming-of-age emotions that one only experiences once. As I got older I drew inspiration from meeting my husband, getting married, and emigrating permanently.

I’m going to be as faithful as possible with relating my poems – I’ll try not to make any edits, although I’m not making any promises…