Just when I think I’m adapting to lockdown, another wave of grief rears up. I got very teary about not seeing my Mom and Dad, and May was packed full with gigs, family stuff, birthdays and general merriment. In hindsight perhaps a little too packed, and a bit of me is relieved to have the pressure taken off.
This mix of relief and grief is curious, and it’s directly related to having M.E.. May is M.E. awareness month, and it’s also my anniversary of falling ill. Seven years now – which I find baffling. I feel like I’ve learned everything and nothing. I push myself. I always have, and it seems that I always will. I have a brain that is always leaping forward or back, and a body that can no longer keep up. I suspect this aspect of my nature may be the reason I ended up with this dratted thing, along with our culture of “pushing through” any kind of illness or sadness. I’ve always lived at extremes and my response to M.E. is no different. I’m either extremely busy, pushing myself, or extremely incapacitated. Over the last seven years I’ve learned to accept this. Adopting a measured, managed life isn’t likely to happen, and I’m coming to terms with the extremes, and coming to terms with the fact that every activity I throw myself into will have a consequence (usually in the shape of two or three days in bed). Giving my body time to recover is crucial, and perhaps this enforced return to simplicity is doing that.
May also marks the beginning of a new poetry course, Walking and Writing. As many of you know, walking is a challenge for me and I’ve not been able to do any sort of coastal or hill walks for the last seven years. I was disappointed when I read the title – assuming that I wouldn’t be able to take part and it was only reading a chance comment that made me realize I could. Our prompts are a mix of videos, articles and local legend, which we take and build into a piece of poetry or short fiction. This week we’re on the coast of Yorkshire, and spending a morning watching the sea whilst wondering about dragons has been marvellous. I can’t recommend Wendy’s courses enough – whether you’re a beginner, seasoned poet or somewhere in between you’ll find inspiration and a spark of joy. I’m back in love with writing again, and I’ve said goodbye to that square peg feeling of not being good enough for the poetry world. I’m still a square peg, but I’m learning to love my corners. On that note, here’s a poem I wrote as part of last month’s course, which was published on Pendemic. Our brief was to write a ballad, in response to the concept of telling it to the bees. I worked in the traditional ballad form complete with rhymes. This isn’t a fashionable form but I like the way it lilts along.
Ballad of the Bees
He said he knew how I felt
when I told how my world had grown small,
when I told of my fears, my guilt,
that I could have spread it at all.
He buzzed about days in the hive
when they realised all was not well,
described colleagues crawling with flies,
bouncer bees growing fierce with the bell.
He couldn’t explain where it came from,
he couldn’t explain what to do;
distancing wasn’t an option,
pollen can’t be gathered by few.
His buzz grew loud as I cried
for people I thought I might lose,
wondering whether my life
could return to be what I choose.
It grew louder as though there were thousands
hovering over his wake,
I looked on further horizons,
realised my part in his fate.
I accept that my world may be shrinking,
I accept change has to be made.
I’m embarrassed this bee has more inkling
of the collective impact we create.
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