It’s interesting how things change over the years. When I was young my main priority was getting out and enjoying myself. My parents made me stay in one night a week, Sunday, to spend time together as a family. I always spoilt it by sighing loudly and fidgeting so much that I was sent to my room where I put on Radio Luxemburg, lay on my bed listening to the music and dreamed of leaving home and having a wild lifestyle.
Once I was working and contributing to the family income then I did whatever I wanted and never spent a night indoors unless I had no money to do otherwise. I loved the motorbike crowd and the guys who worked the Waltzer in the Spanish City amusement park, in summer wore neither shoes nor underwear and never went longer than a couple of weeks without a boyfriend.
Nowadays, with the exception of a few daliances and one-night stands (no-one ever completely changes) I have been on my own for the last fifteen years. Living where I do I rarely meet anyone I’m remotely attracted to and if I do they’re either unavailable or not interested. Which, I suppose, is quite fortunate for me as I don’t trust myself around men with nice bodies, engaging smiles, beautiful eyes and a wicked sense of humour. But it is something I have commented upon to friends. I was recently asked why I still live here, given the dearth of men, and I was quite taken aback at first by the question. However, it made me think about what, exactly, my priorities are.
Without a doubt my children and grandchildren’s happiness is my first priority, but then I got stuck. I looked to my writing to give me some clues and found that freedom to do whatever I wanted is still up there, I just choose to do different things these days. And not having a significant other does enable me to watch tv programmes without someone commenting negatively about my choices, to get up in the middle of the night and read or write without disturbing anyone’s sleep, to head off travelling at the drop of a hat without having to consider if they’d like to join me and to stay out as late as I want without someone worrying about me. It’s a selfish lifestyle but it works for me. However, my writing also shows the fear of involvement, of being hurt, of rejection and betrayal. I’m not such a tough cookie after all and all this is really about protecting my vulnerability. The following poem says it all. It’s from my collection The Language of Crows.
My Soul Creaks
The mists that lay on the ground all night
are dispersing and the wind, when it comes,
blows shifting waves of light on your face.
The day, like ‘us’, is just beginning, growing
young. Unsurprised by love, your heart beats
with casual ease, whereas mine, fearful
of endings, is covered with a thin layer of ice.
You are deaf to the sounds of the past but I hear
long, mournful calls squalling in my chest
and feel the darkness swallow me whole. My
soul creaks with longing as you turn to me,
suspending possibilities in a web, to sway
in sudden gusts of wind. And then it takes me,
swelling upwards, soaking me like dark, scented
tea, held back so long I struggle for its name. Love.