Monday, 26 August 2019

The PhD: the Beginning

This is another poem which I wrote after starting work on my visuals. I am listening to other survivors' stories from the height of the Troubles and, stitching and painting about some of the things that happened, memories come back to me of my own experiences.

There was one particular event when I completely believed myself to be dead and was somewhat surprised to find myself still on this side of the grave! In truth, this experience has never left me. One of the no-warning bombs went off and I felt the push of the blast. I was at Queen's University in Belfast to attend a lecture but the lecturer had been delayed in London so the lecture had to be cancelled. This turned out to be quite providential, as the room where the lecture was to be held caught the full force of the blast  -  afterwards, it was a complete mess of broken glass and splintered wood. I had only recently graduated, so I went instead to a nearby room to consult career journals.

As the bomb went off, everything in the room seemed to melt like jelly, steel shelves shimmering and running like liquid, and I blacked out. I have no recollection of hearing anything, I was probably temporarily deafened but I felt a great excitement when I thought I had gone into death and no thoughts came to me of any anger at the perpetrators. It seemed an amazing thing that I had just died! My presumably last thought had been in connection with the Futurist painters and was, 'Are these molecules actually jumping apart or only appearing to jump apart?'  I went down into blackness and emerged into a white light, peaceful, like milk, where I existed purely as thought with no sensation of physical being at all. I waited to be met and to become or be made aware of what existence I now had. It was only when I realised that the little gold sparkles which appeared in the light after some time  -  I had always hoped it would be pretty!  -  slowly twisting and turning, really were dust motes shining in the sun that I foun I hadn't died after all! My emergence after this time in the white light, I don't know how long it was, into what was this mortal life, then seemed like the other side of the coin.

What had happened was that I had been pushed forward into steel shelves housing the journals and had then been hurled backwards, finishing up feet away against a wall. It took some time to think myself back into a physical body, miraculously in one piece, which could move. I had lost consciousness because I had hit my head first at the front and then at the back  -  I remember the pain and the blinding headaches for days afterwards  -  but I was alive, I am alive, I have had so much life since.

For the Others

          In the white light,
                         I survived;

       I didn’t meet the others then,
       those who had gone on that day,
       or on other days, cruelly
      catapulted    from       
       frame of bone and tissue;

       ingestion in the mother’s womb;
       the first breath, cries, smiles, growing,
       running, laughing, discovering  -  all
       the sing-song days of life bloodily
       torn a -p - art, ripped and sh -  re - dd ed into

         no, I didn’t see the others
        then, nor those who died of
        grief and consummate sorrow;    

                  I survived;
        but I hear their cries sorrowing
        in my head, so I stitch paths of
        remembrance, red veining in
        lines of silk and cotton,     
        blood red  threads   that are life and
        death and hope
                                         and grief

                      and  resurrection.

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