Posts Tagged ‘teenage’

in old age

a man’s teenage pain
returns by devious paths
to haunt him — just one
final rebellion left
— the act of remembering!

A week ago I had my sixtieth birthday. Ageing seems to be a constant theme of this blog. Employing a title like this, ‘in old age’, does seem a bit melodramatic of me. I dreamed last night I stood accused of being able to alter someone else’s reality just by the act of remembering. I felt innocent. But at the same time, I did in fact feel as though I had engaged in some kind of subversive act, simply by allowing a certain thought into my head — which was the memory of someone named Howard Pollock, whom I knew for a couple of years in the mid-seventies.



what if the junkie
begging nextdoor my workplace
— a black girl face and
soul eaten up by hunger —
what if that girl were Anna?

There is something terribly wrong with goodness and light and safety and security and happiness and love and fulfilment and health and fatness. How privileged I am, to have lived through so many years of utter deprivation, earlier in my life — financial, psychological, emotional, social, nutritional — I had nothing at all whatsoever in my life. Except, actually, my mother. I seem to have forgotten what it is, to suffer agonising anguish and mental torture every moment of every day. Surely THAT was real life — not this relatively happy, fulfilled, contented life I’m living now? Fortunately I was never into drugs at all. Mostly these days when beggars ask me for money, I can notice some extremely faint flickerings of compassion in myself. I can see my previous life in them, just a little bit — hardly at all, but just a little bit. Occasionally I give them money or food. With this particular junkie however, who begs on the street nextdoor to where I work, I feel nothing but revulsion. She popped into my mind for some reason as I reflected this morning on last night’s dream, which was of Anna, the girl I fell in love with as a teenager. In my dream, she was still on the same old pedestal. In real life, it was an unrequited love in the sense that she refused me, although I persisted in believing for several years that she loved me, based on the evidence of my own dreams. Whatever the truth of that — I learned an enormous amount from believing it. My poem brings together these utterly opposite female figures — Anna and junkie — and makes them one. I suppose they stand, respectively, for the two opposite extremes of fulfilment and deprivation which my own life has shown me and which I struggle to make sense of, on an ongoing basis. I feel like I’m living in a bubble of fulfilment, just waiting for it to burst and for the real world outside — the world of extreme suffering — to come flooding back in.


there’s no escaping
— I want to go back and change
the whole of my life —
how absurd! — as if now I’m
any wiser than I was then!

Yesterday evening I worked late on my talk on Spirituality and Mental Health. Mulling over my teenage sexuality and the reasons for my incredible loneliness, for the purposes of the talk, seems to have provoked a dream in which I was given complete licence to express my sexual feelings — with great tenderness and love — and in great detail — towards the first girl I ever slept with in reality at the age of 22. In reality, I was completely overwhelmed and did not know what to do and ended up doing nothing. So it was a one-off with this particular girl. And for the next 20 years my sexual experience amounted to half a dozen one-night stands. Looking back, it does feel as though I missed out on the best years of my life. Both sexually and, perhaps more important, socially. This isn’t a new realisation. But the vivid feelings of regret provoked by last night’s dream are much more immediate than anything I normally allow myself to feel. And it turns out that it makes quite a nice, neat, simple poem.

gender boundary

white underpants flecked
with blood — somebody’s severed
penis on the bed
— too late — my own sacrificed
manhood begging to be claimed

My best effort with an impossible subject. Gender reassignment was something I considered seriously for about six months in 1990 — finally letting go the idea on the basis that, as a woman, I would look ridiculous because I’m six foot two. The poem describes the dream. The blood on the underpants implies menstruation: so maybe in the dream I have become a woman in some way that goes beyond the gender reassignment available in reality. My main worry, awake, is that in the dream I felt nothing. So the literal severing of the penis seems to find a parallel in the splitting off of my feelings (dissociation). Yesterday somebody described to me his experience of witnessing, as a twelve-year-old, a variety of gruesome scenes involving dismembered limbs and massacred bodies. Oddly enough, although I might normally worry whether I’m capable of showing enough empathy in such a conversation, I felt on this occasion that my empathy had been good. Maybe the dissociation in the dream relates directly to the situation described to me — where, as a twelve-year-old, he said he had shrugged it off as best he could. For me though, the question raised by both dream and poem has to do with my teenage gay experience. Did I become feminized by it? Or was it on the contrary, an encounter with the essence of maleness? Did I sacrifice my manhood, or own it even more than before? Both at once, I expect.

cast off

old clothes — a pile of
not very fresh ideas
I wore for awhile
— now it’s time for them to go —
what, me? — attached to old clothes?

Anna is quite a common name. But I had an email at work yesterday from someone named Anna whose email profile just stated ‘Anna’ with no surname and this made me wonder for a moment if it was an Anna out of my past. Potentially every Anna reminds me of my first unrequited love which obsessed me for about five or six years from 1975 to 1981. I dreamed last night I was having an open affair with Anna outside her marriage to someone else. I knew the affair had to end, and that it was untenable for me to be keeping all my belongings in their flat: so I was beginning the job of moving them out. There was a particular moment when someone held up an ancient pair of trousers I had worn to tatters. I guess, awake, as I wrote my poem I began to wonder if Love might be one of the tired ideas symbolised by the old clothes.