Posts Tagged ‘truth’

silent witness

merely to hint at
whatever I imagine
amounts to my truth
— is already more than I
am capable of saying

I dreamed I was witnessing the birth of a child — except the whole thing was a dramatic simulation. I kept wondering how the actress felt about how close she was coming to having her vagina exposed to the audience. She was delivering the baby standing up, facing the audience. In the end, it seemed that professionalism had won out, and they managed not to show any vagina. I had great difficulty writing a poem about this. The poem ended up being a poem about the difficulty of writing a poem. I guess writing a poem is something like delivering a baby.


grim truth

was I better off
homeless and mentally ill?
I possess enough
imagination — but not
the courage — to believe it

It’s a familiar thought. When I tell my story of recovery from mental illness, for an audience, I make a point of floating the idea that I was better off homeless, or at least suggesting that there was a loss involved for me, in becoming ‘normal’. But I never allow myself to believe it completely. In my dream last night there was a kind of lift shaft, but it was bottomless. Myself and a couple of others were perched precariously near the edge, at the top, and it was understood that someone had actually fallen. I chose to believe it might be possible that she would have landed in water and been able to swim to safety through an underground river. In writing my poem, I felt suddenly aware how protected from the fact of my own (and for that matter, other people’s) mortality I am, in my cocoon of ‘normality’, my bubble of safety and prosperity. That’s a terrible indictment of normality, safety and prosperity. And in that moment I briefly grasped what I habitually evade: it could be true quite literally, and completely, that I was better off in that previous era of my life when I was homeless.


there’s no need to prove
sanity or madness — truth
is the faculty
of compassion, discovered
in myself — of all places

I quite like this poem. It just manages, by the skin of its teeth, to avoid pretentious moralising. I dreamed of my maternal grandfather, who sang bass for many years in Carlisle Cathedral Choir. He was a working class lad who left school at fourteen, had a wonderful singing voice, but was also perhaps too fundamentally scared of life to make good. In my dream, I saw him going off somewhere to practice his singing, and prove himself, and I felt sad because I knew his efforts were doomed. He would fail to break through the barrier of his own neurosis. Apart from that, I also dreamed of my mother’s Jungian analyst, Fred Plaut. Yesterday evening I worked quite late on a talk I will be giving this week, on spirituality and mental health. Central to the talk, is my own ‘mental illness’, and also the experience of hallucinating a flood of gold light pouring from Fred Plaut’s eyes when I first met him. I’ve analysed this experience quite successfully I think, in the talk. But unless I can talk with compassion (towards myself) it will end up with me hiding my vulnerability behind the analysis.


human memory
— infinitely creative
resource — treasure trove
of scarce possibilities —
each one capable of truth

This was a based on a dream the morning of Boxing Day, which had something to do with a classic pop song from 1970. I would guess probably a reference to The Beatles All You Need Is Love which famously was written to usher in the new decade of the seventies. Casting my mind back to 1970, I began thinking about the process of memory. It really isn’t as simple as recalling facts. If I try and remember the person I used to be, it’s like retelling a story and realising it only ever existed as a story in the first place. Subjectivity can’t be recaptured because it can’t even be fixed and pinned down and captured in the present moment, let alone in retrospect.


me and my father
and my father’s father — all
share a weakness for
women — whatever that means
— as one might eat chocolate

One thing I am quite clear. It may not be literally true that sex is sinful and takes you away from God. And I would resist that idea quite fiercely. At the same time, truth is relative, and there is ‘a’ truth being expressed in that belief. There is ‘more’ truth in it than there appears to be. In terms of the poem, it seems just a little bit ridiculous to place eating chocolate alongside ‘having a weakness for women’ — and that was the intention — but I found it difficult to be ironic in an obvious enough way in just a few syllables. I dreamed last night my father had died (in reality he will be 90 in a couple of weeks), and I felt able to enjoy a conversation with my stepmother for the first time without my father’s inhibiting presence. And in the dream, my father’s father had outlived him (actually he died in 1970). I asked him how old he was and he told me ’97’. My father’s extramarital affair with my stepmother — was it a sin or a misdemeanour? My grandfather — exact same scenario. Me watching pornography last night.


my own humanity —
it’s a fact, plain and simple
— how can this given
accomplishment I’m born with
be yet so hard to attain?

In my dream, my older sister had turned into a little girl about four years old. I was charmed and delighted, but also concerned about how to reverse the spell and get her back to being an adult. I’ve got hold of a truth, I think, that the little girl represents the most human side of me. I wanted to express the paradox whereby the supreme and ultimate goal of life (for me) is to become more human — while after all I simply am human anyway. So I’m striving after a goal which is right there under my nose. Yet it refuses to give up its unattainable and mysterious and just plain difficult character.

postmodern hell

how shall I preserve
my soul? — damnation is a
consumer, grazing
the multiplicity of
competing philosophies

And yet there is no answer for me in single-minded devotion to any single religion or philosophy. Christianity is the religion of my childhood, which my inner child responds to like no other. Buddhism seduces me with the promise of a superior spirituality. Taoism accords most closely with the Jungian doctrine of opposites which I do go along with, heart and soul. But there is something so coldly intellectual in the idea of opposites as the basis of all psychic life. And if Jung was right about it, how come the world hasn’t embraced the idea? Or to put that another way — what use to me, to possess ‘the truth’, if I am in such a tiny minority of believers? And how can it be science (as it claims to be) if it requires me to believe? The fourth belief system I am tempted by is the belief in a mother goddess. This relates to last night’s dream where I was in the garden of Robert Graves’ house in Mallorca, getting along famously with Graves himself. In reality I met him when I turned up at his house unannounced in 1983, and his wife kindly entertained me for half an hour or so. Graves himself was in a wheelchair and by that time had retreated into dementia and silence. For a Wikipedia summary of the Graves-goddess connection see here