A Time for Change

Years ago I started working for a typical large-ish company. One with enough people that you could regularly go into the kitchen or ‘break out room’ and know only a fraction of the people in there. It was a reasonably sad interior, as the inside of offices usually are. Lots of grey carpet and artificial light.

My boss was a tool. I know lots of people think their bosses are tools but this guy really was. He had no actual idea what he was doing and thought he’d been ‘head-hunted’ because the company asked him to move from one branch of the business to another. Sigh. His inflated sense of self infiltrated every interaction he had; he referred to his company credit card more times than I’ve had hot dinners. You get the picture.

One day he was talking to our small team about our previous work histories. I said I used to work in corporate banking. This intrigued him. ‘How much did you earn, if you don’t mind me asking?’ He asked.

‘Just over a hundred grand,’ I told him, knowing that he knew my current salary which was almost half of that.

‘Oh my God. Why would you leave that job?’ He asked. I couldn’t tell whether he was more horrified by my walking away from the money, or the fact that I used to earn more than he currently did.

‘Because I didn’t like my job and I want to be a writer.’ His incomprehension at my response was comical. He stared at me, brow furrowed, like I was some strange and foreign creature that needed an autopsy to be more fully understood.

You should have seen his face when he told us flippantly about a company initiative where you could donate a portion of your pay to the charity of your choice and I opted for the Cancer Council, 50 dollars per pay. He came to see me and said ‘Did you mean to put 5 dollars here? It says $50.’

My boss was a tool.

I only lasted 4 months in that role before I was fired for writing a poem. It was a damn good poem and took the mickey out of the business (no names of course!) But let’s be honest. I wasn’t fired for a poem. He just didn’t like me. But you can’t fire someone for that. Instead he took great joy in pulling me into his office, explaining to me that he’d been monitoring staff emails, saw the email, it wasn’t appropriate and I was to be frog marched out lest I take any sensitive materials with me. Ha! Before I left he said, ‘It was a really well written poem though.’ High praise indeed.

That same tool would no doubt be agog to hear that ten years later I’ve decided to once again step away from a reasonably well paying job to follow my heart. I understand that money is important and there would be more than just my old tool of a boss who might think I’m crazy from walking away from a good income for a year.

Well, I’m here to say it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. The improvement in my mental health – by not having the same level of responsibility – is worth more than I can explain. I still have ways to make the money I need – Arbonne, consulting and relief teaching all enable me to pay the rent and put food on the table. But the extra money I was receiving last year cost me so much in other ways.

I was tired. All the time. I felt irritable, particularly after a long day and the I had to rush to pick up the kids from after school care, make dinner, run the ‘shower, teeth, pyjamas’ routine and read before bed. I hated feeling annoyed with doing these things when I hadn’t spent any time with my own kiddos all day. But I did. I was just longing for that moment when everyone was asleep in bed and I could finally sit down with a cup of tea and have no one talking at me, or asking questions, or wanting something. That’s a pretty miserable feeling – wishing the day away so I could sit quietly at 9pm.

Not only did I feel like I had no ‘quality’ time with my kids, I felt like I had no time whatsoever for myself. Or for my partner. Actual work, or thinking about work, was all consuming. If I managed to fall asleep quickly I would wake with a start at some point in the night having dreamt about work. More often though the day’s events would swirl in my head as I tried to get to sleep. I used the Calm App almost every night so I could concentrate on something other than my recirculating thoughts.

I knew I needed a break. A few years ago when I was talking to my psychologist about a particularly difficult aspect of work, she said, ‘You cannot go on like this. You need to go part time.’ I looked at her incredulously, ‘I couldn’t possibly do that,’ I told her. I needed the money. But really, I think the reason I dismissed the idea so quickly back then was because I didn’t want to miss out. I didn’t want to miss out on a promotion that I thought was coming (which did). So I stayed. Full time. And continued to try to work like I didn’t have children and tried to parent like I didn’t have a job. Regretfully, I think it was my kids that came out on the losing side of that ridiculously impossible endeavour.

So towards the end of last year I made the decision. The money, the possible promotions, the FOMO – it just wasn’t worth the toll it was taking on my health and my family. I decided to take a year off and hit the reset button. Spend more time on myself and spend more time with my kids and apologise to no one for the decision.

And let me tell you – It really has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I laugh like I used to, heartily and frequently. I actually see my kids. I mean, I ‘see’ them for the incredible small people that they are, and I love them more every single day and I really don’t know how that’s possible. I work when I want and I make enough money to keep the wolf from the door. I swim, write, dance and read, and I see my friends as often as I can.

I fully understand that everyone is on their own journey and for some people life changes like this are not desirable or simply not possible and I get that. But for me, this was the right time and the right decision.

For the first time in the longest time I can honestly say that I love my life. What a feeling.

Time for tea and writing in my gratitude journal I think xx

Oh before I go, here’s a sneak peak at the poem that got me fired. Feel free to use it if you need to be released from your current employment. xx

An Ode to the Grind

A day at work is hard to take

When brain doth melt and back doth break

And all you want is to escape

But jails old walls are sound

Managers lurk with absent stealth

Doing naught but growing wealth

It’s very trying for your health

The noose is tightly wound

Though sun still shines and rain still falls

You’re wedged between the closing walls

Forever fielding thankless calls

Ahead is rocky ground

In the kitchen, cupboard’s bare

No plate to use, no fork to share

The bosses say the budget’s fair

While laughing, bank-ward bound

Your fishbowl isn’t made of glass

It’s not just people slouching past

but coming in with further tasks

Respite cannot be found

And when you think you’re nearly done

A fishy boss will spoil your fun

There’s errands only you can run

Sore temples start to pound

In the background, endless chatter

On topics that can hardly matter

At your desk just getting fatter

No normalcy around

The end is nigh, there’s no debate

You sneak off early, arrive late

And tell the boss to kiss your date

The freedom is profound.

Feelings, nothing more than feelings

What is the point of writing something without feeling? Honestly, I’d say there’s no point at all. The feeling itself doesn’t matter. Happiness, fear, loathing, desire. You, the writer, have to have a feeling to share. No matter what. In a previous post I shared my favourite quote with you but here it is again:

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

Robert Frost

So how do we connect with a feeling? Well I think keeping a writer’s notebook is a really great start. In the process of noticing the world, you can also notice those feelings that pop up in you as and when they appear.

For example – if you saw someone throw their rubbish in the street and walk away (once you’d chased them down and belted them around the head with it), how would you feel?

What if you were really looking forward to a night out and your friend cancelled at the last second. How would you feel?

Or you picked your kids up from school and they ran towards you and threw their little arms around you and said ‘I love you’. How would you feel?

If you had your writer’s notebook handy you could capture all these feelings as they occur. What a fabulous opportunity.

Today I was driving towards my first day at a new job and I purposely made myself sit with the feeling of nervousness to really notice what it did to me physically and mentally. It made my stomach churn, I felt hungry but simultaneously nauseous at the thought of eating. I ran through endless scenarios – what if I couldn’t find a car park and was late? What if I couldn’t even find my destination? I made myself do some breathing exercises to try to balance myself. I talked to myself in an effort to calm down. As soon as I parked my car (because of course I found my destination) I wrote it all down.

Humans are constant balls of feelings which, happily, means we are constant balls of ideas. But we have to be alive to these moments and feelings and record them.

Here’s something I wrote a while ago when I felt that delicious pang of a new crush.

When you’re near

I’m not.

I’m away

where it’s just us

And that smile of yours

Is wrapped around mine

And those arms of yours

Wrapped around me

And these legs of mine

Wrapped around you

And we’re

so

close

now.

But far away

from all the noise.

My hand traces the curve of your arm

While your fingers slip down my cheek

to my neck

Tilt my head and

your smile wraps around mine.

When you’re near.

Perhaps you’ve felt something similar? That all consuming desire for someone. Write it down. It’s interesting to see where the feelings take your writing. Have a cup of tea if you need to simmer down 🙂 Until next time – keep feeling xx

When writing quiets the mind and soothes the heart

Sometimes the desire to write is so great, if you don’t do it immediately you feel like you might spontaneously combust. Whatever has captured your interest is so important, so necessary, that you have to write it down in order to continue breathing properly.

This is how I felt today. I took my two boys to school, their first day of 2020, and I fully expected to feel sad, and proud, and all the other appropriate adjectives. What I didn’t expect was to feel was so profoundly connected to my children, just by noticing the tiny details of that half an hour drop off.

As I walked away from the school and felt tears stinging behind my eyes for more reasons than I can mention, I knew I had to write. Immediately. I drove to the nearest library and realised it didn’t open for an hour. So there I sat. In the car. The temperature had already soared to around 35 degrees, and wrote everything I felt. I wrote without stopping. Without worrying about whether they were the right words. The best words to capture my emotions. I’ll worry about that later. I just wrote it all, and let the words and the tears fall on to the page in a big, blobby mess.

So here they are. One poem for Albi and one for Noam.

Albi

I know how you feel my love

Nervous, so nervous

It makes you angry

We’re embarrassing

Walk behind you

I remember that feeling

towards my own Mum

I get it but, oh

how it hurts

It’s not you though.

Not really

It’s those nerves

The fear that you’ve missed something

That everyone will already be friends

But not you

You’ll be alone

I know how you feel my baby

I wish I could say it changes

It doesn’t

Well, not for me

I’m just better now at hiding it

No Mum to blame

And I’m too old for that

Hang in there my love

Today will be fine

Most days will be fine

And I will be there for them all

I’ll soak up your nervous anger

And wring it out

through my tears

When I’m alone

I know how you feel

my love.

The end.

Noam

Look at you

my beautiful soul

Your brother’s cross at me

Again

You feel his pain

And mine

He walks ahead

You drop back

To tell me I’m the best Mama

I pull you close

and ruffle your hair

I don’t understand

when we arrive at the school gates

why every single child

doesn’t rush to you

and greet you with love

like the incredible friend you are.

I go to your brother’s class

He needs me

That’s ok with you

As always

Off you go

Towards year 4 alone

When I return you’re milling around

Looking for a friend

to latch on to

for those first, crippling moments

at least.

Other boys talk

and laugh

together.

You twirl around a pole

I know how you feel my love

Invitations to a party circulate

One for you?

No

I look away

I don’t understand

A boys stands near you and says hi

You talk together

And in that moment

I love this boy.

The bell rings

Off you go

Towards year 4

But not alone

Never alone

my beautiful soul.

So there you have it. I feel exhausted emotionally but if I hadn’t stopped to write these immediately, in this rough but pure form, the feelings would’ve ebbed away across the day. I couldn’t let them go. Not the words, nor my babies.

In need of a restorative tea now. Until tomorrow xx

Scotty from (sports) marketing

Guess who’s back? Back again.

Scotty’s back. Tell your friends…

In the third instalment, Scotty from (sports) marketing has released another poem to explain to the ‘loud’ Australians how good sports grants are.

Well hi there my friend,

My cobber, my pal,

I’m back to remind you

It’s all going well

The fires have stopped

Well most of them anyway

And we’ve said that we will

Give the volunteers pay

But only if they worked

Between 8 and 6

And only if they wear

A gold crucifix

And only if they didn’t

Then go on to work

And get paid for that

Woah! I’m not a jerk

I’m generous, I’m kind

I’m unreasonably fair

No one could say

I’m not doing my share

Now back to the weather

How good is that rain?

It’s just what we prayed for

To ease all our pain

And now that it seems

It’s all under control

You wanna rip in

About a soccer goal?

Do me a favour

And give me break

Bridget’s alright

She aint no snake

And nor for that matter

Are me or old Josh

We gave money where needed

That’s not hogwash

Yes it may seem that

We favoured some places

Where the LNP struggled

But by God’s good graces

You’ll see that’s not true

I firmly deny it

This did not help us

Win the election (or buy it)

Sure there’s some suspect

Aspects about things

Like Lilli Pilli v Coledale

They both fought like kings

But Coledale, well

They didn’t have the right stuff

In the end they weren’t quite

Marginal enough

So Lilli Pilli

Got their fair share of the cake

Just ’cause it’s my electorate

Doesn’t mean it’s a mistake

Coledale and the others

They’ll all be fine

A nice little chook raffle

Will raise a few dimes

People are generous

Haven’t you seen

How much was raised

For the after fire clean?

It seems like Australians

Are desperate to part

With their hard earned cash

In the aftermath

So why should the Government

Spend taxpayer money

On fires or sports club

In any way impartially?

Well, quite right, we shouldn’t

You’re much better off

With us in control

Trickling down from the top.

The end. It seems I had a lot of pent-up Scotty from Marketing issues that needed an outlet. I hope you all have a wonderful day that includes plenty of tea and plenty of writing. xx

Picture courtesy of AAP: Mick Tsikas

Poetry Arsenal

When I started teaching I was fortunate enough to meet two literacy consultants, Alan Wright and Vicki Froomes. They guided me, and a host of graduates, through our first, terrifying year of teaching, encouraging us in our use of writer’s notebooks, conferences, and book boxes. Alan shared his writer’s notebook often, and I’d regularly find him in the staffroom at lunch time, busily recording his thoughts in it.

He also introduced me to his poetry suitcase and it made such an impression on me I immediately bought an old case from the op shop, and began my poetry collection for school. I couldn’t remember reading much, if any, poetry at primary school. At home I was obsessed with Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse For Kids. My Dad would read his poems to me and I found them hilarious. But at school? I couldn’t even recall a poetry section in our little school library.

These days I am fully aware of the importance of poetry. As Ralph Fletcher explains in his book Poetry Matters, poetry is always what we turn to in important times. When we want to say something beautiful and succinct, at a wedding or funeral or birthday, we turn to poetry. We need our students to feel the importance of poetry too, and write it! We need them to experiment with rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, imagery. All the clever devices poets use to make their audience feel something.

I’ve observed that students find the technical freedom poetry presents as a key that unlocks their writing passion.

Whenever I’m at an op shop or a bookstore I am always on the hunt for poetry books to inspire our young writers. I have developed quite a collection that I’ll share parts of over the coming months. Today however, I think it’s poignant to show you this beautiful example. As you are aware Australia has been in the grips of a bushfire crisis and many of us have felt a sense of helplessness in the face of it. This magnificent book: I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree, has a beautiful environmental theme by offering a nature poem for every day of the year.

Selected by Fiona Waters. Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon

Imagine starting each day in the classroom with a nature-inspired poem? Poetry would become a regular fixture for your students, rather than just a topic you look at once and then move on. As I read through this book I found poem that I think would be perfect for the beginning of the school year. Forget the boring old ‘write a recount about what you did on the holidays’, read the kids this poem and see what they make of it. Then see what they write in a similar style.

Russel Hoban

So many interesting conversations to be had here about the way the poem is structured, how not all the lines rhyme and how that adds to the music of it. The details that the poet has included could be a fabulous launching pad about noticing the world around us. You can tell I love this poem!

I am excited to continue adding to my poetry suitcase and if you don’t feel as though you have enough poetry in your school or library (or life!) perhaps think about starting your own poetry suitcase. The students love them! All it takes is a trip to the op shop and an eagle eye.

Right. That’s all from me today. Cup of tea time then off to the land of nod. Until tomorrow xx

Writing at Super Zu and other oxymorons.

Recently I posted about some of the restrictions we place on our writing, such as needing the perfect, conducive atmosphere; maybe a studio space and hours of uninterrupted time. These restrictions only succeed in one thing and that is curtailing our writing.

In an effort to demonstrate that it is possible to ‘write in the cracks’ as my friend and legit fabulous author Catherine Deveny says, I am writing this post from the seventh circle of hell – Super Zu.

For those of you who have blessedly avoided indoor children’s playgrounds let me give you a bit of an illustration. Upon entering Super Zu all of your senses are instantly assaulted in every way. Your eyes are blinded by the overwhelming scale of primary colours – how can there be so much blue, yellow and red in one space?

Your ears are swiftly overcome by the screeching of a thousand children, not in fun it would seem. Surely some blood-curdling terror must be befalling them to elicit such pained cries.

As you wind your way through the shrieking, oblivious children your olfactory senses are the next cop it. What even is that smell? A fart? Actual poo? It’s also a bit sweet, like maple syrup. You look around trying to identify the source so you can set up base camp as far from it as possible. But it’s no use. All the children are either pulling out wedgies or pulling out boogers and eating them. Any one of them could be the culprit.

You find a table as far from the masses as possible. Naturally it has been relieved of all its chairs since it seems to be a rule that you can only enter Super Zu with a minimum of 15 children. So you beg pardon and interrupt all the parents group chats to see if there’s possibly a spare chair. ‘Oh gosh sorry, we need all 35 of these’. Ok.

Eventually you find a seat that’s been squirrelled away up the back, along with a broken high chair and some random plastic balls from the ball pit. You take it, knowing it’s either going to collapse under your weight or it’s been pissed on.

Finally you sit down on your pissy chair at your miserable little table for one. Your solitary kid is long gone, elbowing their way through the crowd to get to the big slide. You take out your laptop and place it in front of you, rest your wrists on the edge of the table and…wait. What’s that? Why are your wrists sticky? You look down and realise the remnants of a milkshake are gently oozing their way out from under your laptop and onto your arms. Perfect. Do you have a wet wipe? Do you bollocks. You mop up the mess with the wafer thin serviettes from the cafe and curse your decision to come to this den of squalor in the first place.

The only sense that has yet to be abused is that of taste and you’re likely to escape unharmed there since no morsel of foulness from the ‘cafe’ will cross your lips.

Oh well, as Meatloaf sang, One out of Five Ain’t Bad. I’m going to finish off with a little poem about everyone’s favourite indoor play centre:

Super Zu, Super Zu

What have I ever done to you?

Why is it so freakin loud?

Why is there such an unruly crowd?

Why does everything smell so bad?

Why do kids scream like they’re sad?

Is there any food to buy

That hasn’t been in your deep fry?

Tell me is there any chance

That that kid hasn’t wet his pants?

At the top of the giant slide

That’ll make a slippery ride

And would it be ok to buy

A seat for every bum inside?

Oh Super Zu, Super Zu

Honestly, it’s me, not you

On the whole you’re really great

To take the kids for a play date

But overall I think you’ll find

It’s very hard to write inside

Although it seems that’s not quite true

‘Cause here’s a poem from me to you

Ah Super Zu. What a special place. And in fact, it is possible to write while you’re here! I hope you all have a wonderful day, wherever you are and however you can fit in your writing. I definitely need a cup of tea now. Until tomorrow xx

Smoke gets in your eyes

Today I got up and checked the EPA air quality rating, which is normal now. Can we go outside or is the air too hazardous? Nope. Too hazardous today. Change all the plans you had that involved outdoor time. Change your mindset. Because it’s not about ‘what do you want to do today?’ it’s about ‘what is it safe to do today?’

I live a reasonable distance from the fires that are razing our country, so I can only imagine the horror of living near to, or within the path of, one of these insatiable monsters. I used to live in a country town that was surrounded by forest. It was stunning, but it terrified me in summer. When the thermostat reached 40 degrees I would pack up the kids and drive to my Dad’s house in the suburbs of Melbourne, just in case. Perhaps that sounds alarmist, but I’ve always been pretty cautious where my kids are involved.

Driving to a lunch date today, the sky wasn’t visible, as it hasn’t been for much of January. Just a grey haze, that resembles a sea mist, but instead of the refreshing, salty, sea air, we’re trying hard not to breathe in the putrid smoke.

And it’s just so sad.

So much about this summer has been sad. The fires, obviously, the loss of life, both human and wildlife, the choking air, the fact that there’s still a discussion about whether climate change is real. It all just seems so sad. And yet, we cannot allow ourselves to succumb to what feels like an unbearable sadness. We have to continue donating, creating, sharing and helping in any way we can, not only to aid the fire-affected communities, but also to give ourselves purpose in the face of such desolation.

As I drove home from my lunch date I started to think about what I’d be willing to give up to meaningfully change my life for the sake of our planet. I started a poem:

Would you park your car for good?

In the garage of forever

And ride your bike instead?

Would you cease the unceasing consumption?

Of things and clothes and stuff

And make do with what you’ve got?

Would you put the convenience of the shops

In the back pocket of your memory

And grow your own fruit and veg in the yard?

Would you allow the taste of eye fillet

To gently ebb away

As you embrace a vegan life?

Would you forgo the European vacation?

Because the carbon footprint is bearing down

And take the kids on the train to the high country?

Would you do these things in the face of

Those who cry

‘It won’t make any difference’?

Would you secretly wonder to yourself

Will it make any difference?

When your neighbour still waters their driveway.

Would you do all or some or none of these?

When push really came to shove

And the country was on fire?

I’ve given my own self something to think about today. How do I want to live my life? How do I contribute to the catastrophe that has been unfolding in recent years. In order to contemplate these questions I most definitely need a cup of tea. I’d be very interested to hear how the fires have been affecting your thoughts and life? Until tomorrow xx

Photo Credit: Yarra City Council

A Barber Cuts My Hair

I had a lot of time to think today. I was bag-holder-in-chief at Luna Park. I’d like to say that I smashed all the rides with the kids but, since riding in the passenger seat of a car now gives me nausea, hurtling myself in every direction in a small, metal bucket may actually be the end of me. So there I was, perched on a seat near the Scenic Railway, or on a seat near the Enterprise, or on a seat near the vomit inducing Power Surge, just thinking all the thoughts one thinks while watching the microcosm of life at Luna Park go by.

And there is quite a lot to see. If you’re anything like me you can happily people-watch for an obscene amount of time, falling ever further down the rabbit hole of ‘what’s their life like?’ and creating infinite backs stories for these strangers.

What caught my attention today though was a young boy, perhaps a teenager, and his hair was remarkably similar to mine. Super curly on top and shorter around the sides. It got me thinking about the journey I’ve been on with my hair and the way hair seems to be so caught up with a woman’s worth.

A few years ago I shaved my head to raise money for the Leukemia Foundation’s Greatest Shave. I’d done it once before but this time was different because I was using my platform at the school I worked at to raise more money. It felt different in another way too. This time it wasn’t just about raising money for cancer research. This time I felt compelled to do it to show people that absolutely nothing important about me is visible from the outside. My hair, face, weight (my teeth!). That is all superficial and inconsequential.

Everything important about me is visible through my words and my actions. My hair does not make me a ‘better’ person, or more worthy of attention, praise or love, but society tells us that it does.

K Portier

In the lead up to shaving my hair countless people told me how ‘brave’ I was. I understood what they were getting at but I didn’t think it was brave. Why should it be ‘brave’ for a woman to cut her hair or shave her head? The fact that so many people saw it as a brave act only served to highlight my point – that a woman’s hair is irredeemably entwined with her worth and without it we’re somehow less than we were.

The day arrived, my head was shaved, and the students cheered. I raised somewhere over $5000, and loved the feel of the wind on my scalp. For about 2 years I kept my hair at number one or two length. I got used to the ease of it and I liked it, much to the surprise of many who couldn’t help saying things like: ‘Oh you’re keeping it shaved? You like it then?’ Um, yes. I do. But thanks for letting me know you don’t.

When I decided to grow it out, or at least try to (the possibility of me hating the awkward middle stage meant I was likely to strip it all off again) I decided to visit a barber. I wanted to keep the curls that had grown back on top, but get a fade on the sides. I found a place, local to me, that was reasonably priced. As I expected, all the barbers were men and I found the experience intimidating. I have begun a poem in an effort to capture my discombobulated feelings. It’s not finished or polished, but I needed to write it. It’s called ‘A Barber Cuts My Hair’

Entering the barber shop

No one looks up

Shavers dance across mens heads

And I sit down

A man waiting next to me

Sniffs and snorts loudly

Scissors trim wiry beards

And I sit quietly

A poster watches over me

She winks from behind her cascading curls

Dark, discarded hair makes patterns on the floor

And I sit timidly

There’s no one left but me now

A barber calls me over

‘Does your husband like shaved heads?’

And I sit straighter

‘I don’t have a husband,

But my boyfriend thinks it’s lovely

Not that I asked him’

And I sit thoughtfully

‘I guess you wouldn’t like it then?

If your girlfriend shaved her head?’

‘Oh no I prefer it longer’

And I sit bravely

Clippers shave my wooly curls

I feel it coldly skim my scalp

His fingers gently move my head

And I sit calmly

People’s eyes are on me now

A woman in the chair

I wonder if he resents me?

The barber that cuts my hair.

I haven’t decided whether I’ll keep growing my hair or go back to the delightful, wash ‘n’ go ease of the shaved head. I guess at some point, no doubt on a scorching hot day when my hair is irritating my neck, I’ll fly straight back to my barber and have him shear it all off again.

Until then, it’s time for a cup of tea and a rest for this weary Luna Parker xx

The man who hated my teeth

Yesterday I posted my thoughts about noticing the world and how the simple act of being alert to anything that moves you, in any way, is worth recording in your writer’s notebook. You never know what the germ of an idea may become.

At a dinner party recently, where everyone coincidentally had lovely teeth, I was moved to recall a time, many years ago, where a friend of a friend, at best an acquaintance to me, told me I should keep my mouth shut so people didn’t have to look at my teeth. Now, obviously, this guy was an absolute troll, in the original sense of the word. A nasty, little creature with no care for how his words might affect me. He may’ve even taken delight in criticising me. Who knows?

But now, about 15 years later, that moment has returned to the forefront of my mind and I’ve felt compelled to write about it. The poem did not go in the direction I imagined it would, in fact, nasty-teeth man is just a footnote in the poem that turned out to be about someone else altogether. That’s how writing goes! This may not be the last time I feel compelled to write about teeth-man, and this is only the first draft of this poem. So there is plenty of work to do and countless other writing journeys I could take with this one idea.

But for now, here’s the first draft of ‘The Man Who Hated My Teeth’.

Drifting along the Adriatic

Young, excited, attracted

Like a movie we lay on the deck

And gazed at the stars

We talked about everything

You said you wanted a big family

That didn’t scare me

I imagined it. Us.

Entwined and in love

On we sailed

Some days you spent with me

Some nights I spent with you

We parted in Split.

Appropriately

I returned home

Waiting daily for the beep of my phone

That came from time to time

You returned home

Our reunion, for me, was everything

Your face, your smile

Your eyes that seemed to drink me up

I was so ready for us

You put your arms around me

Pulled me to you

I lifted my face

And you kissed my cheek

Croatia had been great

Europe enthralling

But now you were home

It was time

To give

Your relationship

Another chance

Deep breath. I smiled

And swallowed

And wished you every good thing

So friends we were

And so it was

In time you left your girlfriend

She wasn’t right after all

But I was still there

Still feeling

Tuesdays became ours

Date nights

Movie nights

Lines blurred again

But never enough for you

Or me

I knew some of your friends

You knew some of mine

At a dive bar in St. Kilda

A friend of yours, unknown to me

Leaned in and said

You should keep your mouth closed

Your teeth are awful

I looked at you

Into those eyes

Could you see my humiliation?

I didn’t smile again that night

Even now I catch myself

Blissfully enjoying a moment

With my hand covering my mouth

Fifteen

Years

Later

I have kids

You do too

Our friendship exists online now

My teeth as they always were

I wish you every good thing

Well now that’s left me feeling a bit sentimental. I think I need a cup of tea. Until tomorrow friends xx

Scotty From Marketing Claps Back

‘Well hi there fine citizen

Australian, my neighbour

I can tell from your poem

That you surely vote Labor

Or worse, could it be

That you vote for the greens?

Haven’t you read?

They’re not all that they seem

The Greens and the hippies

They’re the ones you should blame

Now that our fine land

Has gone up in flames

They hate it whenever

We try to do good

They won’t let us backburn!

But we knew we should

We know ALL of the things

That we needed to do

But the Greens wouldn’t let us

They’re bad through and through

And anyway, really

Is fire SO bad?

You’re acting like

This is first one we’ve had.

But this is Australia

And this is the season

When fires will start

Not for rhyme nor for reason

If you’re still concerned

Let Rupert assure youse

The Hanging Rock races

Is really page one news

So you see noisy citizen

It’s high time you relax

Untwist your knickers

And have a chillax

The cricket’s on soon

We can cheer on our boys

Now there’s a fine place

For your unceasing noise

Then shush up your mouth

And do like the others

The quiet Australians

Your sisters and brothers.’