I was asked by Steve Ellis, the CEO of St Petrocs, Cornwall’s
charity for the single homeless, to write a poem for
their annual carol service. I had several false starts
with this but was given the central image when a friend
told me how the bedroom ceiling of the house she is
renovating, fell in. The poem then became a more general
metaphor for how difficult situations can escalate –
whether it is the process of becoming homeless or the
breakdown of a marriage.
One day, I was sleeping in
when I saw a thread begin
to make its way along the wide ceiling
a thin crack crawling from corner
to corner, the small beginning of disaster.
I was far away, lost in my dreams
when plaster began to flicker
down to me - the opening grew wider -
still I slept - until great chunks like teeth
fell to the bed, so waking me, made me look up
beneath the gaping rafters – but before
my thoughts could ravel, the roof took flight.
I lay in my bed beneath the unforgiving sky
not knowing whether to pray or cry
when fate suddenly, with his sleight of hand
whipped the sheet and bed from under me
the whole house too, that was once a home
left me clutching just a blanket and a carrier bag
my address that night, the old, cold ground
no where to go, no where to hide
from voices saying I brought it on myself
no point in saying there was once a house
with a roof between me and faceless stars.
How it happened’s hard to say.
I was asleep one night
and didn’t see the crack begin.
I didn’t know that it would grow
so huge that I’d be left alone
ignored, bereft of home -
sleeping out and looking in.
From my notebook
In December, I spent several days simply being in the
cathedral building, engaging in conversations and cultivating
a state of negative capability! There follows some extracts
from my notebook which will provide the basis for later