December 2005

Poem commission

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.

At First

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 poems...