Growing older and having survived cancer at 40, a long time ago, certainly focuses the mind on the future and I was very aware of this when I wrote the poem FUTURE TENSE. I've always loved writing and still remember the excitement of the first longer piece of work I did. It was very experimental and I was certain it wouldn't get published. It probably wouldn't have but one of the small magazines, who did such great work for new writers, took that piece and many others. But that wasn't all they did. With infinite kindness, they often pointed out where I could improve my writing.
My first book was a picture book, MATTHEW AND HIS MAGIC KITE, but after that, I started wanting to capture the humour and interest of where I lived, so PRIVATE-KEEP OUT came next followed by KNOCK AND WAIT and ONE WAY ONLY. They're not biographies because all I wanted to do was to catch the spirit of those times.
It would be good if everyone wrote an account of their lives so their times are not lost. So many valuable histories unwritten and unread.
When I was a girl, I loved the American writer, BETTY MACDONALD, with her very funny accounts of her family and her life in the 1940's. But NORMAN MAILER's, 'THE NAKED AND THE DEAD' spun me up to the stars when I stumbled across it in the subscription library I belonged to at fifteen. ERNEST HEMINGWAY's 'CHRISTMAS IN PARIS 1923', was so sublime and beautiful it was like a torch for writers and the Toronto Star Weekly must have published it with joy in their hearts. I wonder if there still is a Toronto Star Weekly?
After weeks of being unwell, I was cheered by the sight of the rhododendrons full of tight buds, reminding me that, although it was a long way away, Spring would come, the buds would open and their glorious flowers would shine out. Warmth and colour would be in the world again.
HOPE IN TRAINING
Those tight little buds are waiting For next Spring. There’s no sign of hurry, No hint of impatience. In fact, just looking at them Reveals an alternative world To the one we live in.
There is no scent of roses here As there was in that quiet Cathedral. No flowers at all. Only the drunks hiccuping home, singing, Keeping well away from the grey and hungry water Hissing right up to the sea wall, All frosted and glittering.
Bitter sleet whipping their cold faces, Whitening their hair, Whitening the streets around them, As if spitefully denying any hope Of warmth and peace to come.
For these men and women staggering Down the frozen pavements, Are reluctant to go home. Reluctant to leave the world behind them. Boozily loving each other, Wanting to sing as loud as they can.
Singing without thinking, Knowing the words of songs learnt in childhood, Knowing that drunk or sober, Life is for the living.
These Tulips are a dazzle Of tethered sunshine, Silky lemon petals trembling In the slow moving air. Courteous flowers, Bowing to each other, Bending low to the waiting room Their stems gently curving, Lifting the green and lovely leaves That we might see The fabulous hidden life Waiting for us all.
A bitter night of frost, Of frozen snow and ice so thin It came in on the wind. Sharp as knives, cutting uncovered faces, Splitting flesh on poor cold fingers, Promising a day of misery With beauty in its pocket.
Down the long perishing road, Houses huddled tight together, Looking for warmth. Brick walls cold as stone. Frost rimed windows and doors tight closed. Tall chimneys carrying the tiny warmth Of dying fires into the freezing dark.
Into this cold silence, Whispered words, poems and half-remembered prayers Drift like wisps of smoke. Dreams and reality Bringing another world to this world.
Bringing hope For as long as those Who do the night work, Work on.