Tag Archive: grief


Reaching for Mercy Greenbelt 2018 Proost Talitha Fraser

“Here is poetry arising from the beautiful souls of poets you have passed on the street, never knowing they carried words that must be spoken… the poems are at times angry howls of protest or cries of lament, at other times they are saturated with hope.”

What makes a poem spiritual/Christian and therefore worthy of inclusion in this anthology? This is not an easy question to answer, at least in part because poetic spirituality is not a familiar part of our dominant religious culture. I have found it helpful to read the poetry written by the Sufi poets- Attar, Rumi, Sanai etc. They write poems that are not about instruction or impartation of theological truth (although they might achieve both) neither are they always about ‘God’ at all- rather they are written by people seeking truth, beauty and honesty. Sometimes they tip over into mysticism, as if what they are writing has gone beyond even their own understanding. Poetry like this creates open spaces for our spirituality to adventure; we feel it as much as we understand it…we just ‘know’ it when we read it. The poem soars inside us.

…So here we are. The starting page of a new book. A book full of people reaching for mercy.

Chris Goan

It has been a privilege over the past year to work with Chris Goan the curator of Proosts’ Poetry Collection Vol. 2 “Reaching for Mercy” and to travel to the UK for it’s launch at the Greenbelt Festival. Chris has a way of seeing people and holding space for how they see the world that’s captured and collated in this lovely collection by 8 editors and over a 100 contributors from all over the world… it’s not just “pretty” poetry, it’s protest too. Across all the themes: truth, wild, resisting, lament, hope, post truth, everyone is welcome, whole… there is a poignant paradox of sure hope and disbelieving grief in responding to the way the world is.  I think this collection speaks to our times. I hope it speaks to you.

 

Our model at events is to read one of our own poems and one by another contributor as a way of bringing that broader community of beautiful ordinary souls together. These are the pieces I read at Greenbelt…

God, did you see the news today?

God, did you see the news today?
We’re killing one another.
We’re killing in places killing has gone on so long we don’t know how to stop…
We’re killing next door.
We’re killing one another.

God, did you see the news today?
We’re laying waste to the world
to consume, consume, consume
an appetite “stuff” cannot sate.
Our elders know. Our elders tell us.
We ignore their wisdom.

God, did you see the news today?
People are saying hateful, hurtful things
what is right, what is wrong
what is holy, what is profane
…as if we know. As if we could know.

God, did you see the news today?
Were you there when we turned the boats away?
We are denying people food, electricity, sanitation, shelter, medical care…
We are denying people their basic human rights.

People are grieved and weary.
Longing for a world that is different
but not knowing where to start.
Not knowing how to start.
All victims, variously blind.

I’m not pointing fingers, I’m raising my hand.
I need Your help. We need Your help.

Amen.

 

And I was also very proud to read this piece written by my sister Abby. It felt significant to feel like I was representing some voice of Australia and New Zealand all the way around the world. It includes language and it includes my family. It speaks to home, belonging and identity… thanks for your work and words Mana Wahine… x

 

My Truth belongs to me
Abby Wendy

My Truth belongs to me. I will hold it tight, hold it close.
I will bury it deep.
My truth is a tūrangawaewae for the roots of my heart.
I will water it.
My truth is a nesting place for my wairua.

My truth is reflected in ten thousand random moments.
I am shining like the sun in the secret power of my own unique truth.

My truth requires no scientific proof – I believe it.
My truth requires no majority support – I believe it.

If I whisper my truth in your ear, will you stand with me? Would you trample the roots of my heart, buried deep, in my sacred place of belonging? Where will my spirit rest, if my truth becomes ash?

I will hold it tight, hold it close.
I will bury it deep.
My Truth belongs to me.

 



Copies of this book are available from Proost, if you know me it might be worth waiting as I’ll likely do a bulk order to Australia and you can get one from me directly if that’s easier… If you haven’t heard of it, Proost is a small publishing outlet aimed at gathering together resources from the creative edges of Church. Proost have lots of interesting stuff on their site – animations, songs, Easter and Advent resources, books… so have a look around while you’re there!

All We Can’t See: Illustrating the Nauru Files – a powerful exhibition as part of Melbourne Art Week that invites artists to respond to the redacted case file notes from Nauru… the images giving a human face to the human cost of the experience of being on the receiving end of Australia’s policy of offshore detention.

all we don't know exhibition fortyfivedownstairs melbourne August 2018 refugees Nauru files

all we don't know exhibition fortyfivedownstairs melbourne August 2018 refugees Nauru files

 

all we don't know exhibition fortyfivedownstairs melbourne August 2018 refugees Nauru files

grown up holding hands with a child joy cowley poem bridges

There are times in life
when we are called to be bridges,
not a great monument spanning a distance
and carrying loads of heavy traffic
but a simple bridge
to help one person from here to there
over some difficulty
such as pain, fear, grief, loneliness,
a bridge which opens the way
for ongoing journey.

When I become a bridge for another,
I bring upon myself a blessing, for I escape
from the small prison of self
and exist for a wider world,
breaking out to be a larger being
who can enter another’s pain
and rejoice in another’s triumph.

I know of only one greater blessing
in this life, and that is
to allow someone else
to be a bridge for me.

Joy Cowley
Featherston, Wairarapa #NZWOMANPOETS

 

The characters in this story are 5 and 6 but it is WAY to scary for kids that age (Badjelly turns kids into sausages).  Spike Mulligan does all the voices in this creative and absurd story and there’s a fairly intense soundtrack (fyi his work was a big influence on the Monty Python crew).  Essentially little kids Tim and Rose wander into the woods after their lost cow Lucy and meet various enchanted woodland characters like Binklebonk and Mudwiggle…  OMG a rumour website tells me Tim Burton might be making this into a movie 2020 – that could be fun… stinkypoo and knickers of fun.

Folks might also remember one of his most famous nonsense poems and a good example of his style:

On the Ning Nang Nong 

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There’s a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can’t catch ’em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
cause it’s the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong

Aah, like so many of the great lights of comedy it seems Spike struggled with nervous breakdowns and depression… this piece is called “Manic Depression” and is very evocative. Vale Spike Mulligan – we are grateful for your silliness and sensitivity and the gift of your art.

The pain is too much
A thousand grim winters
       grow in my head.
In my ears
        the sound of the
             coming dead
All seasons, all same
        all living
        all pain
No opiate to lock still
        my senses.
Only left, the body locked tenser.

 

not spill

outdoor light underneath at night outdoor bath lighting

not spill
knot spills
unravelling
dark matter
from black hole
consuming all
in its path

tug
loose strands
but I cannot
come undone

feels like malice
some ironic
toast to the Powers
that are killing me
we are all dying

 

Talitha Fraser

You set out

pink tiny daisy growing in a brick wall where flowers shouldn't be

you set out | not a doubt | full of faith
and truth | but the Tree of Life has no
fruit for you | what to do? | Set it
aflame and watch it burn | wood
you learn, burn, would you turn it to
good? [break] the conveyor belt
of happiness leads somewhere else |
you felt lied to | denied too | choice |
red or blue pill | black or white
still | frame | blame | psych, dyke
scared of the light not the dark
because the dark is safe | [break]
I find it hard to trust now
[break] people will tell you there
is no other way | stay | but I
say go… and pray | The Way is
what you make it | I don’t fit anymore
I don’t sit anymore in a pew for
you | leading or led? | bleeding but
fed | speeding or dead. [break]

 

Talitha Fraser

178

Trigger warning for suicide. If you’re feeling down, please reach out to friends, family or support agencies like Beyond Blue, Lifeline: 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467, Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years): 1800 55 1800.

 

There was a suicide in my sphere recently. Not someone I knew but it impacted lots of people that I know and in the aftermath we talked, trying to make sense of it. It’s not something easy to make sense of. We tried to find out details, as you do – who/why/when – and learned for a variety of reasons that further information wouldn’t be forthcoming, people worry that a suicide might lead to more suicides. I hear that but at the same time, I wonder: if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t know it’s happening, how do you prevent it? This person, whose name we don’t know, who we don’t know anything about – we have shed tears for them, we want to acknowledge their life and their family, want time back to tell them they were loved because we know the surety of that whatever else we do not know. Now that I am conscious of my not knowing, I look it up. More than 8 people a day in Australia, one every three hours… more than from cancer (ABS, 2015). I don’t know that we really begin to understand how the comings and goings of people in our lives matters deeply.  My coming and going matters, your coming and going in my life matters whatever context of work, of community, of relationship… A life lived shorter than it might be is always tragic.  I felt a grief inside me that didn’t feel appropriate to show, didn’t feel appropriate to share – it wasn’t supposed to belong to me because this person didn’t belong to me except that we all belong to one another.  So I asked myself: Where is appropriate to show grief? And took myself on an excursion to the local cemetery (as you do). The following poem is made up of words entirely taken from words written on people’s headstones. It  isn’t intended to be some macabre or nihilistic exercise… but the opposite. What words of comfort or solace could we have said if there’d be time? What message of love? Read them and be comforted, be solaced, be loved now. Hear them deep in your soul, take them in and let them nourish you.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will know the essence of life.

v1 bw

v3 bw

v4 bw

v5 bw

v6 bw

 

Peace, perfect peace,
let your song be delicate,
the flowers can hear.
In God’s care.

In the midst of life we are in death.
Let not your heart be troubled
neither let it be afraid.
In God’s care,
not here but risen,
Love’s Tribute.

Always loved, always in our hearts.
Sadly missed.
Behind all shadows standeth God.
Some time, some day, we’ll understand.

So deeply loved, so deeply mourned,
till we meet again, at rest,
in heavenly love abiding.

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide
the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Thy will be done always in our hearts.
Loved and always remembered.

Resting.
All losses are restored and sorrows end
in God’s care.
Those we love don’t go away
they walk beside us every day
To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.

Love lives on.

 

God, did you see the news today?

IMG_4468

God, did you see the news today?

We’re killing one another.
We’re killing in places killing has gone on so long we don’t know how to stop…
We’re killing next door.
We’re killing one another.

God, did you see the news today?

We’re laying waste to the world
to consume, consume, consume
an appetite “stuff” cannot sate.
Our elders know. Our elders tell us.
We ignore their wisdom.

God, did you see the news today?

People are saying hateful, hurtful things
what is right, what is wrong
what is holy, what is profane
…as if we know. As if we could know.

God, did you see the news today?

Were you there when we turned the boats away?
We are denying people food, electricity, sanitation, shelter, medical care…
We are denying people their basic human rights.

People are grieved and weary.
Longing for a world that is different
but not knowing where to start.
Not knowing how to start.
All victims, variously blind.

I’m not pointing fingers, I’m raising my hand.
I need Your help. We need Your help.

Amen

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A hollow grief, a hallow grief

We light candles in defiance of the darkness
raising our lights high to honour those voices silenced and stories untold
mine goes out.
A small enough gesture and mine is snuffed out before
it can transmit its’, however fragile, beacon of hope.
Discouraged, I lower my arm and my head but
a hand, bearing a lighter, comes into my view.
We each have that power – to share the light we have.
I had forgotten but this stranger reminds me:
the fellowship isn’t only with the Other but each other too.
Touched by grief, I don’t immediately move away following the vigil
a Chinese international student approaches to ask in broken English:
“Why do these people gather here this way?”
I try to explain but realise asylum “seeker” evokes Potteresque imagery
I let it lie – elusive to gain, as much to do with luck as skill,
glittering just out of reach… there are worse metaphors.
“You all show much courage”, she says.
“How’s that?” I ask.
“In China, this would never be allowed.”
What seems little enough… not nearly enough…
is to this person unthinkable
and I am confronted by my privilege to be here.
She moves off and a man joins me on the library lawn
“The powers you must overcome…
they would keep you from expanding.”
He lights a cigarette.
“They are going backwards, except,
it seemed backward even the first time”
he sighs looking around, “It is little enough”.
It is little enough.

Tonight on the anniversary of the “Regional Resettlement” initiative 55 vigils are taking place across Australia. It is little enough. It is something…

 

Messages from Manus

Timeline: Four years of abuse

19 July 2013: Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announces a new “Regional Resettlement Arrangement” with Papua New Guinea (PNG) so Australia can buy its way out of its ethical responsibilities. From this day forward anyone seeking protection and safety in Australia who arrive by boat will be forcibly transferred to PNG for processing and, if they are found to be refugees, be permanently settled there.
19 July 2013: The announcement causes distress amongst the people warehoused in detention in Nauru with peaceful protests escalating into violence.
3 August 2013: The Australian Government signs a new memorandum of understanding with Nauru similar to its Regional Resettlement Arrangement with Papua New Guinea.
17 February 2014: 23-year-old Reza Berati is murdered, and over 60 others injured, some of them seriously, on Manus Island. Numerous witness reports state Reza Berati was attacked by a group of G4S staff and at least one local staff member employed by The Salvation Army. Several eyewitnesses reported that one attacker picked up a large rock and hit Reza Berati on the head with it several times.
5September 2014: Hamid Khazaei, who was only 24 years old dies from a sepsis infection three weeks after he cut his foot at the detention centre on Manus Island. Inadequate medical care and delayed medical evacuation were later reported to have let to to Mr Khazaei’s death.
26 September 2014: The Australian and Cambodian governments sign a deal under which people on Nauru who are found to be refugees are to be resettled in Cambodia.  This second deal again allows Australia to buy its way out of its ethical responsibilities.
18 November 2014: Then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announces that asylum seekers who have registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Indonesia after 1 July 2014 will no longer be able to be resettled under Australia’s humanitarian program.
5 December 2014: bill passes both Houses providing the Immigration Minister with the power to detain people at sea (including outside Australia’s jurisdiction) and send them to other countries or vessels, even without the permission or knowledge of those countries.
20 March 2015: The report from independent review into allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru is released detailing reports of women being raped and allegations of children being sexually assaulted.
20 March 2015: A boat carrying 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers is intercepted by Australia. Its passengers are held at sea for nearly a month and undergo “enhanced screening” before being returned to Vietnam on 18 April.
28 May 2015: Thousands of men, women and children seeking protection are abandoned at sea in what is now known as the Andaman Sea ‘boat crisis’. Regional governments eventually agree to allow the boats to land but then Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s callous response to Australia offering safety is “nope, nope, nope”.
4 June 2015: Nine months after the $55 million Cambodia deal, four refugeesarrive in Phnom Penh from Nauru. All of these people subsequently choose to return to their countries of origin, despite the fact that all four were found to have well-founded fears of persecution.
1 July 2015: The Australian Border Force Act takes effect making it a crime punishable by two years’ imprisonment for medical professionals, educators and others contracted by the Australian Government to speak about what they see in offshore detention.
5 October 2015: The Nauruan Government announces that the Regional Processing Centre will operate under an open centre arrangement.
29 October 2015: Amnesty International Australia publishes a report revealing evidence that Australian officials paid boat crews to return peopleseeking asylum to Indonesia.
8 November 2015: Fazel Chegeni, an Iranian refugee detained in Christmas Island Detention Centre, is found dead after escaping the centre.
19 February 2016: Australia again rejects the standing offer from New Zealand to accept 150 people from Nauru or Manus Island, failing to provide sensible, durable solutions for the people trapped there.
21 February 2016: Baby Asha, a one-year old who was transferred along with her family from Nauru to Brisbane Lady Cilento Children’s hospital for medical treatment is released into community detention. This came after the doctors at the hospital refused to discharge Asha after the completion of her treatment, fearing she would be transferred back to Nauru.
23 March 2016: At the Ministerial Bali Process meeting a declaration was released (the Bali Declaration) which for the first time identified the need toprovide protection to refugees in the region.
15 April 2016: A refugee in Nauru is convicted of attempted suicide, which was recognised as a crime in Nauru at the time.
26 April 2016: PNG’s Supreme Court rules that the transfer and detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal.
26 April 2016: Omid Masoumali, a refugee living in Nauru for three years sets himself on fire. After more than 24 hours he is medically evacuated to Australia where he dies in a hospital in Brisbane on Friday 29 April 2016.
2 May 2016: A young Somali refugee living in Nauru sets herself on fire. She is later flown to Australia by air ambulance suffering burns to 70% of her body.
5 May 2016: A boat with 12 Sri Lankan people seeking asylum who were intercepted by Australian authorities earlier in the week are screened at sea before being returned to Sri Lanka. They were reportedly arrested on arrival at Colombo airport.
10 May 2016: The Federal Court rules the Government must provide a woman,raped on Nauru, access to a safe and legal termination.
July 2016: Amnesty International’s Senior Director for research visits Nauru where she finds a system of deliberate abuse hidden behind wall of secrecy.
10 August 2016: The Guardian releases the Nauru files – thousands of leaked incident reports from Nauru detail assaults, sexual abuse and child abuse.
19 September: UN Global Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York misses opportunity to find solutions to the global refugee crisis.
17 October 2016: In a new report Island of Despair’: Australia’s “processing” of refugees on Nauru Amnesty International find that the conditions to which refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru are subjected amounts to torture.
30 October 2016: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton tries to introduce legislation to ensure anyone taken to Nauru and Manus and then resettled anywhere in the world, would never be able to come to Australia.
13 November 2016: The Government takes an extreme step in shirking responsibility byannouncing an agreement with the United States for some of the refugees in offshore detention to be settled in the US via a process administered by the UNHCR.
25 November 2016: Malaysia begins work on a pilot scheme to allow refugees from Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority to work in the country, which in turn reduces number of people forced to take dangerous journeys in search for a safe place to rebuild their lives.
24 December 2016: Faysal Ishak Ahmed collapses at the Manus detention centre. He dies on Christmas Eve.
31 December 2016: The Indonesian President issues a Presidential Decree for refugees which for the first time provides people seeking asylum and refugees in Indonesia with a more formal legal status.
14 April 2017: PNG Soldiers fire directly into the Manus Island detention centre putting lives at risk. 9 people are injured. No one is held accountable.  

IMG_6304

“The idea that we live life in a straight line, like a story, seems to me to be increasingly absurd and, more than anything, a kind of intellectual convenience. I feel that the events in our lives are like a series of bells being struck and the vibrations spread outwards, affecting everything, our present, and our futures, of course, but our past as well. Everything is changing and vibrating and in flux.” 

 

In a rare interview since the death of his 15-year-old son, the singer reveals his struggle to write and reconnect with the world after the tragedy.