Travelling With Bukowski

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I always travel with a book. Sometimes several.

But this trip I decided to load e-books on my kindle, as well as a few audio books, and bring just a journal instead, to save space.

It worked for a while.

And then suddenly it didn’t.

 

In a bookshop in Manila I found the English Language section. They stocked a broad and eclectic range, and the books were mostly cheap paperbacks with impossibly thin pages and thin covers and several of every copy, impenetrable in their plastic wrapping.

I excavated a thin poetry book that was hidden behind new editions of recent best-sellers. The protective cover was gone; the small book was so well read that the cover was creased almost in two and every page was soiled and marked. Like all of the travellers before me I stopped and dipped between its pages for a moment. The world stood still as words fell around me like rain.

I dug around the shelves some more and then I found it. A volume of Charles Bukowski’s poetry. The cover was soft with wear. It was well read and loved already. It felt good in my hand, like I belonged to it, and it to me. I couldn’t bring myself to open it. I just held it tight, and stood in front of the shelves a little longer, pretending that I might choose something else. Wondering if I could take it home.

I couldn’t see for tears.

Once, long ago, I took a journey to another far-away place and forgot to take a book with me. I was living in the Kimberley then. The remote Australian outback. A terrible place to be without a book.

Not long after I arrived a group of American tourists camped at the station. It was their last adventure before they caught a plane to Darwin and then home. On the morning of their departure they dumped whatever they didn’t need, to lighten their luggage.

Later that morning I watched a cleaner empty the trash from the men’s toilet. Among the papers and bottles and debris I saw a book fly into the bin. Before I could stop myself I ran from the office and snatched it up. I didn’t even stop to read the cover. It was a book, and I was a junky starved of words.

I wiped it clean with a corner of my shirt and carried it home triumphant.

This same book.

For days back in that wilderness place I couldn’t even open it. I just read the cover over and over. The title said ‘You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense – Charles Bukowski.’

I felt like Bukowski was talking to me. I knew and he knew.

And as I chose and read a single poem, rationing them to every other day, I came to know that poets exist to sing breath back into our bodies when we can no longer breathe for ourselves.

I lost that precious book when we moved from the Kimberley. But now we have found each other again.

I read one randomly selected poem aloud each day, to entertain Ben and to nurture myself. It’s like travelling with an old friend.

It’s like coming home.

 

Rain, Words and Silence

Bohdi

“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.”
~ Robert Frost

 

It was raining in the city. Raining and I couldn’t sleep, my head so full of thoughts and my body so tight with pain.

Now I’m home, home at my farm, it’s sometime before dawn even thinks of pushing her first rays over the horizon, and the dark bowl of sky above me is raining cold bright drops fresh as tears. I’m still not sleeping, but I’m peaceful. The pain hums in my belly and my veins but I can drift away on my thoughts to someplace else, and I’m such a seasoned traveller on this night-train now that it’s no imposition. In its own way it’s liberating. I choose to see it like that, anyway.

The beauty of this sacred morning space is achingly, breathtakingly silence-making. No words can capture the majesty, nor fill the space inside me.

Can a poem be composed entirely of stillness?

 

Inside our little farmhouse Ben and the dogs are sleeping. My mala beads are laced through my fingers still, prayers lingering upon them. The fire crackles and hisses in the quiet as the tiny twigs and branches I have placed on the ashy embers smoke and dance their way to life.

 

All night in my not-sleeping space I’ve been thinking about my memoir. I have carried it with me all of this year, and it’s been more an agony than a labour of love.

In the long quiet rain-filled hours that went before this one I finally understood where it has all gone wrong. There are too many words and not enough space. I made it all too busy so I could hide in the pages like some dark shadow-bird. So that you wouldn’t see me. So that you wouldn’t judge me.

It’s in the quiet moments and the emptiness that all the magic happened. In those places I am stripped bare but I was ashamed for you to see me naked. In these past few hours I came to understand it all differently. If you can truly see me, it’s only because you recognise that same place in you. Why was I so afraid to take you there with me?

 

I’m okay, and I’ll be okay.

And so, my friend, will you.

Sending all my love your way, bejewelled with tiny raindrops bright as tears and the scent of woodsmoke and damp good earth.

Nicole xoxo

 

“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.”
~ Kahlil Gibran

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Imagination Land

There’s a place I like to set sail for, a favoured destination for short or extended trips…   I call it Imagination Land.

I first discovered this land as a small child, when my parents read stories to me.  Their words came to life, making worlds in my head. Characters became friends. Long after the story ended I found myself going back to those worlds, revisiting the story and putting myself into that land alongside the other characters.

Soon I realised that I could make up my own stories.

Fuzzy-felt boards, crayons and lego provided endless hours of pleasure as I created farms, hospitals, circus scenes, crazy hairdressing salons, fairy lands, castles full of funky princesses and dragons, libraries and outer space adventures.

Now I am grown. For a time, as a young adult, I forgot that this magical place existed. My bags were filled with textbooks. My mind was used for concrete and factual thinking. My feet were on the ladder.  My mouth was full of sand.

I rediscovered the power of Imagination Land during years of illness, where I was confined to bed. Even from my bed I could use my imagination to be at sea, captaining my own ship, or dancing on a starlit night in my finery with some handsome prince. I could imagine me well.  I could imagine me happy.  I could imagine me a different life, a better life…

Books reignited something within me.  Stories still had the ability to transport me to other worlds and other lives.  They stretched me and gave me wings. I devoured them as hungrily as a drowning man gasps for air.

Soon I found that there was a well within me, unvisited since childhood, that was brimming with words. This is my Imagination Land.  A land of infinite possibility and wonder. A place where life and magic combine in unexpected ways. It’s a place I dip my toes before I write. It’s the place where I meet my muse. Here there are fairies and pirates and dreams. Here there are strong women and lighthouses and drought-torn farms. Here there are heroes and villains and mysteries forgotten by time.  I hope that one day my words can bring you here too, so you might share this magic. ♥