An attempt to prevent the death of a young woman

At the moment I'm working on a collection of poems written to the young people I see at the youth health clinic I work in. I love my job, mainly because I get the time I need to be the doctor I was trained to be. And because I love the young people I see. They come in different shapes and sizes and with such a range of stories. At the end of each day I always feel like I’ve been in a Dickens novel. Their stories are funny and sad and sweet and incredibly painful at times. I think two people trying to communicate well is one of the great adventures of being human.

Sooo … I wanted to write to the kids. And tell them I love them. And to tell them they make me feel lucky. They teach me every day. Perhaps I want to reach out too and just offer some sort of hand to grab as they wobble down whatever ladder they are negotiating.

I love the challenge of finding a new tone and way to write in the collection as well. For a long time I've been working on oral poems in both English and Te Reo Māori so for this project I've had to figure out how to construct a written poem again. And how to write something that works as a letter and a poem at the same time.

Anyway, I'm rolling around with it on the floor at the moment. It's all wrestle and sweat. I love this stage of a book. It's two steps forward and one back. I want to know if I'm going to win every day … or end up on my backside.

I’ve shared the poem below that kicked the whole project off. It's one I wrote for a young woman I really respect and care about. She has struggled for a long time with not wanting to be here. She really challenged my right to stand in her way and that made me want to put down on paper why I wanted her to live. It took ages to get it right to be honest. I remember being utterly stuck … knowing I wanted to say something but not what that was.

A while back I took the poem with me on a trip to the Queen Charlotte track … and in the middle of going round and round in my doubt a group of fourth form boys came barging into the cabin beside me in Furneaux lodge. It was all crash, boom, bang for a moment and then they were off doing bombs into the inlet from the end of the wharf nearby. Their whooping and splashing and laughter echoed through the landscape. It was the circuit breaker I needed to say what I wanted to.

An attempt to prevent the suicide of a young woman

I do not want

you to die

today, Anna.

Perhaps I

seem

stubborn.

I have my

reasons

of course,

but they will only

make us argue.

It has taken

some time,

my feet are sore,

the high horse

is grazing.

I have come

simply to say

that today

there are boys

jumping

off the end

of the wharf.

They are

washing

themselves

in the

last light.

See how they

huddle

and shiver,

their knees bent

together,

trembling,

as they drop

into the water

one by one

like ripe fruit.

Beside them

seems a sort of sea,

where sounds

swim separately,

and their

old men sit back

from their

bodies

and smile.

Soon they will

pass beside us,

storming,

like a tall

dumb cloud.

They have

no idea at all

they are alive.

Tomorrow,

they will have

moved on,

and we perhaps

with them.

By the way, I've just picked up a small collection of Italo Calvino. Soon I'm going to lie back on the big red couch I read and write on and get lost in it …

Ngā mihi nui, Glenn.

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