About eighteen months ago, a video went viral. I watched it. The images stayed with me for nearly a year. A dog had been rescued. It was estimated that it was no more than three years old. The little dog had been kept in a basement with no natural light. The physical appearance showed neglect. X-rays revealed the extent of the abuse it had endured. The little guy was willing to be near people. Willing to be fed. Willing. But when his carers tried to pet him gently, he didn’t run away or even cower. He howled so loudly it sounded like he was screaming. I can still hear him, now.
In the world of psychology the term given to this is Exquisite Tenderness. An internal space so broken and bruised, it can never be touched or looked at.
I am still attending Pieta House. Counselling and therapy are not new to me. I have been attending them, on and off over the past twenty years. I attended when I felt a crisis coming on or when it was too late. I went to fix myself. To get myself up and running. To be the efficient, multi-tasking hard working individual I got rewarded for being. One Clinical Psychologist said I was a very intelligent, high functioning subject. Subject. Subject.
Pieta House put down a visible soft white cloud for me to fall. Being in this space is alien to me. It was. With this compassion, I found myself travelling to my own place of Exquisite Tenderness. It is the closest I have ever come to sitting with it. With my heart. Not my intellect. I can’t touch it. I can’t look at it. But I am now able to sit with it. With gentleness.
Arriving at this place filled me with a need to enter life’s arena, again.
I saw the last shout out for submissions for the Tower Poetry Slam come up in my Twitter feed. I have never entered my work to competition. It was only this year I found out what a Poetry Slam was.
I submitted my poem. This was my conscience act of re-entrance.
My poem was pre-selected for the competition. A competition to be held in Thoor Ballylee, Galway. The home of William Butler Yeats. To be performed with no script. No script. From memory. And. To be prepared. If selected for the next round, the poet was to be ready with a different poem. It took me a whole day to absorb this.
Before leaving the house on Saturday 15th October, I made sure that the table was set for my Kins. My Kins who would be coming home from her holiday that evening. I fed my dog. All done while reciting the poems out loud. (In such a way that may have warranted the neighbours calling the Gardai).
Driving in to park, I caught my breath. My eyes filled with tears. Beauty. Pure Beauty. I got out of the car and was greeted with a smile from the Guardian of the Fires. Crossing the bridge, lit with candles and fires, the water gurgling underneath, I stepped into Annwn. A place of Angels, Goblins and Fairies.
I was greeted with warmth. As I walked around Yeats’ home I was filled with reverence being in a place once occupied by a poetic giant. Slowly, the other poets began to arrive. Looking at the stage. The microphone. I tried to trace back to the exact moment I thought this was a good idea. I couldn’t. I was beyond nervous. After Sarah’s (Clancy) pep talk, we went outside to have a group picture taken by the fires. The appearance of each poet was then picked randomly. I was second.
I said it out loud. Over the microphone.
“I’m not having a hot flush, I’m just nervous as hell. Bear with me”
I began. My best self, began. I felt it. When I finished, the audience clapped. Loudly. I stepped down. And. For the first time in my whole life, I felt enough. There was nothing to analyse. To criticise. I was enough. As I listened to the other poets, I sank into a continuous moment of now. Laughing, listening and catching the fire they spat at me.
I walked back to the car park with a new sense of belonging. Feeling the power of community. Sarah Clancy and Elaine Feeney who birthed it. Poetry Ireland who sponsored it. The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, the volunteers, the Guardian of the Fires who all came together to create an Exquisite Space.
I had purpose and a cup of fire to drive home with. I cried a lot. I recognised it immediately. A spilling from the place that cannot be touched. The place I am beginning to embrace as part of me.
The next day, I enjoyed reading the other poets talking on Facebook about how much they revelled in it. I connected with new people. Poets. Radicals. Artists. When I was tired, I made a cup of tea before heading to bed then noticed I had been tagged. A member of the audience had written
and I was really sorry not to see Gormla make the second round as she gave an exceptional first performance of a very moving and beautifully constructed poem.
Lying on my pillow looking up at the ceiling I smiled at an unfamiliar thought I was having.
Maybe I’ll just sit here, in this space a little bit longer. With the Angels, Goblins and Fairies.