Today I’m thinking about… the importance of a shoulder.

May 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today I asked myself if I have ever had to face a terrible situation on my own. I then picked around the feta cheese in my greek salad and read a poem by Ali Cobby Eckermann* titled ‘I Tell You True’.

I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
since I watched my daughter perish
She burned to death inside a car
I lost what I most cherish
I saw the angels hold her
as I screamed with useless hope
I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
It’s the only way I cope!

A terrible situation on my own? I asked myself again. I thought about the lonely archetype of the drunk nursing his ninth scotch at a dodgy bar, gurgling his sorrows to a bartender trained to nod, smile, move on. I thought for a moment of what death can do to a person, and then what a person can do to death.

I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
since I found my sister dead
She hung herself to stop the rapes
I found her in the shed
The rapist bastard still lives here
unpunished in this town
I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
since I cut her down.

I thought for a moment that of course, we face everything alone, in the end. Because that is the way we function, how we are wired. We are born alone, die alone and in between face isolated moments where we look to our lefts and our rights and see nothing but misunderstandings and misery. I told people I know once that empathy was bullshit. I told them to chuck their shoes, try another’s on and see if they can really feel. Of course they can’t.

I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
since my mother passed away.
They found her battered down the creek
I miss her more each day
My family blamed me for her death
their words have made me wild
I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
’cos I was just a child.

We are cradled in the womb, I thought, and dodged another piece of cheese. We are born into a family. Some of us aren’t so lucky sure, but most of us end up with a family of sorts. A ramshackle family of disrepute, maybe, but a family. And then I thought of friends, mums and dads, and cuddles. Of the rumbling purr on top of my blankets, the rise and fall of a cat’s stomach in the late afternoon and wrestling with my big dog under a tree bogged in mud. And I thought of how often I’ve been truly alone, with no one to cry to. Hint: Not often.

So if you see someone like me
who’s drunk and loud and cursing
Don’t judge too hard, you never know
what sorrows we are nursing.

I thought of dad telling me to keep the things inside shut in. It is nobodies business, right? And that’s the way he lives. That’s the way I live, sometimes. The lettuce slid off my fork into the balsamic mud beneath and I wasn’t very hungry anymore. I thought of friends again. I thought of how much sorrow they must hold in every day. I will never understand. But then I thought of their shoulders. Shoulders, crying and how damn good it can feel.

*Ali Cobby Eckermann is an Aboriginal Australian poet. ‘I Tell You True’ is from her collection of poems Little Bit, Long Time. A collection I highly recommend.

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