Thursday, March 10, 2011

From despair to hope

Though the picture I had painted with my words was bleak, in it, Annemiek had picked up on the glimmer of hope. Out of despair comes hope; a constant, the other face of fear is hope.
This is something, of course, that organisations working in mental health and suicide prevention such as the wonderful SOS (suicide or survive) concur with. There is always hope.
Even when one thinks of going or when one has gone…somehow the human impulse is to find hope. And this, of course, is what Annemiek captured so well in her escaped butterflies and, even more striking, the imprint of what once was: the butterflies gone.
On Saturday the sun shone.
I lay back on the bed watching the sun on the bare-with-buds-branches. I read an entire poetry collection.
I hadn’t intended to. But the words drew me in.
From the wonderfully captivating title Never-Never Land I felt I had noiselessly landed in a place where words and sun spoke together.
The words on the pages and the sun that hit my eyes (I even held the book up to block it; to block that which I had been longing, longing, longing to see after the grey nothingness of winter). I wanted the words and the sun to speak; I was looking for meaning.
“When they can’t see me” held echoes of the disconnectedness that Sylvia Plath also expresses and that I have often felt. The narrator steps outside and observes her life from the garden through sliding glass doors.
            Everything is noiseless,
all framed like a scene from
somebody else’s domestic drama
on television, with the sound on mute.
(© Adele Ward, “When they can’t see me” from Never-Never Land (Bristol: Bluechrome Publishing, 2009)

Despite the disconnection, however, there is a quiet, steady hope. And it was through these poems that I was brought back to Annemiek’s butterflies cutting their way out of their ceramic entrapment.
I felt a sameness in the way we take meaning out of the things and people we possess. These things we possess – objects, live things, imagined things – are momentary and yet also lasting. Out of sight does not always mean out of mind as the saying goes. There can be deep connections between worlds and people we are told to believe are separate and unrelated.
In “Piazza Bande Nere” the narrator watches a prostitute while also watching over her sleepless baby. There is a beautiful unspoken affinity between the two women.
I worry over your empty slab
until your stilettos cross it and you
squat by a tree,
roll up your hem like a stocking
and clean out the last client.
2am. I put my baby in his cot
then stay here with you.
(© Adele Ward, “Pizza Bande Nere” from Never-Never Land (Bristol: Bluechrome Publishing, 2009)
And I thought again about the butterflies and how we always concentrate on their transformation into beauty. But beauty can also be lost. It is as fragile as life itself.
There is beauty, there is love...then there is not. There is freedom, something we take for granted and then as quick as we imagine a butterfly, it is gone: possession wiped away.
It is at that moment – the second we believe that we don’t have freedom – that the light goes. Somehow – as in my story “Possessions” – we are left with a list of possessions that amount to the clothes on our backs. But out of that list, the symbol of not possessing there is, still hope. Out of despair there is always possibility....
© Shauna Busto Gilligan except where indicated.


  1. Thank you so much for writing about my poetry. It's always so interesting, and emotional, to see how the poems are read by somebody else, and which lines they pick out. It has felt quite hard to write more poetry after that collection for various reasons. Perhaps it's time to get on with the writing again.

  2. It was a pleasure, Adele.
    Please do get back to writing with the knowledge of the power your words have to move.