Reflections/poem biography for And Whenblue for and when 3smaller

“Blue lights sequence incessantly –
LED-blips strung at life’s corners,”

The title for this poem comes from – of all places! – the film Dude, Where’s my Car? There is a hilarious drive-thru scene where the order-taker says ‘And then’ after every item ordered, but keeps going with this phrase at the end of the order: and then, and then, and then… As this poem is in some ways a list of my different medical afflictions, changing this phrase slightly to ‘And When’ seemed an appropriate title.

For me, the poem opens in the feeling of emptiness and depression that may be a separate disease in itself but also seems to be a side-effect of other illnesses. These have included bursitis in one hip, glasses from the age of ten (for myopia and astigmatism) and diabetes – hence the abnormal pancreas.

I guess all of us are aware of death. When I was young, it was something that happened to other people, already old, such as my Nanna. My Grandad, who also had diabetes, lived with us while I was a teenager. He lost his eyesight to diabetes and had one of his legs amputated because of diabetic complications, before dying while I was still at university.

Slightly later in my twenties, I lost a first young friend. Having babies also revealed my own vulnerabilities. At 27, giving birth to my elder son, I had an emergency C-section and blood transfusion. Death was no longer something that happened to the old, it was something that could happen to anyone.

But it isn’t just death that I fear, it’s also complications from 35+ years of diabetes. One day, when a doctor tests my reflexes with his hammer, I expect my bones will sing or play notes back to him. Whether the tune will be a glockenspiel version of “Welcome to the House of Fun…’ or a xylophone variation on the ‘Donnie Darko’ theme music, I don’t know. But it will almost probably be off-key!

Meantime, I swim, walk, have my eyes checked regularly and try to keep my weight at a healthy level. Every year without any diabetic complications is something to be grateful for.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

How are hard sounds, unconnected images and pace used in this poem to create a sense of strangeness, fear and unavoidable inevitability?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

What colour would you associate most with growing old? Can you create a poem or story focussed around this colour that explores what you fear about or hope for in middle age or when you reach retirement? (Jenny Joseph’s ‘Warning’ may bring further inspiration.)

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.