Finding the words…or not!

March 12, 2022 sarahjameswrites

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about words, their weight, their meaning, their use… As a writer, this isn’t something that’s new to me; it comes with the territory. But more and more, recently, I’ve also pre-occupied with a sense of words’ lack of weight, meaning, use…

It’s become hard to believe that I can find anything to say that hasn’t already been said before, that isn’t just noise in an ever over-noisy social media dominated world when what is really need is actual change.

Perhaps this is partly to do with age. The older I get the more I’ve heard the same words used in different ways, in tired ways, in lying ways. The more poems I’ve read too that already say the things I might want to say far better than I ever could…

I’m also from a generation that lived and existed, and actually managed to do so quite well, without social media, and all the sometimes-hard-to-sift-through words that come with these non-stop newsfeeds.

But, along with that, it’s a reflection of what’s going on in the world around me. Knowing history repeats itself is one thing. I’ve now reached the point where I’ve emotionally lived through world tragedies/wars/conflicts/problems that just keep being repeating in a slightly different forms, however pointless and inconceivable it seems that the world hasn’t learned from the past.

When I was younger, I had energy, hope and belief that things really could be different. And that even with a disability demanding my time and energy, I could still have enough left over to be part of effective changes. I didn’t realise quite how small I was, or how change-resistant/ignorant the world can be.

The past two years especially, with Covid and now the war in the Ukraine, has really brought this home, and increased my sense of futility. At the same time though, doing nothing also feels unacceptable.

So what can I do? The closest I’ve currently come to a conclusion is this poem from my new Verve collection Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic, written in reaction to news and conflict well before the current problems, but nonetheless similar, in essence.

This World Wide Web

When I close my eyes, blood falls
somewhere else, red as that missing girl’s
lost scarf, red as the poppies
dancing in my garden.

When I close my eyes, dust rises
from stampeding tyres in desert sand,
just before a mist of sudden gunfire,
or feet stumbling on a hidden landmine.

I flick from newsfeed to paper,
turn the pages, then let them fall
like closing eyelids,
or giant moths of black and whiteness.

I’m not the Earth’s axis;
my flightless eyes don’t close
as a butterfly-wing ripple, unleashing
a chain of storm chaos…

but this is my webbed world; eyes open
or closed, a million things happen
across our spinning globe –
no ocean wide enough

to stop lives spilling.
Only me in the middle of
my life, pulsing winged hope
to those within my reach.

Putting this into words is one thing, turning them in to sustained actions that will improve things is another. But I have to hope and try.

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March 2022
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