Tag Archives: Tigers at Awhitu

No good way to grieve

When Sarah was turning forty, I wanted to give her something special. I found exactly what I was looking for:  seven delicate bracelets carved from bone. I sent three to Sarah, but reserved four to wear myself.

Splitting up a gift may sound odd, but it was not without reason. The white circle holds magic for me; a symbol of protection. And seven was our sum:  Sarah had been number three in the crizotinib trial, and I number four. The bracelets were meant to be souvenirs of travel to strange places; amulets of protection and a testament to our common bond.

Several days ago I received an email from Sarah’s husband. It’s been a difficult time for all of them, Michael and the children. He told me that he was wearing Sarah’s bracelet.

There is simply no way to predict the when or why or even how of grieving. Because life must go on, we do as well. Until those moments when an unbearable sadness washes over us and we find ourselves gasping for breath.

I closed my laptop, drew a hot bath, and had a good cry. And then I put on pajamas and got my copy of Sarah’s book of poetry, Tigers at Awhitu. She had written this inscription on the title page:

Tigers at Awhitu003David and Peter got home when I was half way through the book, my face blotchy and tear stained. David brought me some tea, and I read every last poem once again.

Tigers at Awhitu---Auckland University Press

Tigers at Awhitu—Auckland University Press

I know—I understand, that life is not anything close to fair—and yet Sarah’s passing is such an injustice. Nobody should die from lung cancer at the age of forty. I am grateful that we have her poems to hang on to. In July, a second volume titled Gleam will be published; something that Sarah was really looking forward to.

The particular beauty of poetry may well lie in it’s very spareness and ambiguity. The form lends itself to interpretation, and invites the reader in. We connect the dots and complete the suggested narrative, making the meaning very much our own. I am certain I know what Sarah was talking about in her poem Keep moving. For me, it is confirmation that she is still traveling.

Keep moving

I lumber over the land, knees swollen
and knotted like giant kumara roots.
Who is that child so far down below
who reaches out to me? I can barely hear
his cry, he is simply too far away. I trudge
through drying braided rivers, I step
over tussocky brown hills. What do you say,
you small people waving your hands at me
from beside the lake? You think I should stop,
you want to help, the child needs me?
Huh. No, no, the heat is its own desperate cure,
the creaking legs need to keep moving,
the dry earth knows all about me. The child?
Oh yes, I can see him still, I think he’s
getting smaller — isn’t that strange? Maybe
he’ll disappear — meanwhile, I have my eye
on that razor pass through the mountains.
I think I may have been there before.
— —-
Sarah Broom–Tigers at Awhitu

A poem by my friend Sarah Broom

I have a friend named Sarah Broom who is also ALK positive and battling stage four lung cancer. She lives in New Zealand and is the mother of three boys and a fine poet. Her diagnosis came just before the delivery of her third child, and somehow, someway, she has managed in the time since to complete and publish a beautiful book of poetry. Quite a few of the poems reflect on her illness, and this particular piece regarding motherhood got me right in my heart. Sarah was kind enough to have her publisher authorize reproduction here:

because
the
world
can
do
that
to
you
 

 

 
and
if
the
world
did
do
that
to
you,
 
and
took
me
from
you,
before
the
time
 
was
true
and
right
and
before
we
all
had
time
 
to
see
the
things
and
do
the
things
and
tell
 
the
things
we
need
to
tell,
to
see,
to
do,
 
so
many
things
I
cannot
even
imagine
them

 
because
you
are
only
six,
 
and
your
mind
is
crowded
with
soccer
and
cricket
 
and
deep‐sea
life,
with
knights
and
Narnia
 
and
the
thermohaline
conveyor,
and
when
you
were
five
 
you
cried
inconsolably
for
forty‐five
minutes
 
when
the
All
Blacks
lost,
and
already
when
you
read
 
you
cannot
hear
my
voice,
and
you
are
fierce
 
and
deep
and
I
am
afraid
for
you

 
and
because
you
are
only
two
and
three‐quarters
 
and
your
heart
is
full
of
trains
and
racing
cars
 
and
tigers
and
Tiggers
and
dinosaurs,
and
when
 
you
jump
into
the
pool
with
your
water‐wings
on
 
your
face
explodes
with
surprise
and
joy,
every
 
single
time,
and
you
are
tough
and
resilient
 
and
cheeky
as
hell
but
you
still
need
to
know
 
where
I
am,
about
every
three
minutes

 
and
because
you
are
only
nearly
one
and
your
mind
 
is
full
of
god
knows
what
–
sticky
things,
shiny
things,
 
soft
things,
loud
things,
faces
and
brothers
and
chuckles
 
and
screams,
and
every
time
you
lie
drinking
 
your
bottle
by
yourself
I
think
of
all
the
times
 
I
wasn’t
there,
of
how
they
rushed
you
into
life
 
like
there
wasn’t
enough
time
in
the
world,

 
which
there
isn’t,
sometimes

 
so
if
the
world
did
do
that
to
you
 
and
took
me
from
you,
before
the
time
 
was
true
and
right
and
before
we
all
had
time
 
to
do
the
things
we
need
to
do,
to
fight
more
 
and
laugh
more
and
be
bored
together
 
over
and
over,
to
ease
into
the
big
questions
 
slowly,
not
all
at
once,
not
like
that,
 
like
a
trapdoor
opening
up
 
under
your
feet
 
and
a
sickening
drop

 
but
if
the
world
did
do
that
to
you,

 
I
have
to
think
that
you
would
be

 
all
right

 
after
all

 


 
Tigers
at
Awhitu,
(Manchester:
Carcanet
Press,
2010).
Included
here
with
the
permission
of
the
author
and
the
publisher,
not
for
reproduction.