The Need


somethings just need

there is an ache

there is a want to write without punctuation, without capitals. No stops. No starts.

just on and on

like drawing without lifting the pen

without an eraser

the dog just sleeps. endlessly

so capable of filling his time with breath

yoga of the most perfect type

i have an exercise physiologist now – a branch of physiotherapy – she tells me I need to breathe whilst doing the exercises she has given me to strengthen my already strong arms so I use my neck less. apparently i have taken to doing this and there are only so many joint hours left. use them wisely. learn to breathe.

I think of the snake bite dog and its paralysed respiratory muscles. A diaphragm no longer capable of action. It died in a flurry of spit and froth. The tube helped a bit. Its heart remained strong. Pounding its beat. Asking us to believe in it. But the breath. Gone. the gums the colour of concrete.

Control your breath. control your life

in front of me sits a book open for study. its text is turgid. it has tables and diagrams. i write instead in a journal. i make it pretty to help me. I bring out coloured pencils and draw images of brains and neural pathways. i hope it means it is making its own pathway. walk and a path will form. read and a track will open up.

Nearly there…

New Yorker _ behaviour cartoon

The year has a way of picking up speed at the end.


Like a train with failing brakes – headlong down the mountain. Where’s the man with the Mars Bar when you need him?


Today is one of the first warm days. Only a moment ago it was still jumper weather. But then suddenly, forcefully it hits – Summer. In Perth it is usually dry and endless. The sky is Texas big. The blue is cornflower.


People seem glad summer has come. But by the end they will be feeling differently. Already the grass is losing its moisture. Turning cracked and dry. The gum is stressed by its home hemmed in by a concrete driveway. Its roots need to breathe. But instead like a face Glad-wrapped. Tortured.


It withers on.


I have one more module to go for my animal behaviour course and then it is over. Kind of. Because I have enrolled to sit an exam. You idiot!


I will have six months. To Memorise. It is a long time since I memorised anything, but it is my plan. Memorise, like I did when I was a student trying to get into vet. When I thought my world would collapse if I did not get in. Then, I memorised whole passages of literature, loads of French verbs, chemical equations, rules of physics. My brain was fitter then. I had determination. I rose at 4am to study before school when the rest of the house was still asleep. I tiptoed to the kitchen and made myself an instant Nature’s Cuppa and held it between my hands as I read over my notes. Over and over.


I did not have to take an eleven year old to tennis, to swimming, to piano. I did not have a floor to sweep. I did do the dishes. I still do the dishes.


I pray that memorising might be fun. It want to memorise to relieve the stress I might feel going into an exam unprepared. Memory will save me.


In the meantime I will brush my teeth with my non-preferred hand – believing it is forging new pathways in my brain.


The boys are out tonight on a twilight sail. There is no wind. Even better. Lulling around. Adrift. Becalmed. Graham’s preferred sailing. Bobbing really. Beer in hand. Bombies off the side. Jasper with the men. Armed with a hacky sack for entertainment (and brain training). Soothed by the slap of the water against the side. Taking in, as if by osmosis, the gentle way the men have of being together. No need to inquire really about the state of each other’s minds. More just being together, while the sun goes down.



New Beginnings

study file

It is a hot day near the end of the school summer holidays. It has been the usual. So much swimming. Chlorine is the smell of summer. Stretchy bathers that are wearing away. Rashies that sag to the knees.

A pile of notes has arrived for me from the Uni.

I am going to study.

I am in wet bathers at my desk. I open the package. Jasper thinks it is a present. It is of a kind.

It has modules in it. Wrapped in plastic and prepunched ready for a lever arch file. I can make a trip to Office Works. Legitimately.

I begin to read what they call Module Zero on the internet. It has taken me an age to get this far. For some reason (but no doubt something I was to blame for) I had created two logins and the one I am using has no material in its downloadable files. They needed to give me a new password and chose elephant. Why elephant I wonder? I access it. Module Zero. It is a pre module. It is something to think about before you even begin to study. Reading it makes my heart race. It is about learning and memory and what are the best ways to motivate you and how to remember and how to study. Left brain. Right brain. What about No brain? What I am remembering is the terror of University. The fear of failure. Yes like Pavlov’s dog the bundle of notes have triggered a learned response. Panic.

I tell myself to breath. As if from heaven, I am interrupted by ten year olds who must go to the pool or else they will die.

Here they spend time devising a plan to get ice cream.

Eating a proper lunch first might just be the only way.

It is too hot to be a spectator. I get in to do laps. But it is half hearted; since I have done all the laps I had planned to do this week. I can just get in the water and flop about. But habit kicks in and so I mosey on up and down. In the lane next door a man is swimming in his khaki knee length shorts complete with belt.

Mmm I think. He must be desperate to swim. Overwhelmed by the heat perhaps. Some kind of foreign tourist unaccustomed to bathing suits…

At the end of the fifty metres I am about to turn when I look across and see him sitting on the edge of the pool smiling broadly at me. Excuse me, he says. I lift my goggles to eye him. What length is the pool?

Clearly he is pleased with the completion of his one lap.

It is an Olympic pool, I say. Fifty metres long.

Everyone is so happy here, he says. So many laughing children.

Yes, I suppose so.

I have not thought about who is happy and who is not.

I hang on the lane rope looking at him and his smile. Something about him invites questions. Perhaps the way he smiles. He tells me he hasn’t swum in a pool before. Just the ocean. What do you think? I ask. Do you like it?

It is good for my legs because I am a refugee and I have been tortured, he says, still smiling.

Oh, I see, I say not seeing at all. I don’t know what to say next after this. I guess I am unused to having a conversation with someone after they have mentioned their torture.

I prattle on about the pool, about how it is heated and he can come here every day if he wants and it is always the same temperature. He tells me he couldn’t afford to come every day. Someone has paid for him today.


I wish him well. Have a nice swim, I say. I swim off and see him out of the corner of my eye keeping pace with me, a lap across. Sometimes he does a kind of dog paddle and other times an attempt at freestyle. His legs are all over the place but he makes it up and down and up again. Swimming like he has fallen off a boat and is swimming for his life. Saving himself.

As I swim more laps I wonder about his loved ones. Are they in Sri Lanka still? Does he pine for someone? What can he think of the pool, with its inflated crocodile?