To write, you must also read the work of others.
At high school, we were steeped in the work of Australian poet, Judith Wright. This morning, I found a poem I’d not known or read. It speaks to me of the importance of bearing witness to our own stories.
Request to a Year
If the year is meditating a suitable gift,
I should like it to be the attitude
of my great-great-grandmother,
legendary devotee of the arts,
who having eight children
and little opportunity for painting pictures,
sat one day on a high rock
beside a river in Switzerland
and from a difficult distance viewed
her second son, balanced on a small ice flow,
drift down the current toward a waterfall
that struck rock bottom eighty feet below,
while her second daughter, impeded,
no doubt, by the petticoats of the day,
stretched out a last-hope alpenstock
(which luckily later caught him on his way).
Nothing, it was evident, could be done;
And with the artist’s isolating eye
My great-great-grandmother hastily sketched the scene.
The sketch survives to prove the story by.
Year, if you have no Mother’s day present planned,
Reach back and bring me the firmness of her hand.
From: Five Senses: Selected Poems by Judith Wright, Angus and Robertson, Sydney. 1963