Sharing space with a stranger

imageMimosa Mawson, Rebecca Kokkonis, Ellen Freeman, Jon Donaldson; Church: a cold room, comfortless. And yet… abandoned by the other half, sharing space with a stranger: I find something. And even as I warm my frozen hands up sleeves that wish to be elsewhere; feet sharing similar sentiments, blocks of ice: I am glad to be here.

Yesterday: damp, dreary… dragged. Today, will be shorter. But the speed in which it travels will be determined by events whose course is currently beyond my control.

Submissive to the kind man manning speech at the altar, I ask silently that the Lord he invites us to pray to, in turn listens and, hears my prayer.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Contemplating Jesus


Long day: early morning, late night; tired, always… Body struggling, mind malfunctioning; stomach empty and full. Baby crying, adult sighing; both unhappy still. Looking; searching. Finding: keeping. Sitting on and hiding away. Questions. Answers. Are there any? No! The future: heavy and dark. The past: burning and hot.

Talking of which: an enthusiastic oven, a metal dish, a bed of pitta, a tray of bread, a mind distracted by a labyrinth, a hand not paying enough, and suddenly a stigmata: rugged, red.

Contemplating Jesus, I sip tea, a coffee machine purring in the background; overlapping chatter and clatter, the room heady and thick. Regarding fresh toast, tomato, interchangeable eggs, jam, butter, avocados: I’m fighting the urge to steal. But it’s Sunday and God beckons; so it’s coat on and pen away, along with all bad thoughts and behaviour.

Moments later: a red priest, a white chaplain, a group of strangers; candles, incense, holly, baubles; collection packets, bibles, hymns books, service notes; a man playing the organ, another collecting stragglers, tea and cake around the corner – our reward. At the back, a play table – pens, pencils, colouring books… And yet there are no children, just me, longing to reach in and extract. Colour me purple, colour me pink; make me a mess in pen and ink.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Unto us a child is born

imageAching, breaking, feeling fragile; the pain in my side no weaker than it was four day ago: I’m contemplating the ‘walk-in’ on Wardour Street. But I’m scared. Sick people remind me of my own mortality, and it’s not so sturdy of late. Things hurt. Others don’t work anymore. And I’ve no idea whether the hurting and the not working are permanent or temporary. Each time we move, each time I suffer a trauma or am challenged and pushed: I slide, and the slope is dark and dangerous.

Looking up, I can still see the sky: a weak hollow of blue light, diluted and empty. No clouds. No planes. No sun. Just a thin strip stretching from left to right. Some days it’s brighter, more intense, and on days like these I draw comfort from it. Some days it’s dull and dead and on these days I sink to my knees and pray, for I have no energy, no motivation, no drive, and things as simple as walking and talking tire me.

Recently, it’s been up and down, bouncing me like a yo yo on thread. Nausea creeps into my belly to sit and sip, drinking tea and stretching out, acting (for all intents) as if it owns the place – which it doesn’t but which I could be convinced to believe it does, because it is such a frequent visitor I can’t now remember when it last went away.

Sitting in church yesterday – listening to the sermon but drifting, not really there… images of past lives, past people, past things… passing through: rewinding me, reminding me; picking at threads, fingering snarls, thumbing pulls, travelling bobbles; contemplating each and every one as if it were the most intimate, infinite thing: precious, priceless… I have an epiphany. And whether it makes any difference overall, or any sense in a day or a week: the warmth and the strength are a gift. Raising limp hands, separating joined wrists, pulling reluctant arms from lazy legs, I wrap myself around that feeling as tightly and securely as I can, hoping against hope, against experience, against knowledge and thought, that it won’t ever go away.

Only it will, and the only question that holds any importance is when? For if the answer disappoints, I will be devastated.

Today I am tired and the colour of the sky unnerves me. Yesterday there was reason to celebrate, to try to feel positive and upbeat. And I guess there was a break too, from the normal way of things. But now it’s back: the pressure, the expectation, the need… and I’m struggling. Feeling useless, uninspired; doubting my ability: I look at everything I’ve done – now and then, lately and a long time ago – and it all seems so shallow and incomplete.

Doubt descends and I sink: deeper and deeper. And the slope down which I was slipping is no longer just a slope; it’s also part of the sea, and I am drowning too.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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• View or buy my work at my online portfolio