Ashes – Georgie

18 Jan

Aged 10, cola was a treat. I left a tiny taster for when the sun’s rays ached from stretching out to the garden.
Parch lipped, I was eager to quench, ran indoors and she was still digging. I bent down, swooped, tilted and gulped.
To receive an equation of smacked tastebuds+realisation, the result, instant regurgitation.
From drinking the ashy dregs of your deposited roll-up cigarette, flicked blindly into my treat.
I saw then, that I would never be a smoker. Or ever leave a can unattended.

Aged 17 and ashes don’t mean cigarettes.
They mean going to the Co-Operative Funeral Care to pick her up
And like my body refused to digest infected cola, I refused to digest her cancer
And for the record, I don’t spell cancer with a capital letter

So it’s my brother and me gone to collect her ashes, the dust many keep for sentiment
Like gravestones, and suddenly people are talking to inanimate objects as if the essence of person has just moved home
When really, it’s just a place the living go to not feel alone.
But your whispers can be heard wherever you choose to utter them
Let me tell you what I mean
We never treated the ‘casket’ as our mum, because to be honest, her gooey hugs don’t come from ashes.
And no comfort is felt from keeping them on a glass table with candles.
But that’s just us and you’re different.

So, it’s my brother and me gone to collect her ashes, the dust, we’ll let the wind and water embrace.
We’d ordered an ‘Oswald, Medium Solid Wood with Contours’ casket.
So you can imagine the awkwardness when the woman presented us a large, plastic jar.
My brother and me, well we looked down to what was in our hands, up to eachother and back to the woman.
I stood, highlighting the word ‘fun’ in funeral, on the sign above her head, remembering Frank Sinatra ‘My Way’ resonating from the chapel’s speakers.
How we insisted everyone sing along, lyrics on the order of service, no excuse of having forgotten
And how, in that strange, haunting sadness, I almost burst out laughing. I didn’t. I held it in, complied with social norm.
But wow, that could have been awkward.

Now, back to collecting the ashes and alas, the woman hadn’t joined in with my play on words. There was no ‘fun’ in the mistake of containers.
It was not a joke.
And that’s what we were telling ourselves, my brother and me, when the lady had left the room to go and check our order.

What did we do while the woman was out of sight? Sit there in silence. Awkward in the Co-Operative Funeral Care consultation room, waiting for atmosphere to crush our shoulders?
We unscrewed the lid, counted 1,2,3 and peered inside.
Now, we hadn’t thought about it much and didn’t know what to expect, but there was loads.
And it was grey, not precious gold. But maybe they come in different colours.

Our fingers gently dived into the jar and we massaged it, joked that she was a lot lighter now and how most of it would be the coffin.
The big epiphany? It was just dust. And it was what stars are made of.
And we were in creases, folds, moving like an accordion being played
Can you imagine! That poor woman walking in and us, shaking red and silent.
Admittedly, before being without her, never had we found pain so amusing.
Sometimes, all you can do is laugh. Tears can’t express that sort of feeling.

Composed, the woman apologised for their error and gave us another date to collect and this time in the correct container.
But this time, it was just me.
And the weight was heavier
In a big purple bag.
I climbed to the top deck of the bus, no one knowing I was carrying ashes. Human ashes. Sounds eery doesn’t it?
But it was just any other bus journey for everyone else. I wondered how often human ashes made it onto the bus. I felt powerful, couldn’t quite believe it. I smiled, chuckled inside.
Is surreal the word?
No, it’s not a feeling that can be described.
It stems from the possibility of another dimension.
If you believe in that.

I wrote this today, I’ll bring it in when we next bring in our pieces. Kinda want to do this now for say sumthin’! Far more ‘touchy subjects’ orientated and i enjoy it. Maybe because it’s new. Let me know your thoughts 🙂


14 Responses to “Ashes – Georgie”

  1. mouthypoets January 19, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    Anne here: really hard to critique this because I just absorbed the story, it is very blunt, matter of fact, and so quite intimate, I believe every detail and for me, that kind of honesty is far more moving than sweet sentiment (but like you say, we are all different). My sister and I organised my mother’s funeral with my aunt (my mother’s big sister) who sniffed her way through, my sister and I exchanging glances over her head because their is so much comedy in those situations and maybe it serves to relieve the pain ” before being without her, never had we found pain so amusing” – is this a true story? I don’t care, because it captures my feelings and touches me, so job done, I believe the narrator, and so I feel somebody else put there knows how WE felt/feel. As for constructive criticism? I will read it again when I have stopped thinking about my mum, and thinking of her is kind of painful, but good because it means she is still here, so thanks for that! I wrote a poem for my dad, but I’ve never been able to write one for my mum, now I realise that’s because the hole she has left is far bigger than the space she took up while she was here, so maybe I need to write about that instead.

    • mouthypoets January 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

      Sorry to hijack your post Georgie, will create feedback asap, wanted to just say this line from you Anne:

      ‘the hole she has left is far bigger than the space she took up while she was here’ a awesome + powerful statement and way of expressing somebody’s presence after they’ve passed.


  2. Georgina Jeronymides-Norie January 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    That is a beautiful line, Anne.

    And yes, it is completely true.
    Your response has choked me up! I can imagine how you feel because we had a guest at uni once who spoke about her first poem being written about her dad while he was in hospital (and the process and feelings etc) and the first poem i wrote was on my way to see my mum after receiving the phonecall described in my last poem, and for some reason, the only thing I could do or think was write a poem for her. Anyway I just balled out on the spot because it was so powerful hearing someone express the nearest thing to how you felt, that some one out there can come so close to understanding.

    Thank you for being so honest in your response!


  3. Chris January 20, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    Hello Georgie,
    This is a feeling that I am very much alien to. So just to let you know, from my perspective this piece is still twanging the heart strings which I think is important, the narrative voice is strong and likable and there’s some pretty vintage imagery used as well. It’s funny too, and I feel uplifted despite it’s poignancy. It’ll be real interesting to see this performed and to work on it in that aspect, I think it could be insanely powerful. Will pondered on some more constructive feedback and let you know

  4. Panya January 21, 2012 at 12:39 am #

    Hi Georgie
    What a beautiful piece, I felt like I travelled on that journey with you too, strong, sensitive, humorous, light but deep, moments when I was reaching for a hanky and points where I chuckled to myself. Well written, perhaps now you can look at making it tighter, make each word count even more for example your line
    “But it was just any other bus journey for everyone else” could that be said differently more succinct
    “But that’s just us and you’re different.” could this be more succinct e.g do you need the and you’re different? if you do that’s fine but would it work without it?
    experiment with editing words out that don’t help to move the narrative forward
    just some thoughts…

  5. Georgina Jeronymides-Norie January 21, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    That’s brilliant, thanks. Definitely agree on the tightness point so I’ve done some tweaking on it. I’m pondering “you’re different” bit. I think it would work so I’m debating if I need it or if i want it. Thanks for bringing it up.

    Everyone’s feedback has been wicked so thank you very much. Really love hearing the responses and so far, they’ve been just what I intended.

  6. mouthypoets January 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    Georgie this is by far the strongest thing I have seen from you – I actually think we should look at you enetering it into some competitions!

    So I only have tiny things to ask of you
    -‘smacked tastebuds’ this sounds like a good thing because of the connotation of ‘lip smackingly good’ kind of thing, so I think maybe look for another word for hitting or smacking that sounds more violent?
    -Why did you chose to use the + sign instead of saying plus?

    ….you know what I am going to leave my word for work analysis for a moment…

    Because after readying the whole thing my main question is the ending? Why did you chose to end it here in this way?

    For me this is eather a longer piece – maybe a short story? (because for me this, as prose is the perfect amount of spaced imagery and language with fyi I am VERY impressed with because that is basically the last thing I asked you for in feedback on another piece)
    -Or I think you should zoom out of this image because you already started to from the hands in the aches, to you on the bus, to the other people on the bus, maybe zoom out again to the people outside the bus on the streets?

    Well done. Lets get this finished and start looking at competitions! Join the NAWE and NALD mailing lists!


  7. mouthypoets January 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    p.s. I think the title needs to change x

    • Georgina Jeronymides-Norie January 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

      Competitions?! Wow, sounds wicked.

      Good point on the ‘smacked’ thing, will think about another word but if nothing suits then hopefully in performance, it’ll come across right.
      I used the + instead of the word so it tied in with ‘equation’. I like the way it looks too.

      And I’ve just attempted to answer your question about the ending but I can’t seem to write it out clearly at all without repeating myself and going on for a gazillion lines. Maybe I could share this at Mouthy on Friday?

      Not sure what’s i’d call if if it wasn’t called ‘ashes’, will have a think though 🙂

  8. Debs January 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    Yes… I don’t know the session plan for Friday yet because I am only just back but bring it in and we can talk.


  9. ellen mcclure January 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    I was just seeing the two of you as the poem unfolds, funny, sad at the same time, amazing work, loved it, Ellen and Stuart

  10. Matt Miller January 26, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    I absolutely love the view of death you capture in this. Things that stood out in this respect were the idea of gravestones being left for the living, as if the dead had moved home, the compulsion that people should sing and the need to laugh at a funeral. All fimiliar and very relatable thoughts very well put.

    I also liked the beginning image of drinking ashy coke when you were younger. I thought it offset the whole thing and lead to an effective framework for the rest that followed.

    In terms of improvement, I agree with Panya in terms of tightening certain bits. Like when you talk about wanting to laugh at the funeral, I didn’t know if you needed to point out that it would have been arkward – maybe it would work better in performance though, but yeah, love it. I wrote a poem for my grandma when she died trying to get that idea of life going on, which I got from your bit about the dust being what stars are made of.

    Don’t know what else to say, really enjoyed it.

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