I haven’t written poetry for a few years. Lots of notes, but no poetry. On 1 April, I found out that my dear friend Camille had only weeks to live after a diagnosis of incurable angiosarcoma in January. For some reason, I grabbed a pencil and notebook and started writing.
Cam had a double lung transplant for a rare immune disorder in February 2013. She messaged me that morning to let me know that lungs were available. We both cried out of joy and fear. I was just about to walk into a ten day silent meditation retreat, and didn’t know for a couple of days whether she had lived or died until my teacher told me she had survived.
Cam knew I was going on this retreat, and when she woke up from her surgery she scribbled the word ‘retreat’ on a piece of paper (I believe she was still intubated). Her family had no idea what it meant, but we eventually explained it to them. It was her first word and I will always feel very honoured by that.
On the 7 April, my friend Katherine and I went to Melbourne for Cam’s early 45th birthday party. People travelled from interstate and overseas and it was full of love and colour just like Cam who was a gifted sewer and crafter and lover of anything bright. What was truly special about her party was how she had brought so many people together through her CurlyPops blog and instagram feed (the girl loved her social media).
In her final weeks, she travelled to New Zealand and Uluru, made quilts for her nephews, raised money for cancer research, went to her nephew’s basketball final (they won), and spent Easter in Tasmania with her family. And that’s when things went a little pear shaped. Friends chartered a flight for Cam on Easter Sunday and she died on Tuesday afternoon. I usually write long posts about my beloveds who have died, but I don’t have the head space to keep writing. It’s fair to say I’m fucking devastated and many hearts are broken. And I’ll leave you with one of the last things Cam said to me – ‘please don’t forget me’. Oh, Cam – how could I ever?
And so, it is weeks now.
Not a year, not months; the anticipation of chemotherapy expired.
Just the work of grief, the clippings of loose ends,
tucking under seams and weaving them in
until the blanket is threadbare for when your nephews
have children of their own.
There is no fairness in this – we knew this from the outset.
And you with your red lipstick asking, ‘have I done enough?’
You did it all by waking up as I waited
in stillness under a blanket of cicadas —
my head thicker with memory than I bargained for,
waiting for rivers of thought to be stilled.
I’m supposed to be good at this —
the sick, the dying, the grief;
the scaffold of life being torn down.
But as I chew on an apple I feel vastly under qualified.
Vastly under qualified, yet heaving with it all,
splitting open like banksia pod.
And just now, a rainbow lorikeet lands in the Chinese Elm
and it is as though you are here but already gone.
The bird hangs from a branch, bark tight with lichen.
It rebalances, drops down to the bird bath and sips delicately;
it’s teal head glinting in the autumn sun.
I catch the wind on my tongue, see the hibiscus still blooming.
I memorise you, singing you home with a hymn to all things lost.