patchwork

patchwork 
(for all those who live to fight another day)
nothingness hollow emptiness numbness
frozen murky grey confusion depression
misty sandy mirage flashes of the past
bits and pieces sewn into a patchwork
some brilliant joyful contented moments
others a paler shade of grey black blue
yet others turbulent clashing violent red
i see shiny multi-coloured quality street wrappers
floating in the air illuminated by a shaft of sunlight 
kids chasing them spellbound a magical moment
i remember going on the train to canton when i was 6
entering this dark spooky house lit by a lone candle
up the stairs where a wrinkly old lady dressed in black
lay dying my maternal grandmother but i did not know then
i am jolted back to the instant the boeing 747 landed with a bump
out of its metal belly spewed a chinese country bumpkin
in two black pigtails smothered by the london august heat 
welcome to heathrow your new life the year was 1969 i was 8
i see her wearing headphones in this language laboratory booth
repeat after me and that’s how my sister and i learnt english
and duely lost our childhood as our parents’ keepers
i am rudely awakened by vicious angry shouting familiar voices
it is not the melodic sound of dad singing after winning on the horses
nor the loving words of mum telling us to be careful when we went out
it is the heavy violent banging of mum’s head against the headboard
mum confronting him about the shanghai mistress his infidelity his lust
he hits back by threatening to kill her rushing back with a chinese cleaver
my superhero sis jumps in to avoid bloodshed while i cower under the duvet
i recall fairy godmother does not step in wave her magic wand make it all ok
the drama intensifies dad buggers off no kiss and make up no heart to heart
leaving in his wake a suicidal wife two unsupported traumatised teenagers
i remember thinking he didn’t love us enough to stay we weren’t good enough
i see two girls rushing home after school terrified of what they might find
if mum should have made good her threat what was gonna become of us
would we have to end up in a children’s home could we stay together
i see from the corner of my eye fairy godmother half waving the wand
mum pulls herself together after a good talking to from an old family friend
wipe your tears shelf the self pity your two girls need you to be strong
dad eventually came back with his tail between his legs mum took him back
fast forward 1980 i sit in a lecture theatre in cardiff full of nervous 18 year olds
true taste of freedom without the weight of ancient culture breathing down my neck
my feet metaphorically unbound an eye opener of how the other half lived
i was gobsmacked when my best friend hazel told me she was staying put
i assumed you went home after graduation that is what you do
by then i was addicted to my liberation not boxed in by somebody else’s rules
i thought up a cunning plan told mum i was off to hong kong to find my roots
that was the only way she would let me out of her claws not watch my every move
this time the boeing 747 landed at kai tak international airport with a bump
narrowly missing the high rise in kowloon welcome to 80’s hong kong
i see a 22 year old beautiful woman the world at her feet having a ball
charming her students though chinese like them she was very different
she didn’t walk the walk talk the talk like the natives but still cool and fun
enter the first boyfriend short overweight not brad pitt but heart of gold and keen
charmed her said nice things she’d never heard before like you are beautiful
put her on a pedestal she felt the dizzy heights from her throne she surveyed
all was good in her world she was loved adored free soaking it all in loving it
i recall in my mind’s eye a gorgeous bride in french plaits flowers in her hair
beaming with joy and pride in her plum coloured silk cheung sam
with the mandarin collar slits either side all the way down to the ground
clutching a bouquet of flowers it was her wedding day she gets the prince
determined to be married by 30 i made it with two months to spare
after we exchanged rings kees knelt on the grass i sat on his lap cameras flashed
it was the happiest day of my life for the first time i felt i belonged had come home
i remember moving into the first home we bought on the isle of dogs
a narrow town house on a square with open plan lounge and kitchen
two bedrooms and a box room we made into an office and integral garage
i see a woman lying in pain feeling fed up in a hospital bed
wishing the baby would hurry up her waters would break the labour over
36 hours later a baby girl is sucked into the world taking her first gasp
the father is beaming with joy the mother lies exhausted but proud
i have 1998 etched in my mind it was the year we had our best ever holiday
cape town gorgeous sunshine coastal drive ocean waves misty table mountain
kruger park elephants giraffes lions hyenas roaming the wild vultures circling
mei with her pink shiny barbie camera attracting unwanted attention
the guide and kees fighting off the baboon baring its teeth trying to get in
sleeping in cosy mud huts having barbecues out front putting sun tan lotion on
also the year it all started to go wrong at 36 i was diagnosed with breast cancer
i feel the huge hammer from the sky hitting me hard on my head like a nail
i lost my mind three years earlier let’s just put it down to workplace bullying
do you know that even happy life events like marriage buying a house
having a baby can be extremely stressful now my body was letting me down too
the worse was the not knowing torturous waiting endless tests needles
you run through various scenarios in your head best being no cancer 
worse was unthinkable and sod’s law the evil word ‘mastectomy’ resounded
i come to in a deadly silent room except for the machines beeping looked around
knew instinctively i was not back on ellis ward not enough beds for a start and quiet
no phone constantly ringing visitors’ voices nurses rushed off their feet bright light
i knew i hadn’t died gone to hell cos where was the furnace the welcoming party
my life hadn’t flashed before my eyes no light at the end of the tunnel pearly gates
a scottish male nurse appears like a genie this is the high dependency unit phew
soup has never tasted so good the op took longer than expected lost a lot of blood
i am minus left boob but replaced by brilliant reconstruction with implant muscle
less lymph nodes to ensure cancer hasn’t spread and additional scars front back
good news no further treatment needed bad news .5 cm of invasive cancer found
excellent prognosis nevertheless you are one of the lucky ones cho wan mmmm
who am i to beg to differ it’s all relative ain’t it i didn’t die it hasn’t spread so maybe
once is unlucky twice is careless especially as you can smell the finishing line
i’d passed the all important 5 year remission mark on the last strait to the 10th
i was getting too complacent just as you think it is safe to get back in the water
finally leave it behind the grey cloud hanging over the back of your mind
that’s be too easy wouldn’t it come on you are always up for a challenge
tough old bird survivor let’s see how far you can be pushed before you crack
God does not give you more than you can bear rubbish sorry He does
but what is the alternative lie down give up and die or shout bring it on
so what i lose my health hair i can’t swallow eat i am abandoned go it alone
i am in bed it is the afternoon but i have no desire to get up do anything
i don’t see the point makes no difference if i put the washing in now or later
i thought i’d be ecstatic the last day of my radiotherapy it felt a huge anti-climax
i believed i could slip effortlessly back into my old life of humdrum normality
how wrong my mind body soul went on strike shut down declared they’d enough
sulking pissed off the body assaulted poisoned the mind deprived the soul crushed
i took to my bed for 8 montnhs operated on sleep standby mode recharging
i am staring at a tall dark stranger who looks remarkably like my husband
he talks smells the same but i cant quite believe the words coming out of his mouth
they seem to take on a life of their own the sounds hanging heavily in the air
it feels like he is talking about somebody else’s marriage some other wife
who never made any effort in all the 16 years who made her husband’s life hell
it didn’t matter if she couldn’t help being depressed her cancer coming back
to top it all his business failed cos he couldn’t focus on turning it round he wants out
i hear a heart silently breaking the death throes of a marriage love strangled
anger what in all the 16 years of marriage not one single happy memory
i see a traumatised woman ripping out treasured photos from her white album
tearing them up scattering them like confetti on her wedding day
screaming there is no marriage anymore so why keep them
she wished for amnesia to wash over her blocking out i don’t love you anymore
i haven’t for 3 years i stayed waiting for you to change but now i know you won’t
i remember jumping into my red polo with early dawn behind me a broken woman
i drove to norwich having looked up the map a leap in the dark if ever there was
but i knew i was very unhappy i was dying inside i had to walk away or go insane
life hasn’t been one big bed of sweet roses in norwich the grass not really greener
i had no choice it was what i had to do to save myself from going under forever
i needed to get away from it all seek sanctuary a place to rest and heal recover
i had to have time for contemplation heartache for crying mourning self discovery
now what next brown cow who knows what tomorrow brings i don’t plan no more
i go with the flow embrace what life brings try not to sweat the small stuff
really in the scheme of things we are terribly insignificant a speck in the galaxies
our individual tragedies drama appear gigantic disastrous but they too will pass
despite the involuntary stay at heartache hotel regular custom at lonely hearts cafe
i would not swap a single piece of the patchwork of my life every bit a rare memory
every square rough or smooth a defining moment empowering me to go on
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About cho wan yau

Teacher by day poet/writer by night. Words have been my first love and will be my last. As a child I locked myself into the toilet devouring books which transported me to distant lands. Poetry shared penned from 2009-2010 in a titanic struggle to stay sane at Heartbreak Hotel. Please check it out on chowanyau@wordpress.com. Any comments or feedback welcome. Why not share your story with me, because we all have one, don't we?

Posted on August 1, 2013, in autobiography and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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