The words I write hurt

sometimes the words i write on the page hurt too much
and i cannot look at them

then my hand cannot make a shape
and i can’t feel anything at all

have i written too much?
will it just add increase to their pain; to their suffering
but
how can you write too much about this?
sometimes it is all i have written
like sadness is my only dialect
a thesaurus of torment

i have stopped and i don’t know how to start.

how can i find new words yet still honour the ones i know?

i want to forget
and yet i mustn’t.
must i?
i must not forget.
must i?
isn’t it enough that i know.
that only i know
that i know.
but what about the others?
must i tell?
do i tell them?
must i?
create a new truth for them?

sometimes the words i write on the page hurt too much
and i cannot look at them.

(c) 2014 Mel Irvine


I scribbled some words that became this poem in April 2014; towards the end of my first trip to Estancia, Iloilo following Typhoon Yolanda.

The notes were inspired after one of my hosts, Pom Villanueva, spent time talking with me about her life as a journalist and activist. Two years of close reporting on human trafficking, prostitution and slavery left her depleted and feeling unable to write. Or at least unable to write in the same way.

A few days ago I found these words scratched in my red notebook , bringing back our conversation and my own feelings of immobilisation by all  I had seen.

This post is symbolic of the genesis of my blog, and like many other posts, I have predated the publishing date so it sits in alignment with when the event occurred.

This past fortnight has been spent working through all the photos, video, handwritten notes, and, memories of my three trips to the Philippines. I felt compelled to publish it all even though some of it is no longer ‘current’ or maybe even relevant. However a promise was made to the people inside the images and the stories. Their expectation that their story would be told. I feel now I have honoured that and in doing so, overcome a writer’s block that overwhelmed me in the poem.

I’m now set to wondering about Pom and what she is writing. Perhaps that will unfold during my next trip. So now strangely, I begin this blog with the end and create a new beginning.

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