‘Dissociation’, a poem by Helena Durham

Dissociation by Helena Durham
Published in The Lumen, Issue 1, 2014

dis·so·ci·a·tion, n. The state of being disconnected; a short-term defence mechanism against trauma; a debilitating post-survival disorder.

to pack seaside t-shirts, pullover fleeces and unread books
to abandon the scent of pillow, the softness of rabbit’s ear
to be doing this grown-up thing

to take the train
to feel it pick up the heart beat
to lose a city, become blind to its name on the route map

to inhale salted air
to exhale six hours of accumulated nothing

to see an estuary mouth, to consider its width, its tides
to fear its swallow and the lack of land
to rub the right hand on white wash, the left on pastel stucco
to fish for the name of this village

to remember in moments of being here
     where there is
to wish the flip-flops had not been forgotten
to take photos of Pinky Murphy’s
with its knitting-for-all basket, its clotted cream tea
to say this is the warmest place in Fowey in July
to make a transient discovery: memory is a flickering light bulb

to plunge into darkness
to be fog over the sea

to trust this is the day to leave
to read the ticket’s destination, to follow instructions
     saying change, change, change

to wash up at some station, unable to make sense
     of the next reservation

to have sufficient presence to ring
to hear her voice saying
     New Street? Then you’re in Birmingham.
     Look for the train to Nottingham.
     Platform 11? One foot, then the other.

     Breathe, breathe gently.
     Ring once you’re home.

to be conveyed
to compare steam from the cooling towers with clouds
     over the bay on Wednesday
to stroke the pebble pocketed for its smoothness on Thursday

to rummage for the door key, to be tickled by beach sand
     from the paddle on Friday
to be familiar with the click of the door
     in the warmth of red brick

to sip hot chocolate from a favourite mug
to snuggle up with pillow, to stroke rabbit’s ear
to close down

to wake up, to check the calendar
to wonder why a line was drawn through last week

to shrug
to shop, because the milk has gone off


Helena Durham is an undergraduate studying for a BA (Hons) in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Nottingham. A former nurse, and a trauma survivor, she is interested in how writing and mindfulness can encourage personal and community well-being.

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