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Authors: Jay Griffiths

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BOOK: Tristimania
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Hospitality

(for Buz and Thoby)

Just how far has a hospital taken leave

Of its original senses

Of providing sacred hospitality

On an uncertain stretch of road, the inn,

In those acres of fields, the garden.

The language of care, cariad,

The caritas for those who are strangers to themselves.

Mercury is guardian of hospitality,

On the horizon for lost eyes, a focal point,

A
fuego,
the warmth of ‘hearth',

Folding in one warm word heart,

Heat, earth, hear, eat – and the tea

As a child in my grandmother's house

By the stove, bread rising,

The yeast, the wine

Of consecrated trust

That there will always be a welcome

For those suffering hiraeth away

From their own mind's square mile

So everywhere is home, as ungated

As gratitude, as grace.

Cariad (Welsh): ‘dear'. Hiraeth (Welsh): ‘homesickness'.

Patient Doctoring

Sometimes a doctor must be patient with himself

Holding back the frustration of the desire

To act, intervene, inject, prescribe

Because a patient's description may be more curative

Than a doctor's prescription:

The telling of telling details of a life.

A doctor wants someone up, out of bed, on their feet – of course –

To speed the course of illness.

It is harder to be willing to wait awhile

As the mind takes its own courses

In the paths of its own cures:

The guiding word is
docere,

Leading someone by the hand through madness

And fine doctoring is a subtle profession

Willing to watch, wait, attend,

Attentive to the quiet admissions

When a doctor's first and greatest skill is to listen.

I shrink from unkindness.

I wane at insensitive remarks.

But a crescent kindness

Kindles me like the moon

Waxing back to its full brightness.

It finds me, moves me:

Injections of reassurance twice a week

Interventions of thoughtfulness

Kindness a force against which even my nightmares weaken.

Fiercer, tougher, willing and wise to the medicine of time.

For the off-kilter mind

Listening is another form of intensive care.

I daresay it would be easier

To commit a patient talking suicide.

Far harder to take the other route

To the roots of this kind of pain

Not sedating suffering

But slowly – patiently – actually

Undoing its terrible hold.

The Question I Would Like to Ask a Shaman Now

Not how to fly.

Not how to hear the messages on the highest hills.

Not how to discern good angels from destroying ones.

Not even how to find the poetry.

But how to get back safe from the night-shade,

Night-vision intact, tucked poems in my rucksack.

If I answered my own question

It is to attend each occluded step

Beware the accidents of descent

Keep a constant vigil

A stern metallic grip

Holding fast to bread and water.

It is not to flinch at the knowledge

I have to climb down lonely as I climbed up

Fabulously alone.

To use each herb-word, each verb-root

Because the only thing which unclouds my solitude

Is language.

It is to find the courage to leave the allure

To return to the softer shore

Of the lovely dayside

The tidy fireside

Clean cups, stocked woodpile,

The written book, completed work.

In Thanks

For the sensitivity and tenderness of many people along the way, too numerous to mention, I offer my poignant appreciation. I drink to all tendernesses.

For those cherished friends who took care of me with enduring loyalty and lit candles in the dark: Ann Clare, Niall Griffiths, Anna Jenkins, Deborah Jones, Nicoletta Laude, George Marshall, Thoby Miller, George Monbiot, Marg Munyard, Eddie Parker, Jan Parker, Andy Scrase, Hannah Scrase, Thea Stein, Buz Thomas, Andy Warren and Vic Worsley.

For being the apple of my eye: David Griffiths and Timothy Griffiths.

For such wise and comradely encouragement, a deep bow to Barry Lopez, Iain McGilchrist and Philip Pullman.

For kindness, intelligence and support far beyond the call of duty, I salute my agent Jessica Woollard and my editor Jack Shoemaker, together with Anna Ridley and Anna Kelly. Thank you with all my heart.

And for the profound skill and care of Dr Leslie: I hope that this book itself stands as my testament of gratitude. It dedicates itself to you.

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