Authors: Jay Griffiths
(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,
the warmth of âhearth',
Folding in one warm word heart,
Heat, earth, hear, eat â 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): âdear'. Hiraeth (Welsh): âhomesickness'.
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 â of course â
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
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 â patiently â 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
To use each herb-word, each verb-root
Because the only thing which unclouds my solitude
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.
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.