Dead Awkward Conversation

“Have you got a story burning a hole in your bottom drawer or a pile of writing that sounds better spoken? Do you want to deliver presentations without slides or are you learning to perform your poetry? Learn to combine writing with public speaking. Whatever you call your text, it is actually a short powerful solo theatre script. Let’s bring your show to an audience.” This was the invitation to join Miles and Huda the Goddess for the Australian Poetry Slam (APS) workshop that I attended last week. Wow! Wow! I was blown away by their enthusiasm, authenticity and passion for this artwork. I had fun!

Miles Merrill (founder of Word Travels and APS) and Huda the Goddess, the 2021 Australian Poetry Slam Champion, were our hosts for the afternoon sharing stories, writing practices and gifting us a few of their poetry performances. Again… wow!

Australian Poetry Slam (APS) is a live literary performance program where the audience chooses the champion. APS is run by Word Travels, a Sydney-based literary arts organisation.  This was my poem that I shared at the Coffs Harbour heat. Winner, Jason Johns poem and performance on dementia was amazing!

I appreciate my poem for giving voice to those hard and often awkward conversations around death; and for what it’s stirred in me and in friends… I hope it stirs something in you.

Dead Awkward Conversation—A Haibun

(Prose and Haiku)

Passed away, Gone to

Heaven, Past on, Past over.

Passed. Departed, Late.

MY GRANDMA died when I was six. Nobody said she was dead. Maybe she went to the shops and lost her way. I was 13 when my best friend’s mum died­, too—heart attack was what my mum told me. She gave me no wise words to guide me on the day my friend came back to school. My stomach twisted in a knot. I don’t recall the words I said or if any words were said at all. I do recall her tired, tear-stained face. I made no mention of the empty chair at the kitchen table. I wanted to cross the street and not look back. I feared I’d turn to salt. None of this is anyone’s fault. It is a story of how everyone forgets—the truth of life and death.

Kicked the bucket. Met

Their Maker, Called home,

Asleep. Slipped away

WHO KNOWS just what to say, when death is on the cards or waiting in the pack. With what’s been dealt, what hand is mine to play? I wanted to know about death and what to say when someone dies. I read book after book about the wars and revolutions, assassinations, murders and obituaries, but nowhere could I find, on or between the lines, dear God, what to say to my best friend in her grief.

Clouds cover the sun.

The rain falls quiet. Can we

Talk about your mum?


©Wendy Haynes 2022

Awkward Conversation