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Sweet Crazy Love

A sequence of poetry by Laurene Dietrich about her harrowing experience with the mental health system, watching it treat and break her loved one.


Treatise 3: Sweet Crazy Love


the fabric that was my birthright

was a strong white cotton

shot through with knubby textured threads.


it showed the dirt.

it still does.

but not so much

as it once did.

now it is

ecodyed

with a lifetime of happenings

good, bad and indifferent.

it is patched

with scraps of other fabrics…

silks and fine linens

but also

old bush blankets and bits of shirts or aprons

and other used and discarded rags

given sometimes

or found in all kinds of expected or weird and wonderful places.


they are sewn with all manner of threads and stitches.

the beautiful, vivid and sad erratic embroidery

of sweet crazy love.

the intoxicated, meandering and bruised stitches

of days of madness and paranoia.

the swathes of cloth devoured by small, repetitive, slow lines

of lessons learned painstakingly over time

the ripped and mended, darned, patched and unmendable scabs

of cloth shattered suddenly and without warning.


this week

my cloth was ripped and

dyed a million shades of black and blue, green and yellow.

it will take a long time to repair.

but I have started.

with scraps

of beautiful, hand painted silk

made by me as

I learned to sing Italian folk songs of resistance and revolution

and also, love.

more silk

in strong rosy hues of buttery gold and deep, deep cream and crimsons

given and stitched to my battered old cloth

by the best of friends.


there are beautiful and unexpected eco stains

from good meals with friends or on my own,

from work in the garden

from the warbling of birds at the start of the day

from rain and mud and warm sunshine

from the moon at midnight

from laughter with friends

from phone calls and texts

and the tracks of my cars tyres.


I have found

my stash of threads

and a piece of soft old woollen cloth.

in the coming days I will

stitch it to the cotton

with slow even stitches.

I will use sturdy brightly coloured threads

of silk and cotton and linen

and anything else that will work

and I will do my best

to repair and reorganize

to mend and restructure

the cloth that is my life

with the embroideries,

darning and appliques

of sweet crazy love.


Photo provided by Laurene Dietrich


Clean Cut (or Sweet Crazy Love, Part 2)


this mend is not taking.

nothing I do

will hold the cloth

together.


I stitch and stitch.

use different threads.

try smaller needles.

other textures.

I walk away

and leave it.

come back

and try again.


nothing will hold.


and then another rent.

another tear.

this one

a straight slit.

clean and crisp

and in another part

the fabric

that is already

thick with mends.

black and blue and green and yellow

from wounds

that never really healed -

and are held together

with all manner of things.

but still,

this new wound

slices right through

everything.


I marvel

at how this open wound

has happened.

how cleanly it has

cut right through.


I wonder

how long this fabric

will last.


it is

so old,

so worn,

and seems so small.

each new stitch

seems to pull it tighter,

make it less flexible,

smaller,

and tougher to sew into.

my hands are frailer,

less certain of what they are doing.

I can’t see the work

as clearly as before.

my eyesight is failing

and tears blur things.

I take time out

to cry,

to mourn the slow passing

of my birthright fabric.


and tomorrow

I’ll try again

with a

strong,

fine,

multicoloured

piece of silk

that I dyed a long time ago.

and silk thread

that dosen’t match

but is strong and

might do the trick.


 

We sat down with Laurene to discuss the influences and inspirations behind her writing.


Laurene, when did you start writing? What prompted you to start writing?

As an adult, I probably started when a friend got me involved in a small writing group

in Bendigo. I have been writing on and off ever since. I can’t really remember

not writing. I keep 3 journals, all of which I write in most days. A couple of years ago

I started writing again when I joined a U3A writing class and last year one of my sons

convinced me to take part in NaNoWriMo – which I completed in a very incomplete

way, but the bones are there to work on later. It was great to see that I could

actually write that much in the space of a month.


Have you had any training in this field?

Not really, just essays at school and uni, reports written for various jobs I’ve had

and literature as a study at university.


Who are your writing idols? Is there a composer who inspires you?

I read lots of things and favourites change over and over. Books I will never get rid of

include 'Music and Freedom' by Zoe Morrison and a beautiful illustrated edition of the

'Mabinogion' translated by Lady Charlotte Guest. I am enjoying 3 particular books at

the moment – 'Food Wise: A whole systems guide to sustainable and delicious food

choices' by Gigi Berardi, 'Care: The radical art of taking time' by Brooke McAlary and 'This

One Wild and Precious Life: A hopeful path forward in a fractured world' by Sarah

Wilson. I also enjoy cookery books and my favourite ones are by Nigel Slater. My

youngest son has published several books of comics and they are also things that I

value – not just because he made them but because they are full of great humour. I

don’t have a favourite composer, but I enjoy Deborah Conway and Leonard Cohen’s

work and I listen to the ABC Jazz station, although I couldn’t tell you who I listen to

there – just that I enjoy the music.


In which forms do you usually write? Is there a particular reason you’re drawn to

these forms?

I enjoy poetry and short story writing, probably because they are short.


Are there themes or topics that you usually write about? If so, what are the

messages you’d like your reader to take from your pieces about these ideas or

issues?

I often write about things that bother me. At the moment, it’s the appallingly bad

joke that is our “mental health system”. The word “system” would be better

replaced with a word that means “chaotic, overtaxed, couldn’t give a rat’s, excuse

for a system".


How do you think being a rural woman impacts on your writing?

I have been working over the years with women on farms and other rural women’s

organisations and I think rural women have a no nonsense, get in and get the job

done attitude to things. Their perspectives and solutions to things are often more

creative and practical than many others and I think they have (as do I) a low

tolerance for lies and bullshit.


 

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