A Garment of Rainbows
Robert N Stephenson
Special Edition for Lena
Altair Australia Pty Ltd
FIRST PUBLISHED IN 2016 (A Garment of Rainbows) THIS EDITION PUBLISHED IN 2016 BY ALTAIR AUSTRALIA PTY LTD ISBN 978-1533586636 (PAPERBACK + ELECTRONIC BOOK) COPYRIGHT © CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS ROBERT N STEPHENSON 2016 COPYRIGHT COVER ART © ROBERT N STEPHENSON. THE RIGHTS OF ROBERT N STEPHENSON’S COLLECTED WORKS TO BE IDENTIFIED AS THE AUTHORS OF THIS WORK AND HAS BEEN ASSERTED BY HIM IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE COPYRIGHT AMENDMENT (MORAL RIGHTS) ACT 2000. THIS WORK IS COPYRIGHT. APART FROM ANY USE AS PERMITTED UNDER THE COPYRIGHT ACT 1968, NO PART MAY BE REPRODUCED, COPIED, SCANNED, STORED IN A RETRIEVAL SYSTEM, RECORDED, OR TRANSMITTED, IN ANY FORM OR BY ANY MEANS, WITHOUT THE PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER AND OR THE AUTHOR.
A Garment of Rainbows
Robert N Stephenson
Thank you to
My wife, Alice and my children Emma and Joshua,
whom I love very much., and to Philip Stevens,
for all his wisdom,
Introduction Page 6
Black – the darkness in my life Page 10
White – the light in which I stand Page 38
Just a reminder of now Page 62
Yellow Dresses Page 67
I was born in Adelaide to typical Aussie battler parents. I did most of my growing up in and around the suburb of Hillcrest and this area was not known for Christian values or lives. It was a poor area filled with struggling families, drugs, alcoholism and domestic abuses. Yet in that atmosphere I learned love from my parents regardless of what our area was sinking into.
I can’t give accurate reasons why not do I ever try to find the causes of my fall, but by the time I’d left school I was a a drug addicted alcoholic with little or no hope of getting a job or even having a future. To be young and directionless was typical for all in the area. I quickly fell in with a group of other young men and women in the same situation. We had no future prospects and the Government gave us money to help ease the hardships, in fact Hillcrest was pretty much a dole supported area. And while the dole was a little money it barely lasted longer than a week leaving the next fortnight to making money any way possible. Life was hard.
From the age of sixteen to twenty-one I lived as a drug addict. Most of the time I slept in the streets, mainly because I was too high on drugs to go home. I broke into houses, cars and shops to steal anything that could be sold to pay for my ever-growing addiction – the local police and I were on a first name basis. At one time I was even an informant on the local drug trade. Big time business had moved into the area and some unexplained deaths were growing. I lost friends to overdoses and accidents.
To say I was a mess is an understatement. I had no identity, no true friends and the loneliness seeped into my bones as the days turned cold and winter came. I was lost, my family didn’t know where I was or even how to reach out to help me.
One morning in the city, after spending a night in the Angus Street lock-up, I stood in the street crying. I had nowhere to go. My parents wouldn’t understand what had been happening in my life, and neither could I. As the clock struck 8.00 am, I turned and started arguing and yelling a man who had obviously stood behind me. I yelled and shook my fists until I realised I was yelling at my reflection. I had forgotten who I was and what I looked like.
I went to my parents and they did not turn away or judge me, they took me in and helped me heal. They took me to court appearances for all the crimes I had committed to feed my drug addictions. The people who I thought would never understand were the ones who helped be rebuild. I put myself into a rehabilitation clinic to help kick my drug addiction. It was two years before I was able to say I had kicked the drug habit and say I was free from the lawyers, judges and courts.
Life was better for a while – I got a job and had a motorcycle to get
me around, but I turned back to alcohol to help me cope with my new life. From the age of 23 to 27 I almost lost my job three times due to alcoholism; crashed my motorcycle over twenty times, seriously injuring myself four times; buried most of my mates, who died from overdoses, suicides and road accidents; and had my closest friend lose his memory after a serious motorcycle crash.
But from 27 things got better. I met a young lady named Alice who seemed to have a few troubles of her own. I thought I could help her and for the first time I prayed to a god I spent most of my life arguing against to help her. I knew Alice was a Christian and I thought a few words to her God might make a difference.
In time I found myself frequenting a Catholic church in the city,
praying for this young woman’s well-being. Then, one cold night, my own life, with its horrors and memories, became too much for me to hold, and in the darkness of my small flat I cried to this strange God to give my life to someone more deserving. I poured my heart out long into the night until sleep overcame me. It was during a dream that night the miracle of rebirth took place.
I dreamt I was crying in a corner and a bright light shone overhead. From deep within the light came a beckoning hand. I stood and placed my hand into the offered one, then immediately woke to a beautiful sunny day with clear skies and singing birds. My life felt light, all the troubles of the world had disappeared. This strange God had heard my cries for help and gave my life back to the person who it saw deserved it. Soon after my dream I was baptised into Christ. Alice guided me through the oddness that comes with understanding Christians, we became quick friends though I will confess it took two years of asking her for a date before she agreed. We married a year after that first date.
Today we have two beautiful children, Emma and Joshua who constantly remind me that the turn in my life was the best thing I had ever done. But simply becoming a Christian didn’t end my problems, didn’t fix the damage I caused to myself and others through the wild part of my life. It is true that God forgives (not forgets as some tend to add) but the human capacity to forgive isn’t as absolute. Alice forgave my past knowing the future would be different but I couldn’t forget what I had been and what I had done, something I now know isn’t necessary.
The poems you are about to read trace my life from its rather wild youth through to the acceptance of Jesus the teacher. This process didn’t see me become a saint, or even a better person, that was something I still had to work through. I have often said that I am a heathen that happens to believe in Christ, then on the whole, so are most Christians. I hope that you will find encouragement and hope in their message.
Whether you believe in God and Jesus is not the message here, this is not a book of wanton praise or worship. This is a journey, a struggle and an observation on life views and experiences. I have had a mental breakdown and am now living with a serious mental illness. Life threw up its turns and twists, its deep dark holes and its high points I sometimes seem to forget. Yes, this is just one man ‘s journey through a life that has been a mess at times and wonderful at the same moment. May you find something in this that helps.
All the best
Robert N Stephenson (1996 – revised slightly 2016)
My life before me, my life behind me
Broken dreams heaped in a corner
New hopes fill their places in tomorrow.
In remembrance of yesterday come the screams,
Tears flow over the many forgotten faces,
These eyes close to see the life I’d lived.
Condensed are my words in explanation,
Whittled down is the pain,
Shortened is the time of suffering,
Perhaps silence would best explain.
I once was
But now am.
With a gap of fourteen years between.
You see me in the light of God today,
But I was often shamed in yesterday’s darkness.
There was a child in me who loved and laughed, A young man followed with dreams and hopes. Then an alcoholic spilled away the tomorrows, Addicted to drugs he cloaked all care.
Then with hatred as a guide, inside he died.
A prayer for him now, if you please
For in the night this soul still lives.
No longer does he live in me, but others followed my lead.
Oh how hard it is to shorten one’s life
To edit the bad so it does not mark the good,
To leave out what some wish not to hear.
I say to you I once was,
With all its nightmares, fears and tears,
And now I am.
With hope, love and faith,
I am now with God
And it is this I testify to you.
The darkness in my life
A small boy on a gutter sits,
Beside him lays a trusting dog.
Passing cars rate a brief empty glance,
For his eyes have yesterday’s sight
And tears take pride of place.
An unwashed hand wipes with haste,
Removing all signs of heart felt pain,
leaving but a tear trail on a dirty face.
A gentle dog’s nudge brings a sigh,
A reassuring pat, a hug and a smile.
Together they stand, together alone
Under the star filled sky.
Not a sound is made,
They just understand.
Their stares are as empty as their stomachs,
As empty as the dusty city street,
Into the night these barren souls roam,
In search of hope and love,
In search of a home.
The child’s dream of candied trees,
of bright coloured flowers,
yellow flowing grass.
Memories of afternoon games
the laughter with friends that day. Dreams of days in the sun,
on the beach,
in the cool green water,
laying on the soft white sand.
Remember the sound of the new spring garden, singing birds,
humming bees and scurrying ants.
Those games of hide and go seek,
and the sadness at dusk,
oh the safety of that secret spot.
I once was a knight in a deep forest castle conquering dragons
with my sword,
rescuing maidens from evil kings.
These memories hold much fun,
they lighten the heart with their return,
but with the passing of time we become old and those childish
games of yesterday become the tricks to survive today.
God can reveal a lot in dream, in fact he can use anything
Oh Mum, oh Mum
Why am I feeling this way? Why am I so confused?
My emotions are ready to explode. One moment I’m a little
boy, the next I’m an angry young man.
Oh Mum, oh Mum,
what is happening to me?
I want to play with girls, but not how you might think,
I’ve noticed their little bumps, now my body feels hot.
Oh Mum, oh Mum, tell me I’m okay,
I’m not going insane.
Parts of me are changing, I can’t give you a look,
and I’m having funny dreams. Oh Mum, oh Mum,
am I normal or obscene?
Why do girls look good to me,
with their smiles and their bumps?
Tell me, tell me please,
Oh Mum, oh Mum
what is happening to me?
Song of Solomon 4:12-16
Didn’t we smile together,
laugh with each other.
we walked hand in hand.
We saw the same way
we felt the same emotions.
We entertained each other’s thoughts
we showed understanding,
we shared love and trust.
Why have you shunned me?
Why the coldness of heart?
Why won’t you speak to me?
Why won’t you tell me?
Why have you stopped loving me?
Silver dreams, streams of blue and greens, the flowing waters of thought adrift
with the whirling winds of spring.
Silver dreams of country grass, of trees and birds, they come in waves to calm, to ease,
to give relief in concrete caves and steel rooms. Blackened air suffocates hardened souls,
enhancing the all-for-none and none-for-one mentality, this is the price we pay.
Happiness is a blank cheque stolen from another, disposable despair and interest-bearing hate,
pushing and shoving with the want for more, for less, a brick jungle built on greed and gluttony.
Millions of metal-trapped minds sit in selfish wait, watching others die,
who will benefit here or there, no concern for life. Silver dreams, streams of blue and green,
flow away from the harsh judgement, away from hopelessness and loneliness.
Clean fresh air, awakening life full of love, a dream in this mind, until time ends,
a dream to share in a cold cruel world,
a thing of beauty in ugly hands
will be destroyed, for a profit, of course.
NO ONE TELLS ME WHAT TO DO
No one tells me what to do
I think I’ll be a part of the gang they know where they’re at,
these tired old faces, these hopeless cases this group of misfits in black.
Mum won’t mind if I’m out till late it’s no skin off her nose.
One more member in the group, a collection of social outcasts, besides, it’s fun breaking all the rules.
Try some of this stuff if the time drags on it will help you leave your troubles behind.
Hey! I’m cool, I know what I’m doing, a few of these lollies can’t hurt. I can do anything I like, I’m in control. Up in the sky flying high in my mind,
These drugs are good, give me some more, how about a few joints before we leave,
a couple of belts of whisky, the good stuff, you know!
Every night, life’s a buzz, skipping around with no cares, on drugs,
this is great, it’s cool, it’s fun.
I’d better get some more I’m starting to feel small.
No job, no cash, no cash no stash,
no ups, just downs, oh I feel bad. The shakes are as bad as the headaches,
they’re driving me mad,
I need some more stuff.
A face in the street, a stranger, yet known, Hey, man! Can you give me a loan,
a sniff, a snort, a toke or a smoke? Away, hey, hey, the headaches are gone
I’m in control, I do what I want
no one tells me what to do.
“Hey, it’s cool man, I’m in control!” usually meant “Wow man, these drugs are really messing up my head!”
Judges 17:6 – Freedom is a powerful thing.
GARMENTS OF RAINBOWS
Garments of rainbows clothe my back
the thoughts and sounds of the night world scream in my mind, in my dreams, in my ears.
Changed by the hazy dark years,
my childhood face disappears
into the blurry people-lined streets, the only family I know,
the only one I can remember.
The black sky overhead is my blanket, my only warmth,
my company, my friend.
Flashing lights and screaming sirens,
a movie on its own, a play of life to me. Pills, potions,
costly powders of fun,
make a meal, a reason to hide from the sun.
For breakfast, for lunch, for tea,
the meal’s the same to me, perhaps tonight I’ll die.
Dreams of laughter and childhood fun
have faded with yesterday’s tears,
a memory lasts but an hour,
friends are a handful of coins
and hope is to suffer no more.
Flying fish and chips in space
Covering all in cosmic waste.
Morphine sings on the wing,
While the dogs hide
In their kennels of night.
Sleeping spiders and carpet squares
Surprise the wolves at play.
Away we run, in swimming pools,
Into the sun, to see the moon.
Time plays tricks with plasticine,
Mould on tiles, a place to clean,
That spot looks shiny,
Now you will never find me.
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A collection of poetry telling the story of the author from drug addiction to the point where he saw the light. Included are other non-published poems and a short story. From living on the streets to being a moderately successful author mean Robert N Stephenson wore A Garment of Rainbows.