Friday Poem:Spread My Wings


It is 21 years this week since I sat down on an ugly-but-practical brown couch and watched a Rage TV special – Nirvana Unplugged in New York. I’d heard of the band, I knew how the singer died, and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I know it’s cheesy, but it’s also true – that record changed my life.

I wrote this poem during the following year, expressing frustration with the constraints of my ordinary life. Nirvana fans might notice the influence of “Sappy”, but there’s a dash of Hank Williams in there, too.


This jar is far too small.
There is no room for my wings;
There is no room to fly;
I want to spread my wings.

I’m not a moonbeam in your jar;
I’m not a pretty toy;
I need to move, I need to breathe;
I want to spread my wings.

These air holes are too small.
You must not smother me;
I want to take the air,
I want to spread my wings.

Let me loose, what’s the use
Of keeping me in here.
I might not fly away,
But I want to spread my wingsa-collage-2

One of the things I did as I escaped from the jar of proper lady-like behaviour, was to stick anything that appealed to me on my wall. Nowadays, that’s an “Inspiration Board”, but twenty years ago, it was weirdly adolescent for a forty-year old woman with 5 kids…At some point, the collection came down, and was upcycled into a series of collages, of which this is one. There’s an apt quote on there-

“Our lives improve only when we take chances – and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves”

Walter Anderson.

I also got rid of the brown couch, and as much other ugly-but -practical-with-kids brownness out of my house, and started surrounding myself with things that I actually liked.

After ordering and waiting patiently for “Nirvana Unplugged in New York (on cassette), I expanded my music collection, my library and my stash of art supplies. I now have the Melvins “Gluey Porch Treatments”, and  I’m reading  Bessel Van der Kolk’s ” The Body keeps The Score”, about the ongoing effects of trauma. When Micheal Azzerad asked Kurt, “Is your’s a sad story?” , he hesitated, and said “…No…”, going on to say that the events of his childhood were commonplace, which, unfortunately, they are. But it is a sad story, they are all sad stories, which Dr Van Der Kolk and his colleagues are learning to address with proper treatment – too late for Kurt, but there’s hope for another generation to have more than numbness – they will be able to spread their wings.

10 Things You might Not Know About Kurt Cobain

EMP Alice wheeler pic


1. He claimed to have written “God is Gay” on a wall in Aberdeen Wa. as a teenager. He actually wrote “Ain’t got no whatchamacallit’.Kurt mugshot

2. His Dad tried to get him to join the Navy, presumably to Make a Man of him, and so he’d learn to do as he was told. (Incompatible aims, in my opinion…)

3. He preferred cats to dogs. Dogs are too obliging.

4. He didn’t like Indian or French food, but he loved Kraft macaroni and cheese. EMP flyer

5. He was fisherman, and enjoyed cooking and eating fish. “It’s OK to eat fish, cos they don’t have any feelings…”

6. He owned a tent, when he lived in Olympia Wa.  EMP set list

7. He quit a job that involved dish-washing, because it ruined his nails for guitar playing.

8. He re-built broken guitars in the garage of his Olympia home. The broken guitar on display at EMP had been repainted several times.EMP blue guitar

9. He loved thrift/op shopping.  Old cardigans were cheap, and warm. Who knew they’d become trendy?EMP video T-shirt

10. He flunked Math at high school, but was very good at Art.EMP Kurt art

It’s nineteen years since he locked himself in the greenhouse of  his beautiful home, and ended his life.

He was a polite, kind and generous man, whose music brought, and still brings, joy and meaning to thousands of people.EMP Charles Petersen pic

Let’s remember him that way.

“I want people to remember him as the cool guy he was ” – Michael Azzerad

“When I think of Kurt, I think of the way he giggled, or how he loved Abba,  or of him saying to me, ‘God, man, I wish I could wear sweatpants’.  He was a human being, a nice guy, and maybe it’s selective memory, but I don’t want to think of him as some brooding suicidal genius.” – Dave Grohl

“He was an amazing guy, he was a complete gentleman. A good-hearted guy. He was one of those people – everybody’s got them in their life – somebody that you turn to when things aren’t going so good.” – Mark Lanegan

EMP Nirvana billboard

The photos in this post, apart from the mugshot, were taken at the Experience Music Project, Seattle Centre,  in the Nirvana: Taking Punk To The Masses exhibition. We visited Seattle in August 2011, and have been planning a return trip to the Pacific North West ever since.