Hayley Canon – In Construction

4 minute read

After Alghero

Did curiosity get the better of you?

For me it came knocking on the windows.

For my part

there were dreams.

Last time there were two in a row.

Back to back

of searching.

One time

I found you

taking a dip in




The next time you were nowhere to be seen

and your friends could well believe it.



Before We Met

We toss and turn,

crack open the window

and I squeeze the lavender bags above our heads.

What kind of thoughts do you chew on when you can’t sleep?

For me, it’s future versions of myself.

Gigs I have not given,

a story not half good but not yet written.

I grind my teeth and picture all the things I do not have

but have inside.

I don’t mind.

I get up to get you water

and remember

all my thoughts of you

before we met.



Vegan Birthday

Grinning you extend the box of Belgian chocolates.

Growing up it was Minstrels

on the way home from piano at Mrs.Gunner’s.

“Know why Minstrels are so good?”

(It was your ritual question)

“Hard shell Dad,

won’t melt in yer hand”

(It was my ritual reply)

Then we’d tear back the bag

and tuck in.


I decline.

The foil-wrapped double dozen are untouched

and I sense

you’re hurt.

When it stopped at you

you could see it.

Now it plumes and swells beyond your frame

you think it’s gone.

My love.



In Construction

Lilly, you sparkled today.

The raconteur of 19B.

When you get out you could write a book.

Chapter One you tell us

is called “Sit Down Cynthia”,

the automated voice you hear every time Cynthia is on the move again.

They recorded it in Cynthia’s own voice

so she argues with herself.

“Got to see the funny side” you say.


After visiting hours

I’m shown pictures of your scalp.

A reluctant ghoul,

I half take in your flesh,

Wrapped with the track of an O.S. map,

Drawn in

though still in construction.

Luton and Dunstable Hospital, 2017



About In Construction

by Hayley Cannon

In our mind’s eye and in the eyes of others, we are always in construction. Our conscious experience is dynamic and our identity, as we experience it ourselves and as it is perceived by other people, is unfixed. This year and last, I explored this theme in a suite of poems called In Construction. Each poem is an intimate slice of life and was written, as all my writing is, in answer to that voice that comes and impels a response. The creative process is a fascination of mine. The source of the work, the experience of making it, and the catharsis and regrounding we feel upon completion. In my training in Integrative Arts Psychotherapy I am learning just how effective expression through the arts can be in healing the mind and maintaining mental health. This certainly rings true for me. Writing a poem or a song requires a more mindful inquiry into my inner world, one that often results in a deeper understanding of a situation, or leaves me with a truth. Simply stated.

In the poem After Alghero I write about a past lover, the presence of his absence experienced through haunting dreams. Perceptions of him are constructed from memories and hunches about where life may have taken him in the years since we lost touch. In dreaming our mind exorcises things we may do not necessarily give our conscious attention in waking life, tapping into the outsized bulk of the iceberg submerged below sea level in Freud’s famous metaphor for the unconscious. Through reflecting on our dreams, exploring them in writing, we can become more conscious of the workings within. In a sense we are confronted. More palpable feelings, with clearer shape and form. That presents us with a choice: to sit with any discomfort that arises or to squash it down again. Although the latter will only forces the same juncture, upon waking from future dreams.

Before We Met deals with the racing thoughts we experience when we can’t sleep, in this case about the potential have inside but fear we might not realise, the outcomes that are in construction and therefore uncertain. In these anxious moments it is as if our true identity is known to us at a deep level, but we doubt our ability or commitment to bring it forth. According to Carl Jung the greatest and most significant challenge of our lives is to differentiate ourselves from the crowd in ways that are uniquely meaningful to us. To become all we are capable of becoming. He called this process Individuation and in the poem’s final lines the mood lifts, recalling a sense of my own power to manifest hopes and aspirations. Like the time I started a band, laying the foundations that would eventually lead to me meeting my partner.

Vegan Birthday captures a brief exchange between my Dad and I, when my newly constructed identity as vegan blew apart one of our usual ways of giving and receiving love. Or at least that is how I perceived it, my projections of how my Dad must have felt. As in After Alghero ‘the other’ in this poem is constructed through the lens of my reality, not theirs. And so, as is inevitable with art, the subject of the work also reveals to us the artist’s state of mind, in this case my fear of losing closeness, having lost a long-standing ritual around it.

Finally, In Construction, the last poem and the title of this small suite. This one depicts a woman, my first ever friend Lilly, and her life as she once knew it hanging in the balance after a brain injury. Everything about Lilly was undergoing radical modification. From her physical body and mind to her self-image and others’ image of her. And yet even in crisis, sometimes especially in crisis, something vital and unchanging at one’s core ‘sparkles’ through. Lilly’s gallows humour may well have masked her fear, but it also evidenced a part of her I recognised from childhood. Something unmistakably ‘Lilly’. The poem ends with a depiction of stitches, thick black lines wrapped around Lilly’s scalp that seemed to me to say this. Nothing from this point is written. Nothing is wholly healed, but nothing is wholly broken. In construction there is hope.

Standing back from these poems I see that alongside the theme In Construction, there is another connecting thread. Love. Romantic love, love between parent and child, love between friends. In a recent talk by Dr Margot Sunderland, Senior Associate Member of the Royal College of Medicine and award winning author of over twenty books on mental health, I learned that receiving love and nurturing actually alters the physical structure of the brain. Reconstructs it. A process called synaptogenesis occurs, the formation of new synapses, which positively impacts on the quality of our conscious experience. Through art and in my role as therapist I aim to share a little more of this transformational love.

Find Hayley here: www.hayleycannon.com

#17 – The Mind – Contributors