Recently in Poetry Category
My records say I wrote this poem in 1993, nearly 19 years ago. It is incredibly difficult for me to realize that so much time has elapsed. But it has.
The door is dark
I open the door...
The sun blinds my eyes
I'm in the middle of the blazing desert
There's nothing but shifting sand
No water anywhere
At any price, it seems
I am alone
So very, very alone
Just me and sand and wind
Then I hear the voices in the wind...
"Why keep walking?"
"What's the use of torturing yourself?"
"You'll die from thirst anyway... Why not here?"
"Why the hell not here? And now?"
But I struggle on
I know it's useless
But it seems I have little choice
I beg, I plead, I cry out...
"Just one drop of water and
I'll walk to hell and back!"
But only the dry wind answers...
Throwing sand in my face
I walk on
For I am strong
It seems that I've always had to be strong
Since a very young child
It felt like I only had myself to depend on
To defend from the wind
All I want is to sit down and curl up
With the children inside
In some loving arms
Until the pain goes away
But there are no arms but my own
And it seems there will never be...
Just wind and sand
So I crawl into my bed
The safest, loneliest spot I know
Staring at the ceiling
Counting my breaths
Or my tears...
Anything not to think of the endless barren sand
If perchance I sleep
I dream of water and love
And loving arms to hold us
To care for us...
But I awake to sand and wind
I know if I hang on
Time will push the shadowy dark doorway back to the corner
Where it will wait
To suck me in again
Through its porthole into the sand
But while I'm there
It's just so hard
So pointless to fight
But I fight without knowing why
For I am strong
With no one to fight with me
Or share their strength with me
No arms to comfort me
I fight on
Ever searching for those arms
And the water they'll bring to quench the thirst inside
I learned three huge lessons that I could not possible have had any perspective on back then.
First, that only I can rescue myself. I probably had heard that many times, but it had absolutely no meaning for me. Now, I know I can have help, and often a lot of it. And while, in the poem, I found my own arms useless, ultimately I end up in a far better place when I am holding myself, even though it is quite a bit lonely.
Second, back then I only saw undesirable parts of myself as enemies. This did not come up in the poem, but this was a fact of life for me. I had zero compassion for myself. As compassion grew, the drive to keep parts of myself separate lessened.
Third, that it is possible to cultivate hope. I was totally lost back then, had zero hope, and clearly saw myself mostly as a victim and not empowered.
I suppose what I wrote about back then was the best I could do: hold on, without knowing why, even though I thought there seemed to be no point.
As I reflect on what I wrote so long ago, I do have a sense that I have come a long way. But many of the same struggles remain. I will often find myself in a state where every word of this poem is an accurate representation of the present-day moment. But what is different now is that it does not remain that way for long. I am more resilient.
I also now think of love more broadly. That I am meant to cultivate love from within, and to give love to those in my life and show love in everything I do. I do see and feel love all around me. But not really in the way I was searching. I do not search for a "one true love" anymore. I do not really think about what I deserve. I just make the best of whatever love I get back, and do not expect too much.
While it was undoubtedly not a good position to be so constantly in a state of hopelessness, it was sort of comfortable for me in a sad kind of way. Now there is a new challenge, namely the delicate dance between hopefulness and hopelessness.
In order to heal, I have to face inconsistencies, conflicts, and dilemmas head on. That is the friction of healing I often write about. It is the hard work of healing. And that hard work is not optional.
Sure, I can be knocked down, and that happens all the time. But now when I get up it is often with a sense of purpose. I now know why I fight to heal. I have long thought that I fight because of my family or friends or work or that I have this or that on my calendar. Of course all of those help. A lot. But they are not the reason I fight. I fight for me. Because I am worth fighting for. Because I deserve to heal.
I stand by the road
Watching lives go by
Trapped in a world
Without knowing why
Too scared to love
To believe, to soar
Afraid to find out
What's behind the locked door
Alone in the dark
Being called from outside
Hearing the footsteps
There's no place to hide
Living with memories
Of many long years
Longing to breathe
Without drowning in tears
Not all of the demons
Are locked up in hell
I carry some with me
They know me so well
I try to be strong
To outgrow the past
Feeling the pain
How long will it last?
This was written in the early 1990s. I don't have much of a memory of it, but found it saved in some old files. I think it's relevant today because I have walked through much of what is discussed in the poem. There is so much that is still so hard, but I'm not "locked up" anymore, even though it often will feel that way. The question at the end screams out at me: "How long will it last?" I think in many ways it will last forever.
I have been quiet for the past couple of weeks. I have not posted here. Nor have I read the blogs I follow (even though the number I follow has been reduced recently so that I could be more engaged in what I'm reading). I have also cut back on going to therapy.
I have been embroiled in a bit of a personal crisis unrelated to the issues I bring up here. I was going to write about it all, but that did not feel safe. Suffice it to say that my family (wife and kids) has had to deal with an enormous boundary violation and I have been working hard to protect them. What happened was not terribly surprising. But, in the end, my family is in a far safer place. And I am having to deal with a little bit of internal fallout.
So after I decided not to write the details of what I have been going through lately, I started thinking about some of the topics I could discuss here. I have approximately 30 substantive "articles" I'd like to flesh out. These include sex and re-enacting abuse, stigma of the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, and issues facing male child abuse survivors. But, those are all for another day.
In my cache of materials, I have meaningful poems, photography, and art that I can turn to when I don't want to or cannot write much. Today is one of those days.
Here's a poem, entitled "The Men's Room" from the early 1990s:
Walked into the men's room
Was the smell permeating my skin?
Then there was that distant reminder
The smells were the same... Will I always be dirty?
I felt dirty
The stench made me sick
Making me more dirty than I already am?
Can I not escape it?
... oh, and urine.
Was the smell permeating my skin?
Then there was that distant reminder
The smells were the same...
Will I always be dirty?
Like many poems, they have have huge meanings and use a minimum numbers of words.
I'm trying to post twice a week here as that's important to me. Originally I was going to try to write something scholarly for today. But I'm just not able to right now, for various reasons. Some of you may know that I posted a musical piece I recorded the other day along with some commentary, but had to take it down the next day because it had a vocal track (alongside the customary piano track) and that, I found out rather forcefully from the inside, was too personal to share. I will post it again, without the vocal track, once I am able to record a slightly better piano solo.
Over the holidays, I found a cache of poems I wrote in the early 90s. I had a difficult time choosing which to post today. I know my last post was an optimistic review of where I've come from and what I've been able to accomplish. This poem is an 180 degree turn from that. It's not purposeful. I am not really this pessimistic. But lately I have been trying to get in touch with where I've come from, and I'm trying to connect the broad pieces of my life. I cannot forget where I was back many years ago, but at the same time I cannot be swept up by it either. This poem seemed to be the most appropriate to share, though I'm not particularly clear on why.
Here's the poem:
They had a name for those who were tortured...
But millions more stayed alive They are wrong!
Really we are Jews
They were Jews
Millions of them died at the hands of others
They have a name for those who stayed alive
"They are survivors," they say
But millions more stayed alive
They are wrong! Really we are Jews
The poem is perhaps a bit controversial. I hope it doesn't offend anyone. I was not raised Jewish, but rather Roman Catholic, so maybe I am stepping over some boundary. I am not really sure exactly what I was trying to say. I can see the obvious meanings.
I am nearly certain I wrote this poem shortly after seeing "Schindler's List" in Winter of 1994. I remember seeing the film alone, and I remember crying for hours afterwards.
I was walking in the desert
Looking over my shoulder at the mirage we just passed
I looked up at the hot Sun
My whole body cried tears of broken trust
Then I looked ahead, what a mistake!
I usually just look down, watching each step
But I forgot that was what I was supposed to do
I got distracted and a little confused
For I walked right into that hole in the sand
And it sucked me into that other land
If you thought the desert was bad, you should come here
There's no ground to walk on
It's so unreal, yet it's so real
And it's kind of freaky
My head's over there, my heart's somewhere else
Oh, and there's an arm that just went flying by
I can see back through the hole I fell in
Someone's reaching in to pull me out
Do I grab on? How can I?
Do I want to come back out?
Do I resume walking in the desert always looking down?
Or do I want to keep falling towards the light?
But then I decide...
I'm going to end my life.
This also was written in the early 90s. I am beginning to explore what I knew and experienced back then as a way to help me in the present. As I wrote in the prior post, I'm beginning to understand that parts of me hold onto these views and ways of thinking even to this day; and that it's my job to help them heal and evolve. I think this poem reflects a certain understanding and conflict about the process of healing. It was a very dark time for me. Luckily, I am not consistently in this place anymore.
We did what he told us
He said it was for God
We knew what that meant
We would be disobeying God
"It'll be our little secret"
This is what we were told
By the priest who we thought was God
This was written in 1993. But, for me, it's very relevant today. It's become quite clear that parts of me have not been able to move beyond the past at all. That's terribly unfortunate and so inconsistent with the rest of my life. For so long, I have failed to accept that fact. I have to rededicate myself to these parts of me and help them heal. Right now, though, I feel devastated and broken. I will try to pick up the pieces and move on. But it will not be easy.
When I was a kid, I always would lie
If I didn't, I probably would have died.
Didn't know I had, for I tricked even me
Until I learned I was a broken mess of debris.
There were so many levels of deception inside
And all I became was a Jekyll and Hyde.
I worked to build a life from this mess
And, largely, I've met with a lot of success.
But lately the parts have gained more control
I feel like I'm getting a lot less whole.
"Who am I?" is a question I often do ask
And largely I feel like I'm just putting on a mask.
I don't know what's real, yet sometimes I do
So often I just say "I'll bid you adieu!"
I think that I'm driving, but really I'm not
It feels like I'm creating some giant fake plot.
Now I'm confronted with the truth of the lies
I now know that they portend my complete demise.
I struggle to be real, but what comes of it?
As I "get better", it just means that I split.