I used to write a lot of poetry when I was in high school. It was a form of therapy for me. I think writing is therapeutic for a lot of people. There’s something about getting our demons out on paper that helps to heal.
I went years barely writing anything and never writing poetry. But the last few years my muse has come back, or at least the need to put my feelings in words. Some days are just bad. Some days I lose hope, and I feel worthless. I try not to stay there. I think getting the words out still helps. It helps me process, and it helps me heal and move on.
Shroud and Shadow
I look out the window,
hoping to find you pulling into the driveway.
Every hum of a car engine I hear
makes my heart jump.
Even though I know you’re not coming,
I still wait for a knock on the door,
still imagine opening it to see you standing there,
surprising me like you have before.
They say, “All good things must come to an end.”
I didn’t believe them.
You made me believe anything was possible.
But as day turns to night,
casting its shroud of darkness,
I wonder if I, too, must fall
and remain in shadow—
I wrote a poem today. I think I did it, trying to convince myself, but not actually feeling it. I want spring to come. I want light and warmth back. But right now all I can see . . . all I can feel . . . is coldness and darkness.
Looking for Spring
Pairs of sandhill cranes,
flocks of red-winged blackbirds,
signal spring is around the corner.
The freezing days and the long nights
The cold and darkness of winter
clutches me in its claws,
attempting to squeeze the hope out of me.
But I try to take courage in the song of blackbirds,
the sight of cranes,
the belief that the needed warmth and light of spring
will soon be upon us.
I reach up into the dimming dusk sky,
pluck out the nearly full moon,
pull it down and place it in my chest.
It replaces my heart—
a heart I give to you.
I hope you will be gentle with it,
set it next to yours,
let them beat and pulse in time together.
When you return it
I will put the moon back,
feel the warmth of your heart against my chest
and hope our hearts find each other again,
beat together forever.
Here’s another poem from my young friend, Kelsey Gibbons.
A glove is seen as a piece of clothing;
The piece that protects one’s hand from harm.
As hard as the outside tries,
It is unable to influence the hand.
Rain, come pour down but you will be
Unable to wet the hand.
Snow, come flutter down, but you will be
Unable to freeze the hand.
Thorns, come prick and poke, but you will be
Unable to pierce the hand.
Come chemicals, come bullets, come fire,
All will be unable to hurt the hand.
Everyone wishes to have a glove,
A glove to protect them.
Protect them from hurt, from pain,
But they don’t know—
They don’t know about the consequence.
You see, if one wears a glove for too long,
If one wears a glove through everything,
The glove will stick to the hand.
No matter what is done,
No matter what attacks,
It will not come off of the hand.
All things are protected from the hand.
The bad, yes,
But also the good.
The glove feels the wet of rain,
The soft of dog fur.
The glove feels the cold of winter,
The warmth of another’s hands.
The glove feels the prick of thorns,
The softness of a baby’s skin.
The glove protects, the glove covers.
The glove stops the pain
The pain of cutting the hand,
The pain of heartbreak,
The pain of divorce,
The pain of repeatedly broken trust,
The pain of constant stress,
The pain of being alone,
The pain of helplessly watching a loved one suffer,
The pain of parental affection denied,
The pain of never being enough,
But the glove also stops the joy.
The joy of good food, music
And romantic love.
The joy of exciting trips, playing with children
And platonic love.
The joy of trying new things, feeling happiness,
And familial love.
It stops the happiness and the pain from reaching the hand,
It stops the happiness and the pain from reaching my soul.
I’m impressed that a seventeen-year-old has already learned this valuable lesson. It’s true—without the bad, we’d never know the good. The bad, the hard things, the pain help me appreciate the good things in life more.
Sometimes we want protection, and there are some things we do need protection from, but always having that glove on prevents us from experiencing life at its fullest. More than that, when we go through hard things, when we feel pain at its strongest, it gives us the opportunity to grow and to possibly help others as well.
To build a brick wall, a foundation is needed. The foundation laid out, the wall built brick by brick. Emotional walls are similar. Mine was founded and built because of her.
“Can I help you with the dishes?” my best friend asks. ‘Do I have to do the dishes now?’ I complain. “Why can’t you be more like Safaa?”
Clink — The first brick
Violin at school, I can’t practice. “This is why no one in our house has musical talent”
Clink — Another brick
‘My photography teacher wants two of my pieces in the art show!’ Proud of myself, a rarity. Maybe I’m good at photography? The monotonous response: “How many does everyone else get?” ‘Two’
Clink Clink — A few bricks
Hiding in my room. Facing away from the door. Hide my shame. Blood trickles from self-inflicted wounds. She barges in. Seeing and crying. Apologizing. Promises to treat me better flow. She doesn’t.
Clink Clink — Two bricks
Heavy dresser blocks the door. Fingers against scalp, pulling at roots. Pain a distraction. She forces her way in, ignores my state. “Spoiled. Bad example. Problem child. Bully. Weak.”
Clink — Another brick
I buy my own kitten – Damian. My pride and joy, my child and my pet. Tiny body curled next to me, all warmth and purr. ‘I’ll come by and take care of him’ Banned from going. “He keeps peeing in my plants.” Kitten sold, no goodbye, no explanation.
Clink Clink — Multiple bricks
I try to leave the heartless manipulation of a mother. Silent screams, anguished mind. Tears mix with rain. Legs move involuntarily without drive, without destination. Obedient and mindless like she wants me to be. Sobs cut through the night. Fickle love I wished was true crumbles.
Clink Clink Clink — Many bricks
‘Why can’t we hang out with Tacy on Sunday?’ “Check email.” Demeaning intro. Father is the victim. She is the bully. I’m siding with him? “Good for you, Kelsey”. People should earn what they want? “Don’t care or hate your own mother, I still love you and hope that you choose the right things.”
Clink Clink Clink Clink — Countless bricks
She lets a lie slide. I pry for truth. A text to dad follows confession. She finds out. “Let me decide to communicate when can get to it, at your dad house I never hear anything, at my house your dad know everything.” ‘You do ask. You never answer emails’ “Things are between Mark and I, you need to stay out of it, understand?”
Clink — Another brick
Stressed and depressed. She notices that I am not myself and asks. Her fault. Tell her? I’m afraid of how she’ll react. Will she scream insults? Deny? Or will she listen and understand? Scream or deny, she will be angry. Listen, she won’t change. I tell her. She listens, promises to not do it anymore. She does.
Clink — Another brick
I root out another lie. She turns on me. A blizzard of accusatory words. Every possible flaw exploited. I can’t do this anymore. Unbuckled seat belt. Car door opens. She stops. Door alarm goes off. Sitting in stunned silence. Adrenaline of near death surges. We stop. My chance for peace gone.
Clink Clink Clink — Thousands of bricks
It scared her that I tried to jump? You care about me? Hope inflates like a balloon. Pop! Needle of insults deflates my balloon. “Spoiled. Bad example. Siblings will treat people horribly. Respect me. ‘A normal family listens’ I don’t have to listen. I’m the mother, you’re the child.”
Clink Clink Clink Clink — An endless waterfall
‘Clean up your mess, Khai’ He angers, mumbling. Throws a napkin. She chastises me for ‘provoking’ him. ‘He hits or throws something at me every day’ “Is it true?” A quiet yes. He asks if he can go to a friend’s house. Why would she let you? “Just clean your room first.” I can’t say anything. She’s the mother and I am not the favorite.
Clink Clink Clink — More bricks
For almost 18 years, I accepted the things she told me. Now, I am unable to feel emotion like a normal person. Extremely low self-esteem. Uncomfortable with affection. I worry about my future family. Who would want to marry me? Will I be like my mom? Will I have kids who trust me like a best friend? Will I be unconsciously abusive? For almost 18 years, I grew up with a mostly absent father who wasn’t there enough to give me the comfort that I needed. To give me the affection that every child needs. “I love you” my friends tell me. Well that makes one of us. My sister hugs me, I tickle her to get out. My friends hold my hand, I slip it out. “I really care for you” my friends tell me. Can’t say I feel the same.
For almost 18 years, I went through her abuse, the divorce, and my mental health issues without comfort. Without a hand to hold when I was afraid. Without a soothing voice to tell me that I am worth something. Without arms that wrap me in a warm hug while I shake with sobs that never come. Without someone to lower the gun that I’ve raised to my temple on multiple occasions.
But now, my brick wall has been built. It has curled around me and swaddled me like a newborn baby on cold nights. It has protected me from her, it has protected me from the storms that rage. My brick wall is the comfort I have lacked all of my life.
I was looking through old notebooks today and found this poem I wrote. I’m not sure when I wrote it, but it was probably awhile before I got married, which would be over fifteen years now. It’s sort of a rambling one, but the last two lines are still applicable, or at least how I’m feeling right now—heavy in my heart.
Sound of song
blown through cedar
I stand alone
as the snow
whips around my face,
isolation in the
I am the storm
the gray, the bitter cold wind
I see myself alone
blistering snow swirling
I am the gray,
the cold, the wind,
I am the song,
I am the song
of the trees,
of the wind blowing
through the trees
I am the song
(he plays) of Nature,
Nature is the song
that’s played in me
(Nature is my song)
blowing with the wind
no one sees me
Will anyone ever see me?
A few times in the last several months I have felt prompted to share something I wrote as a senior in high school. I was never sure why, so I kept putting it off, but the other night, as I was driving, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man came on, and I again was struck with the thought that I should share.
Letting others read what you write is always hard. It makes me feel extremely vulnerable. A beta reader, supposed to be giving feedback on a novel I had written, once said that she wanted to stab herself in the foot with a fork my book was so bad. Obviously this statement did nothing to help and everything to make me feel completely worthless and want to give up writing altogether. But I’m someone who picks myself back up, and here I am, still writing.
The truth is that I’m a much, much better writer now than I was in high school, so it’s difficult to allow myself to be this vulnerable in sharing this with you. A lot of what I wrote back then was very ambiguous. But I didn’t write Remember for anyone else. As a matter of fact, it sort of wrote itself—for me, in a way, but I’ll explain that later.
I’m going to break this into three parts. First is the poem, then the story and finally the backstory and an explanation, I guess you could say.
So, here’s the poem:
A tear torn loose from your saddened eye
joins those the October sky is crying
from thinning gray clouds that are nestled deep
into crevices and secrets of the eastern mountains
that loom above you in the near distance.
Autumn has slowly crept up and soon the race is won
as golden leaves dot thinning green trees
that attempt to hold fast to their ground, but fail.
A bitter coldness has slowly crept up and soon the race is won
as a lasting droplet, full in glistening shape,
falls to your cheek, hitting a tear full of glistening memory . . .
You steal a penetrating stare from the full moon;
the darkness plays around your essence
as you hear the southern men1 sing
about being simple—someone you can love and understand.
And you wonder how you can ever have this
in a city full of lights and confusion.
But don’t you remember the glow of the moon
and the first time you danced under its pale luminescence?
An Irish voice2 sings of her hopes
of finding those memories she left behind—
and so should you plead.
There’s a black, serpentine road leading to your destination,
for there is still a painted rock3
waiting for you in the hot Nevada desert—
waiting for you to answer a call;
and you cry as the moon reminds you.
The stories flood back in a tidal way of memory,
hitting you with full force, without any suspicion,
but how can you accept them in all this light and confusion?
Oh, how you’ve desperately ached to accept them,
how desperately your fingers have itched
to paint them in a stream of penciled words,
but you are young and condemned accordingly—
and you see the last piece from your crystal ball shatter . . .
The autumn rain pauses for a moment and for a moment alone,
but one last droplet, full in glistening shape,
finds its way crawling down your cheek
with your tear . . . a tear full of glistening memory . . .
2Enya. I used to listen to her a lot in high school, and would sometimes sing her songs as I would swing on the swingset or dance in the backyard at night under the moon.
3This refers to Painted Rock, Nevada, a little town I drove by on my way to Reno, NV on a family vacation to the Redwoods. The landscape surrounding the area inspired my imagination and the seeds of a story were sown because of that. I always wanted to go back and explore the area more, but never have.
Walking through that door makes the blue a little lighter. She holds space as I gently spill. We sit, we talk - we water, dig and bury. Nurturing a shoot. Aiding it in light - to find its path through thorns - Malan Wilkinson