Poem: Life in the Glass House


Life in the Glass House

I can give you a list.
I fight depression. Mostly I win.
Sometimes I lose.
I drink bourbon and wine –
In small amounts, but still.
I like boxing and ballet.
I struggle with emotion,
slow to process, slow to react.
I don’t keep the cleanest house.
I can be stubborn or wimpy
and it’s hard to know which is going to float to the top.
I have rheumy eyes in the morning.
I have a love hate relationship with the church I serve.
I stare into space a lot. Sometimes I am thinking.
Other times I am simply spacy.
I am the wrinkle king, owning an iron
but rarely using it.
My yard is always the last one to be cut.
My project room is full of half repaired lamps.
My age is catching up with me.
I tend to stare. It is, I am told, disconcerting.
I have a tendency to overlove and underthink.
Other than deadlines for work, I pay too little attention
to time and age.
I laugh too loud. And often at inappropriate things.
I dance like a dad. And too often these days.
I hate confrontation. And at times it is needed.
Too often, I would rather be blissfully blind,
even if that grows harder as I grow older.
In college, I was called “The Ugly Atkins”.
I have not improved with age.
I ponder too much, but generally
at the wrong times.
There are always battles between my mind and heart.
After 62 years, it is still a standoff,
making me sometimes a bit unpredictable.
I am blind in one eye.
I love my wife and children too much,
the result, I am sure of having lost love
and finding it again. The fear of losing it
runs deep.
My humor is dry and dark.
I have become a liberal, straying far from my roots.
I’ve lost much of my hair,
and my scalp is criss crossed with scars
from the first of many accidents.
I drive too fast,
think too slow,
and pray too quietly.
I forgive too easily
and ask for forgiveness too poorly.
Did I mention I like cats? Enough to alienate half
of humanity.

This is just the beginning of the list,
an assurance that I know my flaws
far better than you believe.
I fight them daily in a quiet battle
to become better and still somehow,
remain myself.

So fire away at my glass house.
It may well break if enough stones are thrown
hard enough,
long enough.
I have become accustomed to the plink, plink, plink
of rocks against my wall.
It has become the white noise that lulls me to sleep.
Ah yes, another flaw. I love naps,
novels of revenge, pulp fiction
and beauty in all forms. I get lost in them all.

Yes, lost. Swallowed alive by words and paintings and
the sight of my love as she walks in the room. Consumed
in the moment.
Swallowed alive from time to time by
paralyzed by it all.

I don’t talk to my family enough.
I wander too far,
sometimes without moving.
I avoid hard questions,
even when I have answers.
I have spent too much time looking within
and often don’t like the answers.
I am diabetic.
I have scars. Some of them show.
Others run too deep to be seen.
When I brush my teeth,
I leave a tiny bit of toothpaste
on my lower right lip.
I don’t follow rules well.

I don’t look the part
of anything I do,
neither official looking enough
or bohemian enough
to be accepted completely anywhere.

And yet, people do.
Somehow, despite it all, I am loved.
It is not a thing I understand,
but I have learned it is true.
Not only for me,
but also for you.

About this poem. 

A few days ago I wrote an essay about the ending of the Dreamers Act. Despite its rather mild tone (compared to the news) and its focus more on how I was struggling with it than the name calling that is the media today, I got a lot of hate mail, much of it personal, by people who know me only from my poems and essays.

It was interesting to me that most who had vile opinions wrote me privately, while those who had thoughtful comments, on either side, posted their comments publicly. I was told what was wrong with me as a person, as a father, as a pastor, as a human being.

I suppose I was supposed to be hurt or angry or something. Mostly I laughed. I am 52. I have fought through a divorce, deep deep depression, loss of loved ones, years of therapy, failure and success, pain and love.

Trust me, I know my flaws far better than anyone. The danger in life is not not knowing our flaws. Other than the occasional narcissistic person here and there, most of us know our flaws in depth. The challenge is not letting those flaws overcome us. To be able to say I am flawed, and yet still of value, still worthy of love.

Always, always, worthy of love.

Be well. Travel wisely,


PS – the picture was taken at the sculpture gardens at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Mass.

PPS – This whole poem started with the last two lines. Kinda hokey, yet it hooked me, tied me up and browbeat me into making it into a real poem. The muse can be like that sometimes.


  1. Sad, because one of our rights in this country is freedom of speech. Those who don’t agree with you are entitled to their opinions as well. None of us are right or wrong, we just have different ideas and that’s okay. Different is actually good. So is imperfect. But if we disagree we should always remember to be kind. I like your list. Some of them are also on my list but I think mine might be a bit longer than yours 😊 Please keep doing what you do Tom. I look forward to reading your posts whenever I can.

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