Fragility as Art

The mount 2

Fragility as Art

This is what is left.
Parts and pieces, patched together
with wire and string,
no longer seamless, nowhere
near perfect, leaky,
the weather seeps through.
The light is swallowed between the patches.
It is dark inside.

This is what is left,
a piece of broken art,
more deliberately repaired
than made, no pretense of wholeness.

Hmm. Perhaps that is too harsh.
There is wholeness here,
a purposefulness that was never in the original,
a higher appreciation
of the things that hold it all together,
fragility as art.

About this poem.

Some days I feel strong. Some days I feel fragile. Dang if I can tell you why I am which on any given day.

This morning my wife asked me how I was feeling. I did not have an answer for her. Feelings are still hard some days, a by product of ancient issues that hang around like Mayan ruins in the jungle. They are there, but I have trouble giving words to them. Not all days, but some.

I am fortunate she puts up with me. She is a mecurial creature, with her emotions as surface as skin. It is part of her attraction. A think I admire and love. Children are like that, but we adults usually lose that emotional vulnerability.

On days like today, I must drive her crazy. “How do you feel?”.   “I don’t know.”  How does someone not know? It takes a particular kind of brokeness. Her steadfast and supportive love has been and continues to be a healing thing for me. I am blessed.

Later in our morning conversation, it came out how my ability to handle chaos is not what it was. Maybe handle is not the right word. “Handle with my usual grace and equanimity” might be more accurate. When I am hit from a dozen different directions at once, I don’t always do as well as I would like.

I think the two are related. That it is my slow processing of feelings that influence both. It’s no wonder I love her. With her, even though it is hard for her sometimes, my slow processing is tolerated. I am not put down for it, judged for it, condemned for it, told what I am thinking/feeling because of it. She claims not to be patient, but she is very patient with me. And her patience with me, or at least that part of me, is part of my unexpected happiness at this stage of my life.

I realize now that I lived much of my life too fast, too efficient. The appearance made it seem that I could handle anything, no matter how much I had thrown at me. And I did handle things well. Everything got done. But emotionally, I always felt behind, like I could not keep up with what other people took for granted, their ability to feel and name their feelings in real-time, as they happened.

When you live in a that place,  that constantly vulnerable place, sooner or later collapse happens.  Relationships fracture. We come undone.

I certainly did.

But the opposite is true too. When we live in a place of safety, emotional safety, something else happens. We have the opportunity to truly heal. To grow healthy and strong. And if we can’t fix everything, we can at least patch our way around things to live well, in a way that nourishes others. The woman I love has given me that safe place, even when it was not easy for her sometimes. That’s love.

Because of her, I can more easily write (because the act of writing is part of my processing) about the places I thrive and the places I struggle. I can be vulnerable without being weak. Because with her aside me, I am strong. And I can share, in the hope others like me see that they are not alone.

Fragility as art. It’s a thing. At least with the right person at our side.

Be well. Travel wisely,


PS: This didn’t start out as a love letter, but it has been on my mind for a few days, and it finally came out.

PPS: the picture is of a statue at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in MA.


  1. Hi,Tom. I love the truth you have uncovered here! As a folk musician, I look for the beauty that is not always in the note perfectly sung or played, but in the harmonious whole, and in the fragility of individual musicians. In offering up their souls — unvarnished by the need to be successful or perfect, just soulful and compelling — there is incredible beauty in the fragility of each voice and instrument.

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