Poem: A Polite Dance With Swords

A Polite Dance with Swords

I sip my coffee. I watch people walk by.
It is warm here in the coffee shop.
Outside, March snow lingers.

It is raining. A cold spring rain
with big drops that you can hear
as they hit your head. I am glad to be inside.

This is my waiting time. Where I sit.
I stare into space.
I stare at the little black keyboard, waitng.

Waiting for the emotions to slither in
through the roadblocks of trauma,
though the broken spaces.

They come. They always do. And once they arrive
I wonder what part of me has so long been afraid
of them.

I know some of the stories. Some of the whys.
But they are ancient history. How is it they linger,
those walls. Will they ever heal?

I know the answer before I ask the question.
No. And yes. Parts of me will always be broken.
That is the nature of brokenness.

Part of me has healed and become a new thing.
I have learned new ways to release the demons
and wrestle with them, turning the fight into a minuet,

a polite dance with swords.

I sit. I sip a second cup of coffee.
Dark, sweet and bitter. A second home,
shops like this, whereever I travel.

“A man’s got to know his limitations.”
That’s a Dirty Harry quote. A movie platitude
that is true none the less. One of my mantras.

Not a put down. Never that. A statement of fact.
I have found them, those limitations.
And live within them, always with a nudge


About this poem

I write consistently around a dozen or so themes, mostly from my life and faith. At times I get bored with myself. I think about not writing. Surely people are tired of it, I say. How could they not be when I am myself. But emotions are universal and writing is my therapy. I thought it would be an interesting essay about how most of us live in the constraints of a certain group of influences and constraints, and how sometimes, rarely but sometimes, we break loose.

It was going to be an essay. It turned into a poem instead. Always listen to muse. That’s my motto.


PS: The picture was taken at the South Street Cafe, a lovely coffee shop in Bennington, Vermont that no longer exists.


  1. Tom you wrote: “Surely people are tired of it, I say”

    No, not tired at all ~ not for my vote

    So much of every life is lived differently. Various stages at varied times.Yet the shared thread of living.
    We all come across different lessons (and challenges) at different points.

    Sometimes we read something that we hadn’t considered from that perspective. Other times words are “at the moment perfect”. And at some junctures a phrase, concept or insight won’t mean a thing till far later, but it is read, retained and oh-so-helpful when needed, down the river of time…..

    And as you say emotions are SO universal (reactions aside).

    I’ve learned much, thought often & more deeply about life issues based on your writings.
    So, thanks for that & again, no, not tired of your observations – hope you keep them coming….


    • That really was not a sufficient answer. Let me start again. It is always a surprise when someone writes so passionately about how my writing touches them, and it takes me a moment to process it. It is humbling. But what you say is true, emotions are universal.

      I began posting poems 14 or 15 years ago. My therapist suggested it. I had abandoned all my creative work and she wisely knew I had to get back to it. She also knew I was the type that would feel responsible to keep it up, even if only one person began reading them. She was right. The poetry is still therapy, but knowing it makes a difference helps me keep my discipline. And notes like yours touch me deeply.

      I am not going anywhere.

  2. Thanks for your replies Tom ~ truly appreciate both but especially the latter.
    I think some same truths you mention in your reply apply to the writer and the one who comments ….
    What a wonderful human ability it is (to give AND receive) the gift of affirmation ~ for want of a better word.


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