Poem: Stagecraft

stairs_resize

Stagecraft

Back stage the lights are dim.
The theater is quiet, just you and the shadows
and the echoes of tragedy,
no costumes or backdrops.
No crowd,

just remembrances of performances past
and the gritty truth behind it all,
that you are neither king nor pauper,
neither baffoon or wise old priest.

There are no roles to play here.
You are exposed for what you are,
a stage prop, useful to further the story,
but lacking in life until the night comes
and the lights return.

About this poem. 

Mornings are sometimes hard. A black veil of depression colors my brightly lit room. And when it does, I shout to myself “It’s Showtime!” and pop out of bed.

Silly as it seems, it helps.

Tom

Poem: Dancing on the Hearth of Your Enemy

3 BW_resize

Dancing on the Hearth of Your Enemy

It is evil.
Disregard what the textbooks say,
it is more than chemicals and response
to traumas old and new.
It is evil,

A thief of color and light,
of life and joy and all good things.
It kills.
I have seen it.
I have felt its knife and the slow leeching
of the soul’s blood.

I watched it kill my father,
and wound all he touched.
I have seen my own blood drip away,
tied to my chair,
tied to my bed,
tied by its ropes.

But I am an implacable foe.
I will not die, born
with a head more stubborn than my father’s
and a heart nearly as soft as my mother’s,
I persist,
and out of sight I live beyond the wounds,
calling on a strength beyond my own,
I break the bonds.

Perhaps only for this day.
Perhaps only for this moment.
but still, I cast them aside.
I mock them.
I sing.
I have the audacity to dance,
laughing like a child at a wedding,
uninhibited

and free.

About this poem

A medium bad bout of depression this morning. And the bible verse about David dancing as he returned the art of the covenant (2nd Samuel 6:14) back to Jerusalem that left me dancing a jig of my own.

Take that big boy. I got stuff to do.

Tom

Poem: The Great Dark Hole

11_resize

The Great Dark Hole

The great dark hole yaws open,
calls to you,
it’s black siren song familiar,
dangerous,
always there, just at the edge of your sight,
a reminder of your failed journey,
a challenge,
an evil magnet pulling you
from the journey ahead

About this poem

“Where is your depression?” a reader writes. “You wrote of it so often, and now you don’t”

Oh, it is there my friend. It never leaves. At times (like now in the midst of my joy at being an unexpected newlywed) it is beaten back, but even on the best of days, it lurks, waiting for its opportunity to draw me back into its dungeon.

The battle never ends.

Tom

Poem: The Myth of Light

window

The Myth of Light

The window is covered with bars and spider webs.
An atmosphere of neglect fills your nostrils,
damp and cold and dusty.

This has been your home for too long,
this dank prison where you were left for dead
so many years ago.

This is where you wallowed,
where you railed in the night,
like a madman at the moon.

This is where you surrendered to the reality
of your abandonment and neglect,
surrender, but never quite, quite, acceptance.

And then, like Dantes began your re-education,
learning to read in the dark, painting in the dark,
masterpieces that would never see the light of day,

finding your strength in the dark,
where no one, not even your fellow prisoners,
perhaps especially them, could see.

Your eyes though, never adapted to the dark,
never accepted it. Your own frailness, yes,
but never the falsehood that darkness was eternal.

“I will not die here.” has become your mantra,
and each day you probed your walls,
you cleared your windows,

you found the rust and weakness of your captors
and pitted your weakness against theirs,
your only strength your persistence.

And persistence, it turned out, was enough,
more valuable than talent or intelligence,
more enduring.

And so you find yourself here, at the moment
where the bars begin at last to break,
where light ceases to be a myth and becomes something

tangible.

real.

Yours.

About this poem

There have been times in my depression when I thought joy and life were out of reach.

They are not,

Tom

PS: Dantes is the hero of “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas,  my favorite novel.  While it is a novel of justice and revenge, and I am not wired for revenge, the part of the novel where Dantes is in prison, and yet finds himself and grows into a formidible presence until given the chance to escape, has always been an inspiration to me.

Thoughts: Knocking Down the Wall

The Wall

It is seven twenty-five as I start writing this. I am sitting at my local diner, a cup of coffee set off to the left of my laptop. I am off to a late start.

It was the wall again. Waking up and it’s there. My daily dose of depression.

I wonder at it sometimes. Each day I beat it back. I am quite skilled, well medicated, well armed. I have a routine that works. Mostly, I am a happy little warrior, dealing with the day to day stuff of life with one hand, while with the other slashing away at my enemy.

I almost always win, and there is a lot of satisfaction in that, because I know how easy it is to lose, how easy it is to let my guard down, to surrender. For all the equipping, all the prayer, all the diligence, it’s still work, and a lot of people give in.

I don’t blame them.  At times I envy them. I get tired of the battle. That whole “just let it win” thing? Very attractive at times. I wasn’t born a warrior. I was born a poet. But I’ve become one.

Mostly because I am greedy.

I am greedy for life. I am greedy for joy. I want to feel fully, to rejoice with all that I am. To feel love and passion. To experience pride of work well done and battles won. To savor a good cup of coffee and deep conversation. To lose myself in the colors of nature and the colors of fine art.

I had all those things once, and lost them, a variety of factors beating them out of me for decades until finally, I was a shell. The depression had won. I was just another set of bones on Ezekiel’s valley. (See Ezekiel 37:1-14).

Most of us stay dead. A few of us don’t.

I didn’t. My path back is well documented, both here in my blog and in my book, Dancing with Depression. It’s old news to regular readers.

I wish my path back could be something heroic. That there was virtue and purpose in it. That it could be the stuff of movies. Mostly though, it’s because I was hard headed and greedy.

Hard headed, because as I finally got the help I needed and began learning the things that had torn me down, I got mad. I still get mad when I think of them. All sorts of contributing factors: people, circumstances, fate, my own body’s betrayal.

Something in me, an innate hard-headedness, got mad. Got angry. Stayed angry. You have to understand that I am not generally an angry person, so this was new to me. I didn’t know what to do with it. But angry I was. Angry I still am.

How dare they tear away at my essence like that? How dare they rip away at my joy? What right did they have to steal my energy, my drive, my purpose? The more I understood, the angrier I got.

Mostly, in today’s world, we think anger is a bad thing. And Lord knows, it can be. But, properly managed, harnessed, brought under our control, anger can be a magnificent tool. It has a power we lack in our day to day life, and brought to bear on problems and issues and even depression, it can help us overcome all odds. Because things tend to wilt under the barrage of anger.

Even Depression.

Depression sometimes makes people angry. If you have lived with a person suffering with depression, you might have experienced it. It’s an anger born of frustration, but often it is turned on the people around us, or worse, turned inward on ourselves.

But it can also be turned on depression itself. It can be weaponized and fuel our fight. It can be our secret weapon. It can give us a power to defeat something larger than ourselves.  You’ve seen those silly internet videos of the tiny cat terrifying the giant dog or even a bear?  It’s like that.

If we can learn to turn our anger against depression itself, we have a powerful weapon. I use it almost every day. I used it this morning, when I woke up and wanted to stay in bed, not in a healthy “isn’t this cozy” kind of way but in a “I wanna give up.” kind of way.

And I got pissed.

Please note the curse word. I am not a curser. People who know me well know this. So when I break bad and use a “bad” word, people know I mean business.

I got pissed. I threw the covers off with passion. I jumped out of bed and said, “Take that!”. I put on my clothes with purpose. I strode downstairs with a “Don’t mess with me” attitude. My cat ran ahead of me, wondering what had gotten into me.

And so did the depression. Like the coward it is. The wall fell down at my fury. It sounds silly, but as I rounded the corner into my office, I wanted to raise my arms in victory and shout a battle cry.  But that would have been silly. All I had done is get up.

But that’s not all I had done, is it? You who fight this battle know. You who intimately know others fighting this battle also know. I had won a great victory. I had fought for something I treasure – the joy of living life, the ability to savor everything and everyone around me, the ability to live life and do work just like everyone else.

And that my friends, is worth unleashing the beast for.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

PS – I had a reader ask me to write something about anger and depression. I have no idea what they expected. This is my personal experience, no more. But perhaps it will help someone. If not, it felt good writing it, like kicking the rubble from the wall after knocking it down. Like knowing I have a secret that will let others knock down their own walls. My contribution to the war.

 

Poem: Ezekiel’s Creature

IMG_2117.JPG

Ezekiel’s Creature

Do not think it has been forgotten.
Oh no, it lurks there still,
carefully categorized,
put in its place, in nice neat folders,
the work of years, perhaps even,
your life’s work, each demon labeled,
history researched in your best efforts
to reduce each one to mere facts,
far less dangerous than the monsters
that nearly ate you alive,
that devoured your flesh and soul
and left only your pale white bones,
and a smidge of soul, just enough
it appears to survive.

What a strange thing it is
to cut away and grow new flesh
all at once, all at the same time,
an odd thing to watch the battle,
to feel it deep in what is left of you,
life and death in battle,
a terrible scourge of hope and fear
and stubborn determination
to live, Ezekiel’s call ringing in your ears.
a miracle not of your making
even as you struggle to make it so.

You have won the day. and that is all.
You are not deceived
by the rows of folders and boxes,
by the simple hand-written labels on each one,
They are not mere history.
They are not destroyed, merely contained,
still restless, still hungry, still angry.
At night you hear them in the basement,
rustling, waiting for the one moment
when your guard is down,
when you are foolish enough to believe
the war is done,
to finish the work they started.

About this poem

Inspired by my bible reading earlier this week, Ezekiel 37:1-14.  Even if you are not a believer, or perhaps a casual believer, it’s a great bit to read. When you do, you will find the scene has been stolen by film makers a thousand times.

Add to that a dollop of depression and a strange Magritte sense of humor and you get this poem.

Have a good day. Fight the good fight.

Tom

Poem: Today

amsterdam-3

Today

Today,
I have no poems.
No song in my heart.
My feet do not dance
and the birds sing alone.

Today
there are tasks.
Bills to pay, financial and otherwise.
There are things to move
and things to do
that bring with them, little joy.

Today, there are lies to sort through,
threats to disarm,
there are those who are happy to tell me
in all their (self) righteousness,
of all my flaws,
real and imaginary,
their list long, but shorter still
than mine.

And so today is an act of war,
and I will gird for battle
with prayers and silly mantras.
I will dance, even with sluggish legs,
simply as an act of defiance.
I will love and rip open my windows
to the cold
and let the light in.

I will declare myself the victor,
pugnaciously polite to every demon I encounter.
I will kill them, one by one,
with sweet persistence.
I will laugh through the wounds,
for healing comes in defiance,
and nowhere else,
and that my friend is how I will start

Today.

About this poem. 

Ahhhhh. I feel better just having written it.

The picture was taken in Amsterdam.

Tom