Poem: Unholy Ropes

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Unholy Ropes

The ropes are rolled loosely in the corner.
Binding things, shrugged off late in life, often
replaced by more in some terrible cycle
of bondage.

Most were not your own. You surrendered to them
one by one, too often for the best of intentions,
not even aware of the sacrifice until
your eyes grew dim from lack of air,

your heart bound by unholy ropes
as the best of you slowly withered away.

But you did not die.
You teetered on the precipice of heaven and hell
like a drunken acrobat, dancing precipitously
as the crowd watched, unsure of what they were seeing.

You found your way
to solid ground and your roots dug down,
hungry, ravenous for the faith so lost in the morass
of failure, exhaustion, and malleability.

You found your way, and one by one,
thread by thread, cut yourself free, growing stronger
with each thin string sliced away, faster and faster,
until, beserker-like you could cut through the thickest bonds

like butter.
You became something you never sought
but always believed you were.
Strong.

The ropes are rolled loosely in the corner.
You keep them there, frayed and sliced,
reminders of how easily we become captives,
and the hard work of breaking free.

About this poem

I keep a lot of momentoes around my house and particularly around my desk. Not all of them are of good times. There’s a reason for that.

The picture was taken in Mystic Village, CT.

Tom

Poem: The Frail Grace of Becoming

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The Frail Grace of Becoming

Behind the curtain, you see the mess,
the work in progress, the stuff
that is not part of the tour,
that carefully curated  walkthrough
that you get for the half hour of your time
dedicated to this place before moving to the next.

No, this is what you see when you go behind the scenes,
past the closed doors and curtains,
when you take the time to linger and speak and listen
to the curator, that person who knows
and loves and fears for the destruction of this fragile work,
who trusts you only slowly
not to break or steal or worse, laugh
at the unfinished work, who trusts you not to mistake
the chaos of reclamation for the finished room,
for the frail grace of becoming.

About this poem

A thank you note to all those who have shown me grace along my journey.

My daughter is a historic preservationist.

The picture was taken at the Vanderbilt Mansion near Hyde Park, NY.

TOm

 

Poem: Night Sweats

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Night Sweats

The landscape changes,
a thing of rabbit holes,
of mysterious storms,
of faces like dice,
a new game with each roll,
a hall of mirrors and whispers and calliopes
playing dirges in the night,
discordant and unsettling,
daring you to dance.

Breath is hard here,
something you force,
something you exert your will
to find and claim and calm.
The chaos dogs you.
The ground under your feet shifts.
Old walls fall.
New walls rise where once there were open vistas.
Sirens and sorcerers abound.

Is the world mad?
Are you mad?
Are we all mad?
Is it fact or fiction?
Do the demons have teeth
or are they things of fog and black faith?

Late in the night you reach out from the covers
and find her close.
The world slows to the rythmn of her breath
and you find sleep
at last.

About this poem. 

An odd kind of love poem. But I bet I am not the only one who has been there

Tom

Poem: No Cure for Autumn

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No Cure for Autumn

There is no cure for autumn.
No pretending the colors are anything but death,
temporary perhaps, but death none the less.
No pretending that Indian Summer
is anything but a reprieve
before the landscape is stripped
raw as winter.

There is no cure for autumn.
A fickle season, unpredictable
day to day, morning to night,
a new season every hour, a tease,
a torture, a gleeful child
with a knife.

There is no cure for autumn.
It comes. Year after year,
Slightly changed each season,
predictable as nightfall,
stealthy and silent, a slow, beautiful death.
And you are left to chronicle the colors,
to frame the season as a thing of beauty
anticipated
as you wait again for the spring.

About this poem

Across from my house, in the quarry, the leaves have already begun to change.

Depression is a chronic disease. You don’t cure it. You manage it. You fight it, but like the seasons, it comes. It goes. We are left to find the beauty in the season, or become a casualty.

It’s not romantic. It’s work.

From those two things, this poem.

Tom

Poem: Leaves on the Ground

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Leaves on the Ground

The carpet is yellow, flecked with brown death,
a stunning thing, here for just a day,
maybe two, the perfect confluence
of wind and time and color.

There is no one else to see.
These woods are deep and there are no paths.
You have wandered here, deep in thought
paying no attention to where your feet led

until you arrived,
until the sun came out
and rousted you out of your reverie,
and forced you to see,

to bear witness of God’s madcap abundance,
that he fills even the empty places
with profligate beauty.

About this poem

When I was in my darkest places, my therapist would urge me to stop several times a day and simply look for something beautiful. And guess what? There was always something.

Inspired by a walk. Bringing back that memory. Those were the inspirations this morning.

Be well. Travel wisely.

Tom

Poem: Suddenly a Warrior

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Suddenly a Warrior

Under the trees, surrounded
by friends and strangers
you name them:

the fears and loss that have lived
like dark spots on your soul
for far too long,

the demons and saints
that surround you,
some of them invisible,

some of them wild as dandelions in spring.
With each naming, each confession,
they grow weaker, more transparent

Until finally, like impotent seeds
they blow away, lost in the leaves and sky,
and stand, suddenly a warrior, in the golden light.

About this poem. 

Friday I had a chance to take part in a Creativity Conference. I found it fascinating how nearly every teacher, including myself, focused on the need to be honest about our emotions as we create, How that, no matter the genre and no matter how frightening (and generally it is), is where the power of creativity that touches others comes from.

Saturday and Sunday, as part of the same gathering, I did short poetry readings and felt the nerves I always feel. The exposing. A frightening thing for an introvert like me trained by family and culture to keep everything inside.

Frightening, but essential. Because when we share our stories, we not only help others (something I have spoken of here often), but we set those stories free, and their hold on us weakens, and we become stronger with each telling.

Be well. Travel Wisely,

Tom

Poem: Quarry Walk

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Quarry Walk

It has been a month since you last walked here.
Your back hurts as sweat dampens your shirt.
Wisdom perhaps would turn back, but you walk
up the slate walls to the first summit.

Most of the wildflowers are dead. Husks,
brown, orange and dried
cut at your bare legs, victims
less of summer’s heat than shallow roots
that could not bear even the shortest drought.

Still, there are a few survivors,
spikey cousins of the thistles, like purple snowflakes,
tiny yellow arches, the last few bluebells.
one surviving lambs ear with it’s velvety texture,

each survivor a defiant pretender that summer remains,
that the heat of the late day sun
is a thing of truth.

The prophets, though, are telling their truth.
Fall is coming. The first leaves are dying
their spectacular death, the white birch,
poison ivy red and evil, a host of trees
with just a kiss of color, a scarlet kiss of death

that makes you smile.
For you are not dead. A bit aged.
A bit worn and scarred. A creature
in transition, no less than the seasons.

You glory in it all. The pain. The sweat.
The insects that follow you through the canyon.
Each speck of color, even yes, the death
and abandonment. All are part.

You stand at the summit as the sun falls.
Already the temperature grows cool.
The sweat on your back chills you.
In half an hour it will be dark. The foxes
and coyotes will come out,

And so you turn downward
as the sun falls,
as the colors fade
everywhere
except in your mind.

About this poem

Most of my regular readers know I love across from an abandoned slate quarry. It is a good place to walk, whether you love nature, panoramas, stones. For me, though, it is a place where I lose myself, and often, find myself.

Tom

More pictures from tonight’s walk:

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