What follows is a very rough first draft of a poem, rife with disconnects and broken parts–or is it hearts?–that cry out for repair. I haven’t written real poetry for a very long time. This effort, conceived and written this morning, illustrates how rusty the brain can get when it’s not used. I’m especially out of practice writing rhyming poetry; that’s something with which I’ve had very little experience…ever. I wrote the stuff I’ve recently read publicly a long time ago.

Good poetry either springs instantly into being—fully-formed—or its creation takes days or weeks or even months of the mental equivalent of blood, sweat, and tears to be born. This skeletal poem is of the latter ilk. If it’s ever completed, it will look very different from this deformed, premature embryo. It’s just as likely, though, that it will die—along with its father—during the birthing process. The birth of some poems, like the hatching of their prose brethren, can take years, only to yield a clump of stillborn syllables.

I’d rather write prose fiction and nonfiction, but I can’t seem to focus my energy on those things, either. I am scattered and broken lately, as if my mind was a fragile tea cup dropped on a granite floor. The pieces are too far-flung and too badly shattered to be glued together again. Still, I try to piece them back into some semblance of the shape I remember. Instead, I discover that I form the remnants of the tea cup into an abstract vase that’s neither artistically attractive nor utilitarian.

Fragments of Winter and traces of Spring
spark memories of Autumn all over again.
The sky, crusted over with clouds every night,
clears in the morning just ’round first light.
Wind barely whispers, soft like a dream
then, like a banshee, erupts with a scream.

The weather, my friend, is a little like me,
I can’t control what I barely can see.
Hidden beneath my rough outer layer,
my rage battles on with a plea in my prayer,
hoping for something I can’t quite explain,
a tonic to lessen perpetual pain.

Leaves’ litter in forests and on old country lanes;
when the branches are barren, only bark now remains.
Just a skeleton lingers, outlining the life
of a tree dissected with Nature’s sharp knife.
Yet it’s not what you see that’s gone withered and old,
it’s the spirit for living that now seems so cold.

Try as I might I can’t feel like I did
when I was much younger, still just a kid.
Energy ebbs and life takes a terrible toll
when bitterness floods, drowning my soul.
Tree limbs bend, barely able to take
the weight of the ice; finally they break.

Now is the Winter of our discontent,
no bandage can heal what’s broken and bent
from trudging through the snow and the ice.
No prayers can save us from our own device
that battered our psyches and tortures us still
despite intentionally swallowing life’s bitter pill.

Pain doesn’t die with the flesh when it goes,
nor recedes with the pyre nor when the coffin is closed.
Pain ever endures, leaving one for another.
Like a child leaving home, abandoning the mother.
Hurt spins in the wind, regardless of season,
regardless of rhyme, regardless of reason.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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