Tangled Thoughts

My thoughts this morning are tangled, as if some are fresh and new, yet are entwined with old, ragged ones. Together, those multigenerational thoughts form a grey web that blurs those thoughts, a translucent film that impedes ideas from coalescing into answers. The clarity of philosophy I had hoped to experience this morning eludes me. My philosophies pair perfectly with their opposites; I see and understand too many sides to every issue. Philosophies should compete with one another, not attempt to prove the rectitude of competing philosophies that are in outright conflict with themselves. But who am I to make pronouncements about the proper behavior of philosophies? Listen to what I say, but beware of believing. The world plays tricks on itself every day.


An unguarded afternoon, which intoxicants can free of the behavioral rules normally followed during the course of that part of the day, can leave a person feeling embarrassed and regretful. The same thing can happen, of course, during other dayparts. But the comparative infrequency of such free-flowing afternoons tends to amplify brittle emotional reactions. Daypart. I started using that term to differentiate between different segments of the day; I heard the term quite some time ago, as used by television executives. The way I divide the day into components differs from the way others might. Daypart is a term that originated in broadcast programming. Some broadcasters separate their schedules into these various dayparts: Morning, Daytime, Early fringe, Prime time, Late news, Late fringe, and Late night. My days tend not to have as many parts. But sometimes, the number of dayparts in my depiction of the passage of a day can be astonishingly large. I strayed quite a distance from my opening thoughts. And that may be best. My thoughts can ricochet like bullets fired into the corner of room that has solid steel walls. Fragments of the bullet (or the thought) are left behind each time it hits a solid surface. With enough power propelling it (which, I realize, does not exist), the bullet (or thought) eventually would lose all its mass, which would have been left on the solid surface.


Most of the items on our to-do lists (whether physical lists or just mental accounts) are not vital. In fact, only life-or-death obligations are absolutely necessary. [Even then, those items can be ignored, leading to deadly outcomes.] The rest are options, albeit sometimes obligations that—if not completed—can have extremely unpleasant consequences. When deciding what items to attack from an impossibly long to-do list, one may find it helpful to order the list by priority—or by severity of consequences. I am not suggesting I regularly practice this (I cannot claim to have ever done it, at least consciously); but it seems to me like sound reasoning.


I am no more a poet than bacon is a vegetable, but I sometimes feel compelled to write poetry. Free-verse poetry often strips away unnecessary words, leaving only the words required to tell a story or deliver a message. Somehow, that spare style can be exquisitely beautiful, using negative space to complete the picture sketched with a smattering of words. I have written only a few poems of which I am proud. And, of course, I do not remember much about them. I do remember one of them, but only its message, not the words used to craft that message; I had to copy it to produce it here. The poem, Into Salt.

Into Salt.

The water was gentle that February day, the waves
subdued as if they knew we were coming and why.

Salt in the air and in our eyes.  Water splashing
against the beach and running down the rivers on our faces.

Wading, slowly, into the warm salt water,
hating every step and cursing every breath untaken.

Holding onto one another the way we
no longer could hold onto her.

Releasing the contents of a temporary plastic
urn into the permanence of an infinite sea.

Impossibly hard, brutally final, an ending come too early
in a world in which we too often say what we should too late.

The gentleness of the water was unwelcome,
waves should have pounded the sand,
wind should have shrieked in rebellion.

She had been someone who loved and
was loved, someone who cared and was cared for.

That final soul-crushing goodbye broke life into a million
shards, like brittle glass that cannot be made whole again.

You just go on, remembering what melted into salt.


Yesterday’s bloodletting took just a few minutes. I was taken to an examination room at the far end of the medical suite, where a nurse made quick work of filling three tubes with my blood. She took my blood pressure (which was considerably lower than it is when I take it at home) and asked me questions about my medications. And then she sent me on my way. As I left, I was told I have an appointment scheduled in about four months for a follow-up with my oncologist. The longer the time between appointments, the better.


The cat woke me (for the umpteenth time) around 6. I had expected to get up considerably earlier, but being awakened frequently during the night made me decide, unconsciously, otherwise. I am awake now, but can imagine a nap in the not-too-distant future.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Tangled Thoughts

  1. Thank you, Meg.

  2. Meg KOZIAR says:

    Exquisite poem – moved to tears.

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