Twisting a Little

Some days are much harder than others, though I don’t know just why. Some days seem filled with blocks of concrete and lead, piled on my chest so high I cannot hope to breathe. But, then, everything suddenly seems fine. The air is cool and the day is bright and all is right with the world. But then it starts over again; I’m brittle and far too easily broken, as if made of thin layers of glass. It’s a mystery. All will be well. It just takes time and patience. I don’t know how much time I have. My supply of patience apparently ran out when I was a much younger man; maybe even when I was a child. Possibly when I was an infant. In fact, I may have been born with out the normal supply of patience and have never been able to grow my own. No matter how much I try to be “Zen,” it doesn’t seem to settle in to the guy I am. But I keep trying. Today, I’m twisting a little. I’m dangling from a string and twisting back and forth between happy and sad; between strong and weak; between certainty and ambivalence.

It was 4:10 this morning when I finally acquiesced; I gave up trying to sleep, opting instead to pee and to seek out coffee and the solace of waking darkness. A small dog lay, half-asleep, in front of the toilet, challenging my aim for the bowl; I was successful, in spite of the animal’s steadfast refusal to move. Had I failed, the dog would have felt the drizzle of golden showers. The idea of “golden showers,” a term I’ve read about but never had any interest in experiencing in any way, shape, manner, or form, is off-putting. Yet here I am writing about it, as if I were a budding pornographer. The mere mention of the phrase makes me want to wash my hands with soapy water and then spend ten minutes under a hot shower, just to be sure I am clean and untainted. But that will wait. First, I have thoughts to think and words to release from the prison in my head, allowing them to flow through my fingers and onto the launch pad from which I will send them dribbling into the unread fringes of the internet. Run-on sentences are my specialty. Sort of like pronouncement after a guilty verdict, wherein the judge informs the guilty party that he will serve 285 consecutive life sentences without parole. The criminal’s body will have long-since stopped smelling like a rotting corpse by the time the dried piece of human jerky is delivered to its descendents. My IC claims she sometimes cannot follow my conversations; I think this paragraph might explain why that is.


Reading a friend’s poetry last night (along with some mood issues of my own) prompted me to give the genre a try this morning. So, here goes; I call it

I pass the time by whittling twigs into toothpicks,
leaving piles of wood shavings at my feet and salty
tracks of endless tears further etching my already etched cheeks.

Twigs are not to blame for the time I have to pass,
yet they are the victims of my need for distraction from
a reality I cannot alter with drink or drug or denial.

The permanent hole in my soul cannot be filled with
wood shavings or tears or a thousand calendars stacked
end to end, covered with sweet memories and stinging regrets.

No matter what I do, I cannot repair the broken pieces,
the fractures I feel in my head and in my chest every day,
even on those happy days when I am wrapped in new love.

Time cannot heal wounds; but it can smooth the deepest scars
so they are not quite as obvious and not quite as tender
and not as prone to open up again in the light of life.

My new role now is to tend quietly to my wound and
gently let the scar dissolve into the mist of time;
never letting go of the past, nor ignoring now.

Living between two lifetimes is an exercise in fragility,
a beautiful but dangerous place in which to worship
history and the future, while exalting the present.

The tree from which my whittled twig was harvested is
stronger than the knife I use to shave it and more
beautiful than the toothpicks it yields.

The tears that etch my cheeks are as fleeting as
the time I try hard to remember and forget in the
same breath, in the same lovely and horrid moments.

Life and death are unavoidable struggles; they make
existence beautiful and painful, wretched and wonderful.
I long for that saving embrace that proves it all.

I, alone, must confront the pain and welcome the peace,
taking help when it’s offered and useful and rejecting
well-meaning attempts that worsen the burden.

But I am not alone; a cadre of friends will catch
me when I fall and will straighten me
when I’m twisting a little.


Some days are much harder than others, though I do not know just why. Those same days seem to deliver so much love that I welcome but feel I don’t deserve. Deserved or not, though, they seem to save me from myself. That dangerous bastard who is capable of being as unlovable as Hannibal Lecter and as professionally competent as Norman Bates.


I’m starting this day in an odd mood. I hope it improves as the day ripens.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Twisting a Little

  1. Meg, thanks for your generous comment. I appreciate your regular reading and your always welcome comments!

  2. Meg Koziar says:

    I read almost every day, John. I admire your poem – maybe admire isn’t the right word maybe more like awe – you just sat down and wrote that poem this morning?!! Amazing talent.

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