“Unveiled Secrets” dlmchale, 2019
I toss words upon a blank page,
not unlike a Voodoo priest who hurls
white-bleached bones upon
the terrene sacraficial altar;
thrown and cast, until at last,
I divine a poem.
“Unveiled Secrets” dlmchale, 2019
I toss words upon a blank page,
not unlike a Voodoo priest who hurls
white-bleached bones upon
the terrene sacraficial altar;
thrown and cast, until at last,
I divine a poem.
By Dennis McHale
I am not yet dead.
Do not call this a miracle or raise your hands in praise.
First, you should know how long I prayed, and how I came to know the silence of the Lord.
He does not arrive in a ball of light blinding on the road to Damascus. He comes in silence.
Lie there night after night and you will come to know the things I speak of.
My God speaks in the tongue of suffering.
I have survived, but do not call that brave.
I rattled this body from the inside out. There are those who dared get close to me who can testify. I could not find its latch. I would have escaped it if I could.
I say this to you because I know, you too have suffered — a body can be rummaged through like a medicine cabinet.
The flesh can be unfurled. Stitched, unbound, mended and stitched again.
Nothing is lost; nothing can be unmade.
But do not underestimate how hard it is to die and do not think death will save you.The dead have forgotten suffering.
Remember what I tell you here.
Remember how hard I held on. Remember the long nights I prayed.
Remember: whole days and nights I wandered outside myself. My body opened to wind and latched like a door against it.
There was pain in the opening and pain in the parts that healed.
Remember what I said of prayer: to house the soul in a body is a way of it.
Sometimes we suffer for one another. I am sorry for those who have suffered for me. But mostly, I am grateful.
If you like, we can call it holy.
The hands of the Artist,
emissaries of the mind –
separate from all musing
What can be imagined,
what must be created,
from the heart upward
flowing into thoughts
to hopeful, colored hands.
The hands of the Artist
makes visible the width,
and breadth and depth
of expressive imagination
while paint-stained fingers
creatively caress canvases,
illuminating and breathing life
into the visceral void.
What remains are not
the hands of the Artist.
What remains is enduring
grandeur and grace;
the blessing of the soul
the echoes of the heart,
a gift for future generations.
What remains is truth;
his inspired vision,
her lasting legacy.
across deep blue ocean swells
lover’s passion-clenched eyelids
soon sleep descending
soon sleep descending
life demands its sacrifice
death a bitter toll
death a bitter toll
human souls ascend the scale
stars suddenly aglow
stars sudden aglow
midnight meadows bathed in light
winds begin to blow
winds begin to blow
softly swaying, children dance
to music unheard
to music unheard
new life from true love formed
the world rejoices
the world rejoices
eagles screech their summer songs
eyes glancing upward
eyes glancing upward
a silent voice offers prayer
clouds begin to weep
clouds begin to weep
lashing rains, the voice of God
Like a butterfly, obsessively fluttering in my mind:
Open-winged and delicately perched within
her soft pudenda; smiles in kind
dripping dew, and all for the want of a kiss.
She is…vinegar and vanilla, vaseline and vagina.
breathing the soft whisper of invitation.
I am a prisoner to her intelligence, her volition, her erudition.
She is a cascade of vulva vocabulary:
vibrant and vivid: the supreme vivisection of vacuous idolatry.
Her dictionary is a thrashing of vague innuendos;
and all meaning is encoded in the fluttering of her labial wings.
Splayed out on her gypsy brass bed, she calls to me
in wet words and moist verse:
songs sung in disdainful agitation – her cheeks,
red as those of Modigliani’s whores.
Teasing, she baffles me with the pink virtuosity
of her tongue and seductive mouth.
In vain, I reach out to the heat of inevitability,
the dark depths of her cavities.
It was she who devoured my strong ancestors:
she who left Christ crying and gasping for breath.
What hope then for me, with only my poet’s pen
and second-hand adjectives to protect me?
With the careful flick of her wrist
the sensual stroke of her brush
She gives us a watercolor day
Purple blue skies, a soft ochre sun,
Summer winds begin to sing
Blurred pink and white blossoms
Shady walks of lilac and henna
Far away jade and twilight green,
A loose balloon or two
Floating lazy and proud
Against titanium clouds
A water color day, quiet colors run
Run with water spilled edges
Revealing shadowing birds nesting
Amongst slender olive stems
Beside indigo blue streams
Moving slowly as the water blends
Wondering, dreaming, what to do
Splashing one color upon another
Within her watercolor day
Beauty, I’m told
comes from within
From the depth of the heart,
not from the skin
From fierce independence
softened by grace
From the splendor of hope,
not just the face
I didn’t see this coming,
yet I accept it as true
I was seeking my equal
the day I found you
When I look in your eyes,
my heart is inspired
And I think to myself,
“She is filled with such fire!”
I was captured by beauty,
but I’m held by respect
For what makes you strong
makes you perfect
I’d gift you my heart
and my soul, if you please
If you walk by my side,
not to follow or lead
Perhaps one day
we’ll share deep love and desire
Built not upon beauty,
but these strengths I admire
This poem is dedicated to all members and artists of The Rock of Ages Consortium, for your love and support of fellow artists everywhere who we honor on this site by exhibiting their incredible works of “colour” online.
“I am a Rock! and yield to none!”
The swelling words of a tiny smooth stone,
“Neither time nor season can alter me;
I am abiding, while the ages flee.
The pelting hail and the drizzling rain
Have tried to soften me, long, in vain;
And the tender dew has sought to melt,
Or touch my heart; but it was not felt.
There’s none that can tell about my birth,
For I’m as old as the spinning earth.
Generations of man arise and pass
Out of the world, like the blades of grass;
And many a foot on me has trod,
That’s gone from sight, and under the sod!
I am a Rock! but who art thou,
Painting beneath the restless bough?”
The painter was shocked at this rude salute,
And lay for a moment abashed and mute;
She never before had been so near to here
A rock that spoke, this mundane sphere;
And she felt for a time at a loss to know
How to answer a thing so coarse and low.
But to give reproof of a nobler sort
Than the angry look, or the keen retort,
At length she said, in a gentle tone,
“Since it has happened that you were thrown
Into this river that’s become your home
From beneath this tree, as a child I grew,
Now listening to a stone, so hard and new.”
And so it shall be, this Rock that speaks to me,
I will cover it with paint, and then we’ll see,
And quickly adorn with the stroke of my brush
It’s time, it’s season, it’s storm, it’s touch,
Not the gentle dew, nor the grinding heel
Shall ever subdue, or make it feel
Abandoned, unloved, unwanted, alone
For I’ll paint this rock and take it home.
But soon, from this Rock, she sunk away
From the comfortless spot where the pebbles lay.
But it was not long before the soil broke
The artist sat once more ‘neath mighty oak!
And, as she painted and painted; the colors spread,
The Rock looked up, and wondering said,
“Modest artist! Please, I shall never to tell
If you covered me in paint, this granite shell;
See the pride of the river has swallowed me.
Won’t you pick me up? Won’t you set me free?
Am I to meekly sink in the darksome earth,
Never to attain my potential, my worth!
And oh! how many more will tread on me,
While you sit and paint beneath this beautiful tree?
Your artistic vision towering towards the sky,
Can transform such a Rock as worthless as I!
Useless you release me, for centuries here,
I’ll be sitting in this riverbed from year to year.
But never, from this, shall a complaining word
From the painted Rock again be heard,
For the artist transformed it, without and within,
Gave it new purpose, and love again.
The Rock its vow she could never forget,
It lies brilliantly painted in painted silence yet.
All I would want to hear is that you are in a good place.
That’s all there is, I think.
I want to hear that you like yourself more than you did all those moments when you told me we would never amount to anything.
I want to know that you’ve changed for the better, but not how, not why, or how much.
I want to know that someone loves you.
That’s all there is, I think.
I want to know that you wake up everyday looking forward to whatever it is you have in your heart.
I want to know just how far the painted golden path of your dreams have led you, just how much it is that you have sacrificed to gain something far worthier.
I want to know that the wind has blown away every piece of me that didn’t quite resonate within you.
I want to know that you are free now, washed clean from all of my lies, the dirty blood that flowed through your veins whenever you looked at me, the dirt on your knees every time you bent over with such compassion to tend to my own weakness.
I want to know that you’re still that kind of person who would never let anyone go home alone.
I want to know that you never have to look over your shoulder, worrying about those days when I would get into trouble and make you cry all over again.
I want to know if you still like french press and if your fingers still bear the same raised skin you got from working so hard to make us work, the same raised skin I held on to for so long.
I want to know if you still find the good in men; if your faith has reached an ultimate standard now that I’m out of the way, if your convictions have brought you home.
I want to know if everything that reminds you of me no longer hurts as much, if it hurts at all.
I want to know if you’re still the same person underneath the protective arms, the breath of calla lilies, those sleepy eyes that became sadder and sadder with each day that passed until the clock told you it was time to break my heart; until those same eyes decided they no longer wanted to see me at all.
All I would want to hear is that you are not the same person as the one I was fortunate to meet and love.
That’s all there is, I think.
In the quiet spaces of my mind
there is a softly sleeping figure
with the relaxed repose of an angel.
I kiss her cheek and lightly stroke her autumn hair
with a hope that she might slightly stir,
becoming minutely aware of my presence,
if only for an instant.
Heavenly sojourner, you are there in my dreams
laughing with me under the wild canopy of my fluctuating soul;
in between moments of consciousness
in between exhalations and eye-blinks.
I am caressed and buttressed
by the elegant strength of your tender spirit.
You are freedom after centuries of imprisonment.
You are a heavy rain after a cruel drought.
You bring the stars closer to my eyes.
You pull colorful spiral galaxies toward us
with your heart-bending gravity.
We explode like kaleidoscopic fireworks,
splattering a longstanding dream
across the churning night sky.
Refilling our palette of sensuality
with shattered rainbows.
We bend down to pick up the myriad jagged pieces,
our heartbeats bouncing again and again
to the hypnotic rhythm of evening descending;
our hands touching, our eyes devouring .
Our minds uniting, and our bodies shaking
as fiery desires are sporadically quenched
and rekindled, slowly dying down to embers
of nirvana whose warm afterglow
is eventually extinguished by the cool,
refreshing stream of our parallel thoughts
drifting weightlessly towards the sandy shores of eternity.
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
~ Margaret Mead
Hold onto the faith that what you can do, and are willing to do, matters. Nothing matters more. You are not solely responsible for the solution. Bite off only as much as you can chew and trust that it will be enough to directly and indirectly feed a multitude of others.
When you do pray, pray for purpose. I promise you, the answers will come. They may not come in a way you were hoping, but they will come in a way that you need. And you may not see that your prayer was answered until you look back one day and see how all the answers fell into perfect place.
If you don’t do so already, make time to meditate. Oftentimes, we are so deafened by the noise of our own hectic lives and the demands pressed upon us that we drown out the quiet whisper within ourselves that reveals our inner compass, our hidden strengths, and our unique gifts.
Recognize that the person most in need of comfort and support may well, at times, be you. Allow others to do for you what you cannot in this moment do for yourself. In accepting love and care from another, you allow other individuals to fully actualize their humanity.
Empower yourself to change the world. Each of us, individually and magnificently, can do something by simply reaching out and offering the gift of comfort, assistance, and love for that one person who cries out in need.
Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness involves our paying attention “on purpose” and in “this moment.” Marathons are more easily won if the runner can simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly, and in equal measure. They are generally lost when all the runner can see is the 26 miles stretching ahead.
Accept the reality that you are not powerless. You are infinitely powerful. The answers you so desperately seek are within you. But do not confuse power with purpose. Power is simply the fuel necessary to propel your purpose.
Look to those closest to you in need. Discern what your “gift” is and extend it to others. Resist any temptation toward personal recognition or reward. Empowered individuals are in the business of sowing, not reaping.
Believe that what you do not only matters, it is essential. It may seem like a small gesture to you, but you just might inspire another who then inspires another who then inspires another.
Should you desire to be hateful — to dissect an innocent heart from the inside, to bury a soul under its own weight, bind it in secrecy. Afflict it with a power it cannot share, knowledge it cannot teach, truth it cannot practice.
Secrets are dangerous not in being told, but in being kept.
What is locked in the heart is so vulnerable and precious; it is a force meant to be reflected upon, reconciled, and released. Perhaps some secrets are too burdensome to be unleashed in shameless entirety or in direct confidence, and those are scattered throughout time in legends, myths, in art and poetry; masterpieces littering each single experience with whispers and with shadows. The secrets and their fragments we may be blessed or cursed to encounter are not for us to harbor, but to share as we see fit:
When we share foolishly, they instruct us; when we share wisely, they enlighten others.
In life, we accumulate so many secrets — they settle under our skin. They imprison us in our own minds, trap us with our own wills. Sometimes such secrets efface our very desire to live, for being alive is no more than sharing secrets:
Taking them on and letting them go.
For those who are truly living, there is no such thing as a secret, for to hear a whisper is to be whispered oneself. Being alive is standing on an ocean shore listening to the tide or marking the centre of a gust of wind or smiling quietly at a stranger’s conversation or holding the unshed tears of a close friend, inhaling the hushed morsels of existence and inserting ourselves in their place.
When we do this, we take the wind and give to it our being, and thus the burden of being is lightened for all. We cannot hold secrets dear, we can only hold them in vain. We are merely vessels after all:
Filled so we may be emptied, emptied so we may be filled again.
It is said that one of the prerequisites of creativity is to have had experienced childhood trauma. Read the works of any great Irish writer (Frank McCourt, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce) and you will clearly see that youthful pain and suffering fueled much of their creative genius. And while I do not claim to be remotely on par with these incredible storytellers, to read any of my writing is to know that childhood trauma played a significant role in the determination of my creative voice.
To be honest, my youth unfolded like the discarded first draft of a story that could have been so much better. There simply weren’t enough stretches of peace or joy in it to attend to the edits necessary to have made it bearable. It isn’t that I am filled with regret for all of the things that might have been. It’s more that I am blanketed in a sadness for the sheer waste of it all.
Intuitively, I know that my broken juvenile years can’t be the full measure of why I write the way I write. Something deeper, more sinister, is afoot. Something bigger and more malevolent presses my pen to the paper.
For me, the value of nothing out of nothing comes something. The nothing started even earlier than the moment when I began to write. I have no doubt that what little creativity I possess is the function of some neurological quirk; that I have just enough of psychosis or depression to fuel an interesting poem here, an article there. That creativity (if that’s even the word for it) is not, in any circumstance, the product of “talent” or creative muse, but rather arises more as a testament to a damaged mind that perceives the events of life from a slightly more skewed or twisted perspective.
Perhaps it was the combination of the two: an injured adolescence and a form of brain damage. When I was four years old, I fell down the stairwell of the two story duplex my family lived in while my father was stationed in the Navy. I was rushed to the hospital because the fall had resulted in a crushing blow to the frontal temporal region of my skull. Surely, my brain was impacted, if not forever altered because of this accident. Combine that blow with the endless physical and sexual trauma that rejoined the family the day my father retired from service, and then, perhaps I can begin to put my finger upon my “creativity.”
Ask yourself…what can be more creative than scrambling daily throughout your entire childhood to find a place to survive. Out of necessity, the damaged mind constructs a false reality in which to take shelter. It is this false reality that takes form in the expressive arts.
I may never know what truly fuels my creative process. The sands of time that fill the hourglass of my life have nearly run out. While I am by no means an old man, I am, nonetheless, a tired man and my time upon this tortured plane of existence called “life” can now be measured in moments rather than years. I will leave behind me no great works of art, no lasting legacy of poetic genius. Even the memory of me will fade before the ink is dry on my final written word.
Mine has been a lonely walk: solitude whispers a silent story. And as we all know, life and living require interaction. But I was born alone, have lived alone, and will undoubtedly die…alone. And that doesn’t require creativity.
I see a lot of things I disagree with on social media. And, to be honest, I’ve probably posted more than my share of things that are disagreeable. It’s hard to keep our personal beliefs to ourselves when we see things online that we take issue with. Let’s take the subject of politics on Facebook.
For me personally, I have many friends and family members on Facebook who are on both sides of the fence politically. From time to time I have posted something politically charged, only to go back a little bit later and remove it after I’ve thought about the possible repercussions. I am now fully committed to never doing it again.
So, I’ve come up with some reasons why none of us should post about politics on Facebook. Nothing that I’ve written is intended to silence anyone. My sole motivation is to keep relationships on Facebook intact, and invite the reader to look toward more appropriate forums for political debate. Here you go….
Agree or disagree with my advice? Instead of beating up on others, go ahead a beat up on me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Trust me, I have nothing to lose. I promise, I won’t be offended and perhaps your family and friends will still love and accept you after election day.
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
~ Margaret Mead
Each and every day precious orchids wither in the garden of life, and die. They never have the chance to fully bloom. These orchids are the men, women, children, soldiers, police, and innocent civilians whose lives are cut down by senseless acts of crime, violence, war, and terrorism.
We awaken daily to see promising lives and futures swallowed whole behind cowardly and senseless acts of terror and we, the survivors, caretakers of the garden, begin to struggle behind the unanswerable:
Each and every day nations grieve after having once more stared into the bloody, gaping maw of death and destruction visited upon their cities: Munich, Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Benghazi, Misrata, Ferguson, New York, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Baghdad, Basra, Nice, Paris, Grozny, Mumbai; the list seems frightfully endless.
Man’s incredible thirst for the blood of his fellow man seems, at times, unquenchable.
Each and every day we see nations rally around the families of the dead and maimed, embracing their brothers and sisters with mournful tears and desolate prayers that fall from their trembling lips upon blood soaked sand. We witness unimaginable suffering in cities and communities everywhere and find ourselves caught up in what seems like and endless loop of rebuilding and healing.
Those of us who are unscathed physically (though mentally savaged) begin our struggle for an understanding that never comes. We seek answers to enormous questions that can’t even be framed. And tragically, we begin to doubt ourselves. We doubt our ability to navigate the futility and despair felt in connection with these continuing acts of horror. In our collective grief and sense of powerlessness, we quite naturally turn to our God, by whatever name we call Him, and tearfully cry out for mercy.
I realize I often turn my own readers off when chastening them not to look too earnestly for God’s mercy in times like these. It isn’t that I don’t believe in God. I most certainly and devotedly do. I just don’t think He’s as merciful as we lead ourselves to believe. I believe God expects us to be the channels of that mercy. We look to Heaven for answers, yet fail to look within ourselves.
We keep searching for God’s mercy whilst withholding our own.
More often than not, we sit by almost catatonic after each horrifying act feeling helpless against the enormity of it all. And yet, the question inevitably arises:
“What can I, just one person, do to make a difference?”
I’ve asked myself that very question every time a new tragedy unfolds. And for too long, I sat there, likewise, feeling powerless and defeated. Yes, I also prayed for strength, understanding, and mercy. But like so many others, I felt my prayers fell on silent ears. They were seemingly unanswered, or worse, I feared, unanswerable.
It was a restless night a few years ago, as I was writing an article on first responders to the Boston Marathon bombing, with utter clarity and intensity, I was compelled by what can only be described as a stream of consciousness – a phrase that kept repeating itself in my brain, much like a song you can’t get out of your head. And so, I wrote it down on a scrap of paper. It was like that lost piece of a puzzle that perfectly fell into place. I came to the amazing realization that this was the answer to my prayers.
Pouring like clear, fresh water from my pen, I wrote it down:
We are closest to God when we extend compassion;
we are furthest from Him when we withhold it.
I had to ask myself the hard question: what was I doing to extend compassion? What was my role in the solution in the face of so much pain and suffering? Then it finally dawned on me. I could write. That was my gift. My blog reaches over 170,000 people. If I could write something that could comfort, inspire, or motivate just one of those readers, I could make a difference. It isn’t much, and I’m not the best writer, but it is one thing. I finally came to the realization that even the smallest spark can yield the greatest fire!
I began searching on the internet for examples of what others have done to make a meaningful difference. As I was debating whether to offer up examples of iconic individuals such as Jesus, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela, etc., I came across an incredible discovery that was too perfect and too awesome not to share with you.
Her name is Milana Aleksandrovna Vayntrub, an Uzbek American actress, comedian, writer, and producer who is best known for playing the wholesome character Lily Adams in a series of AT&T television commercials. But more importantly and relevant to this discussion, Milana is also the co-founder of CantDoNothing.org (#cantdonothing) an incredibly successful online organization that has offered thousands a pathway to “individual” empowerment. Her message is simple: doing something, no matter how small and inconsequential it feels in the moment, for it is better to do that small something than to not do anything at all.
Milana is tireless in her efforts to show us that individuals can make a profound difference. Through her own work with Syrian and Turkish refugees arriving by the boatloads into Greece, she clearly demonstrates that feelings of powerlessness that leads to inaction is a false construct created by generations of war-mongers and power-hungry bureaucracies as they attempt to marginalize the power of individuals, of social activism. The power of one individual helping another, Milana shows, can affect an incredible sea change of good that can and will alter the lives of thousands over time.
Doing “something” produces ever expanding ripples whose reach extends far beyond one individual act of charity and compassion. Doing even the smallest thing, Milana demonstrates, can ultimately change the world.
I confess, I have been generally suspect when it comes to feel-good solutions to complex human problems involving suffering and pain. But the more I dug into it, the more I found endless examples where one individual has done something which can, in time, alter the course of our human experience. You may never hear about these people. These are not well-to-do celebrities or Ivy League business moguls (although many of those do wonderful things) but rather they are your neighbors, the man or woman or adolescent next door, the lady mechanic fixing your car, your child’s teacher, a college student with a bold idea. They are often hidden in the shadows of our everyday lives, but their lights shine brilliantly within their obscurity and their power is undeniable:
http://moralheroes.org/jorge-munoz# Jorge Munoz’s humble efforts and his heroic commitment to feed his needy neighbors equally inspires those who need help and those who can help.
http://www.cambodianselfhelpdemining.org/ A former Khmer Rouge conscripted child soldier who works as museum curator in Cambodia, Aki Ra has devoted his life to removing landmines in Cambodia and to caring for young landmine victims. Aki Ra states that since 1992 he has personally removed and destroyed as many as 50,000 landmines.
https://www.onedayswages.org/ Self-described as an ”average family” from Seattle, WA, Eugene and Minhee Cho state upfront, “We would never ask anyone to do what we would not do ourselves.” They founded #OneDaysWages to show others how to combat global poverty by creating their own personal campaign to alleviate extreme global poverty.
https://theliftgarage.org/ Kathy Heying founded Lift Garage, a 501c3 nonprofit aimed to move people out of poverty homelessness by providing low-cost car repair, free pre-purchase car inspections, and honest advice that supports our community on the road to more secure lives.
https://vimeo.com/154614207 He is literally turning gorilla poachers into protectors. , Edwin Sabuhoro came up with an idea to help gorilla poachers make a living — a plan that didn’t include killing wildlife. “I thought of an idea of turning poachers to farmers,” says Sabuhoro, who took all of his savings — $2,000 — and divided it to poachers to rent land, buy seeds and start farming.
There are hundreds of heroic examples like these, enough that I can almost guarantee you will find one that provides an avenue for “your talent, your gift.” For me to feel a broken, aching heart for the victims of a terrorist attack across the globe, yet remain blind to the suffering and pain of those closest to me while doing nothing is a cheap, selfish emotion. I assure you, I am better than that. So are you.
What I learned by researching what others were doing to make a difference, I finally understood that In my own life, the line between “grace” and “disgrace” is simply the difference between “doing something” versus “doing nothing.”
I put together this small list of suggestions that might help provide you, as it does me, a pathway toward identifying how you can make a difference:
This last point is a beautiful example of the Butterfly Effect; the concept developed by Edward Lorenz in 1960 suggesting small causes can have extremely large effects over time. The butterfly effect simply states that small events can lead to big changes.
The phrase was started by the Lorenz’s hypothesis that the flap of a butterfly’s wings could influence a hurricane half way across the world.
For the purpose of this post, I have borrowed from Lorenz’s butterfly effect to demonstrate that even the smallest gesture by a single individual, say a gesture of compassion, mercy, or love, extended to just one other person in need, could ultimately reshape the world into a more compassionate, merciful, and loving place.
Consider this: every instance of great change in the world began with a single person. One person. And it all begins with self-empowerment. It begins with believing that what you think, or what you do, can shape the events in not only your life, but the lives of others.
Keep in mind that in empowering yourself, there is no fixed end point. Self-actualization and empowerment is thus not a location or a stage of development, but rather a state of being, an awareness of who one really is in relation to others. A realization that in this relation to others, you can be the catalyst for significant and far-reaching change. An acceptance that your single gesture of compassion, mercy, and love can, theoretically, set into motion a ripple of correlated events that could one day prevent war and terrorism.
We are not angels, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do angelic things.
And why shouldn’t that someone, somewhere, somehow, be you?
With every breath, inhale love and peace
Though the acrid smoke of terror sears the lungs
Exhale to glory and the assurance of hope
Do not allow the feeble tantrums of hate
To rob you of the joyous songs of faith and courage
Breathe in the evil and the immoral acts of mortals
Exhale the beauty of poets, dancers, and artists all
For they are God’s voice lifting through the darkness
Breathe in light; exhale dreams of a better world.
Exhale fear and misunderstanding; inhale trust
In the limitless imaginations of peacemakers
Do not whisper your prayers, rather shout loudly
So that the force of your pleas peel back dark clouds
And the beauty of your supplications outshine the sun
Hold your breath for a moment, and taste the kiss of life
And with lungs full of God’ compassion and tenderness
Exhale your loss and your grief and your sorrows
Do not allow suffering today to rob you of your breath
But in exquisite protest, breathe more deeply yet
Let your inhalations be incantations to soothe the living
And your exhalations be the exaltation for the dead
Do more than just survive…continue to breathe, deeply
For in every breath there is possibility and promise
In every breath lies healing and forgiveness and peace
Artwork Courtesy of DeviantArt©2016
“At the end, I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards. “
Autuor, Anne Lamott
The years have swept my face
carving time in deep crevices
thinning my skin with relentless cold
Like a child pushing milk teeth
my smile is likewise gapped
though my innocence lays broken
like this child’s backyard toys
These days, I pretend I am busy
that I’m working, that I’m writing
but I’m not doing anything
I just didn’t want to appear artificial
in these my final fading days
I have known glorious moments of fame
where my words stoked the hearts of man
and my poems filled a woman’s tender soul
but all these thing mean very little to me
I am into the finality of the here and now
the past is such a strange thing for me
Oh, loving her was indeed an incredible journey
a wonderful everlasting treasure hunt
I found emeralds in her soft green eyes
and sparkling diamonds in her radiant smile
golden coins tinkling in her laughter
her kiss as soft and pure as harvest wine
but like all treasure, she lies buried now
while I am castaway upon these lonely shores
My life is a dead space, expired time
if you would describe it in colors, a grayness
The changing seasons no longer cut
by snow and rain and sun and falling leaves
but rather, like clouds pushing darkly
against one another in a stormy sky
my days blend beneath a blotted sun
I know the number of my evenings are few
and my remaining mornings fewer by one
but I am tired, and I am alone
…and I am ready
The royal robes of winter’s night
tightly bind me in its blue-black grip
The shadow of majestic purple mountains
kneel upon the fields of frozen graves
ancient tombstones, like granite faces
hemming the barren valley floors
An amber moon spills its bitter glow
through naked branches like brittle
fingers clutching a button-less cloak
Icy winds whip swirls of fog across
lifeless lakes, and on broken wings
doves fall from a voiceless sky
In a distant village, old ladies warble lullabies
to their dying husbands; soft verse cutting
like jagged blades through thick cherry smoke
bleeding from pipes clenched in broken teeth.
The children, with bellies as round as their joyless
eyes feed upon fermented peaches and dance
on knitted bones, playing hide but please, don’t seek
for we are tired, for we are weak
I have walked a lifetime to return
to this is, my kingdom, stretching as far as the blind
eye can see. Built upon the shifting sands of hope lost
This, both kingdom and the shoveled grave
My head crowned in a spray of dying stars;
my spirit drowned in muted prayer;
my hobbled feet cut upon jagged stones.
This is my destiny, my hell, my home.
Before the ashes, Vulcan’s vengeful fire.
Before the sex, a deep and burning desire
Before the storm, a dark and restless quiet;
Before the morning, a deep and somber night.
Before the hunt, the frightened fleeing fox,
Before the race, coiled tightly in starter’s blocks.
Before the cut, such soft unblemished skin;
Before the blade, sparks fly, the whetstone spins.
Before new love, the queasy, nauseous start;
Before the kiss, a young and hopeful heart.
Before rejection, all things possible, bright, and new;
Before enlightenment, faith in what we say and do.
Before Sun’s rays, dark clouds enshroud the planet
Before the sculptor, beauty locked in blocks of granite.
Before the fall, transcendence true and boldly rising;
Before the gasp, in silent awe, a sweet surprising.
Before the rose arises first the lowly bloom –
Before the family, a dark and empty room.
Before old age comes the child full of life!
Before victory, the pain of loss and bitter strife.
Before the Universe, a bright and solitary star
Before the nearness, a cold and distant far
Before the night, a day of brilliant cerulean blue
Before the “Us,” a prayer for joining “Me” to “You”
Whole platters of
Handled timidly by
Once bold and sure.
Last moment grasps,
End over end,
Sadly spewing its
in a hopeless
but a shattering
to the cold, hard
Floorboards of reality.
Love is a many
Behold, my light so brightly burning
Guiding wayward sailors home.
Covered in breaking waves now churning
Battered ‘neath the angry foam
Awake, my Captain; tend my fire
The ships are blind upon the sea
Night has come so dark and dire
Bring them safely home to me
Push back your fear and never fail me
Do not tarry, nor think twice
No time for prayers on bended knee
The sea demands her sacrifice
Many a keeper survived the commotion
Tending my flame with ardent care
Many more forever lost to the ocean
Swept from my winding, icy stair
I am the hope of every seamen,
Warning of the rock and shoal,
And you, my Captain, tend my beacon
With all your heart and weary soul.
In Spring she danced with her true love Each step in softness, lights descending From the silver rays of moon above Terpsichore's guidance never-ending.
Summer found her slightly winded Though to her lover’s hand she held And while this dance more quickly ended, Within his arms all fears were quelled.
Upon a chilled wind Fall did follow Fatigued, she cried, “No more to dance!” He prayed to her beloved, Apollo, “What price secures another chance?”
In Winter’s snow she found her rest His tears upon her funeral pyre; Now holding close within his chest One final dance, his heart’s desire.
(Dedicated to Jules)
We always sleep with curtains drawn,
in the soft blue light of morning,
I rise and pull the black velvet tight.
How long will our love be kept waiting,
our trembling hearts anticipating,
yearning reflected in half-closed eyes,
refusing sleep when passion lies,
with spoken words clearly stating –
how long will our love be kept waiting?
For love is purely mesmerizing
we tightly embrace as the sun is rising,
come fill this man’s heart with joy,
for daylight brings my heart’s envoy
in nature’s work there’s no disguising,
what we share is purely mesmerizing.
Your burning love makes my shadows bright,
and carries us through to dawn’s first light,
dancing circles turn around,
feeling the Earth’s beat underground
on this blessed day and shortest night,
the sweetest love makes shadows bright
“God talks in the trees.”
— Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas
It is the season of sleeping late
while dreaming of red-orange trees
shuddering in the evening breeze.
These are the short days
when the thirst for warmth suborns desire
and Eros kisses summer love goodnight.
It is the season of crimson sunsets
pouring slowly, like thick molasses,
over church steeples and frozen riverbeds.
When snow-pregnant clouds float lazily
across flower-less meadows
and lovers seek shelter beneath heavy quilts.
It is the season of naked trees,
with branches like fingers extending
toward the setting sun, tracing delicate arches
across the rose autumn sky.
Those days when the blackbird flies southward
into the night beneath crystal constellations.
It is the season of surrender,
when burdens, like the yellowing leaves,
fall silently to the frozen earth
and tired bones warm themselves before tended fires..
It is the season of dying in the palm of God’s hand;
comforted in the knowledge of spring’s resurrection.
Plant my sorrows ‘neath soils deep
I will not pray, nor shall I weep
bitter secrets, mine to keep
bitter harvest, mine to reap
I dreamt of the rapture, dreamt of the pain
I dreamt of the fire, of the iron chains
This tortured heart beats cold and quivering
This tortured soul, fatigued and shivering.
Into the waters my steps descend
For this is the beginning of the final end
Let the rivers wash my tired bones
Let the currents carry my body home
I am the ripe green apple,
plucked from Eden’s garden
no hope for God’s pardon.
I am Achilles heel
that hobbles my stride;
my insufferable pride..
That lock of hair
claiming Sampson’s life,
And the brother of Able,
I’m Cain with a knife!
I am the snakes coiled
in Medusa’s dark mane –
Like a lance to the boil,
my mercy is strained.
I’m the brew in the cauldron
of deep-forested witches –
The ugliness that comes
from Frankenstein’s stitches.
I am alone and afraid,
but too stubborn to change;
Hopeless and lost
and most certain deranged!
I’m broken, defeated,
and reeking of sin,
The lowest of cowards,
the most evil of men.
A life, ever wasted
on cheap wine and women,
My descent into Death
is just now beginning.
This ghost will remain
as my specter of shame –
I’d rather be dead
than live more of the same ~
***TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains small mentions of self-harm and institutionalization.***
Today I want to talk about something that has been swimming around in my head for weeks. I guess you could say this post is an accumulation of high emotions, stress, and some really tactless things I have heard from people who meant well. There are a few in my life who actually understand where I’m coming from… thanks Jeri and Susan and Julie and my sweet Nikie. I’m not going to unleash 40+ years of preteen, wannabe rebellion drama on to you; please know that all of this is coming from the heart; an excerpt from my life.
Following this post, I share a poem I wrote that attempts to sum up my dysthemia (chronic depression) in an easier, entertaining format. Depression is hard to put into words for those who have never experienced it. Sometimes a poem helps. Maybe.
To start off, I have been struggling with depression for at least 45 years. In middle school I had some issues with my classmates. A lot of them thought I was strange because one day I wanted to talk to everyone, huge smile on my face – and then the next I would withdraw or lash out angrily at anyone who dared look at me the wrong way. It was a time when I was just starting to realize that I was different, that something akin to a sezure was going to assert itself at random moments in my brain and in my life.
There was never relief at home for there was horror in that house visted continuously upon myself and my five siblings. I avoided going home at all costs. For a while, I had no way of coping besides throwing ridiculous tantrums to push people away; I stopped talking. Nobody knew what to do with me, so my mother started making me read and write to bring my grades up. When I actually became interested in reading, and especially writing, it became a coping mechanism. To this day, writing is my one place I can retreat to be heard and to find peace..
In high school my depression quickly escalated, especially during my sophomore and junior years. I was still reading and writing to cope, but I had absolutely no motivation in my education. I didn’t skip to be rebellious, I skipped because the anxiety of walking in to class was too much to bear. I can remember seeing the doorway to any of my classrooms, knowing there was a teacher and other students on the other end feeling like my lungs collapsed.
It took little to no thought, almost as if on instinct, for me to turn my feet in the other direction and skip my afternoon classes until the day was over. I was not bullied, I wasn’t hurt in any way by any of my teachers or students, there was no substance abuse when I skipped, but my parent’s couldn’t comprehend what was wrong. All they knew was that I was very quiet and withdrawn and nothing seemed to be helping.
Around this time, I started exhibiting self-harm behaviors: climbing rooftops and jumping, running away for a week or two at a time, taking full bottles of whatever was in the medicine cabinet. Once, I even took all of my mother’s birth control pills. But perhaps the most alarming was locking myself in my bedroom and choking myself with a belt until I passed out. I practiced hanging myself. Anything to escape the fear, the anxiety…the darkness.
By junior year I was continually self-harmful and hiding it from my only friend and my family. When my best friend found out she told her mother and she contacted my parents. The result was several trips to a psychiatrist that I absolutely loathed, and a therapist who was so unbelievably optimistic she could have been in Legally Blonde, but wearing baby blue 24/7 instead of pink. I stopped hurting myself (for a few years) but I still skipped class daily, read books to the detriment of my social life. Naturally, I gravitated to dark writers…Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Sylvia Plath, etc….and continued to be either withdrawn or aggressive with my family. During this time I was on medication, under the guidance of my psychiatrist.
I stuck to this uncertain way of life for a while, finding two friends struggling with the same situation I was. They were my support system, one of which I still talk to today. By the time I finished high school and started college, I had stopped taking my medication. I didn’t think there was a need for it anymore.
My first year was academically successful, but my mental state was getting increasingly worse and more unpredictable than usual. I was suffering. I managed to walk to my classes without freaking out about being watched until I sat down, and the dark fog would envelope me, but I was learning to function even in that darkness. It was a huge step forward. My academic advisor, however, was not happy with the lack of motivation in my education and prompted me to take on more classes. I’m not shoving the full blame of my ensuing emotional breakdown on him, however I do feel that my need to please him and avoid conflict was to take on 19 credits, an internship and an on campus job….all of which led to more depression.
I barely made it through my first semester before I was so emotionally and physically exhausted I could barely get out of bed. I was forgetting to eat and getting 3 hours of sleep on a daily basis.
During this time I talked to several different people to get help. I talked to the free on campus counseling, to which some of my friends went with me for support. It was great to have that outlet, but it wasn’t helping enough. I was so malnourished I lost nearly 25 pounds in the span of a month. Finally my roommate took one good look at me and told me if I didn’t get out of bed the next day by 12pm he was going to send me home with his mother if he had to. I ended up dropping out of college my sophomore year and coming back home.
I took the rest of the semester off, just focusing on eating, sleeping , and most importantly, not killing myself. This later thought was new…and I thought about it a lot. I spent most of my waking time trying to gather my courage to end it all.
By next semester I was re-enrolled in a college and went back on medication.
Therapy appointments were twice a week until I was back at a healthy weight and attending school on a regular basis. But I discovered a way to participate in all the social mayhem that one encounters in college – alcohol.
I had no way of knowing then what a devastating role alcohol (coupled with depression) would eventually have on my life, and in time, my marraige. But for the moment it worked. I experienced the false happiness of being under the influence. I could talk to people. I felt happy. And I had sex. A lot of sex. It numbed me. But the consequences of drinking began to assert itself: I was placed on academic probation for missing classes or going to classes under the influence. Two weeks later, I dropped out of college altogether.
This began a vicious and arduous cycle of failures that, unbeknownst to me, fed my depression: get a job, lose a job because of my drinking. Date a girl who could not keep up with my drinking. Lose a girl. Over and over and over. My self-esteem was shredded. And all along, like shoveling coal in a hungry furnace, I was stoking the flames of my disease. But as long as I kept drinking, I escaped the onslaught of a full blown depression collapse. The alcohol was killing me and saving me at the same time. I was committing social suicide by drinking as I did so that I did not commit actual suicide locked in my dysthemia.
Because of the alcohol, I was now somewhat liberated from my withdrawn state. I started noticing the strange reactions I was getting from people when I talked to them about my situation. Some of my friends were getting exasperated with my emotional outbursts and my depressive withdrawls, wondering why I couldn’t just “get over” what was bothering me. I tried to describe to them what was going on in my head but “It’s a chemical thing more than an emotional thing” didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere.
I started noticing that people who have never experienced deep depression were rather tactless when talking to people who suffered from depression. There seems to be this really blasé attitude towards those who are struggling with living their lives as normal people. Having my struggle with depression spelled across my forehead was too much to ask from me in order to get a somewhat understanding reaction from someone else… sorry…it wasn’t worth the effort. I’ve been institutionalized once and ever since coming out and getting my life back together people have been expecting me to just “get over” everything that comes my way. I couldn’t comment on something that was a little frustrating to me without someone telling me I’m “making too much of a big deal” about it.
I could not understand why people felt the need to react this way to someone who has been more than blatantly open about his emotional problems: WHY on earth would they instigate MORE problems and demand answers because they don’t know what’s wrong with them? If I told someone I had cancer, no one in their right mind would even dream of saying “Oh, it’s just cancer, get over it”. They wouldn’t have to know anything about my past, my family, the struggles I’d faced or anything of the sort to act like a decent human being, so why is it okay to say something like that about depression?
Sometimes I’d really like to give people a piece of my mind. It’d go a little something like this:
Things I’ve heard: “Oh honey, we all get a little sad sometimes.”
My reaction: “I’m pretty sure wanting to kill myself on a daily basis isn’t a little sad. But sure, I feel so much better now that my suicidal thoughts have been completely downgraded, I’m gonna go find a 7 story window to jump out of. Have a nice day.”
Things I’ve heard: “Why can’t you just tell me what’s going on? I’d be so much easier to deal with, I don’t have time to do this with you every day.”
My reaction: “I totally love living in emotional turmoil so I just keep it to myself. The chemical calibrations going off in my brain make total sense to to me but I don’t feel like sharing. I’m sorry I forgot to tell you I had an emotional breakdown scheduled this month and it’s set to go until the middle of December. I’ll put it on the calendar next time.”
Things I’ve heard: “You didn’t look or sound depressed at all! How was I supposed to know?”
My reaction: “I wasn’t trying to tell you. And if I could, there are no words to describe the darkness that envelopes me. Next time I want the world to know exactly how I feel on a daily basis I’ll tattoo it on my face so it’s impossible to miss. I love knowing my personal business is so blatantly obvious to everyone in the world.”
Things I’ve heard: “Why can’t you just stop feeling that way? I mean thinking about it won’t help so just move on.”
My reaction: “Ooooooooooooooooh! You’re so incredibly smart! Let me find my automated ‘off’ switches for my mind, my brain, my heart, my depression and anxiety and I’ll get back to you. Thanks sooooooooooo much for the suggestion. I’ll just add that to the growing list of things I have failed at, and get right on that thank you note for such a thoughtful piece of advice.
-insert loud sigh here-
The point is, my tolerance for people’s complete lack of understanding is getting smaller by the hour. No person who has ever felt the pain that depression brings should ever have to feel guilty for it, especially when the people around them don’t understand anything about what they are going through. We don’t share the same language when it comes to depression. Words to describe what it’s like simply don’t exist. We need to start by having an open and thoughtful national conversation on the topic. And that is not going to happen.
I’m starting to realize I’m going to have to cut some really important people out of my life because of this. In one way, I cut the most important person in my life out forever, because of the behavioral side affects of my dysthemia and the attempts to quiet the nightmare through a series of alcohol relapses. I will never forgive myself for that. The repercussions of that will echo for years yet to come. I couldn’t save myself….how in hell was I evervgoing to save my marriage? And what in God’s name was I thinking ever letting someone get that close to me. It will never happen again.
Being alone with depression is going to hurt, but I’d rather go through a hurt alone that I can grow out in three days or a week than ever suffer again by havingin my love, my heart, and myself as a person discarded because of the fallout of this savage disease. I cannot long survive a life of having who I am as a person suffering from depression thrown back in my face every day by a world that is afraid to understand.
DYSTHYMIA (CHRONIC DEPRESSION)
by D..L. McHale
It does not speak English, Spanish, French, or Italian, or any intelligible utterance known to this world.
It is a darkness devoid of spoken words;
a tongue savagely ripped from the mouth of the village idiot.
There are no pressed pages in braille
to sensate dull fingertips, to tap out the iniquity and the pain.
No painting of fingered words in the still air whispering into deafened ears.
It is the molten ashes of Vesuvius, cascading behind clenched eyelids; a scorching of the inner self. It is the babbling madness of Babylon chanting chattering confusion.
It is the silent scream that pierces the morning sky, the shrieking wind that rips the sparrow’s wings from its tender breast.
It is the desperate gasp for air from collapsed lungs, the tortured artery that bleeds the brain.
Beneath the ocean’s swell, the riptide that pulls one asunder to the blue-black abyss, a dark star consuming itself, devouring light into the shadows of its belly.
A twisted comfort in the unfeeling, a slap in the face of the unsmiling. Distant and cold eyes – unfocused, unseeing.
A banquet of burning bone and marrow before demons dancing to noteless music.
You laid your plaited red skirt
on the foot of my bed,
neatly folded as though
in doing so you could somehow
retain your virtue.
In the midst of our fleshy thrashing,
I kicked it to the floor, and you began
to cry, deep sobs that rattled
the mattress springs.
I moved, too reluctantly, to retrieve it
but you said, “Why bother?
You’ve ruined it.
You’ve ruined me.
You’ve ruined everything!”
Making love doesn’t always
mean making sense,
and so I threw my feet to the floor,
pulled on my jeans, and looked back,
although I would never be able to see.
“So that’s it?” you sobbed.
I smiled in affirmation, buttoned my shirt,
and turned toward the door,
and as an afterthought, picked up
your once plaited red skirt, tossed it
carelessly over my shoulder,