I want to share two poems about my own experience of vulnerability.
The first describes my own struggle through a recent grief, and the other the way I found life in the midst of it.
I would love if you shared how you came to grips with your own experience of vulnerability.
“Grasping Through Morning Shadows”
The days darkness fell over me in sheets
cold, wet, and grimy
like the unexpected summer showers
that caught me when Paul and I went running,
searching, exploring summer nights in my teens
mixed with the filthy dust of smog-filled spring mornings
with air that tasted of cigarette ash and burning plastic
that I gulped down nervously
while sitting beside a busy L. A. street waiting for my bus.
Those mornings when waking was like falling into dreams
I moved like my feet were stuck to sun-melted asphalt streets
And my skin goose pimpled as my body was chilled even to the bones.
Rising like all enveloping cloud,
morning mist which both conceals color, distance, and faces
while revealing shape and feeling,
even of tiny pebbles that are but pin pricks on the soles of my feet,
embraces me in cool dampness.
I cannot see the dimly lit dropoff but a few feet away
that mountainside beyond which lies unspeakable beauty
made visible by simple stroke of sun’s golden fingertips
yet now shrouded by silky threads of fog which
shelter us like those many pinioned swings the Psalm sang of falling over us.
And yet, though unseen,
such looming depth seems more visible
a pull like gravity
both promising and threatening like the hoot of the screech owl heard in the evening
to which my own wild man wakes up,
a call which that part of me still pumping
the blood of hunter gatherer tribesmen
through my veins
on hearing longs to walk
the green trail
hear the rustle of leaves
sing the song of the creeks
join in the heart song of growing things
yet alarming like the distant call of the train upon the mountain
which shatters sleep in an instant
a moment in which that high pitched wail,
growing ever louder, seems to call out my name.
And perhaps it does.
Perhaps I do hear some long black train, the one old songs name.
Perhaps such beauty does remind me
that it swooped down for her – unexpected, unbidden.
Such shock lies on the horizon of my mind, always present.
God knows I hear that train song each day,
as my palm graces the back of a strong woman,
fierce in pride and independence
now wasted to skeleton,
days from cancer taking her
yet still afire with poise, grace, and beauty.
God knows I hear that wail, loud and shrill,
as I hold the hand of a man tough as nails,
face grizzled by years
seeing the light of your coming in his eyes
like sunrise reflected on the dancing blue green of the Eno’s winding waters
and see his face break into childlike grin at the sound of his name upon your voice.
beneath it all in the thick mist
gathered around me like grandma’s blanket
thick and comforting
I hear the song
sung by the call of birds
the rustle of deer almost hidden in the trees
the cry of the katydid
the whistle of a morning pot of tea
and the quiet coo of newborn child
Though I will always hear your call,
oh long black train,
it is to this song I will not fail to move,
my body a wave on its passing river
my heartbeat a note in its melody.
Those mornings, when awakening might come with nightmare scream,
when I remembered her lifeless form
remembered as my hand stroked the empty place beside me,
cold to the touch as cold as her hand when I, heart in my chest, rang the paramedics.
Those mornings, when pulling the sheet off my face
was like leaping off the cliff, often I felt frozen by fear,
two things were like the candle
blazing bright as a thousand suns
though only a pinprick of light
in the canvas sheet of my surrounding darkness:
Cold wet noses,
slobbery with canine love that called me to lay the armor away.
For if I curled up and lay down, letting my soul die too, where were they?
Walking them in the winter wood
my eyes would open for but a moment
to the sunlight sliding through the leaves
to the sight of squirrels busy with their errands
to the life splashing wet upon river rock
and I lived.
and her words “I ache every day
yet I must choose my joy.
I must live while I have breath.”
If, when pain stole sight from her eyes,
so I had to steady her each morning
she could grasp the thread of joy
I must hear my breath
listen to its message
I must crawl out of my borrowed tomb
I must leave my prison
while I live each moment I must find my joy
Each breath is a call, a gift, a challenge
to grab my golden thread
and, with the creek,
though my voice cracks in the effort,
find the strength to sing.