As rampant as poor mental, physical and spiritual health is, there seem to be even more ways to heal a troubled condition. Playing but not watching sports, laughing our asses off, avoiding political discussions and music of all forms are some of the best. If I could play guitar, I would probably never leave my house, other than to go play tennis, eat sushi and listen to live music. But I’m musically challenged, which includes rather poor singing in the shower. So I have to resort to other forms of art therapy, notably writing poetry.
Sure a fair amount of existential angst inspires each poem I write but so what. My attitude is that anything that makes us feel, anything that pushes out of our digitally supercharged state of numbness is probably a good thing. From the first time I wrote a sonnet for my 11th grade Shakespeare class, I was hooked. It was a better feeling than sex, in part because I hadn’t actually had sex yet but also because in retrospect, the good feeling lasted longer.
In college I didn’t write a lot of poems other than in the form of corny and usually futile attempts to impress women. I suppose a few of the cases worked but after all, it’s better to be lucky than good. Instead a read a lot of poems. So many, that I was perpetually intoxicated by both the verses themselves and the effects. My teachers were quick to remind that I didn’t really understand, or at least properly interpret most of the poems I had to read for class but looking back but it didn’t matter. I was reading them to learn the varieties of ways such visionaries manipulated language and for the overall poetic effect. Getting the meaning right wasn’t the purpose, at least for me. Besides, teachers like to think they have all the answers and so I was happy to let them feel right.
Many moons after my undergraduate experience ended, I think I love writing and often reading poems more than I did when I was in my 20’s. I think I have a greater sense of their aesthetic and therapeutic value. Can you imagine if T.S. Elliot, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson kept all their poetic thoughts to themselves? The culture world would be a lot drier. There is something about good lyrics/verses/images that never gets old and they never seem to fail to enlighten.
So in the name of getting my poetic urges out, I am including two poems I recently wrote. The first I wrote because I was torn, as I often am. In this case, I was torn between retreating to my comfort zone and being willing to risk an assortment of possibilities. The resolution of the poem speaks for itself. the second poem I wrote on September 11th but hopefully the message endures. It could be applied to the day after the upcoming election. I hope you enjoy them but more importantly, I hope you write poetry too.
Of all the things I have learned
which I certainly hope are enough,
at least for now.
Of all the things I have learned,
one applies quite brightly to the fire
It took me awhile
as most things do,
to realize that the best way not to get burnt
is to move closer to the fire.
Ironic as this may sound, this paradox seems true
Most times when I have been burnt
I was nowhere close to the fire.
Someone either snuck up and lit an unkind match,
or I was chased down by far flung flames
However when I approach the fire,
and closer and closer I go
the better part of instinct tells me
when it is time to go no further.
The fire teaches us limits
Limits of body, soul and mind
So if I ever tell you to walk closer to the fire,
trust me, I’m being kind
We will never forget
The images and flashbacks make it impossible to do so
But the enduring lesson of 9-11
Is what happened on September 12th.
Yes there were 3000 dead and millions more wounded.
Yes the carnage and cruel intentions were too grave for words.
Illusions shattered, innocent lives torn asunder
and delusional images of martyrdom dancing in the streets.
We will never forget
nor should we be allowed to.
Yet the assault and the ensuing grief was momentary
compared to the period of reconstruction
As a half-massacred flag was raised
so was our sense of who we really are.
On September 12th, a city rose again
as did a nation from its prolonged spiritual slumber.
If September 11th was the nightmare
Then 9-12 was the long overdue reawakening
As September 11th lasted a day
But 9-12 has continued for eleven years minus that one day
So today, 11 years ago from the attacks
We should appropriately mourn all forms of victimhood
But not as much as we should celebrate the enduring lessons
of the day we rose from the ashes, September 12th.