Poetry Showcase for John Zurn

brown wooden panel door beside gray concrete wall

The Carrot and the Pole

The carrot lashed on to the pole
led to a hollow hope.
The ring that pulled against my nose
dragged me through dos and don’ts.
The choking leash chewed up my neck
and held me back from living.
But every night I still come back
to thoughts that need forgiving.

Structure

The structure of the pills and rules
can keep emotions balanced.
Like a box of useful tools,
it helps the poet manage.
Sometimes it can crush the soul
because the structure smothers.
Other times it fails to hold 
and only courage matters

Some Call it Depression

Some call it depression 
when life turns dark and dull.
Others claim that effort
can take the pressure off.
Yet those who speak of feelings
mostly live in books.
Their minds believe in speaking
with self-important words.

Disconnected

Walking on egg shells
oaths made of doubt.
Prayers turn to silence
as mood storms dry out.
The soggy air sops up
the left over mind.
The hope of attention
is now lost to time.
Answers keep stalling
so questions drop-off.
This latest rejection
is hard to ignore.
God must exist 
he’s called here before.
But now he’s too busy,
and so never calls.

Bio: John Zurn has been faced with the challenges of bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder for his entire adult life.  Over the years he gradually learned that: medication, physical exercise, meditation and creative writing were vital for his long term recovery. Despite this challenge, he still managed to work as a teacher and counselor for over thirty-five years. Now retired, he has more time to write and publish poems and stories.  As one of seven children, his experiences growing up continue to help inspire his art and influence his life

Two Poems from Jennifer Patino for our online “Trauma Letters Anthology”

white lined paper

(c) Dim Hou on Unsplash.

Disable

  During the healing,
the green ladies said I could
dance in my dreams
and it would be the same
as dancing in the rain
after the first week
in the new town,
where mud filled the streets
and truth be told,
where it all went down

  Downhill is how I ended
up on this makeshift massage
table     I drank the art of
dancing and closed my eyes
too quickly as the carpet
turned to sand

     The boys just watched,
   were you surprised?
   They're wasting time
   trying to show me
   what makes a man

   Mud, and it can be
washed away     The
healers say I'm purified
They can feel my
organs shrinking
I feel what it is to be
a bubble

(“You girls are nothing but trouble”)

    One of the emeralds looks
like a poet I admire
Her eyes are what I take
from this impromptu session
I promise to dance my way
through all of life's lessons
She knows it will always
be better in my mind

   Now we're out of time
and it's desert dry,
the verdant landscape
is no more     Dancing
shoes replaced with
comfy slippers and
hiding from unexpected
knocks on doors

    Recovery is a journey
with no end in sight,
but you move with its rhythm
because it feels better
even if some things
can never be made right



51 50

Day 1:

There are four strangers in my living room. Their clothing is dark but they look like angels. I call one of them by their first and last name. He's stunned. “I've never met her before in my life.” They strap me to a carriage and I am floating. I can't count the overhead lights because it's off rhythm with the Kesha song cycling through my head. I suddenly fear bombs and feel that this whole thing is terribly wrong. I open my eyes later and see a smiling lawyer on a billboard. I know now I'm not at home anymore. I'm sure I've died.

These sirens for me
I've been lured somehow, floating
Confusing ocean

Day 2:

I'm pacing around the white room away from the white coats. I pace around a table. I sit at a table. I stand up and pace again. I think my movements are fluid. There are white papers on the table and I'm too paranoid to sign them. I black out and the room is full of water. Then it all drains, and it's empty again except for a frazzled doctor. She's out of breath, wide eyed, and staring at me. I don't recognize myself in the mirrors lining the left wall, but I knew even before I fell asleep that there were other me's here. I don't know which one is real or which one is my future ghost.

Too many doorways
They say all are closed to me
But I defy them

Day 3:

I don't remember visitors. I'm supposed to remember them. I don't remember what day it is. I wring my hands and they're scaly. My dead self is flaking off. I am raw. I am given industrial strength soap that tears more of me off. They say a part of me took off days ago. They ask me strange questions. I think I'm there for something else.

“I think you're possessed”
Staff members are scaring me
I will not trust them

Day 4:

The sun is too bright. I pace around the garden wrapped in a blanket. I go in when it is too hot, shuffle around the rec room, and go back out when the ever-pumping AC makes it freezing. Alarms go off because someone tries to escape. I think it's Sunday. Football on the tube tells me it's true. I see my shining star that night. I walk the hallways after hours when he's out of sight and there's an Elton John concert on the TV that me and another insomniac are given special permission to watch. We sing quietly. We hold hands. We are sent to bed.

I'm crying for home
“So goodbye yellow brick road”
Can I go back soon?

Day 5:

The judges are the jury. They say I can't leave early. They don't know what's wrong with me. I start inventing things wrong with me based on prescription drug commercials that trigger us all on the TV. The thing is always on. It's a clearer picture than what's through the barred windows. It's clearer than the fog in everyone's heads. I can't feel my face from whatever they have me on. Another patient slaps me after coming in for a hug. It's a surprise attack. She's been here one day less than me and she's learned nothing. I haven't spake unless spoken to in three days.

I read “Ariel”
I wonder if it's cliché
or just worrying

Day 6:

I recognize my visitor. I've been waiting all day. I feign smiles through arts and crafts. I write a letter home lying about how this experience has made me feel so much better. I think this is what they want. I know they're watching us. What I really want to write is: “There is so much that needs to be done with how mental health is handled here in America and I'm too afraid to speak up. I will be silent about this because they've already put so many stigmas on me that I'm buried in them. I will forever be afraid of this happening again until the day that I die and it will change me.”

 Every single day
“Just be yourself” they tell me
Then I'm locked away

Day 7:

They tell me I'm going home and I'm happy. I'm nervous about screwing it up though. I'm exceptionally good. I chat with nurses like a “normal person” while silently cursing them through my teeth. I still don't sleep fitfully. I read my notebook for the week. They gave me a soft sponge wrapped around a piece of lead to write with to keep me calm. I'm shocked. Someone wrote in my book but I won't recognize myself in those words until later. And even then whoever I was is now long gone.

Making it alive
The goal once I realized
I had nowhere to hide

Day 8:

I finally step into the sunshine with my head down. I continue this practice for all of my days.

It's just
safer
this way


see below for more poetry and interviews/bio from Jennifer.  Thanks

Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Jennifer Patino

Audrey Hepburn Challenge: Some Things A Lady Just Wears Well by Jennifer Patino

3 poems by Jennifer Patino : “Postcard” “the Thaw” & “Watching Rosemary’s baby at 6 AM”

Twitter: @thoughtthistles




























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