In some places, a cat has nine lives 

I say we have a few more 

A cat jumps back in line swinging

And we crawl back, more dead than before 

 

You’ll look at me and say 

“But you’re young and bright 

Nothing can get you down” 

And I’ll look away. 

Fight or flight. Fight. Fly. Now. 

 

Let me show you how I became this way

A half shell person wandering the streets

A sleep-walker, stumbling between the painted lines

A ‘well rounded’ multi lingual ready to retreat

 

Let me show you, life by life,

How I had happy homes to spare

And lost them all. Each and every one 

How I wasted my time trying not to care 

 

The first one, quiet and quaint 

A holed up, stone faced flat 

Right in a moldy, Scottish lane 

Full of tea time, Jaffa, and a Winnie the Pooh mat 

 

A home they know better 

It wasn’t mine for long, mine for real

Four years really doesn’t mean much 

So when we left, did I cry at all?

 

The next, much sunnier than the last

A tiled square, in a foreign city 

A land of beaches, bread, seafood and new friends.

I remember being, more than ever, a family.

 

But we left there too, after just one year

What a life to lose, caterpillar leaves and stolen gifts and water park tears.

We packed up again and boarded our plane 

Shorter and shorter my love grew 

 

We landed, my third home in my fifth year

Greeted with dusty air and sticky clouds

A home of cinderblocks and barbed wire 

A home of war, gunshots, and swarming crowds

 

It was a home of strangled wholeness for years

Then we began to leave one by one

Until it was just me, staring through screened windows

Wondering when the loneliness had begun

 

Was it when we left our first home 

When the language changed for us all

Was it when they started to leave me behind

Choosing school in The valley over prolonging feigned childhood 

 

Or was it when I started jet setting alone

Perched by the wing, window seat, please 

No, nothing to eat for fear of being too much there. 

Is that when the gaps opened, the hollows in my previous peace? 

 

You know it too, my acronym-ed friends. 

The labels, the questions, the praises and approbation, the countless friends 

(around the world)

and the crushing silence right next to you. 

Right next to you. 

Desperate for shelter we wander 

Gasping for belonging we claw at one another 

  

They look at me through a lens that’s been

Evangelically tinted and praise me for graces

I’ve never committed 

While I think “Wouldn’t I give all the courage in the world 

For a roof that never moved and a home that never shifted?”

Maybe. Maybe. But even as I stand, swaying on my moving ground; 

I know. 

I know.

This is not the end. 

We spent our lives jet lagged, unpacking suitcases before emotions.

Truth spread, story told, good news shared, of a home far beyond this opalescent life. 

Heart beat to inhale till it all stands still. 

This is nothing but one more illusory home. 

He will greet us There. At last. 

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On Being Broken

 

We’re all broken. We’ve all been broken. 

You. Me. Him. Her. 

All of us.

We’ve all been crushed, pressed. At some point, we’ve all turned into our dark corners and just cried. We’ve all been hurt, we’ve all been betrayed, disappointed, lost, lonely, isolated. We all know these feelings to some degree. It’s an insult to our own humanity if we say we’ve never felt these things – these terrible destructions. The deformations of happiness, corruptions of our peace, perversions of our true selves. 

And yet, despite being unwanted, brokenness seems to be more human than any other phenomenon. More than happiness, satisfaction, hunger, fear, it seems brokenness is the most universal and the most useful. The realization and acceptance of brokenness is what allows us to come to terms with our own frailty, our own mortality, and our vast capability to care for others. Brokenness forces us to realize there is weakness. There is a problem that needs a solution. It encourages us to turn to He who has been repaired, causes us to hope for our own wounds to heal. It also reveals to us the brokenness in others, which in turn can create compassion, empathy, love, healing, even peace. We cannot solve our own brokenness without also looking around us and seeing the cracks in everyone else. He’s been hurt too. She’s been lied to, she’s been talked about, he’s been hopeless. They’ve been marginalized as well. He knows loneliness. She knows regret. We all know brokenness. 

These are some ill-written observations I’ve made over the past few weeks about my own frailty, how it affects my faith, and how it should inspire my own change. I hope, maybe, this will be an encouragement to someone else who might also be struggling. 

Originally I wanted to speak to the vast amount of brokenness around us – it’s in our food, our bodies, our politics, if you’re in Great Britain right now you can see the brokenness of the National Rail system (Great Rails are coming in 2020!). Oftentimes it seems the world is simply falling apart, but you know that. I know that. So we don’t need to read more about it. Maybe we all just need a reminder to be raw, real and honest with ourselves and our loved ones. No one plans to be broken do they? We all wake up hoping for the best – great successes, noble reputations, immense satisfaction. Yet, some time after that first cup of coffee the reality of living in a fallen world sets in and brokenness emerges. We have to come to terms with it, with an eternal perspective and an immense amount of hope. 

When I was working in a hospital we would have patients who tried to convince the staff they were not ill. “I’m not sick, I’m fine, get me out of here.” “Well, sorry sir but you’re in the hospital, connected to a Pleura-Vac and some very unnatural fluids are coming out of your body – you’re sick.” Why do we try to pretend our bodies are impenetrable? Why do we try to deny that we have aches and pains and in some cases chronic ailments? Who does that benefit? It certainly does not help those who are trying to care for and love us. It does not make the discomfort vanish – it just makes us lonely, tired, and, frankly, liars. Conversely, we cannot depend on our brokenness for our identity. Just as we had patients who were adamant about their health we had others who were convinced they were knocking on death’s door while they had no abnormalities whatsoever. Our ‘malfunctions’ do not have to brand us. We must learn to see all things through the lens of Hope. Paul makes this quite clear in his letter to Corinth, 2 Corinthians 4:16 – 5:1 (NIV) states “ Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Our physical brokenness is nothing compared to the immense joy we will feel in His presence. Even our earthly homes, everything we put our faith in on this planet – our finances, our degrees, our cars, our success, our power – if we lose it all we can only rejoice for what waits in Heaven is far greater. I say “if we lose it all” but I should say “when” for everything on this earth passes – even the brokenness and the discomfort. 

I have chronic eczema. If you’re unfamiliar with that condition it’s simple. My skin cannot make a complete barrier, the tiny cells cannot build a strong defense against outside particles. This leads to intense dryness, allergic reactions, and many, many moisturizers. My eczema flared when we moved to England, largely due to stress I believe, and it has since become manageable. When I was in the middle of huge flare ups I would return to the passage above and beg for a heavenly body now. The itching, the discomfort, the constant fear of being red or looking ugly were overwhelming for me. I put so much faith in having a working body, in being the whole picture of health – I forgot that this body is on earth for but a second and this spirit is in Heaven for eternity. A rash, however frustrating, is not much compared to endless time with my Creator. Physical illnesses, disabilities, inconveniences are serious and should be treated – but they should not rob us of our joy, our hope, or our identity. 

It’s easy, maybe, to discuss corporeal brokenness, find hope, dismiss the topic and move on. We see the body broken during every communion so we know this is what bodies are made to do – whither, crack, waste away. Looking to heaven we can see the promises of new, perfect bodies and it seems manageable to be content with our malfunctioning ones. I find it’s much more difficult to parse out the brokenness of our minds, our spirits, and our relationships. So many of us are plagued by darkness, anxiety, resentment, or despair and we seem so unwilling to discuss it. Why? Why are we poisoning ourselves by constantly swallowing our words of sorrow, pleas for help, cries of distress? 

Along with eczema I have depression. Have depression? Suffer from depression? Am chronically depressed? I’m not sure what the correct term is, it’s just my reality. Similar to eczema my depression is heightened during periods of great stress, there are good days and terrible days, and it is most likely a life long issue.. Unlike my eczema I have not had depression since I was a child and there is no amount of Aveeno cream I can apply to cheer my thoughts. Also, unlike eczema, depression is difficult to talk about. My eczema is very obvious – most people will kindly ask about the aggravated red rash on my arm. I reply. They’re sympathetic. We move on with our conversation. But we don’t always see depression – I don’t see it when I look in the mirror. I certainly don’t always see it in other people even if I know they are struggling. We are adept at keeping depression stuffed deep inside of us. There it can fester, latch itself onto our organs and begin slowly sucking our liveliness. What happens when it all comes tumbling out? What happens when we’re so desperately broken we can’t breathe? What happens when we’re despairing – and I don’t mean the dinner is burning kind of despairing – I mean the sitting on your bedroom floor with a sharpened knife sobbing and trying to remember how you got there and who you are and why your husband is there kind of despairing. Broken. What do we do then?

We’ve all had bedroom floor moments. We’ve all experienced loss, fear, disappointment, regret. We’ve all tried so hard to hide our own brokenness. We’ve all denied one another compassion, honesty, empathy, companionship. Why? If I had found a cream that really worked for eczema and met someone else who had it I would’t hesitate to give them my cream (or at least tell them about it!). But if I meet someone with depression or anxiety or someone who is just in a particular fragile state, I’m much more cautious about sharing my own story, and much less willing to help. Why? Why are we so afraid to show our brokenness? Why are we so unwilling to help others overcome their own struggles? We see public figures exposed for their sadness and sorrows after they’ve taken their own lives – when it’s too late. Why are we afraid to expose ourselves while we have breath to speak?

In April I had the opportunity to visit Israel. I was able to stand in the Garden of Gethsemane. There I was gently reminded by the Lord how much He understands us. We are not only shown Christ’s victory on Calvary. We don’t skip in the gospels from miracles to resurrection. No, we see Christ’s broken body and hear his desperate prayers. This is part of our salvation story – a Savior who went to great lengths to defeat sin. I think we see all of this plainly written for many reasons. It allows us to grasp the severity of Christ’s sacrifice and the solemnity of his crucifixion. It also allows us to gaze on Christ’s humanity and see how well He can relate to us in our own despair. Christ was in anguish, He was in pain, He was broken and humiliated. Nothing we feel on this earth will compare to the torment He felt on our behalf – but it does mean He understands. He is not lofty when it comes to human pain and suffering. He is the tender father who sits with a tortured child, speaking truth against the lies, bringing healing amidst the darkness. 

So, let us be more like Christ. Let us look at one another with compassion. Let us be the friends who know brokenness, who see it, who vow to help it. Let us not be the ones who say “toughen up” “Have more faith” “Pull yourself together” Let us be the ones who sit on bedroom floors, praying and pleading for peace. Let us be the ones who open our hearts with empathy, the ones who understand that issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc are real and active in people’s lives. If you truly wish to know more about such conditions please read this blog written by a friend, https://noggybloggy.com/2018/02/06/mental-illnesses-suck-so-we-must-talk-about-them/ – he spends a lot of time and effort de-stigmatizing mental illness and offering resources to the public. He does this so that we can be a people who offer help – not condemnation. It’s not a guarantee that we will make it through life without tragedy or ailment but it is certain that we are not without hope. Let us be the ones who know we are broken and are still determined to share our hope with others.  

waiting, again.

Deep within me.

Deep beneath the catatonic

smile.

Depths below the placated 

tone

There, I find them. 

Deep chasms. Great shifts. 

Wells of simply brokenness

Insatiable caverns, hidden within my 

frame. 

Gasping, deflated fleshy lungs flop lifelessly. 

Begging for a breath I cannot give them. 

Desperate for a hope I cannot provide 

Endlessly breaking. Endlessly waiting 

for it all to endlessly carry on. 

– M. I. R.

On Grief Misunderstood – A Poem

You cannot go back. 

Excuse me.

You cannot go back. 

But.

Did you hear that? Did you know? 

Did you know, dear Dad, that when you moved your family there, we would be brutally uprooted?

Did you know, darling Mum, that while you raised us there we were losing a childhood we never really knew? 

Did you know, sweet family, what the coming years would hold? This grief unspoken, this grief unknown, this grief misunderstood?

You cannot go back. 

No. 

You cannot go back.

Please. 

There is no home there anymore. There’s only a house, an empty shell of a life that used to be, a once upon a time of young serenity. A house once filled with naivety and innocence – an illusion now shattered by heartbreaking reality. 

You cannot go back.

Just once.

You cannot go back.

They’ll never see.

No, your friend, your spouse, your dearest love, will know the swells and hollows of your body, the sorrows of your guilty soul but they will never know your home. They will never stand between the walls of your youth, see the making of your being. The foundation of who you are is washed away in a memory of used-to-be’s. 

You cannot go back.

Please.

You cannot go back.

Just me. 

Take a snapshot, write it down, think it through… because you know you’ll never see it again. Quick! where are you from? They mockingly ask you again and again while your mind reels, cartridge from another life, another time. Imported crops, traffic jams, gunshots, walls, barbwire, brancos, municipal de Angola, Boas Novas, aeroports, dripping ceilings, mobile radios, generator fuel, empty taps, visa exile, ballet classes, melted sweets, leaving on a dusty April day, returning indefinitely. 

You cannot go back. 

I know. 

You cannot go back. 

I know.

So, I’ve told you what I recall of a home I’ll never have again. Now I stand – rootless – swaying on a foreign kitchen floor. I live as a shadow, making the motions of my character come to life. Wake up, work, cook, pretend, smile, assimilate, nod, yes, appropriate. All the while, inside someone else is clambering to get out, someone yearning to remember, someone who knows this place is not my home. This place with cold rain and paved roads, working banks and quiet churches, I move as an alien, imposter, Israelite in Egypt. No, this place is not my own…And, yet the only home I’ve had is gone, shrouded in the darkness we call past (move on!)… and my eternal resting place is still many miles ahead. 

You cannot go back. 

No. 

You cannot go back. 

No, I must simply carry on. 

On Brave Melancholy

melancholy

what the sun does warm,
is only external –
the surface of rocks upon which
i slither –
a falling forwards,
a call hither which i can only
respond to with –
weak movements, half hearted
as what could i commit this hear too?
i find solace,
in closed eye reverie,
and detachment through ink
splashed upon the blank page
a single line of text which
does compensate –
rather than the nauseating
surge of all as a wave ,
constantly crashing upon my mental shore
and above all of this –
an agnostic hope, that there is
something more

– phil krell
@travelinonpoetry

“What word would you use to describe your mood?”
“Melancholy?”
“Really?”
“Yes.”
“Interesting, that’s not what I would think from just glancing at you.”
“I know… which maybe adds to the melancholy – that constant struggle of balancing how I feel inside and how I need to portray myself in order to cope in this world.”
“I get that.”
“Yeah?”
“Yeah – sometimes people read my poems and say ‘hey man, that’s a sweet poem’ and in my head I’m thinking – they have no idea how much i cried over those words, they have no idea how many nights I couldn’t sleep until I was able to write down those deep, sorrowful moments.”
“Exactly! And we’re caught in this struggle of wanting to express ourselves but not knowing exactly how or even what other people will accept.”
“Right, so if you could act how you feel most of the time, what would that look like?”
“mmm, ha, well I would cry a lot more… and I would write a lot… and I wouldn’t talk to as many people.”
“Okay.”
“But I can’t do that because… you know work and stuff.”
“haha right, okay, give me a moment.”

This conversation led to the above poem. On a weekend trip in Asheville, NC I met a traveling poet. He had set his typewriter up on the sidewalk, sat cross legged behind it, with a sign propped up saying “Poet for hire.” When I approached him he was reading Emerson, and then he was engaged in a conversation with another traveler about the philosophy of nihilism and Pablo Neruda’s contribution to his inspiration. I was both entranced and terrified. I was desperate to ask this man to write a poem for me, and I was simultaneously frightened of two possibilities. I was scared he would write words so true they would sting, words I didn’t want to hear about my insecurities or weaknesses, and I was just as afraid his work would be disappointing – some paltry attempt at rhyming on a typewriter with words just long enough to be considered eloquent. Nevertheless, I was determined to be brave and try something new – so I walked a block and a half in a strange city to find an ATM, withdrew a crisp $20, and went back to the poet on the street. Our conversation could not have been farther from what I was expecting. His refreshing honesty, his instantaneous acceptance, his very self was so against what I had preconceived in my head. As I sat on the cold, dirty sidewalk and listened to his typewriter clack away a medley of words, I thought – how brave this man must be. I had just told a man who writes poems on the streets for money that I don’t express myself freely because I have a job. I laughed at the irony, and also silently thanked him for not judging me. He typed, paused, typed some more, then read the above poem. Surprisingly, I didn’t cry, I was in so much awe that he captured the essence of how i feel day to day – without making it sound despairing or overly dramatic. I feel the sun’s warmth along with the overwhelming sensations in our modern world – sound, news, noise, busy – sometimes it is too much. Eyes have to be closed, deep breaths have to be taken, just to carry on.

And there is always hope. Perhaps my favourite word, in his poem and in the spoken tongue, melancholy does not mean void of Hope.

Later that Saturday evening, a friend asked “Are you okay being melancholy?” there was no preface of “Wouldn’t you rather be happy? Cheerful? Sanguine? Choleric?” No, just – are you okay?

My answer was a brief version of this. Yes, I am okay with being melancholy. Was I always okay? No.

Last spring I had renewed my prescription for sertraline, a run of the mill antidepressant. It would have been six years since I had started taking that little blue oval if I had finished that script. I didn’t. Now, I have nothing against sertraline or medical mood stabilizers. If my high school counselor had not been able to prescribe something for me I would have spent my junior and senior year in an insomniac state. If my university did not have a nurse practitioner who was encouraging and supportive of the medicine I doubt I would have made it through nursing school. It helped me sleep, it helped me focus, it helped my mind sift through what was important to think about and what could be discarded. It did not, however, help me feel. While previously my emotions had run from one extreme to the next, sertraline kept them steadily muddled in the middle. No outburst of joy, no breakdown of sorrow, no overwhelming anxiety. No reason to feel alive.

So I stopped taking them. I asked my nurse practitioner at the time to help me lower my dose (as a nurse I have to emphasize you cannot stop these things cold turkey, it can be extremely hazardous to your well being) and after a few weeks my mornings were sertraline free. I cried every single day for a month. Of course, this a week after graduation, three months before getting married, and most of my friends were moving away but I was so relieved to cry about all of it. I had been so afraid of feeling I forgot how it helps one process life. When one of my closest university friend moved with her husband, I sobbed and sobbed, and it was good! It proved I had cared, I had worked for strong relationships and they were true. When I got married, I cried for six days. I cried for the sanctity of the choice we had just made, I cried for the grace the Lord had given us – to find a friend and lover all in one. I cried that my family wouldn’t see our first few months of marriage, I cried that we were alone in this journey. I wrote morose poetry, I spent hours reading, I gave myself time to feel all that had changed, all that needed to be felt. And it was all good.

Being happy isn’t equivalent to being content. For so long I believed this. I believed if I was not always deeply happy, ready to laugh and giggle and engage in frivolity I would be seen as stiff, depressed, or just plain wrong. I was afraid people would doubt my faith if they knew I didn’t always feel like singing songs of praise. I don’t know where these assumptions came from – unless they were residue of past remarks. If you’re prone to feeling blue I’m sure you know the cringe worthy phrases “Smile, you’ll feel better!” or “How can you be sad? You’re a believer aren’t you?” Oh, how that last one grates on me. How can we not be sad as believers? As we look around the world and see how far we have fallen from Eden? How can we not mourn our own sin and see His Grace with a reverence that brings us to our knees? How can we not weep for those who do not have our hope in an eternity? And how… how if we know the intricacy with which God created us can we ignore the deep wells of emotions He has given us? Did He make us to be expressionless? Stone faced and somber or with consistent painted smiles? Or did He makes us to feel the spectrum of humanity – and show it all when needed?

I’m no expert on this. I am trying to be more upfront with myself, with my emotions, and with others. Brave melancholy, to me, means knowing what you feel, knowing how to express it, and not being afraid. Brave melancholy means knowing that not everyone feels the same way you do. Some people are indeed continuously happy, rejoice with them. Do not slight people because they don’t feel the same way you do – what humanity would that show? Brave melancholy means I am able to recognize it, feel it, express it, and leave it there. Leaving it is easier said than done. On many days my own melancholy overwhelms me. I have days where I think maybe Sylvia Plath knew what she was doing, maybe that’s the only way. Those are bad days. Those are the days I forget the deep set hope in my heart. The Hope we share with other believers. The hope that this world has much to mourn, and much to rejoice. This world, this temporary residence of our corporeal bodies, is not the home of our tender hearts. No, they are with Him, where weeping is only from joy.

Don’t be afraid of your own heart. Be afraid of stifling yourself in a box prefabricated for you by strangers. I wish I had the words to say all I want on this matter – there is so much more to be written. But I’m at a loss. So I’ll end it the same way it began, a poem, written by a man, about the raw sensitivity of simply feeling human.

‘keep being sensitive.’
the mountains tell me.
the flowers.
the drink.
the stranger.
the music.
‘keep being sensitive,’
life screams.
delicacy is
a forgotten art.

– Christopher Poindexter

On Poems

ON POEMS

Home is he.

He is the stranger in my heart.
He is the only one by whom
I wish to be known.

He is.

How do I know?
He shoves the steady ground under me
When I’m falling into my self made abyss.
He fights for me when I surrender to
Despondency.
He clings to me, draws me to his chest
As I struggle to run away and hide.
He knows me, and wants me still.
He hears me scream, yell, and cry,
Shattering the illusion of blissful
Matrimony,
And still, he pulls me near, kisses me
Softly.
Still, he wraps his silent self
Around me,
And still
I find myself home.

MUSE

to be a muse or a poet?

oh the writer for certainty.
to be the muse is to be adored,
presumed upon, idolized, to be the
muse is to find yourself a person you
cannot attain. to be the muse is to
be broken by one wrong word, one
unbecoming truth, and it all comes
crashing down. to be the muse is
to be left broken hearted with
stacks of empty, ink stained pages.

but, oh, to be the writer revered,
with marionette sentences around
fabricated pretenses and their
human counterparts.
that is when the true artistry
begins.

DEBT

what do I owe you? those hearts I broke?
what do I owe those intentions I
mistook
for abuse?
what do I owe you? you, who wrote words
about my very being, in vainglorious hope
that i,
would share reciprocity?
what do i owe you? when you’ve lost your muses
when it was my spirit and mind you had to use –
what do i owe you?
when i didn’t give you time,
no, not even a chance.
what do i owe her? who i could have been?
swept away by poetry, met by
incandescent dawn.
what do i owe you? you who bravely
sat behind walls to write about me, but
when it came to the reality of loving me,
you were gone.

let me pay my debt.
let me be free from this hell of holding on –

what do i owe you?

STAY

what do i owe him? he who kisses my
forehead so carefully, who cares for me so
tenderly?
do i owe him happiness or honesty – because
i can’t give both.
i owe myself nothing, i know, nothing.
my should is being uplifted from the dregs in
which i steeped so so long. i owe myself
nothing.
they teach you about modesty, pull your shirt
up, dress down, shoulders haunched, heart fearful.
but they don’t teach you about promiscuity
of the soul.
the affair of words and rose tinged memories,
the decadence of wooing serendipity.
they don’t teach you how the heart wanders
and leaves the hollow bones behind.
you learn all that alone, on a sofa, in a safe
room with afternoon light, dust hanging in the air.
his hand on yours, his voice in your ear. sure,
certain, lovely, inescapable.
you run away, staring at the boxes of pictures
you have nowhere to hang.