The Gift

This is now the third time I’ve tried to post this poem by way of the mobile editor… 

Much of my recent reading has covered the emergence of the category of “emotions” in the Enlightenment, and the earlier categories that it replaced; this has also taken me into clinical investigations into, and philosophical reflections upon, the nature of trauma, for much of the modern literature on the emotions comes out of this literature on trauma. 

Here is an attempt to express some of the first-person experiences behind that literature on trauma in a poem, as best as I can imagine it. The literature is fascinating and enlightening, as well as horrifying; the poem might fall short of all of these.

At first it was about a girl, then a girl-now-a-grown-woman, then about a boy, and then now this. After experimenting with personal and impersonal pronouns –“one” and “he” and “she” and “you” and “my”, &c.– I have finally opted for the first-person and second-person singular “you” and “my”, to keep the poem as visceral and immediately personal as possible, and to make it as sex-neutral –and so as universalizable– as it might be. 


Trifles of madness you hosed down my mouth;

melting retaining ribs, crumbling form,

sulfured mind leaking, evaporate norms,

diagnose damage you brought from without:

doctors’ machines confirm my name: Error,

oceans within me: source of your terror;

while all was collapsing

the plans I’d been hatching

trickled-off into void

— which but further annoyed



Barbed tones of hatred you threw at my ears,

cleaving with tuna-cans opens them up;

monopolize broadcasting, proxy: the world,

mirror-hall cosmic around you unfurls;

headside receptacles: fill up such cups

with your sorrow, so my eyes cry your tears.


Fearful disgust you stitched inside my eyes,

slivering loves on the grate of this gaze

lacerate face on reflections you planted,

hunt down all  glass — self-seeing demanded

too much; instead, the pack-voice expanded:

“they said”, or “they think” — the whisperous “theys”

policed; I groomed myself-you to disguise,

for these censors do disapprove all that is wise

–the nibble-kitsch the only pleasure we tries–

so: must be careful, not reach for the skies,

content in the garbage: my fault, I surmise;

I should wander, and scavenge, and swat at these flies,

and not try, or aspire, for all of this dies

in failure.


Oceans of anger you drooled to my mouth;

I nursed them for you, and vomit sometimes,

smothering innocents beneath the spout.

My blindfolded sensors stamp shapes at a rhyme

–any poor rhyme, tangential, oblique–

likeness-to-form can be thin, can be weak;

draw the shapes from this fount, tear down the heights

from forgotten regions where heat is one’s light;

bastions shall fall before I can take flight,

trapped in the wounds of your traumas that night

opens daily.

9 thoughts on “The Gift

  1. This seems to be a very good attempt, in my view…the emotions are in the rhythm and pace, the fleeting, whirling thoughts holding all the words together in a frail cocoon. Interesting…

    Liked by 1 person

    • So happy you enjoyed it. I’m increasingly uncertain about my satisfaction with this one overall, but there are bits of it that don’t seem to fade in my judgment.

      Getting the pace to reflect the theme – that’s often a serious challenge, no?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I tend to be intuitive so there is no method to the madness per se. If it feels right, go for it. Our minds can become more the obstacle than a challenge, so I tend not to overthink or fiddle with it. Best to step away or get a fresh perspective. I am also OCD and a recovering over achiever…lol – so, I let it go.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m an ENTP with a very strong F, so that’s pretty much _exactly_ how I start writing…well, everything. It’s usually only later on that I go back to it and try sorting out what I was doing, and seeing whether some analysis could improve it. The rest is, I suppose, imitation and training.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Nice! I am an INTJ – no F although I am deeply empathic. I have evolved. The mechanics are not a priority but analysis is. My strategic mind enjoys finding ways to improve so this is why I discover and view things differently when possible – again, once I have distanced the overthinking mind. Some things bloom in simplicity. This is my zen.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. In awe and more than a little frightened. “Doctors’ machines confirm my name: Error.” I’m feeling desperate. “Which but further annoyed you.” Your writing and intellect – superior. I’m at a loss for words. Heavy.

    Liked by 1 person

      • LOL. Now, you’re being WAY too modest! I poked around your blog and my GOODNESS! You’re an intellectual! I have never been thrown in with the likes of you. :-) I will say, however, that I enjoy the exchange with the likes of you! The terror a dormant cold sore that rears up and demands attention, right? I hope that writing is a soothing salve. I find it helps me a bit. ;-)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Am I an intellectual? I’m not sure. I’m not sure that HS teachers are ever intellectuals (though I can promise you that less than half of college and univ. professors are). Writing is a salve, however, among other things. I’m glad you found the same salve as I have!

          Liked by 1 person

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