General Poetry posted July 1, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
Phase I: Anger, hopelessness, despair

After the Traumatic Brain Injury

by Theodore McDowell

Memories, weightless,
flotsam drifting
on my turbulent mind,
washing ashore
on an abandoned beach.
I scavenge shifting tides
for my mother’s blue eyes,
beautiful as stained glass,
for the midnight
in my wife’s hair,
luxurious as a canopy of stars.
Words snag in my mouth,
tongue-tied. I retreat alone,
humming a half-forgotten
love song on a park bench
far away from home.
My heart pounds a riotous beat,
a tribal drum bargaining
for healing with the gods.
Unobtainable tasks on my calendar,
sharp points of barbed wire
ripping into flesh and veins
of a tender day.
I wobble with a cane,
balance of a gutter drunk,
climb the stairs,
one step,
one step,
one step
at a time.
I reach the summit,
cry, punch the wall.
Immobilized, lying
in rigor mortis
on my blue love seat,
I gaze into my soul
for resurrection,
searching to discover
where eternity begins.
God wears the world’s suffering
as a royal robe, a sadist
or an impotent voyeur.
He whips and drives
me to the edge of suicide
with unanswered questions.
Believers swallow pablum,
cry out “blasphemy”
in stale cathedrals.
I crave a deep sleep.
In my dreams,
I glide effortlessly
in the slipstream of Nike.
I wake, wrapped in the shroud
of my wife’s scent.
Decay shrivels my lips.
Submerged in frigid death,
I surface, cry out
in anger and pain,
“I’m leaving,
I am leaving,                                                                                               
carting away the remains.”




This is the first in a series of poems describing the various stages of my healing journey with my traumatic brain injury. This poem deals with the early stage filled with anger, depression, disability, despair, and hopelessness. It is a dark poem that gives the reader the chance to enter into the early responses to trauma in an authentic and personal manner. Much of my anger was aimed at God early on, but part of the healing involved coming to terms with God about the suffering. So, no need to overreact to the anger at God. Healing comes later. So, I invite the reader on the journey. It is a winding path ultimately leading to restoration and rebirth.
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