It is rare that any of us are exactly who we think we are. We all project some complex combination of who we are, who we hope are, and who others say we are. Since self-knowledge is among the greatest of all gifts given by God, the lack thereof is perhaps the most dangerous weapon we wield. He hurts most who thinks himself one thing but in fact is something quite different altogether. This poem seeks to explore such an idea.
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A time there was when all were free
to breathe in your simplicity.
And everyone your name would call,
your words could all their fears forestall.
You lived behind the gaze of eyes,
and hoped no one would you despise,
but feared if no one knew your face,
then none would come to share your place.
You lived behind your polished days
where no one hurt, if all had paid.
It was no way to live a life,
but more a way to welcome strife.
You stood aloof enough to say,
“How lovely are all things today,
my heart is glad, my stomach fed,
all sadness is most surely dead.”
“Perhaps if I can sit and stare
just long enough to fool despair,
there’ll be a chance to run and hide,
should love become what I decide.”
You sat alone, a king or queen,
and hoped to God you stayed unseen,
unless of course you felt a need,
and then, by God, your soul must feed.
As time progressed, you callous grew,
to all but what bedazzled you,
or made you safe from pain or harm,
no lost control, surprise, alarm.
A choice you made: all friends ignore,
if souls are threats, keep hate in store.
You barricaded all but doubt
to stop your heart from getting out.
Though gently spoken and demure,
you fooled us all with charm for sure.
For underneath the face of smiles
was stealth, suspicion, schemes, and wiles.
Your words of warm felicity,
instead hid hate’s capacity:
“Prepare the stake and bone-dry switch
and burn to hell this devil’s witch!”
We dared to think you gave a damn
’bout more than life as telegram.
When really all you wanted then
was life unburdened with a “friend.”
What started right and true enough
was all untrue, a ruse, a bluff.
You hid behind such glowing eyes
in apathetic trickster guise.
Perhaps one came to help unloose
the tightness of your sorry noose;
some love and conversation brought,
to teach you songs your heart would not.
But, stay awake my sleeping friend
for pain shall be your sorry end,
your heart’s entrails upon the ground
where once a wholeness there was found.
For you’ve been found by one whose needs,
includes a narcissistic greed,
that scorns and mocks, ‘twill crush and bleed
till nothing’s left but pain and weeds.
‘Tis said, “to thine own self be true,”
but this supposes one who knew
what gifts are others, time and chance
for one to share life’s solemn dance.
So, this is how a bully came
to be set free to taunt and maim,
but to the eyes a gentle lamb,
who practiced how to give a damn.
If only time would e’er stand still
‘twould teach us that we mostly kill
whenever we refuse the time
to turn and speak in honest rhyme.
The greatest damage always comes
through danger in the tedium,
reminding all, who truth would seek,
that truth is found on lips that speak.
The constancy of time’s parade,
is proof enough that days are made
in moments pregnant with the ways
that pause we must, on others, gaze.
We hope to know love’s alchemy,
frustrated not by parody;
sometimes are those who will not see
the pain of silent apathy.
But still through Christ, the living Lord,
like falling on a sharpened sword,
our lives are made to bear such pain,
our loss is oft another’s gain.
And now I’ve stooped to tell this tale
that blessing come to those who fail,
for all will sing and all will rise
whose hope abides in paradise.