DRAWER NO MORE >> Take 5
With thanks for all recent messages of encouragement, I’d like to share a poem that was set to music by my dear friend Jane Click. Here is text, as well as audio, for “The Ladder of Words.” It addresses the writing process and the role that process can play in healing.
Looking back, my book of grief poems, A Road Beyond Loss, was an effort to capture the two essential motives that drive my writing overall: self-expression and communication. Maybe that sounds abstract or simplistic, but it makes sense to me. My need for self-expression is strongest when negative emotions overwhelm the mind. In a state of grief, those feelings can become so strong they threaten one’s identity, the foundation of mental health.
But the mind that speaks, or writes, can use language to reassert selfhood by expressing the inner pain. Language is a shared cultural medium, so the possibility of connecting with others is basic to most forms of verbal expression. Connection is only words away. I tried to convey those truths in this poem.
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“The Ladder of Words” music by Jane Click, poem by Anesa Miller; performed by Clyde Kunz (vocal) and Jane Click (piano).
The Ladder of Words
When the world came down upon me,
and the sky closed like a door,
sounds filled my ears from far away.
I lay down on the floor.
And no one near could find me,
and nothing near was mine.
I sank into the floorboards
from the voices soft and kind.
It seemed like days, eternity,
that I could not be reached,
from sight and sound withdrawn
like a whale beached out of water
and thrashing like a fish.
Until one thought got through to me,
one image filled my mind:
a pencil and a paper, lying
close to hand, nearby.
Somehow I took them up and traced
one word and then the next,
until they linked together
in a chain that first perplexed
the darkness in my eyes—
Then, rowing on my paper barque,
I soon was far away
and saw the water trail I’d left
rise up into a chain
—a ladder reaching high above
to light and sound and friends.
And that’s how I climbed out
of the grief that has no end.
This poem is in memory of Tiina Shilts-Panksepp who almost became my step-daughter. Many thanks to Jaak Panksepp for giving me the chance to self-publish my poetry collection, A Road Beyond Loss. Special thanks also to Jane Click who heard such beautiful music.
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