cake with walnuts, image by Russell Smith, on Pixabay
I was half-mad with despair,
Hopeless in love and life,
At the end of my rope—
so I chose to drown,
To cease all pain in
Sweet oblivion, to be
No more, to be gone…
And when I flung my
Young and strong body
Into that swollen river,
I thought that’s what
But, oh, I was so wrong,
For my agnostic mind
Could not foresee the
Awaiting vast blackness,
The pain beyond pain,
And the utter aloneness—
No other souls, none
But my bodiless mind
That had spurned God
And love as well, and
Now roiled in torment,
Until I called out to Him
And was released
From hell to return
To the world I had
So recently spurned.
Some will discount
This as the ravings
Of a young man
It’s only fear, just
Be brave they say,
Neither heaven nor
Hell awaits us, our
Only fate, extinction.
I might wish them
To be right, but
They are deluded—
As I once was, for
Now I know there
Is no way out, no
Escape from oneself,
From one’s mind,
From one’s soul…
THE POET AND THE DOCTOR
The poet and the doctor became friends late in life—
as old men they looked over the past in similar ways,
wishing their youth never ended, their work continued,
their lives again resplendent and filled with promise
as the one healed the body and the other the soul…
But Time is always Life’s master till Death frees both,
and so the doctor sent his patients away and the poet
lost his words, the words he tried to heal with, words
that sang and danced and played like carefree children.
The poet told his friend, the doctor, how he found his soul
whilst in the blackest part of hell, utterly alone, in pain
far beyond any pain the doctor ever treated, the forgotten
soul the poet found again when he threw his life away…
The doctor listened to his friend, the poet, but could not
or perhaps just would not believe—he could not see
existence beyond mortality, nor purpose beyond chance.
The doctor was so wise as to be foolish, thought the poet,
and I, so foolish as to be wise?, he wondered to himself.
WRESTLING WITH GOD
For almost half a century
I have wrestled with God.
Our unseen match is daily,
in my bed before I sleep,
at the table after a meal,
sometimes while driving
along a lonely, desolate road
and always while watching
the evening news with its
graphic proof of humanity’s
stupidity and wickedness,
over and over and over...
I try to pin Him,
to keep Him in one place,
to hold Him just long enough
to see, to know, to understand.
Sometimes I think I almost have Him,
but no, He always, always slips away.
Of course it is not a fair match—
my little brain that can hold but
one lonely thought at a time;
my hands, once powerful,
now arthritic, crooked fingers
still trying to grasp at divinity...
but even when young and strong
I could not hold Him—still,
we wrestle, God and me, and
sometimes I suspect He wants me
to win, but mostly, no: I know
I’ll never pin Him down—
not in this life, not in this world,
yet He lets me try...
I think He likes it when I try.
I’m in the decade before the decade
she left the world, and my world...
The world did not mark it,
the world did not miss her
(any more than it will miss me)
but my world of lost childhood does—
my world of sun-gold and ocean-blue,
my own little world reading book after book
whilst sitting like a happy little king on
the porch of my grandparents’ old
house on the bay in Ocean City...
I read in gentle sunshine, I read
while breathing pure ocean air
and sometimes smelling a cake
baking in Nana’s kitchen and
knowing I was safe, sure, alive...
I’m in the decade before the decade
my Nana left the world, and as I near
the time when—God willing—I’ll be
with her again, the 40 odd years since
she left my world compress, smaller and
smaller Time itself becomes, and freer
and freer is my once lost soul...
Nolo Segundo (his pen name) has been published in more than 50 literary journals in the US, UK, Canada, Romania, India, and Italy the past few years since he began writing again after a 35-year hiatus. He doesn't know why the poems started coming to him again, but suspects they come from someplace deeper than the unconscious mind—his soul.
As a young man, he did not believe in either soul or God—not until, at 24, he suffered a major clinical depression and, in an attempt to escape to what he thought would be extinction, nothingness, he leapt off a bridge into a Vermont river. The near-death experience he had was not of the “white light” sort—it was terrible, actually, but he has come to thank God for it all.
Fifty years later, he’s still trying to understand all of it, but he knows that chance is the real illusion, and the problem with sentient human life is not that it is meaningless— the only logical conclusion to atheism—but that there is so much meaning in virtually every moment we can only grasp a portion of it.
He is the author of two books: The Enormity of Existence, and Of Ether and Earth.