Defeated, I Turn Away

Back rested against post,
the figure guards the median –
poised with cardboard sign,
a simple plea for help.

Positions himself amid
gridlocked targets – usually,
I look away, disquieted,
but today I do not, wondering

what I could possibly give
this man that would lift him
from his plight –
surely others have tried,
and, yet, here he is
day after day
the same –

I am struck
with realization –
that we are not
all that different
he and I

both trapped in unhealthy
patterns, having adopted
personas that once served –
but now weigh heavily
with the stench of permanence

Does he not know it’s all
an illusion – a game we play
wherein we are the pawn?

I don’t know it either –
turn away, defeated.

(Frank is hosting at dVerse tonight and the jive is frustration and heartbreak.)


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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

45 thoughts on “Defeated, I Turn Away”

  1. Sitting here in peace and warmth….with a cup of tea steeping. Your words remind me how easily I may have instead been huddled in a damp doorway surrounded by urine stench. It’s a fine line that destiny delineates. Thank you for yet another well written piece dear V.J!

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  2. Mea Culpa, you wrote for so many of us, we are not unique, this man with the sign, he is a message reminder to us all. I usually do not pay attention to men/women like this one in your poem. One day I surprised myself. I offered a $20 bill to someone asking for help. The smile and gratitude I received were priceless. What he did with the money was not important, seeing the sparkle in his eyes at that moment was.

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  3. It’s always a dilemma. The Times had an article about a homeless woman who occupied a street corner for years…many tried to help her, some befriended her, but in the end they were all unsuccessful in defeating her demons. We all travel similar paths of uncertainty, but the threads keeping us from the streets are stronger for some than for others. (K)

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  4. Whenever I see a homeless person I remember that it could have been me but for a simple twist of fate. Sometimes I offer food or just stop for a chat. It’s not often because the homeless congregate in the city where there are more people and wealth. Out here in the countryside, people tend to forget about those less fortunate. But when I lived in the city, I was once on the brink and that memory reins me in. I love that phrase:
    ‘but now weigh heavily
    with the stench of permanence’.

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  5. I think you have reached the turning point you speak of for you realised a profound truth – we trap ourselves in our self definition. Now that you have seen this things will begin to shift as it is a realisation that will comme back again and again. Fromm this point you are faced with a choice – stay in the trap or begin to shift. I think the shift will be energetic and in your thoughts first then that will flow into the body more slowly. Since we started talking about your health I keep thinking you need to listen to more music. I put my major point with CFS as being connected to listening to Sibelius day after day. His music touched my soul somehow and gave me the courage to begin to heal.

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    1. Interesting, Suzanne. Music has never been a big part of my life (long story). I had this revelation on the way to visit with the psychologist, so I think you are right about the shift. I am more than this illness.

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      1. Definitely. Realising that is the turning point. I don’t know music helped me so much – it took me out of myself somehow and into some universal space – but a space I could still picture in my own way. It sounds poetic but in a way, it eased my soul. I can’t think of anything else that would do that – maybe certain forms of guided meditation or looking at art that really resonates with your personal framework for finding meaning. Reading poetry might work too but I found the non verbal stuff worked best for me.

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  6. Your words resonate because I had such a moment today on the way home from work. A new person, a youngish person holding that piece of cardboard and I wondered what circumstance brought him here to this situation.
    Well done, V.J.

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  7. Can we help; should be help; does it help; can we even help ourselves, these are all complicated questions that require us to call into question reality itself. Most would say, do what makes you feel good, but is that always best for someone else. It’s no wonder defeat is often the victor. Excellent poem you’ve given me much to ponder. I echo the other commentary from others about the line “but now weigh heavily
    with the stench of permanence” – Well done.

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  8. Fascinating, actually. The poor/?homeless person’s struggle and your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. We are indeed transformed by our suffering, and actively, as you said, adopting a persona. Yet we don’t know the story of each other but most likely, as you write, many have tried to help unsuccessfully. Does our helping really help? We wonder, and drive on.

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    1. Yes…these are the questions. Can anybody but ourselves help us out of these places? I have so identified as the sick woman that I wonder what it will take to break out of this mold.


  9. Is it the persona or life itself that is the illusion? A weighty inquiry. Nice transition from drive-by concern to intense introspection. Homelessness appears a lot out here on the trail today.

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  10. This really grabbed me, “…now weigh heavily
    with the stench of permanence.” And such a great exploration of a scene we are all faced with, and our choices to look away or to search for something we can share, and to question the value of it. Great poem!

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  11. Nice descriptive phrase: “stench of permanence” I like how you follow up the wondering if he knows that it is all an illusion with this line: “I don’t know it either”. Very nice.

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