Wingless Phoenix in Wal-Mart

360px-Mosaïque_Phénix_01

A wingless phoenix in Wal-Mart
By Special K and Quaker Oats
Stands mid-aisle, stock still, face pinched.
His eyes shift blank and stare
At a nightmare in the lightning flashes of his brain
Even with the doctor’s little pills, Franken-Berry,
Untethered chemistry, synaptic discord
A conflagration he could barely control
Or it would blaze into fiery immolation

As it was doing now
Had done a thousand times before
But for the clenched claws
Would knock down the hazy stupor of the day
Into wide Tartarus.

Storm-flash gone, he lifts his hand
Past packaged heads, past canned voices
Past paranoia, past schizophrenia
For the Lucky Charms
Broken bits of childhood psalms
Crayon memories
Of a Man walking on water
Leading him home
A child of God by name.


Nota Bene (June 10, 2021):

I wrote this poem some time ago but it remains my favorite, not least because it deals with a subject close to my heart: children and adults who deal with various forms of mental illness ranging from autism to schizophrenia. If you yourself or someone close to you suffers in such a way, you know that life is a daily obstacle course in ways we can barely understand. This poem is dedicated to them and those who care for them. May God’s grace be their strength and their stay.

25 thoughts on “Wingless Phoenix in Wal-Mart

  1. Reblogged this on Dreams from a Pilgrimage and commented:

    You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
    You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
    Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

    How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
    I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
    And when I wake up,
    you are still with me! (Psalm 139: 15-18)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! I did not know but am not surprised at the phoenix imagery for the resurrection. There is a sense in which the rebirth – new birth – happens on this side of heaven as well, of course, but the image fits so aptly for rising from death to eternal life.

      Like

  2. I love how you started with the wingless Phoenix in Wal-Mart… and how he somehow found his way back through a (better?) past. When your own brain messes you up what can you do?

    I remember a long time ago when we were writing metaphors Claudia made us aware of a poem by Bob Hicop about special needs children that I think you would like.

    https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-smiths-as-i-understand-them/

    Especially the image of the boy whose eyes were lighthouses stuck with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You bring those daily incessant negotiations to life so bitterweetly here. I’ve a cousin with schizophrenia, other relatives who drank themselves to death, and now we watch my wife’s father vanish into Alzheimers. Anyone whose been on the far side of that stuff knows how precious and rare sanity is.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh wow, this is such a beautiful, delicate, and emotional piece. I can feel the wave of images flash before me along this journey, and I find it really enlightening from a mental health standpoint too. I really loved and enjoyed this stanza, it’s so well written and executed:

    “His eyes shift blank and stare
    At a nightmare in the lightning flashes of his brain
    Even with the doctor’s little pills, Franken-Berry,
    Untethered chemistry, synaptic discord
    A conflagration he could barely control
    Or it would blaze into fiery immolation”

    I can almost feel the blankness behind his eyes as he goes through each memory and nightmare.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A beautiful poem to address an important issue. My mum suffered from Schizophrenia, though it was not apparent to me as a child.
    ‘Untethered chemistry, synaptic discord
    A conflagration he could barely control
    Or it would blaze into fiery immolation’
    – I sometimes wonder how much the pills help, and how much harm they do.

    Like

  6. You really got me thinking with this piecemDora.The realm of mental variance is broad, and certainly misunderstood. Wonder what might evolve, if instead of treating those uniquely different from us as some kind of broken thing — perhaps we learn to realize that they see us as different from them, in the same way we look at their difference from us. Perhaps we are all just different — not broken. What we need yo do is communicarr with these folks! I wonder what the earth might look like — then!?

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  7. Poetry opens doors for conversations about topics that we are often afraid of or unsure how to discuss. I like that you used your poetic voice to explore this topic. Each person’s brain works in its own unique way and it takes intention to understand what someone else may be experiencing.
    I appreciate the creativity of your poem.
    Great opening lines that make me curious,
    “A wingless phoenix in Wal-Mart
    By Special K and Quaker Oats”
    I also like how you used the cereal names,
    “Past packaged heads, past canned voices
    Past paranoia, past schizophrenia
    For the Lucky Charms.”
    Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You paint the struggle well here for those with mental illnesses. Just reaching for cereal in a busy place such as Wal-Mart can cause an episode. The poem really has an otherworldly feel with the wingless phoenix imagery, the mention of Tartarus, and the Lucky Charms. Then, the miracle of Jesus, leading him home is a nice touch. It’s an odyssey to walk in those shoes! 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You do a great job of bringing the angst of emotional trauma to glaring life, manifesting itself in the cereal aisle, where all childhood dreams are born and broken. Thank you for sharing ~peace, Jason

    Like

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