Companion to the Suffering

Who doesn’t like the story
of heroes returned from war
with golden plunder
yet I’m living in the village
left behind, damaged,
barely able to continue,
the body’s anguish
through simple tasks,
the faltering step
of bone on bone
with muscles stuck,
healing slower
than a winter night.
Strange the certainty
as time shambles along
of what is knitting
and what remains,
present in the wound,
not feigning acceptance
but companion to the suffering,
the awkward steps
of something foreign
buried in the muscle
yet moving, because
what lives within
urges through the dark,
feeling without seeing
what waits beyond
as life breaks surface
into the sudden shock of daylight.




16 Responses to “Companion to the Suffering”

  1. David Banner says:

    Don…this one REALLY hits home emotionally…I am feeling like I am the companion to my own suffering right now….thank you for illuminating this for me……..

  2. Bill Dare says:

    Perfect! Hits me right where I’m living.

  3. Pichay says:

    Thank you, Don. One way or the other, we all enter the River for the return journey to the Ocean Mother from which we sprang. Comrades making the swim together makes it all the more bearable.

  4. Rose says:

    Potent, Don.

    Handling ‘something foreign buried in the muscle’ is a task of courage.

  5. Athena Coleman says:

    The depth of this poem is beautiful. I love the phrase regarding ‘not feigning acceptance but companion to the suffering’. It speaks to me of not losing yourself in the physicality of the pain or dis-ease yet acknowledging it and remaining true to oneself.

  6. Maria Jimenez Frid says:

    On this Memorial Day, I think of the anguish left behind in the horrors of war. Those invaded and those attacking both suffer the ravishes of the ego leaving deep scares that refuse to go away. I pray that the light of day and the wisdom of heaven illuminate and heal all concern. Thank you for your poem that touched my heart!

  7. John Albright says:

    I immediately thought of what I leave behind everyday. Now. How thoughtful am I? How constructive? How destructive? I’ll pay even closer attention from this point forward.

  8. Lloyd Meeker says:

    I work every day to develop my ability to limp forward mindfully, “feeling without seeing”. It’s at once an act of courage, and of faith.

    Let the heroes celebrate their plunder. When they find themselves lost, they will seek a blind seer from the lineage of Tiresias. Hopefully by the time they do I’ll be able to offer them a skilled companion to their suffering.

    The world needs the wounded wise far more than golden plunder.

  9. Janine Sagert says:

    Don…this knocked me on my knees…not only for what it evoked personally but for all the literal wounded warriors returning to our shores. You may not know this but a friend, who is a professional filmmaker, and I are working on a film about effective alternative treatments for vets with PTSD. This poem captures the deep regions of mind, body and spirit struggling to find the warmth and light though “healing slower than a winter night”. I could go on and on but will leave with gratitude for your voice. Blessings on you…

  10. Tom Wilson says:

    Fine poem. My friend and colleague at Sacramento State University, poet Mary Mackey, wrote a great war poem–“The War is Never Over,” with the blood in the soil forever, and the persons gone without end.

    And there were all the walking wounded kids I taught at Ohio University in the 60s returning all shot up. And now the vets I work with forever shattered nervous systems.

  11. Paul Blythe says:

    This poem speaks of the tragedy but no one enters this scene without courage and it is that which I celebrate.

  12. Rich Matkins says:

    Like everyone who have taken the time to respond with their personal story, this touched me deeply too. My sweet sweet 79 year old neighbor recently had her gold plundered from her home. Steve, her 86 year old husband died in hospice care from bone cancer. She somehow manages to wake and put one foot in front of the other, aching, with the wound of no longer having him with her after 44 years.

  13. Hunh. You do explore some edgy themes in your work. This is some Elderwork poetry, for sure!

  14. Marco says:

    I hear ya. You can’t have war heroes without also accepting the presence of those others … left behind, the other side, not necessarily for any less courage or virtue.

  15. Robert Ross Able says:

    I didn’t get to this one until today (Memorial Day); I was in the mood of remembrance – this turned my thoughts in another direction. One of your best my friend!

  16. As I sit here, reading and rereading this poem, I feel a polar shift of understanding as to what I have done for decades in my work with myself and with damaged souls. “Acceptance” always felt incomplete with shards of memory embedded while bravely carrying on. “Companion” expands, softens, and enfolds as it completes my understanding of being with the suffering.
    Now that I am retired, it’s time to be the companion to myself I’ve been to others.
    Thank you.

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