Sparkling Isolation – Day 20

Time travel.

Today I started as I have every “workday” since this isolation began. I woke, made some tea, shaved and showered and dressed, checked email and social media, then opened up my home office. I had a fair amount of email, but most of it was junk so my day was relatively boring in the work zone.

I finished up a grant proposal and submitted it. Then I had lunch and went for a long walk in the sun – before things turned cloudy and cold later in the day. Since I had very little specific work to do I interspersed work with small projects in my apartment – ironing, putting away dishes, vacuuming, working on my jigsaw puzzle. Nothing momentous.

At one point, I started to sort through some items on the bookshelf in my office and ran across a very, very old folder – falling apart. I opened it and was astonished to realize that I had stumbled across some poetry. Back in the summer of 1982, I was between my junior and senior years in high school. I was chosen to attend what was called “Governor’s School.” If you didn’t already know it, I was (and am) an academic overachiever. I eventually ended up as valedictorian of my high school class.

Anyway, Governor’s School was an intensive summer program for high-achieving academic types in South Carolina. To the surprise of many people, I opted to spend my summer in the creative writing track led by a fabulous poet named Charleen Swansea. She was a truly amazing woman, no nonsense and a fantastic teacher.

Over the course of the summer, we had many writing prompts and I discovered to my own surprise that I was actually rather talented as a poet. Who knew? Strangely, I don’t think I have written a poem since then. I don’t really know why.

So today, during some of my aimless wandering during my isolation I “accidentally” ran across this small portfolio of work. Of course, as anyone who reads my posts knows, I do not believe in accidents. I believe I was meant to run across this today.

Why? First, I think it’s because I need to reconnect to the creative writing part of my energy. Second, I believe that there is content in these poems that wants to speak to me right now. Finally, I guess I am supposed to share some of these poems for the first time ever.

So, after nearly 38 years resting in an old file folder, I think I will share some of my poems. As I re-read them, I was struck by the depths of pain, passion, and intuition. After all, I was only 17 years old at the time. I cried a little today as I read some of the poems, thinking to myself, “What happened to that insightful and talented boy?” Oh, I know that I have some talents and that I am an insightful person, but I think what made me sad today was the feeling that somehow I have wasted nearly four decades by not exploring more of the depths of insight that allowed these words to flow out onto the page.

As I move through more weeks of this isolation, I think – no, I know – that I need to find ways to reconnect with that powerful 17-year-old whose voice was never truly heard.

So, for today’s post, I will end with a poem that I titled “Chains of Silk,” finished on July 12, 1982. I read this today and realized that I still feel like this all these years later.

Chains of Silk

Beauty undefiled
Purity untarnished
Always happy
Always free:
You, unicorn,
woven in finest silk,
shaking your shiny mane
in the cool white moonlight
of some primeval forest
with satyrs and centaurs –
long-forgotten heroes of an unknown age.
Hanging in this sanitary tomb.
Cold marble slabs
and artificial wooden siding
are no place for you.
You deserve a private world,
all your own
to prance and roam
free from the cords that bind you.
Why can’t you break them?
You are held prisoner
by mere chains of silk.
Please tell me why we . . .
are bound so tightly?
How can you seem so happy?
You are in a controlled-climate,
cloth and dye world:
an artificial Elysium.
We are meant to think
that you are happy there,
but I will not see that.
I cannot see it
Until I feel you beside me –
Free –
Your breath, silvery warm,
on my face,
your snowy mane –
soft, flowing through my fingers
telling me that your chains
are not oppressive
because they are self-chosen
as each link in my chain
is formed by my own hand.
I see you
and know that I am a prisoner
of my mind
and then my chains are broken.

T. Hensel, 7/12/82

It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.