The Poetry & Prose Gallery

 We welcome your poetry or short prose on mental health and wellness and life-affirming and life-embracing themes.

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Piccolo Winds

In the woods behind the old oak tree
Beyond a crumpled fence,
A freedom of another kind
Touches another sense.
An easy breeze blows through the tree
Down to the grasses below,
Where fairies dance in the gentle wind
To the sounds of a piccolo.

Here upon soft, dewy grass and leaves
A lone fairy cries
Wondering why the world…
Seems so dark through her Eyes?
Has there ever been a fairy tale
that didn’t come true?
Because behind that crumpled fence
I have seen a few.

Never ending with happily ever after,
The darkness of the mind.
The never-ending darkness of
Always stormy skies.
And there, under drooping branches,
as they dance in the dew drops of uncertain skies,
The fairies sing and play
In the tears from that lone fairy’s eyes.
By Mary

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Reinvention

Maybe, if we re-invent whatever our life gives us,
We won’t have so many reasons to fuss…
Maybe, if we take out the good parts,
and keep them safe,
The other parts will disappear,
and we will be released of our strife.
We can create a new invention…
A new persona, a new intention.
By Mary

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We are honored to include a creative piece authored by Victoria Maxwell who was the keynote speaker at NAMI-Collier’s Hope Shines! 2015 luncheon. The Canadian actress-turned-writer and public speaker effectively uses humor to educate and advocate for people affected by mental disorders. During her successful acting career in the ‘90s, she had roles in projects starring Johnny Depp, John Travolta, and David Duchovny. When diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety, and psychosis, however, she directed her energy into recovery. That ultimately let to the launch of her company, Crazy for Life Co., and to writing an award-winning one-woman show of the same name.

My Big Fat Naked Psychosis (told in 3 three-word sentences)
Crazy but true: You can distill your life down to 3 three-word sentences.

There’s time when a long, beautiful essay, the kind you find in the New Yorker is just want you want. Other times, a short sweet read is best. In honor of the brief and breezy, I offer you these tight tidbits for reading. It started when a writing friend told me of an exercise her teacher gave her. Write your life story, but write it in 3-word sentences. Here’s the long and the short of it. Eeerrr…I guess that would be the short and the shorter of it.

My life in 3 three-word sentences.

I went crazy
Really I did
Crazy for life

Or the “long” version:  My life in 50 three-word sentences

I went crazy.
Really I did.
Bat “bleep” crazy
Started like this:
Meditation gone haywire
Uber kundalini crisis
Major spiritual emergency

The doctors saw:
Psychosis, bipolar, anxiety
Psych ward stay
Second psychotic break
Another loony-bin stay
More psychotic romps
My most fave?
Naked psychotic episode
Looking for God
In the summer
In Point Grey
Nice rich neighborhood
Definitely demographically unacceptable
Me: euphoric wonderfulness
Maslow’s peak experience
Stripped off dress
Bra and everything
Past a firehall
Past sleeping firemen
Sought the Divine
Didn’t meet God
Instead a policewoman
2 cute EMTs
All…really kind
God in disguise?
I’m not lying
Loony bin AGAIN
Resisted the diagnoses
Accepted the diagnoses
Became really proactive
I worked hard
Peoples’ support helped.
Really good shrink
Medications that worked
Therapy that worked
Got a job
My own apartment
Then a boyfriend
My husband now
I got better
Whole lot better
Now I am:
Crazy for Life

Here’s my 4 line three-word sentence invite: What’s your story? Post it here. I’d love it. Really I would.

Warm wishes,
Victoria Maxwell BFA, BPP*
*Bachelor of Fine Arts / Bi-Polar Princess
Visit www.victoriamaxwell.com for more information.

Published with permission of the author. Originally published Jan. 28, 2016 at PsychologyToday.com. Click here to view the original post.

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The Voice

It’s a small dark hole
Self-blame
Mostly it sits in the corner
You barely see it
But it’ll feed
On many words and notions
And it grows
The only hope is to starve it
Til it’s small
but may never die.

By Shannon Kitchen

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Tunnel Vision Photo Nancy Murvine Story

Tunnel Vision

by Nancy Reges Murvine
Marco Island, Florida

“Your brother’s gone. Randy hanged himself.” My mother choked on her words and tears.

I laughed. I was only seven and didn’t understand. The backhand of my father brought my own tears, a rough tug into his shirt, and a mumbled apology. “I’m sorry, son.” My ear rang as it pressed against his buckle.

I would not know the whole story of my brother’s mental illness that brought him to this decision until I was much older. That day I knew only that my brother Randy was gone.  A final escape, a success I thought when I laughed.I worshiped my brother. A dozen years older than me, he was my teacher of everything important. He showed me where black snakes lived under the porch and how to catch them without being bitten. I was too afraid to follow his lead. I learned how to skip stones across the pond, maybe three skips to his dozen. “It’s all in the wrist.” Whistles into his cupped hands late at night could call great horned owls or barn owls or screech owls with equal success. He promised I’d get it right as soon as my new teeth came in. He attempted to teach me to start a fire with a wad of cotton, a stone, and sticks. His magic kept me trying.

But mostly he taught me about trains. Flattened fences, railroads defined townships and separated neighborhoods. Some abandoned tracks sunk on the decaying backs of wooden ties. Some gleamed a gun metal hue of heavy use, most traveling town to town with cargo, a few with passengers. It was the cargo trains Randy loved. He knew the routes and the times by heart, and his train hopping started before I was born.

I was five when he took me out past the treeline edge of our property for the first time, sliding down a  graveled gully to a track that ran into sunset. We sat with our backs to the low light of late afternoon. “Feel the rumble? She’s coming. Watch!” He pointed. Around a bend she screamed into view, a black monster. She shook the ground when she passed. “Must be fifty cars,” Randy hollered into the rush of wind and dirt. I sat stone still behind the gate of his legs afraid and safe at the same time. When I excitedly shared the experience at dinner, Randy was sent to his room, and I learned the art of keeping secrets.

When we could sneak away, we walked miles of track or stood for hours at the nearby freight yard. Within months, I knew every type of freight car by heart. He’d point and I’d recite: gondola, double-stack, two door boxcar, grainer, flatcar. A week before my sixth birthday, he woke me in the dark predawn with a finger to his lips. “I have a special gift for you, little bro,” he whispered. We sneaked out through the kitchen porch. My job: make sure the screen door did not slam. My heart thumped with responsibility. We sat in our usual place beside the track. He kept me busy with games of  tic-tac-toe scribbled into dirt with our fingers. He let me win sometimes. “When the 5:30 to Pittsburgh comes around the bend, you stay put. I’m gonna’ catch a ride, a quick on and off. You’ll see. She’ll be slower than the other trains we’ve watched. Just picked up her cargo a short way back.” He touched his hand to the rail. “A mile or so away.  Now promise you won’t move.” I nodded, focused on the bend.

There she was, haloed in red sunrise. Randy began running before the train reached us, his focus ahead until the engine inched past him, and still running, he glanced at the cars passing him, too. And then like the force of a magnet pulled at him, he was up and hanging from the rusty ladder of a dusty gray, covered hopper. I panicked when I could not see him anymore, and I started racing along the side of the track with the rumble of cars matching the pulsing of blood to my head.

And then I saw him, bounding toward me. He roughly grabbed my shoulders. “I told you to stay put!” I hung my head in penance for my broken promise, but it was not enough. He never again took me to watch him hop a train. But I knew whenever he did because he always returned with the same vow.  “Someday I’m outta here for good.”

In the middle of summer, we’d abandon the heat of the day along the rail lines for the deserted tracks that bore through the surrounding hillsides. Our favorite tunnel was the 1001. I liked that I could read it either way and it would be the same. But the 1001 was not the same inside and out. It’s majestic arched stone entrance belied its crumbling interior of broken ties and falling tiles. Oozing water along her walls and crown meant a cool haven for bats that clung to the ceiling in masses of males and females and the newborns of late June and early July.  The first time I saw them, I cowered behind Randy until he chuckled, “Just hangin’ around like us; nothing to fear. They hang here till it’s their time to go. Just like me.”

The day I turned seven, Randy took me camping. As we marched along toward tunnel 1001, he announced his real gift. “Tonight we’ll watch them leave.” We spread a tarp between the old rails deep inside. The bird songs in the surrounding hills disappeared with the light, and we settled comfortably into the darkening silence of the tunnel. A rustle above our heads announced the exodus. Like hanging dead leaves catching a breeze, the bats loosened their hold and flew toward the arched opening, corkscrewing out and up. Randy remained crossed legged on the tarp while I galloped behind the colony into twilight.

Randy was smiling when I returned to sit beside him. We built a fire and roasted marshmallows. I begged for stories about train hopping. “I caught three trains and got into Ohio a few weeks ago. Gone three days. Mom and dad thought I was at the lake with friends.”  I had thought the same. “Nothing much more to tell.

“It’s like this, little bro. We all hang around till it’s time to go. And then whoosh we’re gone. Outta here.”

That was four days before I found myself pinned against my father’s belt. Before I watched my parents crumble in sorrow. Before my mother’s words untangled from my brother’s and I understood their horrible meaning. I buried my face deeper to stop the next laugh. I was only seven and didn’t want to believe.

This story was originally published by Florida Weekly, selected from 60 entries in the first round of the Florida Weekly 2015 Writing Challenge: Click here to view original. Reprinted with permission of Florida Weekly and the author.

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MESSAGE FROM A LOVING SON

“If in our hearts, memories and love still exist for those who have passed their souls and embodiment to the world will never truly die. When written on paper LOVE is merely a four letter word, yet in a heart it is everything but. The day the heart grows weak and can no longer beat with love is the day hope and those in our lives will cease to exist.”

By Mark Goldstein
July 2, 1986 – February 18, 2015
Loving, generous, compassionate, creative, beautiful free spirit

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IMAGINATION

Come with me to a magic place
It’s called imagination
The train will leave at nine o’clock
So meet me at the station

The tunnel’s long and black as night
But on the other side
There is a world of fantasy
That’s really worth the ride

We’ll climb the hills of chocolate
Pluck diamonds from the trees
And sail around in teacups
On the gold and silver seas

The friendly purple dragons
Will fly us to their lair
We’ll have some Jello sandwiches
And candied beetles there

Then back to town to take a rest
On pink and fluffy clouds
We’ll try to spot the goblins
And the elves amongst the crowds

Before the emerald stars come out
We’ll head back to the station
But we can come here anytime
In our imagination

By Nina Ruth Mold

a selection from her book of poetry,

Still Waters: A Collection of Meaningful Poems
Click here for order information.

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iClipArt.Mental.Illness.Woman.Illdefined.

TO MY MOTHER

Our lives entwined for sixteen years before you chose to go
And in that time you taught me all the things I’d need to know

I used the tools you wisely knew to firmly put in place
To rise above adversity and look life in the face

You knew a mediocre life would never be enough
And made sure I could hold my own whenever life got rough

Mistakes I made aplenty whilst I reached out for my star
But you taught me to learn from that – it makes us who we are

I lost my way quite often on my journey through the years
But I remembered what you said and faced up to my fears

Be strong, be true, be brave and good, be all the things I’m not
And you will be successful in your life, no matter what

The words you said live in my head and now I want to say
I know you would be very proud of who I am today

Though you’ve been gone a long, long time I know one thing is true
Our souls are one, and you live on.  You’re me, and I am you.

By Nina Ruth Mold, a selection from her book of poetry,

Still Waters: A Collection of Meaningful Poems
Click here for order information.

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Helping Hands and Hearts 2

DON’T QUIT!

Author unknown

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Thanks to Ron Stanford, Certified Recovery Peer Specialists, NAMI-CC,
for submitting this poem.

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Rainbow

SPRING

Every hour, a beautiful flower comes to life.
It’s as if someone had planted it, maybe Adam, maybe Eve.
Anyway a flower it is, born to bring beauty to people’s lives.
A dream is like a leaf, sometimes dead, sometimes alive.
If you wish it away, it might stay.
If you dream it away, all the way, it will go to a far off place,
Maybe to sulk, maybe not.
In time a new leaf will sprout, with it a new dream will shout.
All you need to do is follow a dream – like a leaf blowing in the wind.

By Kevin Baxter, Age 11, April 1988

NOTE: Kevin Baxter lost his struggle with mental illness on July 5, 2012.
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