Saturday, September 6, 2008

One Single Impression -- Defenses Down

This poem was originally written in April 1989 towards the end of two years of intensive psychotherapy, during which I learned that what created most of my problems in life was attempting to control the uncontrollable. This weeks prompt reminded me of the poem, and I reworked it substantially without changing the basic concept. This weeks phrase "Defenses Down" is a better title than the original was.
To view poems by other writers on this topic see One Single Impression.

Defenses Down

Everything is going wrong.
The walls are closing in.
Wait. Stop. Start again.
Things are fine, but that might change,
So I am building walls.
I think I’m closing out the fear –
the raging beast engulfs, devours.
So build walls strong and high,
And don’t forget the battlements.
A reinforcement needed here;
Send archers to protect that breech.
What if fear tunnels under walls?
Or learns to fly? What defense then?
Hire on some engineers, draw new plans,
make a list?
Or, perhaps, I’ll let the fortress melt
And on the open, level plain,
I’ll court my fear—
not safe, not tamed,
but understood—
and practice dancing with the beast.

revised 6 September 2008

The photography is of a dry stack stone wall dating to before the Civil War on Paris Pike in Lexington, Kentucky. Many such walls are found in the horse farm region of central Kentucky. The photograph was taken by Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and can be found at


Lirone said...

Some great images and rhythms... and I love the ending!

Anonymous said...

A very meaningful poem with a good ending.

I am glad you added info about the fence, so interesting.

Deborah Godin said...

A very brave poem! Love the phrase "court my fear"

Sue said...

thanks, all. I only wish I were as brave as my poem.

zoya gautam said...

'I’ll court my fear—
not safe, not tamed,
but understood—'
-thanks for a truly wonderful poem..

Jim said...

Hi Sue, great! I can relate, I was once told that I could take a broom, go down to our beach (Galveston), and sweep the water back off the sands.
That wasn't a good answer and I don't have one, he meant to 'not worry' about things I can't control. Do like you related, build a better wall?
BTW, I am a retired community college professor, I taught business.
Happy hour is a place of temptation on the way home!

anthonynorth said...

A powerful and courageous poem. Fear is a terrible thing at such times.

Quiet Paths said...

I am impressed with the honesty and strength of this poem. You write details about an instinct which we all have: namely, when you are out in the open - then fear kicks in with all of its primal power. We were made that way, but in this complex world we must evolve and that basic instinct becomes more complex. Rich thoughts here!

susan said...

The anxiety is palpable here. Thanks for the read.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this poem, Sue.

It reminds me of my own dance with finding the balance between a boundary and a wall.

Thanks again--

Beth said...

oops--that was me--didn't mean to be anonymous!

SandyCarlson said...

I enjoyed that very much. Made me think of the counter-memorials that were big after the fall of the Wall. The idea was not to ossify memory but to allow it to transform and be transformed. So it could be with each of us as we let go of notions of control.

karen crone said...


Thank you for being a courageous poet and giving so deeply of yourself for us.


Raven said...

"practice dancing with the beast..."

Wise and wonderful and brave. I love this from start to finish, but especially the end.

me ann my camera said...

Oh my, as the fear deepened the walls grew higher. To stop building and open the gate is a tremulous step but one that has its own rewards of self recognition. Your lines were very thought provoking. I enjoyed this read.

spacedlaw said...

Facing our fears we often come to realize that they are tiny, tiny, tiny things, whereas we can bury ourselves alive with all the walls we build.

Julie said...

The middle passage where the questioning begins is a wonderful fulcrum for this poem that allows us to pass over into a newer level of understanding. There is interesting self-learning occurring here ...

tumblewords said...

To be out of control is frightening and there aren't walls high enough...nice work you've penned here! Thank you for sharing.