Learning from Others

Renga is a form of Japanese poetry of linked verses written by and with others. A couple of years ago, I saw a stately green ash by an old farmhouse, now abandoned. Its trunk twisted and split by wind from a storm. I saw the exposed tree, wood torn and I felt its pain. Research shows that trees communicate over considerable distances via fungi and associated microbes with other trees, other beings if you will.

At the time I was going each quarter to an alternative high school’s poetry class to talk about writing and recovery. I shared about addiction to alcohol, anxiety, depression suicide and how writing poetry had helped me recover. The first and last verse are mine. I invited students the school poetry class to continue the verses and to complete the poem with me. 

Though excited to try writing with others, I noticed that I was reluctant to give up ‘control’ of the story that I wanted to tell. What unfolded was remarkable. A story that I could not tell on my own. Connecting with other beings sometimes requires letting go, but like the connections among trees, offers powerful healing. Writing with others is something I hope to explore more for it moves beyond the practice of writing to the art of living.

Lone Oak Crying In The Field

Lone oak.
Crying in the field.
I am here.
I am here.

Lost and alone in the dark.
Separated by time and space.
I am here.
I am here.

Sun setting.
I see the sky’s tone.
I am here.
I am here.

The Man in the Moon.
I see his face.
I am here.
I am here.

Forest afire.
I smell the smoke.
I am here.
I am here.

I run but cannot hide.
I yield standing in place.
I am here.
I am here.

Scared of death.
Scared of living.
I am here.
I am here.

Little oaks no more.
Now they too are gone.
I am here.
I am here.

I miss the taste of searching hands.
The tickle and scratch of another’s branch.
I am here.
I am here.

No more the windy embrace.
I live in another time and space.
I am here.
I am here.

The wax and wane of grief.
Tinge of iron heightened by the storm.
I am here.
I am here.

Feelings can’t be shown
When hearts have been thrown.
I am here.
I am here.

I cry. I wail.
Am I the last of my kind?
I am here.
I am here.

Lone oak.
Crying in the field.
I am here.
I am here.


About the Author

Robert B is sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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