The Poetry of Pain

In 1998, I was doing research for a book that I was ghost-writing, which largely dealt with habituation to pleasure and pain. Today, I was purging my old files from that project, and I came across my notes from Linda Martinson’s book, The Poetry of Pain, which did more than any other writing to give me the understanding that pain can be overcome, can motivate, and even can teach—but, still, no one ever really “gets used to” pain. For Martinson, a chronic sufferer of fibromyalgia, it appears that work is the primary and best way to handle—and even sometimes harness—her pain. But her poems also talk about how vital it is to give yourself grace and not punish yourself for not always producing.

from her preface:

“I find great solace in poetry; when my pain is at its height I feel especially driven to express it on paper. (It’s actually easier to write when the pain is driving me crazy; there’s no left brain editor getting in the way of what I want to say.) After the poem is written I feel cleansed, even satisfied.”

Still, a quarter of a century after reading this book, passages from these poems pop into my head when I need them. I don’t feel the continual physical pain that she does, but we all have our pain to deal with and work through.

Where Do I Sign Up For More Good Days?

Some days are better than others.
On those days

The work piles up
when you don’t feel well.
Dusty window sills,
lines unwritten,
paperwork scattered on the floor.
A call to the in-laws
to thank them for the crab.

On the good days
I get things done.
The trick is not to overdo it,
or the next day is pay-day.
Though sometimes
(just between you and me)
it’s worth it.

Soul Talk

This pain, while no blessing,
may yet be God’s road to enlightenment.

I am wiser and stronger
than that bustling former me.
Inner Spirit, Higher Power,
call it what you will…
When the pain ebbs,
hold yourself close,
and listen.

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