Four years ago I wrote a selection of sonnets that I would like to share with you all today, along with the story of when and why and how they were written. After my father died in February of 2006 , I was forced to confront some very unpleasant aspects of my life, particularly my childhood, and their continued impact on my life.
At the time I wrote these poems I was working the sound system for my congregation in Tampa, Florida. It was a terribly lonely experience. For one, while I could see what others were doing, it seemed as if no one bothered to turn around and notice me, whether before or after services, but I had to watch everyone walk around back and forth along the passage in front of the sound booth without anyone turning around to wave, or say hi, or stop by the area. This bothered me–I tend to react badly to loneliness in general, as I enjoy conversations and waves and dislike feeling snubbed and ignored.
Nonetheless, being rather lonely in a sound booth is a handy environment for writing a series of sonnets about sadness and loneliness, about nightmares and flashbacks and the grief I felt (and still feel) when reflecting on or witnessing the innocence of childhood, innocence that I was never allowed to experience. These sonnets I wrote over a series of Sabbaths while in the sound booth in the blank spaces of my sermon notebook.
Why did I write in sonnets? There are a few reasons. For one, the strict rules of rhyme and meter of the sonnet allowed me to structure my thoughts and feelings, to put what was a violation of borders and rules into a very strict and ordered framework, to turn gloomy depression into works of sad beauty, to give voice to voiceless fears, private worries, unspeakable concerns, and deep longings. It was as if I wished to deliberately attack the damage done so long ago by the deliberate use of poetic form. I have elsewhere mentioned my deep appreciation and personal understanding of the gloomy struggle of Heman the Ezrahite  expressed particularly strongly in Psalm 88 , and these sonnets give voice to that understanding in poetic form. I now share them with you all. Though I do not feel entirely the same way now, they provide some context to well known concerns of mine.
Sonnets Of A Wounded Soul
How long until I finally find a night
When deep sleep falls upon these weary eyes,
And when I am not startled by the sight
Of memories and dreams under dark skies?
How long until I find a gentle touch
That does not find me frozen stiff in fear,
Or scare me because I want it too much?
For love does not find itself around here.
How sad are the eyes of an abused one,
Forever mourning over ancient wrongs,
Afraid to bring their grief into the sun
Or pour their sorrow into bitter songs.
So I paste on a smile in false pretense,
And live a lonely life that makes no sense.
Sometimes I sit up at night and wonder
If anyone would ever fall in love
With someone damaged and torn asunder—
Hardly an image of our Lord above.
If someone saw beneath the smiling mask
Would they turn in horror from what they’d see?
Would they scold me and take me to task,
Or comfort me in my sad misery?
Would someone hold me through the darkest dreams
When terror chills me to the very bone?
Or would I be left falling at the seams
To make my way unwanted and alone?
I know that this short life is quite unfair,
But that does not mean love should not be there.
God in heaven above hear my sad cry,
Who sees into the hearts of every man,
Who knows how I struggle and how I try
To make my life as pleasant as I can.
For this life is a struggle and much work
In that you did not make my heart a stone,
But a sad heart where many terrors lurk,
And where I spend my days and nights alone.
I need to know if you will help me out,
If you will stand by me in valleys dark,
If I will be comforted in my doubt,
So that in me some love someone will spark.
For now I toss and turn afraid each night—
What my mind sees is not a pleasant sight.
I sit alone in silent reverie
And reflect upon the state of this life,
For while it appears I always hurry
My heart is locked in constant, bitter strife.
A heavy burden my shoulders do bear—
Who, seeing my chains, will dare to them loose—
Never have I dwelled without many cares,
For who will defend victims of abuse?
Can anyone, seeing scars that remain
Love me truly, for what I have become?
But yet, for myself I can see no gain
In promiscuity as behave some.
No solution to my struggle I find,
But someday I may see some peace of mind.
I hope no suffering I bring to all
Is unnecessary in any way,
For out of my sad lips many words fall
And much grief fills the words I write and say.
When people misunderstand what I say
They often think I must have some dark wish
To trespass against God’s most holy way,
And so they lecture me and admonish.
But never do they dare to listen once—
For their minds are blinded to what is true—
One who thinks he’s wise is often a dunce—
But faithful listeners to me are quite few.
For though prolific are my mouth and hand,
My words are hard for most to understand.
How long will rumors fall upon my name—
Those who bring dark truths to light are attacked,
And those who seek justice treated the same—
For I am like a city twice ransacked.
While plans constantly swirl inside my head,
Inevitably some details are missed.
My suffering shows me that I’m not dead,
And my lips dry up for not being kissed.
What I long for I also deeply fear
Only God’s hand can heal what is inside.
I am not quite the way that I appear
For much emotion does my stone mask hide.
You may not believe I speak what is true,
But then, the one trapped in darkness is you.
I know few like I know my own left hand,
Though it may lurk unknown, unseen, by some,
And though I wish others would understand
At the same time I fear much ill will come.
For who can say how others will respond
When dark truths are placed right before their eyes?
Will it allow me to build better bonds,
Or will my struggle lead them to despise?
It seems that darkness fills all that I see,
Something quite hard for others still to grasp—
For how can someone be as dark as me
And hold the Kingdom of God in tight clasp?
For if no darkness can dwell in the light,
How long until the day takes back the night?
When I reflect upon my history
I do not find much that I enjoy,
And much about me is a mystery
For who can speak too much about this boy?
Some people want to restore what is passed—
But I say let what is done fade away—
If nothing that mankind builds ever lasts
Why hope for better times another day?
I know that God can never make me pure—
I do not know how I’ve made it this far—
For the sadness that I’ve had to endure
Has wounded me with many a deep scar.
May God have some mercy upon this man,
For I struggle and do all that I can.
I wonder if this power that I seek
Will only ever be put to good ends,
Or if my future will indeed be bleak
From the darkness my childhood portends.
I cannot trust those who are over me,
For I panic when others power use.
I fear brighter days never will I see,
For I still struggle with scars of abuse.
Over and over I relive the past;
I lacked the power to protect me then,
The memory of life makes me aghast.
I never know what nightmares come—or when.
May God make something worthy of this life,
For how long can I endure all this strife?
Are children of man to bring me much joy
As I wander in sorrow while I live?
Or will God not allow me to enjoy
Until my bitter heart learns to forgive?
I see the innocence of happy youth,
A pleasure to me forever denied,
For I have been given much bitter truths—
But speaking happy truths leaves me tongue-tied.
Do others around me see me suffer
As they frolic about, playing their games?
Or do they not see through my false buffer?
For if they did, they’d call me many names.
May these children smile inside and out—
All too soon we see the sorrow about.