Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Our Most Vulnerable and Powerful Selves"

This poem is from the September 2, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by [personal profile] janetmiles and sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barretted.  It also fills the "vulnerable" square in my 9-1-14 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem belongs to the series Path of the Paladins.  It's a direct sequel to "Its Very Existence."

"Our Most Vulnerable and Powerful Selves"

Nahum was in over his head
and he knew it, although
he hated to admit it.

Everything that Rohalin did
was strange to him.

The healer's implacable tenderness
somehow got under Nahum's skin,
every word as raw and intimate
as Rohalin's fingers over the fresh burns.

"If you wish to change your life,
then you must begin at the beginning,"
Rohalin said. "Think about what
went wrong, why you made mistakes.
You cannot make progress
by avoiding the parts that hurt."

Everything hurt.
That was the problem.

Nahum limped through explanations
of why he had become a mercenary
and later a bandit. "There was nothing
for me at home," he told Rohalin.
"If I wanted to survive, I had to
find a way to take care of myself."

"Nobody helped you when you needed it,"
Rohalin echoed. "That must have hurt."

Nahum thought about Kalad
and how they had fought side-by-side,
until Kalad decided that Nahum
was a burden and abandoned him.

"Yes," Nahum confessed.
"People just leave me to it."

"That is why the first mystery of Yasun
lies in giving and receiving help," said Rohalin.
"You cannot know one without knowing the other."

"I don't know how to do either,"
Nahum said to him.

"What would you want," Rohalin asked,
instead of people rejecting you
when you're vulnerable?"

The words tangled in Nahum's throat
like a knot of snakes, all trying to escape at once
and consequently going nowhere.

He could remember when he was little,
getting sick and wanting to be held and cuddled,
only to have his parents push him away because
they were busy with his brothers and sisters.

He could remember joining the troop,
trying to avoid the bullies who picked on
the new recruits, how Kalad had
given him protection in exchange for
a share of Nahum's rations,

how they couldn't afford full armor
so they spent their whole first battle
pressed together, back-to-back,
in a desperate bid for survival by
covering each other's vulnerable spots.

He could remember lying by himself
in a little wayside cabin, waiting to die,
wishing desolately for one last touch,
one voice to keep him company in the end --

and it had been that which cracked his soul open
enough to lead Yasun and Rohalin to him.

"I want ... not to be alone," Nahum whispered.

"So do most people, and that's the first answer,"
Rohalin said. "Even when you can't do anything
to heal a wound or an illness, you can give comfort
to someone in distress just by being there."

"I don't understand," Nahum said.

"Our most vulnerable and powerful selves
are one and the same," Rohalin said.
"Here, give me your hand."

Nahum obeyed, and Rohalin
cupped his wrist in gentle fingers,
stroking the soft hollow
at the base of his thumb.

It was such a simple touch, and yet
Nahum had bought time with whores
that had felt less intimate than this.

"Why is this so ... much?" he floundered.

"When you are open to yourself,
then you have room to breathe and grow,"
Rohalin explained. "When you are
open to others, then you have time
to see what they are going through
and think on what you can do for them."

Nahum could feel the whole festering mess
that was his life, and had no idea how
it was supposed to fix anything.

He could see his misery reflected
in the healer's eyes, sense the compassion
in the gentle grip around his wrist.

It made him feel a tiny bit better,
just knowing that this time,
he wasn't alone.

"Now what?" Nahum asked.

"Tonight, meditate on what you've learned,"
Rohalin said, releasing Nahum's hand.
"Tomorrow, we will travel onward.
There are always people in need."

"I want to help," Nahum said,
because he felt like he owed Rohalin
and he had exactly nothing to pay it back with.

"Then you will," the healer said serenely.

Nahum wasn't sure what he was supposed to do,
not really, but then he remembered that
Rohalin had said he didn't necessarily
have to do anything, just be there.

Well, he could manage that much.

* * *


“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Abandonment can leave lasting damage. There are ways to overcome it.

Both helping people and seeking help are necessary life skills. Know how to help others and how to accept help yourself.

Vulnerability opens the way to intimacy and has hidden power. Understand how to work with it.

Loneliness has many negative effects. Know how to help lonely people. There are many ways to comfort someone in a crisis, but among the most important is simply being there.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, weblit, writing
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