Good Enough: A Poem About the Pain of War

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Mimi Madduck.  Introduction by b. traven.

Allow me to introduce Mimi Madduck to our TCP audience. Mimi is a dear friend who has chosen a line of professional work that those of you who are veterans of one of our incessant “wars” will appreciate. It is work that is both emotionally challenging and personally rewarding.                    

Mimi is a “trauma therapist” who has chosen to work with our veterans in her practice who have experienced PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. Mimi sent me this prose poem she wrote and said: “I have been finding myself giving a lot of thought to the actual process of going through therapy after trauma. I wrote this poem which includes many of the impressions my patients have left me as we’ve done therapy together addressing the symptoms that came from the horrific experiences they have encountered. I wonder if others can relate to it?”

Mimi is no amateur at this.  She has a Master’s degree in Social Work and two bachelor degrees. I asked Mimi why, with her background, she chose this area of veteran trauma therapy and she replied: “I came to trauma work because I’ve always been interested in the power of self-love and human resilience especially as a tool for recovery. You find it best captured when talking to people who have had their life or physical integrity threatened.” I have observed this also and would put the same thought in a somewhat different way: One learns more from suffering than from happiness and similarly learns more from failure than from success. Coping with suffering and failure is a vital part of our lives as humans.

Now let me tell you why Mimi’s work and words have significance beyond just her work. Mimi comes from a Middle Eastern Muslim family and her veteran patients are mostly those whose psychiatric wounds have occurred in our incessant wars in these same Middle Eastern Muslim countries!  That is true love.   b. traven

Good Enough

Mimi Madduck

i was afraid to let myself feel

afraid the tears wouldnt stop if i did

and when i got close enough to the truth

close enough to look at the truth

my fears won and the tears came

and they did not stop

so i shut them down and shut myself out

along with god and the utility of prayer

and though occasionally flirting with family and friends

sometimes even with those who bore the battle

along with me

i found that my only solace came from

my solitary moments

and that i didnt care about the world

ridden with politics and pain and nothing but

my voice was quieted there

in the traumatic moments most only fear but never face

i attempted momentarily to have faith

to connect with hope or believe that there could be any

after where ive been

in my current suffering

how could i be free

those images, my thoughts, they haunt me

in every waking moment i wish i could sleep

and never see another

they suffocate me – my past, our history

i am a refugee, lonely without end

though i returned home, years ago

and while she says i dont have to have this continue

i dont believe her

and she pushes back

because the only way out is through

i must trust just enough to share my truth

the story i lived that is hard for so many to hear

and again i am stuck

what good will it do anyway

nobody will understand me

i am better off in my own shame and sorrow

right until the bitter end

because i understand it without explanation

but its not her fault and somewhere i know its not mine either

i assume this inner conflict brings to light

my struggle with my own truth

and she tells me this awareness is a good step

so i decide it cant get any worse

and i leap, not out of faith

faith doesnt hold a gun to your head

i have no faith

i leap because ive walked myself to the edge

after drowning every last option ive had since getting back

so we work and we work and goddamnit it seems to never end

and there are times i want to die but there are times now

where the tightness in my chest loosens

the lump in my throat comes and goes

and i can breathe even though im letting myself feel again

and i know that the tears will eventually stop and the pain will too

she lets me hold on to the memory

she just doesnt want it to hold me

she reminds me im in control so i take it and i try to do my best

to live in this world i still resent my parents bringing me into

so i live the only way i know how now

realizing that

how we say hello and goodbye to our pain

is more powerful that the pain weve already endured

i look back on this path ive forged

and i tell myself that it’s good enough

and it probably is

4 thoughts on “Good Enough: A Poem About the Pain of War

  1. Good mental health care is so important for our veterans, especially since mental scars are often far more difficult to overcome than physical ones. And of course mental scars often manifest themselves in physical ways. It’s a nexus, and a complex one at that.

    Thanks for everything that you do, Mimi.

  2. If the veterans who’ve received help from Mimi Madduck and her agreed to collaborate on a book and/or documentary of truth, then that road would offer great healing – for the veterans, Mimi, and future generations. May God bless the veterans and Mimi.

  3. In a rapacious society like ours there are others who can suffer from traumas that don’t have the title, PTSD, but are just as traumatic. The working class family who once had a nice home and a good school for their children who wake up one day and NAFTA or one of our other corporate friendly governmental programs has sent their job to China, or Mexico and they lose their home and security. The African-American or Hispanic who is accused of a crime they did not commit and is brutalized by the militarized police and imprisoned will come out damaged. The women of all classes who are still subjected to rape and assault for the crime of being a woman live with a form of PTSD all their lives. And the beat goes on. PTSD is just one result of a government that cares more about power than people.

  4. Those who attempt to heal the sick, the wounded, the infected, or the psychologically traumatized, sometimes become ill themselves, either physically or mentally, as a result of intimate contact with their patients. We have seen this recently with the Texas health worker who died from trying to aid an ebola victim who himself died from that disease. As for those who help treat the psychologically damaged individual, Carl Jung said: “Only the wounded physician heals.” That thought came to me as I read the above verse, only with a slight twist: Healing sometimes wounds the physician.

    In my first entry for the Polemical Poetry series, Pain Into Power, I wrote about one veteran’s attempt to heal himself through writing poetry, as he had read of other veterans doing. I included in the comment section another poem that I had composed with thoughts in mind of those left to care for the damaged human remnants of pointless, meaningless make-work militarism:

    They Also Serve

    (in the Gaelic Bardic verse style)

    Gone to soldiers every one
    Mother’s son so brave and true
    Looked his duty in the eye
    Saying, “I will serve for you.”

    Father’s daughter: joy and pride
    Did not hide from duty’s due
    Serving in this grievous time
    Saying, “I’m a soldier, too.”

    Not for them to choose the fight
    Others might who stay behind
    Handing out the new bank notes
    To the votes that never mind

    Country’s man and woman strong
    Right or wrong prepared to serve
    Told to go and save the cause
    Not the laws that they deserve

    Flung into the grinding maw
    What they saw no words describe
    Still, Valhalla’s maids rejoice
    At the choice blood they imbibe

    Shocked and hurt and staring blank
    Missing ankles, wrists, and knees
    Howling moans from Cruelty’s whelp
    Help him! Help her! Help me! Please!

    Reeling, falling souls set free
    What they see no song can sing
    Reaping not what they have sown
    Giving only everything

    Stinging Furies! Noisome hags!
    Penance gags the prideful throat
    Tried to dam the River Styx
    Wound up fixing Charon’s boat

    Patient Death in silence waits
    Near the gates of Fear and Dread
    Judging not; forgiving none
    Merely one who greets the dead

    Having watched the short parade
    Summer’s shade to winter’s frost
    Comes now time to pack and close
    Tasks for those who count the cost

    Adding up the fearful sum
    Heavy numbers weighted down
    No reprieve; no second chance
    No romance; just war’s grim clown

    Fading glory; fleeting fame
    Once the game of battle ends
    Left to shattered lives of care
    Lovers, parents, wives, and friends

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2004

    Anyway, my best regards to the author for her work and attempts to come to terms with its costs.

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