I’ve been struggling with a traumatic brain injury since a bike wreck on July 8. I’ve had a really hard time with computer use, reading, thinking, organizing myself, headaches, sleeping, talking on the phone, energy levels, etc. All typical brain injury stuff, like 1/10 soldiers that come back from war with a Traumatic Brain Injury. I’ll post more on various parts of this process as I feel better.
The cognitive therapist told me to write a poem for homework. This was after she did some tests that made me basically sick for 4 days. A massive re-injury. Like the first time I’d had cognitive testing, only worse, because I should have known better. So I got pissed and wrote her this poem, to the tune of a song I was listening to at the time.
The Baby Poem about Traumatic Brain Injury
How long must I pray, till these headaches let me play?
How long will it be, before I stop the cognitive testers hurting me?
In a sea of stupidity, I thought someone might enlighten me.
But now I’mon my knees, saying, “Lord can you notice me,
that I need some grease, they’re coming after me….”
One tear in a sea of pain, I let them treat me once again…..
The Inspiration for this Poem about Traumatic Brain Injury
So then after writing this poem and nursing my headache, I felt a little better and took the dogs for a walk. I was coming down the sidewalk at Kaw Point, the confluence of the Missouri and the Kansas Rivers….I was feeling sorry for myself for still struggling with this same stupid injury and the same stupid reinjury again. Then all of a sudden I heard the river rustling. It was filled with ice floes, and I’d never been that close to it when it was partially frozen before.
So I had to stop and listen and my self-pity dropped away and I sat down and relaxed and shot this low resolution video with my phone. This poem idea came to me and I worked it out (rather painfully) through the rest of the weekend. It took five drafts with probably more reading than I’ve able to do the whole five months total of having this traumatic brain injury. But I’m determined like that and got a powerful drive for task completion like my autistic kid.
Then after all that reading something seemed to kind of click and come alive in my head. All of a sudden wasn’t quite that hard after all. Like it hurt in a good way – something breaking loose that had been jammed up. Till that night when I tried to sleep….
The (First) Real Poem I’ve Written about the Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery Process
“If I Die Tonight”
If I die tonight I know I’ll be all right.
My soul flowing down this winter Missouri river
That’s metal shining solid through moonlight.
The ice floes a whispering dance of destruction,
the cold fears that crashed into me
The night I almost died.
I woke up in that dark alley, a headache, my knees scraped,
my bicycle on top of me.
And this world ain’t been the same since.
I’m scared the fun is gone, and the work might be gone,
Now I can’t create, I can’t read, I can’t think,
most nights I can’t sleep, pain wakes me up suffering,
And the review boards say I ain’t even an artist,
While I push through these months of pain I’m grinding out the hardest
I’ve ever worked in my life to get this 10% done.
Standing here alone, I remember the last party before my old life ended.
My friends build boats, we floated the river past the bridges on a hot tub lid,
Partied at the pullout, drank wine dragging the bike trailers all the way home.
In that old life, I played, I stayed strong,
forcing through passion, making changes snapping,
But now I don’t write grants no more cause my eyes brain my nose brain
my ears brain Are all connected to the moans and pain-
the bones eating away to drain my soul,
Till I said I couldn’t stand it.
Because I’ve been trying too hard again to make this happen.
I said, “If I die tonight, I ain’t gonna put up a fight,”
But this time I knew enough to let those thoughts float off down the river,
Those seventy times seven times I thought I couldn’t stand it. And yet I did.
So I’m still out here on the rocks of the river, my heart growing bigger,
Watching birds cry in the night, the ice floes crunching endlessly downward,
The peace of this place making space in my soul for silence,
And I tell you, “I’m still standing.”
Though I have yet to figure out what the world is demanding.
But I put it all on offer, I said, “God teach me,”
And when I realized I can’t make nothing at all happen He finally reached me.
In God’s math my 10% becomes his 1000%
And all I have to offer is acceptance, living in the moment.
My heart still overflowing inside, I still hold these passions,
these wild and thriving visions,
But now I’ve finally learned what it means to be fully alive and listening.