“Convalescence”

photograph by Oveth Martinez via Unsplash

From out the dragging vastness of the sea,
Wave-fettered, bound in sinuous seaweed strands,
He toils toward the rounding beach, and stands
One moment, white and dripping, silently,
Cut like a cameo in lazuli,
Then falls, betrayed by shifting shells, and lands
Prone in the jeering water, and his hands
Clutch for support where no support can be.
So up, and down, and forward, inch by inch,
He gains upon the shore, where poppies glow
And sandflies dance their little lives away.
The sucking waves retard, and tighter clinch
The weeds about him, but the land-winds blow,
And in the sky there blooms the sun of May.

— Amy Lowell

Just One Victory

 

“Instructions on Not Giving Up”

photograph by Johan Godínez via Unsplash

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

— Ada Limón

Feelin’ Stronger Every Day

“Wrong, Tony,” he said, and shook his head.

photograph by Laurent Gence via Unsplash

“Wrong, Tony,” he said, and shook his head. “My courage does not go down to zero because I have a piece of bad luck. It’s the other way on. I believe in that, and events show it.”

— Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks (Tr. Lowe-Porter)

It is what it is

photograph by Isabella and Zsa Fischer via Unsplash

There was the good, the upright Joachim, firm as a rock — yet whose eyes in these past months had come to hold such a tragic shadow, and who had never used to shrug his shoulders, as he did so often now.

The Magic Mountain (Tr. Lowe-Porter)

Change Myself

Ulysses

photograph by Ben White via Unsplash

…for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

— Tennyson

Feelin’ Stronger Every Day

“The fearful unbelief is unbelief in yourself.”

Cast the bantling on the rocks,
Suckle him with the she-wolf’s teat;
Wintered with the hawk and fox,
Power and speed be hands and feet.

— Emerson, epigraph to “Self-Reliance”

All Star

Per Angusta Ad Augusta

cf. photograph by The New York Public Library via Unsplash

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

 

Another Try

Invictus

photograph by SHVETS production via Pexels

OUT of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbow’d.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

— William Ernest Henley


Little Fighter

Ode to the West Wind

Photograph by Mathilde LMD via Unsplash

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own?
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe,
Like wither’d leaves, to quicken a new birth;
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

No Surprize

Roderick Hudson

photograph by REVOLT via Unsplash

“It’s greater happiness than you deserve, then! You have never chosen, I say; you have been afraid to choose. You have never really faced the fact that you are false, that you have broken your faith. You have never looked at it and seen that it was hideous, and yet said, ‘No matter, I’ll brave the penalty, I’ll bear the shame!’ You have closed your eyes; you have tried to stifle remembrance, to persuade yourself that you were not behaving as badly as you seemed to be, and there would be some way, after all, of compassing bliss and yet escaping trouble. You have faltered and drifted, you have gone on from accident to accident, and I am sure that at this present moment you can’t tell what it is you really desire!”

— Henry James, Roderick Hudson


Flaming Youth

Who goes with Fergus?

(1963)

Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood’s woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

— Yeats

Return of the Mack

Thalatta! Thalatta!

Photograph by Radu Florin via Unsplash

And when all had reached the summit, then indeed they fell to embracing one another, and generals and captains as well, with tears in their eyes. And on a sudden, at the bidding of some one or other, the soldiers began to bring stones and to build a great cairn…

— Xenophon, Anabasis

Doorstep

Perseverance

Photograph by Les Anderson via Unsplash

Perseverance

When all the world is looming dark
And things seem not so clear,
When shadows seem to hover ’round
Lord, may I persevere.
When it seems everything’s been tried
And there’s no way to go,
Just let me keep remembering
Sometimes the journey’s slow.
I may just need to stop and rest
Along the path I trod,
A time to try to understand
And have my talk with God.
As I gain new strength to carry on
Without a doubt or fear,
Somehow I know things will be right,
And so, I persevere.

— Anne Stortz

Roll On Down The Highway

depression mantra

cf. edited collage featuring photograph by Sasha Freemind (man at window) via Unsplash

never give in, never give in, never, never, never…

— Winston Churchill, October 29, 1941, Harrow School

 

To The Same

cf. photograph by Andrew Neel via Unsplash (edited)

Yet I argue not
Against Heaven’s hand or will, nor bate a jot
Of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer
Right onward…

— Milton, “To the Same”

strong in that hour

cf. photograph by rawpixel via Unsplash

“…and he prayed that God would strengthen us when the hard time comes on us; as it will come for all of us; as it came to Job — that we’d be strong in that hour…”

— Garrison Keillor, More News from Lake Wobegon — Hope: Let Us Pray
 

dogged determination

cf. photograph by pieroor via Pixabay and video by Vimeo-Free-Videos via Pixabay (edited collage)

This terrible repetition of resolution and failure — like one of the endless, circular punishments of Dante’s “Inferno” — shaped much of what happened in the second part of his life. Yet he never stopped resolving, and this dogged determination to battle on also became characteristic and took him through experiences that few of his contemporaries shared or even remotely understood…

— Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections

“Posts on…”

La Dolce Vita (1960)

Seaward, white gleaming thro’ the busy scud
With arching Wings the sea-mew o’er my head
Posts on, as bent on speed; now passaging
Edges the stiffer Breeze, now yielding, drifts,
Now floats upon the air, and sends from far
A wildly-wailing Note.

— Coleridge

The heroism we recite

photograph by Jon Asato via Unsplash

We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies…

— Emily Dickinson

Part of the Plan

inner strength

James Montgomery Flagg, “You” (Life Publishing Co., 1906)

Recovery…may take time and may require some big adjustments and perhaps a great deal of inner strength.

— Jon Kabat-Zinn, “World of Relaxation”
 

Coldcut Featuring Lisa Stansfield – “People Hold On” (Dj “S” Bootleg “Thank U” Remix by Dj “S”)

broken

William James Mullins, “Children Fishing” (ca. 1900)

“…I worry about so many things, and everything is so hard for me. For instance, I cut my finger or hurt myself some way — and it’s a wound that heals for other people in a week, but it takes four weeks with me. It just won’t heal, it gets infected, gets really ghastly, and gives me all kinds of trouble. The other day Herr Brecht told me that my teeth look horrible, that they’re all deteriorating and wearing down, not to mention the ones he’s already pulled. That’s how things stand now. And what will I bite with when I’m thirty, or forty? I’ve lost all hope.”

“Come on,” Kai said and picked up the pace of their stroll. “And now tell me a little about your piano playing…are you going to play the piano this afternoon?”

Hanno was silent for a moment. A bleak, confused, feverish look came to his eyes. “Yes, I’ll probably improvise a while,” he said…

— Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks

Invictus

cf. Tom Hubbard, “Fountain Square…” (1973) and video by tmeier1964 via Pixabay (edited)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

— William Ernest Henley, Invictus (excerpt)

Don’t Stop Believin’

Hope

cf. photograph by Lukasz Szmigiel via Unsplash (edited)

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

— Emily Dickinson, “Hope” is the thing with feathers (excerpt)
 

Midnight Rider

My dear Jim

Jack Delano, “Flagman walks back to flag any oncoming trains…” (1943)

Do not wear your soul out with tears but be as usually brave and look hopefully to the future.

— Letter to James Joyce from his mother (quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce)

Hero

photograph by Liane Metzler via Unsplash

I believe I can cover most of the expenses of publication of my daughter’s “Alphabet.” My idea is not to persuade her that she is a Cézanne but that, on her 29th birthday, she may see something to persuade her that her whole past has not been a failure.

The reason I keep on trying by every means to find a solution for her case — which may come at any time as it did with my eyes — is that she may not think that she is left with a blank future as well.

I am aware that I am blamed by everybody for sacrificing that “precious metal” — money — to such an extent for such a purpose when it could be done so cheaply and quietly by locking her up in an economical “mental prison” for the rest of her life. I will not do so as long as I see a single chance of hope for her recovery nor blame her or punish her for the great crime she has committed in being a victim to one of the most elusive diseases known to men and unknown to medicine.

And I imagine that if you were where she is and felt as she must you would perhaps feel some hope if you felt that you were neither abandoned nor forgotten.

— Letter from James Joyce to Harriet Weaver, 1936 (quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce)
 

The Myth Of Sisyphus

photograph by Kristopher Roller via Unsplash

All Sisyphus’ silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is his thing…There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night…Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling…

— Camus, The Myth Of Sisyphus

“In Time of Storm”

cf. video by go_see via Pixabay

Brightness

and with good luck
we will reach the harbor
and black earth

We sailors have no will
in big blasts of wind,
hoping for dry land

and to sail
our cargo
floating about

Many
labors
until dry land

—Sappho, “In Time of Storm” (Tr. Barnstone)

Straight Ahead

Photograph by Easton Oliver via Unsplash

His railings and outbursts expressed not the conviction of failure but the passion for success. They touched off his disappointment, his injured self-esteem, his wounded pride, without ultimately concealing his determination to persevere — his finally unshakeable will to achieve. The strain of remonstrative self-pity and pessimism in Conrad was an overlay to the iron in him.

—Leo Gurko, “Joseph Conrad: Giant in Exile”

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

—Emerson, Self Reliance
 

Aerosmith – “Make It” (2007)

Through The Fire

I go on my way to-night, If I can; if not, to-morrow; emigrant train ten to fourteen days’ journey; warranted extreme discomfort…
I have been steadily drenched for twenty-four hours; water-proof wet through; immortal spirit fitfully blinking up in spite…
I am not beaten yet, though disappointed. If I am, it’s for good this time; you know what “for good” means in my vocabulary— something inside of 12 months perhaps; but who knows? At least, if I fail in my great purpose, I shall see some wild life in the West and visit both Florida and Labrador ere I return. But I don’t yet know if I have the courage to stick to life without it. Man, I was sick, sick, sick of this last year.

—Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to Sidney Colvin (on board s.s. “Devonia,” an hour or two out of New York, August, 1879)
 

“Through The Fire” by Chaka Khan

“You may contribute a verse…”

H. C. Benedict, “Original And Unique The P. and H. Process Of Negative Development” (1939)

The question, O me! so sad, recurring — What good amid these,
O me, O life?

Answer.

That you are here — that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

I’m thinking of you Mary Anne…

“Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher…”

Arkhip Kuindzhi, “Moonlight Night. Meditation”

What thoughts I have of you tonight Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon…

Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?

Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

–Allen Ginsberg, A Supermarket in California (excerpt)

“That all the clay of you, all of the dross of you, may yield to the fire of you…”

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, “Helen Keller, three-quarter length, seated, facing right; holding hand of her teacher, Mrs. John A. Macy (Anne Mansfield Sullivan)” (ca. 1909)

Emily Sparks

Where is my boy, my boy—
In what far part of the world?
The boy I loved best of all in the school?—
I, the teacher, the old maid, the virgin heart,
Who made them all my children.
Did I know my boy aright,
Thinking of him as spirit aflame,
Active, ever aspiring?
Oh, boy, boy, for whom I prayed and prayed
In many a watchful hour at night,
Do you remember the letter I wrote you
Of the beautiful love of Christ?
And whether you ever took it or not,
My boy, wherever you are,
Work for your soul’s sake,
That all the clay of you, all of the dross of you,
May yield to the fire of you,
Till the fire is nothing but light!…
Nothing but light!

–Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology
 

“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler

“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Welby Sherman (After Samuel Palmer), “The Shepherd” (1828)

Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses (excerpt)

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness | Mental Health Month

When I Get My Plane

cf. Patricia D. Duncan, “Former Home of Aviatrix Amelia Earhart…” (1974)

You cannot put a fire out;
A thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a fan
Upon the slowest night…

–Emily Dickinson
 

Nazz – “When I Get My Plane”

February

Ron Hoffman, Helping Hands Will Get This Skier’s Car off the Ice (1974)

Don’t think Brown ever gave up hope
Of getting home again because
He couldn’t climb that slippery slope;

Or even thought of standing there
Until the January thaw
Should take the polish off the crust.
He bowed with grace to natural law,

And then went round it on his feet,
After the manner of our stock;
Not much concerned for those to whom,
At that particular time o’clock,

It must have looked as if the course
He steered was really straight away
From that which he was headed for—
Not much concerned for them, I say:

No more so than became a man—
And politician at odd seasons.
I’ve kept Brown standing in the cold
While I invested him with reasons;

But now he snapped his eyes three times;
Then shook his lantern, saying, “Ile’s
’Bout out!” and took the long way home
By road, a matter of several miles.

–Robert Frost, Brown’s Descent, or the Willy-nilly Slide (excerpt)

Look on the map, I think we’ve been there before
Close up the doors, let’s roll once more…

“The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next”

cf. Cincinnati Magazine, 1985

The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.

—Mignon McLaughlin

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

cf. Julius von Leypold, Wanderer in the Storm (1835) and Time Lapse Clouds Lightning Storm – YouTube

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

–Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”