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Poems from the counseling office
November 24 - December 7, 2006

A four line poem to capture a sense of the issues my current clients confront in counseling.

  1. My first client of the week comes in with great distress
    having had another nightmare about his year-ago train wreck.
    His Post Traumatic Stress Disorder flares up on occasion.
    He’s finds peace with methods of deep relaxation.

  2. Next comes in the man with him in the accident above
    with PTSD and a wife who withdrew her love.
    After 33 years on the railroad he’s been disabled 18 months.
    Counseling helps him with all this and with the lawyers’ stunts.

  3. Four years the fifth wife of an old Army Ranger,
    from his mind games and “gas lighting” she’s long been in danger.
    She fled to an apartment and decided to sell their house.
    To regain her sanity she has to divorce this louse.

  4. A 63-year-old bipolar woman into my office comes.
    Unstable from this all her life, from it she has oft succumbed.
    In 15 months from rage she’s learned to find some peace
    resulting from her husband’s multiple infidelities.

  5. Suicidal, a 48-year-old woman comes to learn to cope
    with a state of chronic pain about which there’s no hope
    and also with her fireman husband injured on his job.
    He tried to overdose a year ago. Her story makes her sob.

  6. This next client was a peak performer in her place of work.
    Admired and promoted, from no challenge did she shirk.
    A new supervisor was assigned and criticized all she did and
    from the workplace this employee is trying to get rid.

  7. She had a psychotic breakdown and became terribly paranoid
    when the principal where she worked her confidence destroyed.
    For nine months she suffered in a way few could comprehend
    until, through help and medicine, her mind began to mend.

  8. At 20 she was addicted to cocaine. Her college career seemed done.
    For a hit of that white powder across the state she’d run.
    She stopped through deep relaxation, faced her fears through art.
    In May she graduates with honors and is off to a brand new start.

  9. He is only 9 years old but is in trouble at school.
    He talks and plays, doesn’t work, has trouble following rules.
    His bewildered single mother comes with him to remove
    their negative patterns of interacting his conduct to improve.

  10. This young boy’s amber colored eyes unflinchingly stare ahead
    and he speaks in monotones with everything he says.
    His father’s lived in New Jersey two years. With him he wants to live.
    He blames it on his mother to whom a stony heart he gives.

  11. After 15 years as a navigator in the United States Air Force
    then 29 in stocks and bonds, he crashed in due course.
    Memories of work stress, burnt bodies, and an avaricious ex-wife
    brought him into counseling to try to recycle his life.

  12. She got pregnant her first semester in college far away.
    There is no one to help her, to support or show the way
    because her mom, divorcing, had a psychotic break..
    With her new boyfriend her own path she must learn to make.

  13. In just three weeks one year ago from mad-cow disease he died.
    His widow comes because her grief she cannot hide.
    She tries to believe in herself and adjust to being single
    while taking tentative steps with new suitors now to mingle.

  14. A Marine for 23 years, he’s a computer network engineer,
    proud and loyal, but sad and angry, he tries to make it clear
    to a wife who left him because he could not communicate
    that he really wants to change. But will it be too late?

  15. He obsesses with projects, car repairs, buying and fixing stuff
    and ignores his wife and girls whom he seldom sees enough.
    He must focus on family and interact with his daughters
    before they are swept away by life’s fast moving waters.

  16. At 11, sent to Virginia from Alaska by an alcoholic mother,
    terrible self-cutting signaled his estrangement from others.
    Through three years of counseling and techniques he learned
    he strengthened his self-esteem, away from darkness turned.

  17. She was raped many times when she was growing up.
    It extinguished her sense of power. Troubles kept building up.
    Out of work on disability because of a supervisor’s abuse,
    she strives to figure out a way a better future to produce.

  18. Thirty-five and having risen into an internship she cherishes,
    she should be filled with happiness as she fulfills her wishes.
    But her second lieutenant husband is clueless about who she is
    and his dalliances with other women rob her of her bliss.

  19. This newly married couple comes exhausted to the session.
    The husband’s daughter, 6, suffered sexual transgression
    by her half-brother, 13. So they took this child in
    with his wife’s kids and aged mother. God, some peace to win!

  20. Spoonerisms are what you call her unusual turns of phrase:
    “Tease my ears” for “ease my tears”–such slips dill her fays.
    Brain tumors were ruled out so, too, a Tourettes-like illness.
    A screaming father scarred her with insecure absentmindedness.

  21. Thirty seven with two kids she feels isolated and alone.
    Her husband cannot seem to care how her unhappiness has grown.
    Two bluebirds on same tree limb is the reality she wants
    but the probability of divorce is the prognosis that haunts.

  22. Out on short-term disability for four months from work,
    his animosity toward his company makes him go berserk.
    He was injured on the job. As a result he was robbed
    of his career and dignity. He cannot see through the murk.

  23. 24, she is bisexual with two children five and three.
    Her husband encouraged and enjoyed her habits initially.
    But because of them they had no chance to make the marriage stable.
    They’re separated now but want to try to reunite if they are able.

  24. Married 33 years, he had a two-year affair about which his wife didn’t know.
    But when she learned it was “out of the house!” The effects at work did show.
    His manager demanded he get into counseling or his job he would surely lose.
    For the umtee-umth time he’ll try it again. This time he just can’t snooze.

  25. In comes another survivor of trouble on the tracks.
    He was in a head-on train collision and never can come back.
    His knees were wrecked, his head was smashed, his memory was lost.
    His wife and he are adjusting to this most momentous cost.

  26. She’s dated him for nine long years both widowed long ago.
    She deeply wanted to marry and she bravely told him so.
    But he liked his freedom and was comfortable in his ways.
    This very day she said, “its over!” With a ring he begged her to stay.

  27. The sexually abused six-year-old came with her step-mother
    and spoke in a simple way of the lurid actions of her brother.
    Too young for guilt but not for shame the poison must be drawn
    from out her tender, open heart before her childhood’s gone.

  28. He got caught shop-lifting. Thought counseling would help his case
    when he went before the judge consequences to face.
    He learned about his laziness and from where his patterns came,
    improved relations with his folks, toward a better future aims.

  29. He’s a military pilot hired by a civilian airline.
    For training on their equipment in Houston he’ll spend time.
    Although he is decisive when it comes to what he does,
    when it comes to his wife and private life, his psyche’s all a fuzz.

  30. It was her second DUI. For six months she cannot drive.
    As a traveling salesperson, it will be hard to survive.
    Divorced, she spent some time in jail after working out the details
    about the care of her 11 year old. Her strong spirit will prevail.

  31. With her husband Monday’s peak performer did return
    to help me understand critiques she felt were unearned.
    She is obsessive compulsive which drives her husband nuts
    and helps to clarify why at work she has fallen into ruts.

  32. Angry and frustrated, this woman is also in trouble
    in the office where she works. She’s captured in a bubble
    of stressful interactions and coworker’s bad reactions.
    Deep relaxation and more sleep will improve her transactions.

  33. This wife of a First Sargent is terrified again.
    Caught in another affair he says he is feeling chagrined.
    She only wants to run and doubts that counseling will matter.
    He acknowledges his insecurities their marital bonds have shattered.

  34. Divorced seven years, she’s worked and raised two kids
    but the stress became unbearable. Now she has blown her lid.
    The father is undependable with his contact and child support
    and so the bottle has become her friend of last resort.

  35. She came from South America, married and had a child,
    got a fantastic technology job that really made her smile.
    Although she was a terrific employee, she never quite fit in
    to the culture and language. She was disadvantaged. She’s out of work again.

  36. I hadn’t seen her in about two years when she made the call:
    “Let’s do coffee sometime soon and I will tell you all
    about the changes that have happened through my counseling with you.”
    For an hour she regaled me with great stories of renewal.

  37. His parents are about to divorce and so this boy of 12
    just can’t do his homework or into his class work delve.
    His mother helps but his father says, “Do it on your own.”
    Discouraged and disheartened, no self-esteem from this is grown.

  38. Both are in the Army, she’s a Captain, he’s a Sarge.
    At first blush his two affairs did her frustrations charge.
    Two tours of duty in Iraq each time home to a brick-like wife
    left him being isolated and alone. It was those or end his life.

  39. She is a doctor’s wife and she’s also a doctor’s daughter.
    She’s always been ignored for things “of a higher order.”
    So, being unhappy in marriage, an affair woke her up.
    Now she is struggling to decide what she wants in her cup.

  40. Another wounded train employee hobbles into the session.
    The death of his partner’s mom only increased his depression.
    Poor communications with her and their financial strain
    leave him doubting his life will ever get back on track again.

  41. His troubled mom was nonetheless a trophy wife for an older man.
    Inevitably incompatible, they divorced. Toward his father he ran
    whenever his mother would beat him for not obeying her orders.
    At 11, he’s helplessly caught between these warring ex-partners.

  42. Depression plagues this 40 year old highly skilled telecom Tech
    who is constantly sent to trouble spots to help clean up their mess.
    Pretty much a loner in life he identifies with the screech owl.
    If he doesn’t find a love interest soon he may throw in the towel.

  43. Their daughter is 20, they’ve been together just about 22 years
    never married. His cell phone bill recently confirmed her fears.
    He is supporting his year-old baby, thinks she should get over it.
    She’s drinking, angry and frustrated and wants nothing more than to split.

  44. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, she weights 330 pounds.
    A well-respected professional, her mental imagery abounds
    with fairies, small animals, mythical beings celebrating the holidays.
    In spite (or because) of her wounds, awesome creativity this displays.

  45. He works in a pathology lab and manages its crew.
    Fencing is his greatest love, rarely anything else does he do.
    Nationally ranked he gets highly upset whenever he loses a match.
    His obsessiveness lost a girlfriend. Another will be hard to catch.

  46. He was always “Mr. High Expectations” with everybody he met
    because beside him, wherever he went, was his dead father’s silhouette.
    But he was a man divided, seven years had a secret affair.
    Between “seeming perfect” and “being human:” with the difference he has to get square.

  47. He just got back from a month at this father’s, his mother being fed up
    with his unruly behavior and his mouth that would never shut up.
    But his father paid no attention, as always, and broke the teenager’s heart.
    He wants to do better and try to beat the bad odds for a black boy’s good start.

  48. An open wound for nine months, her stomach stapling didn’t heal,
    and then no sex for seven years, to her man she just didn’t appeal.
    She began an affair to awaken again any desire to live
    and then came into counseling childhood sexual abuse to forgive.

  49. He was the engineer on the train that hit another head on.
    Poor communications with headquarters did this accident spawn.
    Surgeries on his shoulder and knee were followed by getting fired
    for a tragedy that wasn’t his fault. Compensation he’ll try to acquire.

  50. There was a hapless trainee on one of those trains that collided.
    He had only worked two weeks–a career that now seems misguided.
    Fifteen months later his leg is still shot even after surgery.
    Recovery comes first, then settling the law suit, then new job discovery.

for guitar 1/23/05

Verse 1
As I huddle near the campfire sitting close to keep me warm,
I'm enchanted by the dancing flames, the sparks which upward swarm.
I slip into a dream like place, escape the bonds of time,
Take a journey toward the heavens in a quiet state of mind.

The stars that twinkle in the night form patterns in the sky.
For countless generations men have wondered why.
I see my life reflected there and start to write this song.
I have lived as if forever. I will be forever gone.

I have lived as if forever letting each day challenge me
To give everything I have to give in this way to see
What talents I could develop, what lessons I could draw.
I have lived as if forever.  I will be forever gone.

Verse 2
I have listened to the ancient teachers trying to find my way.
I've prayed and chanted, studied long and fasted 40 days.
I've backpacked through the mountains, swam the coral reefs and
Wandered through the desert until they were part of me.

I have sought my visions, tried to make each one come true.
I have faced my fears creatively and through this been renewed.
Each city, role, relationship revealed more of my soul
So engaged I hardly noticed I was growing old.

I have lived as if forever letting each day challenge me
To give everything I have to give in this way to see
What talents I could develop, what lessons I could draw.
I have lived as if forever. I will be forever gone.

Verse 3
Then I myself became a guide for others on this trail
Exploring nature and the inner world til joy from pain prevailed.
I have found it's true for everyone, the greatest and the least:
Our talents and our treasures are by love increased.

The embers of this campfire sparkle with an orange glow.
It's time to lay me down to sleep. It's time for me to go.
The ashes you will find at dawn from these once stately trees
Will with me join the endless seasons in the morning breeze.

I have lived as if forever letting each day challenge me
To give everything I have to give in this way to see
What talents I could develop, what lessons I could draw.
I have lived as if forever.  I will be forever gone.

Mandala Bon Fire

On the waves of time

For fifty-thousand years the river has graced this rolling landscape.
Five hundred centuries from now waters here
will still be flowing toward the sea.
Long after this mighty nation has disappeared,
its proud monuments of marble and steel but sand and ash,
autumn trees sprout from tiny seeds will grace with rainbow colors
animals that drink deeply from these refreshing banks
and birds that nest and scream and soar above its rolling waves.
At 55, I stand here vulnerable and open in the moment
as images of the future and echoes from the past engulf me.
I am filled with a sense of mystery and wonder
and am grateful for the warm affection I receive
from family, friends and soul companions
on the waves of time.

Michael Inspired


Written while guiding a client on a Solo Vision Quest


This vision quest work is so soulful, so deep and intimate. I become empty of personal thoughts and mental content and filled with a sense of presence and spirit. To be fully present is such a powerful experience. Yoga began this day. For an hour, my client and I did gentle stretching taking deep breaths to the sound of waves breaking gently on the shore of Virginia Beach, VA. Harmony of body, mind and spirit in the presence of the ancient ocean, in harmony with my client as well.

Unique and endless repetition. Many thousand times I've emptied my mind, honored and stretched and loved my body in this way, and shared the experience of yoga with others. Each time, assuming well known postures; each time, a new experience unfolds. Fully present. Fully alive. In this moment, as I write, I feel such gratitude for arms with which I reach out into the world; for hands with which I write and create and give visible expression to my Self; for breath that cleanses my cells and muscles and energizes with oxygen my body; for the muscles which hold and move my head, the source of sensory awareness of the world and of consciousness itself.

Unique and endless repetition. The ocean undulates in endless ways. The wind and tides and weather kick up waves in countless patterns. The ocean is the ocean, joining earth and sky. I am who I am. I celebrate my existence in endless ways driven by my visions and my needs, responsive to the people, institutions, customs and the environment which surround me. I greet each person I meet with keen awareness, with an open heart, with a playful spirit and with a desire to awaken in them the depths of consciousness.

To everyone I meet I say, "Turn on your brain! Open the doors of perception. Love yourself. Embrace each other. Seek and find and follow your visions and your dreams. Celebrate your success. Grieve your losses. Learn from your betrayals. Create something. Try something new. Face your fears. Cleanse yourself from the toxins of the past. Listen to your interests and develop new potentials. Spend time alone in nature. Keep a garden. Sing a spontaneous song. Do not be afraid to laugh or to cry or to be angry when you're hurt. Be respectful of the gifts of others and encourage them to share them. Be grateful when they share them with you. Support and encourage the interests of youth. Visit and learn from the aged–not so much about what they've done but about how they manage the challenges of age. Exercise and stay healthy. This is the most powerful insurance policy of all. Above all, develop and use your imagination."

Unique and endless repetition. This is who I am. This is what I do. This is what I teach.



Ten inches of snow covered the ground
and the temperature was 19 degrees.
The stars twinkled brightly in the cold of the night.
It wouldn't take very long to freeze.
He had slept warmly in his blanket of feathers.
She'd rested well in her fine coat of leather.
But they both felt a chill as gray gradually receded
and a crimson sun rose in the east.

Dawn had arrived on that Saturday morn
and the world was beginning to stir.
It was January 5, a new year had come
but like always there was little else sure.
She nurtured twins in the dark of her womb.
He nurtured souls in his counseling room.
But as happens in nature more primitive instincts
were fated to awaken soon.

Life feeds on life. There's no reason to blame
what flies, swims or runs for survival's the game.
With tooth, claw, gun or beak the challenge is the same:
to live fully and keep bright the flame.

The time was past noon and a light breeze did blow
thick snow from the green holly leaves.
The howl of the hound dogs could everywhere be heard
as he stared through the thicket of trees.
The last day of the hunt and he'd taken no deer.
For three months past hunters she had run clear.
As she leapt the log two shots were fired--
an act hard for them both to believe.

In a heartbeat or two she was gone from his sight
but the dogs were still hot on her trail.
As he ran he reloaded but, whipped by the limbs,
to track her through the woods he might fail.
But the blood trail was clear on the glistening snow.
Three staggering hoof prints showed which way to go.
One hundred yards further was all she could do.
Around her the dogs now did wail.

Life feeds on life. There's no reason to blame
what flies, swims or runs for survival's the game.
With tooth, claw, gun or beak the challenge is the same:
to live fully and keep bright the flame.

Another shot rang out and ended her pain.
The sound drove the hunt dogs away.
He sat by her body and began to give thanks
for the life he'd been given that day.
For he had two children, was himself a twin.
He had hunted since 14 his own meat to win.
And he knew in his heart like his daddy before him
this path was the most honest way.

When a man kills a deer there are things to be done
some people just wouldn't do.
But he knew the task well and when he got home
he was tired yet somehow renewed.
He got the call as he drifted to sleep.
Full circle: a Critical Incident Debrief.
A man was shot tracking a deer and had died.
His steel mill coworkers needed help. Would he try
to guide them through shock and grief the following two days?
Dead of winter: spring 10 weeks away.

Life feeds on life. There's no reason to blame
what flies, swims or runs for survival's the game.
With tooth, claw, gun or beak the challenge is the same:
to live fully and keep bright the flame.

Life feeds on life. To get close to this part
of the Creator's plan surely humbles a man
but it helps us get clear about what we hold dear
in this beautiful, perilous land.

In memory of Tony Seymour of Chaparral Steel
in Dinwiddie County, VA, who was killed January 5, 2002.

From Darkness, Light!


From Darkness, Light!

Angel of Mercy, touch our hearts today.
Help us feel vulnerability but be not afraid.
In trauma's dark presence help us find the light
To bravely rebuild with its meaning in sight.
Increase our understanding and strengthen our resolve
To live fully our values whatever evolves.
Help us cherish more deeply those whom we love
Wisely knowing each moment is a gift from above.
Help us learn from our experience, sweet Angel, we pray
So our children may flourish from our struggles today.

Art © Solange Brown, 2001
Poem © Michael Brown, 2001

Mask at 52


Time marches on. Am I really 52?
I hardly feel it passing so involved in what I do.
My life is surely colorful no one would contest,
A work of art in which I try to do my very best.

Take this mask, for instance. Great care it took to make.
Eight hours flew by in just a wink painting its blank face.
I wanted it to tell the truth, a daunting task indeed.
I've learned to set ego aside for such an effort to succeed.

So I didn't have a story. I allowed it to unfold
Brush by careful brush stroke. Revelation was the goal.
"Move through me, holy spirit," was the prayer as I began.
It did and, to my pleasure, guided choice and brush and hand
To capture on this plaster the very prayer that guides my life
Which I will now explain to you with the imagery in sight.

On the left a light blue figure reaches out into dark blue--
An open state of being achieved meditating as I do
An hour or more every day in a silent inner space.
Relaxation and renewal are the gifts from this I take.

But that's not all, by any means. Other stunning things occur
As a consequence of this discipline and by silence are conferred.
Upon the mask across the eyes descends, in shimmer rose,
Wingèd inspiration which, to the right, my mind does blow.

Visions of significance and passion and great meaning
Enter into consciousness and transform my being.
Old, limiting patterns shatter of how I think and act.
Courage comes to take new risks where once there was a lack.

These images and symbols help me see things others miss,
And fill me with a kind of energy that's impossible to resist.
It's purposeful and playful, it's tender and it's kind,
And makes a positive difference wherever myself I find.

As I am receptive to my inner world to the outer I am, too.
Calm presence is reflected on the mask in light coastal blue.
"Move through me, holy spirit," has been my lifelong prayer.
When it has it has been these visions I have dared.

Like stars that twinkle in the night my life has been full
Of such initiatives which willing me through
timeless time have pulled.

The story captured on this mask is done and I thank you
For listening to the musings of a man at 52.

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