This picture of me swinging as a child on my wooden horse swing in the backyard showed up in my FaceBook memories yesterday, and it reminded me of a poem I wrote in college when I was living in my first apartment in Kalamazoo. There was a park about a block away with a swing set, and in my deepest moments of depression, I would go swing to feel that feeling of freedom again and cry. On one such occasion, a young girl and her brother joined me on the swings and started telling me all about their day, what happened at school, the things they liked and disliked. I brushed the tears away and listened, occasionally sharing an insight. I said something about when they got older, they might. . .and the girl interrupted and asked, “How old are you?” I told her I was twenty-one, and she said, “What?! I thought you were my age!”
I cherish these memories, as I cherish the poem I wrote that day after the exchange with the children at the park. There are many ways to reach liberation, but I find something especially freeing in swinging still. I used to have this poem on the profile of my LiveJournal, but I wanted to share it here for safekeeping. Now, while in a moment of deep depression, I don’t have a swing nearby, and I’ve probably gained too much weight to have the same lift I used to, but I have the memories, and I can still feel it.
a dialectical feeling.
Like swinging, it is rooted
to the ground human-made. Hands
solidly clamping on chains, we rise
up and fall back, feet
dragging in dirt, dragging
through desolation of self.
When I was a child, I would swing
because it made me happy.
I swing now when I have nothing left,
when lost is who I am, and I don’t
know how to construct who I will become
I run to a playground
that is not my playground
in order to feel liberation.
Hands solid, clamping on chains
which hold me inside, I rise
up to fall back, feet dragging
in desolation, dragging
through the cradle