The Meaning of Flight

Melencolia - Albrecht Dürer
Melencolia – Albrecht Dürer

It is a little over a year since a family friend – only a few years older than me – took his life by jumping in front of a train. I wrote the poem “Silent Screams” in response to his death, and also dedicated my collection of poems, “Imperceptible Arms”, to his memory. It has been a while since my writing here has dealt with issues of mental health, but the memory of my friend’s death and my own ongoing struggles with mental illness have prompted me to revisit these ideas. May God’s presence and grace be with everyone who knows these same struggles.

The Meaning of Flight
 
In dreams I am encumbered,
like legs have lost their firmness and
cannot move of their own accord,

as though I must
     lever myself
     along the ground
with arms ill-equipped for this purpose.

On ground, awake, I
     move freely,
bound only by           time,
                        gravity, injury, the
limits of body and strength –
only shackled by
     the weight of mind
     making each
lap, each step a
motion further sometimes
     into the ground.

             And in
     dreams of flight, my
     unbound state terrifies; I
            soar too quick across
     the tops of trees
                     and fling
     into the air where
            nothing can
     contain my motion.

Bound, I am weighed down,
but free – I am without weight, without –

    what? The anchor
needed to give meaning to my flight?

Angel with
   sunken wings            that atrophy beneath
           a sunken gaze –

                  look up to where
        the sun dances
              in starshower and

        the fraught geometry of time
and                 space
              are rendered nothing in
                your living,     endless,
                  ever-purposed
                                flight.

2 thoughts on “The Meaning of Flight

  1. Matthew, this moved me greatly – and the story of your friend’s suicide. When I was a teenager, a boy from my youth group died when he choked on a sandwich while eating his lunch in his car. He was eighteen and an only child. His parents were much older than most parents and they doted on him. A week after his death, his mother committed suicide by taking sleeping pills. A few days later, his father hung himself in their garage. A whole family dead because of a sandwich and massive grief. Thank God there were no surviving family members, because half the church condemned the parents for their lack of faith even going so far as to say they couldn’t really have been Christians. That’s one of the reasons I’m so happy to be involved in Tony’s “Delight in Disorder” mission.
    The Church really needs to be more compassionate towards those with any form of mental illness, regardless of how major or minor it is.

    1. Such a tragic story, Lyn. It’s a very poignant reminder of how badly at times the church cares for those in pain. Thanks for your encouragement. I pray that as Christians we can keep learning to love deeply and sensitively those who struggle in often invisible ways.

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