poetry therapy

Poetry by John Fox

Lift Up the Banner of Your Heart

Lift up the banner of your heart boldly
and commit your very next step
to what you love most dearly.
Such a banner is for the greatness
of wildflowers kissing their way delicately
through glaciers, for the beauty
of the mountaintop from which your soul
undoubtedly has gazed.
The next step you take shall bring you home
if you but release your cares
and think instead that help has come,
as sure as the wind will fly the banner
that you have raised—
the quietness of a wind
in an unseen meadow that waves
the banner of who you are
with the whispered assurance that says:
I Am. Or the great, great wind
that fills ships sails announcing
your arrival to a throng of blue sky,
angelic presence’s hushed in appreciation.
Your arrival to the new world of a new day,
the blessed shore rushing up to greet you.

— John Fox


When Someone Deeply Listens To You

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you've had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.

When someone deeply listens to you
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind's eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!

When someone deeply listens to you
your barefeet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.

— John Fox



She skates boldly onto
the page, tips one vulnerable foot
back and forth slowly, till finally
the edge of a toe
cuts a simple, sharp line
through the world's cold resistance
and with that plain courage,
a statement of intention begins;
and you can't turn back any longer
from the weight of feeling and letting go
into the flow that follows.
Poetry is a choice to feel it all,
not all at once but gradually to sink down
within ourselves, to give what fear
we hold behind our knees
to gravity and grace,
to discover what makes
our whole world turn;
the place our necessary weight
lifts to lightened joy.

— John Fox

Enjoy John's poem Poetry with music and a photo added by Joe Riley

What Understanding Won't Help or
A Poem About Change

Does the dusk light
that rests for only moments
upon the leaves of
a Japanese Maple
awaken your
heart, like it does
mine? And by "awaken"
I might mean this:
if loneliness was at least
willing to not give in
to despair, because
loss felt like such a sure thing.
Could you stand there
at that edge with me
aware of & meeting
these small realities of
our day, like a treasure
that will not last or give
us everything we want —
but still deserve attention,
just like the leaf that catches
last light, is lifted up to our sight
by a shadow
that silently cares for it,
and everything underneath
that can't be said.

— John Fox


Consider What Happens

Consider what happens
upon hearing a poem
that moves you. The nod
of your head, tucking
your chin close
to your chest, as if
stopping to rest, as if you could cry now
in the middle of a long journey.
Here, whatever you regret having forgotten
even with your aching tiredness
(which you cannot forget) all of a sudden
turns to a surprisingly vibrant sky
as your eyes widen ever-so-slightly
in a recognition that shimmers
under your skin, wells-up
into a calm line-of-sight
that is your own and goes on
almost forever.
Astonished, you walk outside breathing
and slowly stroll in the fresh air
suddenly aware that back in your house
someone new, a stranger you like,
has arrived.

— John Fox

Enjoy John's poem When Someone Deeply Listens To You with music and a photo added by Joe Riley

Phantom Pain Tries to Speak

I am embers of the campfire dusted in gray ash
and still hot at 2 in the morning

I am the jellyfish you touch
in the dark water

I am the scary rustle of ceiling to floor curtains
late at night

I am the secret you must live with

I am the strange voice on the phone
you thought for a moment you knew

I am the stone sharp arrow pulled against
the taut bowstring

I am the rapids of a river
without a bed to rest in

I am the voice that calls out
"Set me free!"

— John Fox



The sacred quality
of arms, particularly
elbows that make
each of us working class,
put us here for a purpose.
Look at elbows
and what they say:
elbow your way
into the passive crowd
to do what is needed,
give it your elbow grease —
this is enough.
Elbows, no one can
possess them because
they can disappear and
you move them
into action by choice.
And that choice
is prayer in action.
The deepest current of love
is not found in the heart.
That is the certain spring,
the natural ease, the flow
from the mountaintop.
The greatest current of love
rushes forward in the choice
to make a cradle of the body.

— John Fox

Enjoy John's poem When Jewels Sing with music and a photo added by Joe Riley


Heron glides
the Baylands
comes up
to the surface
near as possible
to landing.

Significant wings
fold sharply
pull in hard
against the momentum
of sheer freedom -
brought to earth
as pure gift

in the totally gone gaze
of small,
accurate eyes.
and web feet
extend tender and ready

for a long moment.
I imagine:
one foot brings memory,
the other, revelation.
In splashing frenzy
he breaks
into the shallows

of dark salt water, to stand.

— John Fox


Please enjoy reading more poetry, from Voices from the Community of the Institute for Poetic Medicine.

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