Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

If children are to grow and mature, their myths – not the fairy tales protecting them from facing reality, but the truer-than-true metaphors expressing and pulling them toward existential realities their rational minds are not yet capable of comprehending – must also expand. The same is true for cultures and societies. Getting stuck in our juvenile myths, individually or collectively, creates a level of dysfunction that can be overcome only by traumatic shift and breakthrough. Such myth-miring leaves us in Amygdala’s mode of self-defense, if not attack.

He (Amygdala) has been rattling my windows at night, disturbing me from sleep. I have seen evidence of his agitated footprints in the mulch-bed behind the shrubs. Believing I need rescuing from imminent danger, he will let neither of us rest. The larger narrative of my dreams assures me that he is mistaken; that he needs to hear the truth of a more comprehensive myth.

What are your myths? A predominant one in our culture seems to be redemptive violence: a super hero’s view of the world, sure that more power and control are the solution to the chaos and anxiety with which we are surrounded. One major problem with this approach is that violence never seems to end violence. In fact, it promotes it, even if the escalation goes underground for a while, like a stream that disappears into the rocks, only to emerge again farther into the woods.

We endured this myth’s brinksmanship throughout the Cold War, convinced that a righteous nation with the largest nuclear arsenal (ours, of course) could effect peace – or at least end the threat of international aggression – by simply waving its hand, periodically, over “the button”. What we are learning is that, instead of being the solution to war’s demise, redemptive violence’s unfolding has become a blueprint, suitable for emulation. It is a challenge that continues to this day, both through nuclear armament and more conventional modes of annihilation.

If I had a foolproof solution – a magic pill we could all swallow to set the world on a course of universal serenity – I would have already told you of it. What I can tell you, is that we have work to do; and this work will require pauses with which we have yet to find comfort. It will also require listening on levels beyond our familiarity; listening to people whom we have not granted much credibility; but maybe it is the illusion that we are the grantors of credibility that keeps us locked into juvenile myths insufficient for these times.

Perhaps a good first step is to invite Amygdala in from the shrub bed. Maybe we could share some tea, and tell him of the dreams we have of helping him find a healthy place to rest; a place where he can be helpful without becoming cancerous, because his current presence feels too malignant.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Stairway to...

I have spent more than 15 years
coming to recognize the deeply
cathartic nature of poetry;

   how blank space and punctuation
   leave room – sometimes demanding –
   for us to unpack wounds and scars
   long-healed on the surface,

      but still as raw at the core
      as the day someone else's
      (or, occasionally, even our own)
      words or actions sliced us to the marrow.

   With metaphor and word-painting,
   they let us plumb the depths
   without passing out from the pain,

sidling up to wretchedness
without having to look it in the eye
until we’re ready to close the door
with terms of our own making;

   the best of them often showing us
   a stairway out of hole and hurt,
   as holy sutures stitch
   each step behind us,

      walking us toward the light again
      for what feels like the first time,
      experiencing resurrection in-the-flesh.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, October 9, 2015


The farther who you are
is from who you want to be,
the more intolerable
your life will seem.

   Inability to recognize life
   as a sojourner sport
   is a misery escalator.

      Peace is found in appreciating
      who you are in the moment
      while longing to be more of who
      you were created to be tomorrow.

         Let go of yesterday;
         pay close attention
         to the beauty of this day
         held in your open palm;
         dream about tomorrow
         as you sleep tonight.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


I will vigorously advocate for unrestricted gun availability when all weapons sold and owned are capable of killing other people only in self-defense. Isn't that the reason we're all buying them?

Until then, however, count me among those who call for a genuine, comprehensive conversation leading to meaningful societal reform. I'm talking big picture here, because continuing down this same path while expecting the body count to slow down is the very definition of insanity. When violence is the state answer to both national and international problems and brute force is glorified throughout culture, how could we not expect it to permeate every aspect of our lives?

Bumper-sticker conversations (AKA drive-by shoutings), sound bite proclamations, and second amendment conclusions sketched from single-perspective logic are not the answer; they are a significant part of the problem. Violence doesn't end with shooting; life does. Neither does it begin with shooting. It begins with injustice and oppression. Power – abused, wielded, and tilted against others – is the first violent volley. As eyes are opened to socioeconomic rampage’s claim on victims farther up the food chain, we are being gradually anesthetized to our craving for brutality’s solution.

Violence was once a last resort for all but the pathological. Now that it has become commonplace in society, it behooves us to dig below the surface in search of the systemic imbalances driving us to such a pathology. Without this holistic honesty and excavation we can do little more than whitewash rotten porch rafters.

If we continue down the same road, convincing ourselves that more weapons are the answer to less violence, is it beyond conceivability for the USA to become a new wasteland, where the rest of the world's adrenaline junkies up-armor, paying big money to travel on urban safaris,  attempting to make it through alive? Perhaps that is beyond your imagination, but continuing down this path, sans significant conversation, is not a journey I’m willing to continue.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Wake-Up Call

Do you know what it's like
to hear, for the first time
after knowing someone
for nearly five decades,

how they sat in silent aloneness,
gun in hand, wondering if ending it all –
or at least trying to by pulling the trigger –
was the lesser of bad options;

and then to have this revelation
take you back 18 years
to a phone conversation
with another near-and-dear one
who was 200+ miles away,

listening to his tears as he also
sits with a gun in his lap,
calling to say goodbye;

talking him down from that
emotional bridge with words
that flowed from who-knows-where;

which transports you back
nearly 40 years to that morning
you came downstairs, surely feeling
nothing but your teenage oats,

until you see her lying
lifeless in the bed,
illegible note scribbled
on the bedside table
beside the empty pill bottle?

I pray to God you don't.

It is a weight no smaller
than Atlas imagined,
bearable only by
a gift utterly unfathomable;

but a weight surely much less
than the one felt by those
whose fingers caress the trigger
or twist the bottle-top.

These are the moments
when you realize gravity
is something Grace can
cast off, and angel's wings,
feathers she can put on.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Wanna Be

You know what I mean.
We see it easiest in others;
but when we catch
its reflection in the mirror,
it frightens us;

   even raises denial
   while the longing ferments
   in a spiritual pressure cooker.

      The "what" is usually inconsequential,
      flitting from one facet to another,
      steadied only by our anxious stare
      into the black hole
      of others' expectations.

   But somewhere in the corner
   of our dreams, memorable mostly
   in the instant before waking,
   lies an ache to be no more or less
   than precisely the soul
   into which our birthing
   breath was inspired.

It's the place where we defy gravity,
living a capeless super-hero life
with ease beyond imagination.

When you glimpse this hope
flashing through your world,
ride it all the way
to the end of its light year.
It's who you are.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Photo by Katie Jenkins Kester

Until you have uncorked
your carotid, unleashing a flow
of metaphorical images
beyond your explanation,

      ones that make children
      dance with anticipation and
      adults quake with anxiety;

until you shake punctuation around
   like it's going out of style
      so people are forced
         to negotiate your words
            like a live minefield,

tiptoeing gingerly beside threatening ones,
one eye always cocked wordward,
just to make sure they don't detonate;

         until you leave gobs
      of blank space with chaotic,
   jagged edges, conjuring
the plate-glass window
   the neighborhood baseball team
      baptized last week;

   until you make folks reach,
   stretch, and struggle to find
   themselves and their lives
   within the aftermath
   of a topless verbal blender;

until you write with this kind
   of brazen abandon,
      you might not be a poet.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins