Journal of a Struggling Mind #5

grief 5

Why is it


Everything is right with the world

My life

Seems like it’s

Running on empty?

In a field of growth

I am starving

And the sunlight

Doesn’t nurture

But burns all

And destroys any trace

Or semblance

Of happiness…

This is all

On the nature of Daylight

And the response

Of those who listen

Which is no one.

Max Richter – On The Nature of Daylight

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Journal of a Struggling Mind #1


It starts in the back of the throat, like a lump that can’t be subdued. You tell yourself that everything is fine but you feel it—slowly building toward something. You aren’t sure what has happened—what has made this day so much different than what came before but then, right in front of your eyes, your brain decides it wants to eat itself today and like the fucking Ouroboros you crumble.

You may maintain some semblance of control, at least on the outside, but inside you are screaming.

For relief.

For strength.

For anything.

Luckily your mind doesn’t recognize the sheer stupidity of your situation and instead tries to convince you that what you feel, that soul-crushing weight, is what belongs. You are not okay. You are not stable.

You are alone.

The top of the world
Sitting here wishing
The things I’ve become
That something is missing
Maybe I…
But what do I know?

Now to match this feeling, what do we do? We tell ourselves that our brains must be correct. It is there for the sole purpose of thinking. How could what it tells us be wrong? How could our own mind betray the absolute trust we place on it and instead Benedict Arnold us into a corner that seems impossible to escape?

This is where a majority of the past few years has led me. Over and over again, I have found myself backed into that metaphorical corner; afraid of what the very next step might bring; what the very next thought might cause; afraid of the complete and absolute fact that I am worthless.

(lyrics taken from The Used – “On My Own.”)

Follow me on Twitter @Mr_D_Ames

Teacher’s Corner: The Raven

**originally published on**


There are few pieces of American fiction more recognizable than Edgar Allan Poe’s seminal classic “The Raven.” It is taught at numerous ages and grades and is remembered and recounted at yearly Halloween specials. It is one of the most alluded to works in pop culture, appearing in episodes of The Simpsons ( – I use this every year because it cracks me up, Garfield and Friends, Tiny Toon Adventures, The Addams Family, Gilmore Girls, and countless others. This famous work, while beautiful and rhythmic harbors a dark, depressing secret, but then, if you have ever read it, you probably already know that.

In analyzing poetry, establishing an understanding of the context behind each work becomes as, if not more, important than doing so with novels. Poets usually pour their lives into their work and so at least a passing knowledge of the artist is usually needed to fully grasp the work as a whole. If any of you have ever studied Poe before, you know that his life was a terrible mess. Every woman in his life died tragically of tuberculosis, the last of which, his wife Virginia, seemed to spiral Poe out of control. Also, he suffered from depression, alcoholism, and failure in his work. While “The Raven” is easily his most recognizable work, Poe only received a total of $9 for publishing the work and miniscule proceeds, if anything at all, after.

Almost all of Poe’s poetry deals with death, especially the death of a beautiful woman. Most of these works, namely Poe’s other incredibly famous Poem “Annabel Lee,” deal with the loss of his wife. It is so commonplace in his work that an old student of mine titled her Thesis over his work: “Poe Cries Over Dead Ladies,” a title that made me laugh out loud. With all of this knowledge, we can now begin to look at the beautiful work which made Poe a household name.

The first thing to really notice about “The Raven” is Poe’s amazing ability to craft a rhythm. His constant use of internal rhyme (Words in the middle and at the end of a single line which rhyme) and alliteration (repetition of initial consonant sounds), propel the work forward and create a wonderful, dream-like sound, almost musical. Take for instance the following lines:

“Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary

That internal rhyme is repeated multiple times throughout the poem, giving not only the song-like structure but also the musical quality and a nice parallelism between the stanzas. As for the alliteration, there are numerous instances of that as well:

“And the Silken, Sad, unCertain rustling of each purple curtain”

Doubting, Dreaming Dreams no mortal ever Dared to Dream before”

These lines and the others in similar fashion push the tempo and rhythm and create not only an ethereal sound but also a very memorable one.

Besides the craft and structure, the poem also presents a tragically beautiful analogy. As before, we have discussed that figurative language and symbols help to build extended metaphors and allegories. There are multiple allusions and symbols present in the poem which help to develop the overall story of a man haunted by the loss of his lover.

The Raven, classically a bird of death (not because of the color but because of the fact that it is a carrion bird), is the most overt symbol in the entire work. It appears out of the world and stays to haunt the narrator, only ever uttering the phrase “Nevermore.” When it enters the room, it immediately goes and posts itself “upon a bust of Pallas” above the door of the room. Pallas refers to Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and the embodiment of the perfect woman.

The room itself seems to hold a larger meaning as well. We never see the outside world. Instead, when the narrator throws open his study door, there is simply nothing. The same is shown when he opens his window and lets the bird in. We are never given any indication of the description or even existence of the outside world as a whole and, in keeping with other works of Poe’s (“The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Haunted Palace”), that leads me to believe that the study in which the man sits is representative of his own mind. There is nothing outside because, in his state of sadness and grief, the outside world is nonexistent or at least inconsequential.

There are also multiple allusions presented. Poe first references Seraphim, a choir of angels, who come and perfume the room with incense. He also references nepenthe, a drug of forgetfulness in Greek mythology. When denied, he asks if there is balm in Gilead, a direct reference to Jeremiah and his curative medicine, and when that doesn’t work, he asks about a place named Aidenn (another name for Eden, referencing the Biblical paradise). All of these allusions deal with the speaker struggling valiantly to escape his sadness. We will come back to this later.

Now that we have looked at all of the elements of the poem separately, lets piece them together and discover what the work is truly about. Our narrator is sitting one night, in December, reading old books (volumes of forgotten lore) and struggling to escape the memory of his lost love, Lenore. We know that she is dead and not just gone by his diction – “the lost Lenore” and “nameless here for evermore.” All of a sudden the narrator is stirred form his pondering by a tapping sound at his door. He opens the door but to his surprise, there is nothing there. When he hears the same sound from his window, he goes to the sill, opens the window and in flies a Raven.

He startles as the bird perches atop the bust of Pallas Athena and stares at him. The narrator addresses the Raven, asking what its name is, and is given the response of “Nevermore.” The narrator spends multiple stanzas wondering and convincing himself that the bird had learned this phrase from an old master, but we are given another glimpse into the heart of our narrator when he says, “Other friends have flown before–/On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.” Our narrator feels abandoned and is convinced that like everyone else in his life, this bird—his new companion—will also desert him. Luckily, or unluckily as we soon find out, the bird says “Nevermore,” indicating that he will never leave the speaker.


Next we are given multiple stanzas that show the speaker’s incredible sadness at the loss of his love. Remember those allusions from before? Here is where they will come into play. The speaker believes that angels have sent the bird and asks if it has brought him divine respite and nepenthe from the lost Lenore. He wishes above all else just to forget his sadness. Unfortunately, this is not the case and the bird says nevermore. Next the speaker asks if there is balm in Gilead, hoping that maybe the bird has brought him medicine to help heal his broken heart, but again, the bird says nevermore. Lastly, and at his wits end, the narrator asks the bird if in the afterlife, Lenore is in heaven. Once again, and frustratingly so, the bird answers again, “Nevermore.” No matter what the man wants—to forget, to heal, or to know about the afterlife, the bird simply will not oblige.

The narrator curses the bird, wishing him to leave the room and the bust of Pallas and go back to the hell from whence he came but the bird refuses, saying “Nevermore” once again. The poem ends with the bird sitting forever on the bust, looking down and casting his shadow over the man who will never escape.

So what does it all mean? The bird of death perching on the bust of Pallas is symbolic of not only the death of the narrator’s wisdom but also the death of the ideal woman. The speaker has lost the love of his life and because of this, he has lost the will to think logically. The speaker wants to escape his sadness and depression (the Raven as well) but the bird never leaves and never will leave, symbolizing that the narrator will never be able to escape his depression. The final lines of the poem are incredibly moving, showing us that no matter what happens, the man will never be able to escape the personal hell in which he is engulfed:

“And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!”

This poem is a true testament to the sadness and depression which can completely overtake a person when the one they love most has been taken too soon.


It came in the night as all great destruction should:
Incendiary, yet arctic…
Lighting up the night sky like Dresden.
Ancient architecture, beautiful in the sun,
Now razed by the power of A single moment.

There will be no reprieve;
This will burn for a lifetime.
And all I’m given is an empty apology
A treatise on my own failures…
And inside only one phrase echoes:

So it goes.

The View from my Desk

Cynicism is a dangerous ailment
Bent on destroying any hope of human compassion
And yet, I ascribe to this belief more emphatically than any other
Simply because I’ve lost sight of good people

It’s a vicious circle
A vacuous cycle
A spiral from which I may never recover
I wish I could go back to that person I was when I was younger.

Eddie Vedder said it best…
“So this is what it’s like to be an adult. If I only knew now what I knew then. ”

If only…

High School Philosophy

The sound of burgeoning hormones
The voices of a thousand libidos
The anger of a hundred displaced souls

That is high school

And when you look at it from the outside
It all seems so inconsequential
But for the kids…
It is life and death.

The difference is, for some of them
This is it.

Prom is the high point of their lives
And that last game…that is what will define who they are
and who they become

Small town life has its advantages but this…
This is not one of them.

The quarterback makes an amazing pass to win that final game…
30 years later and three beers in,
He sits in the parking lot of his high school
Going over the story again
Because that was his mecca, his ultimate achievement.
His nirvana

Everything else is background noise.

I see this and I cringe…I sigh
And I pity.

And then I do the same thing with my life
Because we are all really one fruit from the same tree
Just attached at different branches
So our flavor is slightly changed

In the end, we all want to recapture our high school selves
And instill the hindsight we’ve gained over the course of these years

Hindsight is what makes us human
And to some, hindsight can break us.

Nothing hurts more than trying look back
And realizing there is nothing to look for
Because your life was as empty then as it is now

The Purpose of Life

Have you ever wondered if your life’s esteem was a futile effort?

We drag ourselves through the monotony of an everyday existence
Scraping through the dregs of our lives
Shuffling after those dreams
Even though we know that they will never be…
That they can never be.

Internally we tell ourselves that we are fighting the good fight…that we matter
But we know in our hearts that we don’t…that we won’t,
because instinctively there is no good fight.

Good is subjective.

A man once said that “Self-Improvement is masturbation,”
A nihilist viewpoint to be sure but it has a certain ring…

Convince yourself that it matters…convince yourself that you matter…

That nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach as you say those words,
It is there for a reason…
Even your body knows that you need to convince yourself
Before you can convince anyone else…

At this point — I cant even do that anymore


The silence is impossible to deal with
The awkward silence
The never-ending, forever expanding breach
Between us

Humanity is like that,

Like ants marching, we plow ahead
Blind to everyone else’s suffering
Because ours is ever present.


We cling to the silences that make us uncomfortable
Because for humanity, that discomfort
Is the only thing that feels right

We very rarely retrace our steps and in not doing so
We end up right where we left off…

A famous man once said, “The past does not repeat itself but it does rhyme.”

We may never see the exact situation we were already a part of again,
But something similar is always on the horizon
And like fictitious Sparks characters
We run toward that safe, reoccurring  event
Because we cannot learn…no…refuse to learn.

I’m tired of refusal
I’m tired of apathy
I’m tired of….everything

I’m starting to see some promise in Thoreau’s choice

A world without the interaction of people…

That could be a good thing because
Like everyone else who needs a reprieve from the world

I think that the world could use a reprieve from us

The Death of My American Dream

Miss the days
When you didn’t just love me
But were in love with me

Miss the passion
The excitement
The feeling
Of your eyes on me alone

Cant remember the last time
You embraced me when I felt
That spark from you
Not just from me

And I know that some day
It may come back
But for right now
I miss it

Our time
The twin bed
No money
But each other

Now nothing….

Empty kisses in listless rooms
Too strange to call warm
Too distant to call home
And I miss the old days

When you loved me
And were in love with me

Miss it
I miss us
I miss intimacy