Wednesday, March 29, 2006


You kneed me
and kneaded me
when I needed you.
What now?

Some explanation may help understand this short piece better. Dad would jam my head between his knees (my poetic license with the verb "knee" which, by definition, refers to hitting someone with your knee). Then he would pummel my head with his fists, avoiding my face, but especially hitting my ears. It was painful. I never cried. Children need safety, including wise discipline, not "discipline" carried out in a rage.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Here are some of the things which were prohibited by my father. Perhaps someday I can turn some of this into a poem. Right now the muse is not with me. But I want to get prohibitions out into the open. They need to be denied. Perhaps some of you who visit this blog had similar illogical and irrational prohibitions in your family system.

Don't sneeze.
Don't cough.
Don't chew raw vegetables so that they make sounds when bitten or chewed.
Don't make mistakes.
Don't show any weakness.
Don't get sick.
Don't think for yourself.
Don't show affection.
Don't show sadness.
Don't laugh unless laughing at Dad's jokes.
Don't express your own opinions.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


The wind blows,
Making big waves,
upon the shore.

Fist blows,
Make heart caves,

Wind blows
Move on
And die.

Fist blows
Will they ever die?

Copyright © 1993 by Al Johnson

Monday, March 20, 2006

Wrong Words

My father has many good qualities. He is generous, hard working, funny, intelligent, and tender. But he has a dark side which he allows to get out of control in fits of temper. During these times he has beat family members. His language can become vile, using words he would never use when he is not in a rage. I remember some of those bad words he would call me when he was having one of his fits. They were Wrong Words, words that no parent should ever call their child. Yesterday I changed the name of this blog to Wrong Words from Recovery Poetry. I intend double meaning in Wrong Words, first that abusive words are wrong, and secondly, that the words of this blog are about what is wrong. I hope that you, the visitor, finds the new blog title attractive and catching. I would welcome comments on it.

And now here is a poem I wrote about abusive words, some of which I was called:

Sticks or Verbal Bricks

Sticks and stones
May break my bones,
But words will never
Hurt me.


Sticks and stones
Can break my bones
And leave
Long lasting bruises.

But cruel words
Are heard
and mentally recorded
The tape can play forever.



Cruel words
Echo down the chamber
Of our lives

We might more wisely choose our words
If we knew cruel ones wreck like rape.
It's lifelong work in either case
To repair the soul's damaged tape.

Copyright © 1993 by Al Johnson

Sunday, March 19, 2006


A number of years ago when I was in counseling for child abuse a breakthrough came in my counseling one day when my wife brought home a handout from a class she was attending. The handout mentioned defensiveness. I had understood that concept in the abstract but I had not realized that defensiveness characterized so much of my interaction with other people. That day it dawned on me.

It is difficult to make progress on our healing journey until we recognize where our needs are. I'm glad that my wife had that piece of paper that day that helped me. I understand where my defensiveness comes from. My father did not allow us to make mistakes. If I accidentally broke something or did something else that my father thought was a sign of weakness or something else he disapproved us, he would often beat me. I tried hard to get out of those beatings, but I could never escape them. But I learned to try to defend myself verbally, to try not to get a beating. I transferred that same defensive reaction to others who pointed out something I had done which could have been done better. Now that I understood what I was doing, I could begin to change my behavior. It was difficult but I could begin to trust that not everyone was going to beat me or verbally abuse me or reject me for doing something imperfectly.

There have been other steppingstones along the way that have represented progress in my journey. I wish I could write poetry about each one. But poetry doesn't come to me just any old time. For me poetry largely comes at a moment of inspiration, perhaps a time when some phrase strikes me as something that represents some of my experience. Then I can work with the idea, adding meat to the bones that got the poetic skeleton going. Skeleton is an apt metaphor here, isn't it? Most of us have skeletons of one kind or another in our backgrounds. It helps to deal with them, to open up our closet doors and face the skeletons so they have less power over us.

If you ever feel like you can identify with something I say on this blog, feel free to comment on it by clicking on a Comment link.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Giving away my poetry book

Do you know of anyone who could benefit from reading the recovery poems in my book? Would you like to have some extra copies of the book to give away to others?

If so, I would be happy to ship you copies of the book at my cost plus shipping. If you order between $25-100, the publisher will waive the shipping charge.

Feel free to email me if you would like copies of my book at cost. Send email to me at Of course delete the extra two @ symbols before emailing me. We just have to try as many tricks as possible to keep the email spammers away.

Have a nice day!


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Go play, little boy!

One fellow survivor responded to my recovery poetry by emailing me this poem:
Come here, little boy.
Come out of the darkness,
if only for a moment.

I have a secret to say;
You must hear.

They are fools who believe
they can kill you,
just fools
who strut round
with small sticks in their hands.

They are fools who believe
that their voices can kill
and their small feeble hands
can take life from the living--
they fool just themselves.

Now I've told you.
Go play.
Go elsewhere and play in the grass and the wind.
For fools remain fools;
And the grass will be grass
Though the winds beat upon it forever--
Go play.

Copyright (c) 2006 by Anonymous Survivor

Go play! How wise! We who were abused need to learn to play. We need to recover our lost childhood. Listen to the last lines of the poem again:
And the grass will be grass
Though the winds beat upon it forever--
Go play.
Wow! Thank you, friend, for sharing your poem.

Grandfather God

My wife and I had one of those "Ahah!" moments during church this last Sunday. I can't remember what triggered the thought, probably something said by the Bible teacher or minister. In any case, the possibility of thinking of God as a loving grandfather came up. Immediately my heart felt a warmth about using that metaphor. You see, my earthly father abused me. I transferred much of my fear of my father toward God my heavenly father. Of course my brain logically knew the truth, but we don't live just by logic. We often live and relate to others according to emotional patterns we learned through experiences.

Now, for those of you who may be concerned about theology, I'm not at all suggesting that God is a grandfather. God is transcendental, beyond our human abilities to understand him perfectly. So he tries to help us out by picturing himself to us using a variety of metaphors, including father, mother hen protecting her chickens, etc. These metaphors are all verbal clues to help us understand a little better what God is like.

I have no negative feelings when I think of a grandfather. I delight in being a grandfather to our grandchildren. I love them and they love me, both ways are unconditional love. I love to play with them and make them happy. That's the way God is.

Although I have been working at correcting the negative feelings I have transferred from abuse from my father to the defective idea that my heavenly father is strict, keeping track of all my mistakes, conditionally loves me, ready to punish me, those negative ideas are still there sometimes. Maybe it will help if I temporarily retrain my emotions and brain by thinking of God as a loving grandfather. When the unconditional love in such a picture becomes anchored into my psyche enough, I can work at transfering those warm feelings toward grandfather to the idea of God as father.

What do you think?

Monday, March 13, 2006

E-text of my poetry book

There is now a less expensive e-text edition of my recovery poetry book available for download. There is even an option for those who cannot afford the $.20 for that download. I'm happy to share the e-text for free if it can benefit someone else.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Leah's Life: More Links

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Depression and poetry

Some of the world's best-known authors, poets, and musicians experienced severe depression. Beethoven experienced depression. So did Martin Luther and the U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln. Sadly, a number of authors, poets, and musicians have committed suicide during depression. My psychiatrist has reminded me that 15% of people with depression commit suicide, and I have read that same statistic elsewhere.

I have also read that's writing, such as journaling or composing poetry, can be a good thing to do during depression. When we are depressed, we are often vulnerable and open to expressing our feelings. Of course, we can also be so overwhelmed by depression that we are not able to think clearly at all, let alone write.

The worst of my depression is largely gone, thanks to the help of my meds and trying to nurture healthier attitudes about myself and life. I journaled quite a bit during the worst of my depression. Those were very difficult days, but I got a lot of poison out of my soul and onto paper. It doesn't need to be read by anyone else. Some days I could compose some poetry about my feelings. Some of that can be shared with others.

I'd like to encourage others who are experiencing some depression to write. As I was told, just write. If you have writer's block or feel that the depression is keeping you from thinking very clearly, write anyway. I did that and it was interesting what came out of my pen--I suppose now it might come out of my computer keyboard. There was a lot of honesty, a lot of exposing feelings that I had not allowed myself in the past to be aware of.

Some of our most creative times can come when we are depressed. I wouldn't wish depression on anyone. I sure don't want to return to those dark days myself. But I do encourage anyone to write, if they can, when they are depressed. Sometimes something good can come out of it, both in terms of content that is produced and what the process can do positively for us and our depression.

God's Tears

The storm clouds
approach and
engulf me
darkening my world.
Then the raindrops fall
from heaven.
God must be crying
with me.

Copyright © 1993 by Al Johnson

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


The wind blows,
Making big waves,
upon the shore.

Fist blows,
Make heart caves,

Wind blows
Move on
And die.

Fist blows
Will they ever die?

Copyright © 1993 by Al Johnson,
from my poetry book, Writing the Wrongs

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Depression and Spiritual Healing

A year ago there was a post at ... in the outer blog on Depression and Spiritual Healing. I consider the suggestions good. However, I would caution readers of that post to be very, very careful about going off your meds. That blogger felt he needed to for financial reasons. I know about that since my antidepressant is quite expensive. But it's keeping me alive, quite literally. Always consult your psychiatrist or other prescribing doctor if you are thinking of reducing the dosage of your antidepressant or going off it entirely. Too many people try to manage their antidepressant by themselves. But that can be dangerous.