John Hewitt approached us recently asking if we could share some of his work. He has experienced mental health challenges and found that poetry has helped him express, explore and overcome some of the struggles involved.

John is hopeful that sharing his poetry will connect with and help others who face similar challenges.

I was born in Exeter, UK and have lived in North America, Costa Rica and the Middle East. I’ve worked in many fields from animal rescue to teaching flamenco guitar and spent time in Jordan studying classical Arabic.

My journey has taken me from film sets to sleeping rough on London’s park benches. Early in life I suffered my first mental breakdown and was briefly hospitalised at the age of 18. In my late forties I was eventually diagnosed with a Personality Disorder; a label which no longer defines me.

Throughout my life I knew that the blank page was counsellor, therapist and exorcist and it has been the ravages of the human condition and struggles with mental health that have reduced/uplifted me to write poetry.

John

You can find John’s poetry books here on Amazon


Alchemy

I fell for
what seemed
a thousand years;
my clothes torn
by thorn
and thistle
as I plunged into darkness.

My wings had
already snapped
and my faithless form
turned from gold into lead
as gravity grasped me by the throat.

To land in pain
was inevitable;
though the physical sensation was nothing
compared to that
cold, searing
sense of separation.

Here
I could not hear,
I could not see,
I could not speak.
Sound moved the air
and ripples of flesh
stirred the space;
but each box kept to itself.

In these days
my tooth and claw
grew in time
to the beat of the passing moments;
yet the more I lashed out
the greater the wound
and the deeper the gulf;
soon the lead armour
brought me to my knees,
and I could fight no more.

I sat with wings of leathery scale
and drank my coffee
and dreamt of caves.
I sat and supped
and snarled at life
and then before me sat a stranger.

He smiled,
I scowled;
he blinked,
I glared;
he offered his hand,
I clenched my fist…….
and sighed.

My enemy at the gate
was as bound as myself;
what joy could come of more pain;
what chance in hell
if I offered yet more fire;
what would change
if I offered the same
as I had done so
these past milleniums.

It was weariness
that offered compassion,
not I;
yet this compassion filled the room
and saved us both.
I saw my enemy as myself
and dropped in awe at
the simple miracle
that came wrapped in a fist
and yet was divinely offered
in an open hand.

Suddenly,
for the first time since the gulf,
I communicated.

Flakes of lead
lifted
like autumn leaves in a caressing wind
and
I
could
feel!

I knew then
that I had not fallen far,
that I had not fallen at all,
and that my darkness
was but a veil,
a shroud,
that covered my eyes
blocked out my heart
and condemned us both.
This I could never have known
had I not moved a millimetre;
had I not have reached out
a hairs length.

And here,
in hell,
I discovered,
through the recognition
of my companion,
that I was not in hell at all
and that I had never left home.

My lead dissolved
and my throat cleared
and I could speak
once more;
and hear
once more;
and see,
with new eyes,
the glimmer of gold.


The Box

I saw a man today,
about a new place to live;
a box carved in space,
in a pinch out of time;
far the heart
of a city and a loved one.

I bought a cheap croissant,
served by a girl
who refused to make eye-contact,
with a hand in a pocket;
as I fumbled for change
and she fumbled for purpose.

Searching for a bed
when you’re already tired;o
the leaves coat the streets
with an autumnal shroud,
and the unforgiving grey
holds a grip on your mind.

Back in misfit café
I talk with the wounded,
full of emotional shrapnel
from the front-line of life;
I write songs of lamentation
and Odes to the rain.

We all keep a bullet,
the one with our name on,
to keep us all focused;
and just for that moment
when the velvet encroaches
and the light starts to dim.

So, I dissolve into paper,
writing between lines,
so the meaning is clearer
to those that would read it:
this message in a bottle
cast into an off-season ocean.

Oh, my dear reader,
if you are touched by the heavens
treat it as fragile as a baby’s breath;
for love is too delicate
in the hands of a madman
whose strength overwhelmed,
yet kept him alive.


Northernhay Place

In Northernhay Place
I laid my head,
on concrete ground
while workers watched
and a kettle boiled
in a faraway house
while Opera played.

Tired of life
and full of lead
the gravity pulled me
to the floor
and there I rested
with flashing lights
and one man who cared.

And there in a room
without a soul
a scalpel-cupboard
with keys attached
and then I slashed
and squeezed in vain
a tired vein to end the dark.

And soon they came
to shake a head
and wonder why
I could be so cruel
to cause them pain,
while there I laid
in bandaged dread.

Then in a room
with death-wash walls
I emptied a life
in buckets of tears
and lay awake
till darkness came
to shroud my heart.

And out again,
no questions asked,
and life resumes
with Dickens and tea,
and how I trembled
in hopeless dread
to carry on a phantom life.

Faraway cults
and broken necks,
these pages added
to the book of the dead;
though desert and jungle
filled my vision
along it came, collapse again.

But now I walk
in this ancient park,
with shadow-thoughts
that know my name
but my arms outstretched
to pick myself up,
from Northernhay Place.

Pickup they self and walk.


Empty Hut

A cold corner of a cold room,
a young face fixed on the seam,
where wall meets wall;
the heart gets cold.

Stumbling for meaning on crowded streets,
watching suits and ipads make a world,
I try in vain to edge in,
but all I leave is a chalk outline.

The effort is revealed by scars and fatigue,
and now I cannot but sit,
on an empty bench,
where all is lost;

but all is found.

Emptiness:
the loss reveals what is real,
the emptiness, what is solid,
and I breathe in a cold new day.

Gutted,
empty,
but full with grace,
I walk on.

The hut of my life
has been truly gutted
and now it sits empty,
and you are welcome.

With attachments loosened
and the softening grip,
I walk on beaches,
through jungle,
across deserts
and over mountains.

Ravens still follow,
yet demons gone;
wolves still howl,
yet fear is absent.

I can light my sage
and pierce darkness with a flame,
and the beacons will relight
with upon the return.

This empty hut,
this palace,
this mansion of the mind,
where winter echoes,
autumn shrouds,
summer glistens
and spring washes.

Be empty.


Become The Peace You Seek

In a split second
they know everything about you;
48 years
reduced to
5 minutes.

Yet in that split second
comes a wave of compassion;
they just don’t care
how you arrived,
only that you’re here.

These are fragrant lessons
of mindfulness;
just show up,
be here now
and offer the day.

I no longer seize the day,
rather, it is offered;
otherwise all becomes infused
with time
and clothed in space.

And in these fragrant moments
one need not let-go,
for there is no
holding-on.

Last night I saw bats and foxes.
They have their sanctuaries,
and yet the son of man
has no place
to rest his head.

Yet the mind
is perfectly at rest;
just don’t worry about the head,
it’ll follow.
Where else is it going?

Funny, when I was a kid
I would always want to go over
and hug a guy eating by himself.
Ha, I’m now that guy!
(pauses for self-hug.)

So if you feel despair,
give,
GIVE with every fibre
of your being!

become the love you seek,
demonstrate the peace you desire
and know that
RIGHT NOW
you have everything
you need to come to know this.


The Amputees

They huddle in boxes
of space and time
and they walk in shadow;
bobbing and weaving between
iphones and clipboards;
trying to get home,
if only they could remember.

They become lost in crowds
of decision-makers,
relationship-breakers,
and childhood-takers,
and they limp through
the malls
and the hallways;
desperate to find meaning
hidden in the cave wall paintings.

They are bumped into,
unnoticed,
not because they are false,
but because they are true;
yet everyone knows the bite of reality
between the street-preachers,
the billboards
and sex on the street;
but the amputees actually feel it.

At best they are judged,
at worse they are forgotten;
yet their lives
are full and rich
and packed with stories
of mythical kingdoms
where people fly
and school is out
not just for summer.

They do have their limbs
—well, most of them do—
but they limp on the inside;
a dislocated mind,
a fractured soul,
an amputated spirit.

This is the worst pain,
for there is no
plaster of paris for these wounds;
and they would have loved
to have climbed everest,
if only someone would give them
a leg up.

It’s so easy to be told to
‘shake it off’;
‘let it go’;
‘man up’;
‘calm down’.

Yet the coal they hold
burns as hot as when it
was first ignited
so many lifetimes ago;
so many childhoods back;
so many steps behind.

They can’t paint the pain,
they can’t write about the wrong,
they can’t sculpt the sadness;
for there are not enough oils,
enough ink,
enough clay,
in all of the boxes
that they open
as they try
to suture their gaping wounds.

But they try,
and a little pressure is relieved
and another demon is exorcised;
but right now,
their biggest prize
would simply be to know that
it’s not too late.

If you meet an amputee,
be kind;
drop your judgement
and think of a time
when you once danced with dragons
or sang to the moon.
We still remember these times,
vividly;
so buy them a coffee,
read their poems,
see their art;
feel their sculptures
and give them a call.
And know that they are holding
secrets that few could handle;

for they are, indeed,
some of the bravest
you will meet.

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