R. H. Swaney brings a depolarizing voice to the poetry world with this debut collection. Amongst the topics of mental health, self-love, and social progress, readers will find a soft but powerful voice that uncovers the beauty that exists inside of all of us. Examining life and its circle from seed to withering to regrowth, the thought-provoking nature of this collection will bring readers to a place of self-exploration, reflection, and a deeper understanding of their place in the world.
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|Publisher:||Central Avenue Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The peaceful places in our heads we yearn to exist in are where we find the seeds of our becoming.
I wish we could talk about our hearts like we talk about the weather, because whether or not we are okay is more important than the chance of rain.
The condition of our brains is more important than the amount of snow, more important than the direction the wind blows.
Imagine, for a minute, a severe-weather warning system for the storms in our heads. It tells us when clouds are forming above each other, allowing us to be there at the first flash of lightning and crack of thunder.
There is no shame in seeing a therapist to empty the contents of your brain to analyze the pieces more closely.
Keep the appointments.
Keep pursuing the sanity you deserve.
THE VOICES IN OUR HEADS
I see you whisper to yourself.
I watch you softly move your mouth when no one else is around as if you are singing a psalm.
You walk the same road every single day to the same bench where you pass the time.
Some days when I see you walking and hear you loudly talking,
I'd like to believe that you are scolding the demons that haunt your delicate mind.
Other days I feel a peace resonate from your bones.
I know there are wars waging in your head,
but your outer self maintains a sense of calm.
Don't we all talk to ourselves?
Yet, we choose to keep it inside.
We all have those wars,
just some of us deal with them differently.
What matters most is that we all keep breathing,
for our breath is the outcome of our will to keep living.
Isn't there victory here? I believe there is.
WAITING FOR THE STORM TO PASS, TOGETHER
If you want to curl up in a ball and lie on the kitchen floor,
I'll curl up next to you 'til you don't feel that way anymore.
Don't apologize for being sad.
You can't help what happens inside your own head.
If you want to spend the day just lying in bed, I'll lie next to you 'til you're happy again.
FEEBLE ADVICE FROM WELL-INTENTIONED FRIENDS
You cannot run from what is haunting you if what plagues you comes from within.
It hurts when they tell you to just relax,
because you know your brain doesn't work that way.
You wouldn't tell the tree to be like the flower,
or the flower to be like the tree.
So why do they think it's that easy?
— I apologize for the ones who have minimized your pain.
WHAT WE SEE BEFORE WE SLEEP
We find serenity in our rooms away from the noise of the news and social events that give us anxiety.
We are able to get away from everything,
everything except ourselves.
I am reminded of this as I lie in bed at night,
haunted by the cracks in the ceiling as they slither like serpents towards my head.
You knocked the vase off the counter just to watch something so beautiful shatter into a thousand pieces.
You could relate, because it happened to you.
A POST-IT NOTE ON MY DESK
Your mental illness is not a burden.
Your anxiety is not an inconvenience.
Never forget, we're all in this together.
THE QUIET BEFORE THE THUNDER
There is a moment between the freeing feeling of easy breathing and the overwhelming weight that settles on your chest when the anxiety hits.
I call this "the calm before the storm,"
a reminder of what it'll feel like when the clouds clear.
THE BROKEN RECORD OF FRIENDS WHO DON'T UNDERSTAND
When we are hurting, don't let anyone tell us we need to get over it.
They need to get over the idea that someone else's pain is an inconvenience to them.
Telling someone to get over it is like telling the stars not to shine, the moon not to come out at night, or the sun not to share its warmth.
It's just not possible to flip a switch that does not exist.
We'll move on when we're ready, not when you are tired of listening to our struggles.
When we are broken, we don't just tear ourselves down completely and start over. We leave the beautiful pieces as the foundation and revitalize around them.
The structure of who we are remains. We just mend the holes and reinforce the walls. We add paint and give ourselves a new purpose. We don't erase our history,
rather, we use it to learn and grow.
The distorted reflection of my face in the rain puddle I just stepped in is a reminder of what I see when I look in the mirror those mornings I don't quite feel myself.
I must remember,
the ripple will always dissipate into clarity.
Take a moment to realize that your breath is the very difference between life and death.
So inhale, exhale, and be in awe of how you save yourself every time you breathe in.
BAREFOOT AND CAREFREE
The current pulls us in any direction it pleases.
We grow scared as the waves approach ferociously.
But as they find their way to the shore, they peacefully wash the feet of those who walk barefoot on the beach.
It's as if they understand the fragility of our souls.
There is hope to be found here.
MY BROKEN PARTS
I was a sidewalk full of broken cement, overgrown with weeds, and dimly lit at night.
You were the soul brave enough to travel my brokenness.
Sometimes, the bravest thing you'll do in a day is get out of bed, and that is still worth rejoicing over.
A DAY IN MY HEAD IS A DAY IN CHAOS
I tried to make a list of every moment I had it all together,
but the page was just as empty as the free time I don't have because my planner is full of monotonous activities I will probably never get to.
Yet, it is okay to be this beautiful mess that I am.
THE DAYS WE FEEL MOST ALONE
Every breath that spills from your lungs is a gift to yourself and the ones that you love.
You add value to this world.
My plea to you: never give up.
When you are drowning in pain, struggling to stay afloat,
there are hands extended towards you from people who love you more than you know.
Never stop reaching.
You'll either pull yourself up, or get pulled up.
Either is triumph.
EVERY BREATH IS A VICTORY
Even when the hurt keeps you in bed, remember your breath and the victory in the rise and fall of your chest.
There is an ocean in my chest. My lungs rise and fall, as waves crash around my heart. And guess what: I never learned how to swim.
You might see me as a nearly invisible passerby, the person who sits quietly at your favorite coffee shop and keeps to himself.
Most mistake my quiet demeanor, always-nice-to-others
outer shell, for someone who has it together.
You might see some sense of peace, but I am in danger of drowning.
At an early age, I learned to doggy paddle to stay afloat.
I was told,
"Keep it inside, kid, no one else can know about the things you think about that keep you up at night."
At an early age, I learned that talking about my feelings was a sign of weakness.
I learned that boys aren't supposed to cry. So I kept the tears inside until they became an ocean.
And for the past ten years, I've barely been afloat.
I desperately reach for every piece of driftwood I can find.
I eventually realized that there's got to be something more than this life of drowning.
I began to let myself feel.
Slowly, the years of being told talking about my feelings was not okay spill out of my chest.
Every tear, the water lowers.
And as the fear of speaking out about the thoughts in my head leaves me, so does this ocean that has kept me under.
The water spills out, my feet touch the bottom, and for the first time in my life, I am free of the stigma of mental illness.
We must find the most fertile soil and lose ourselves in all the nourishment it has to offer.
IF WE WERE TREES
Let the shame you feel about your brain being ill fall from your limbs like the leaves fall from the trees.
Let your branches be free from the weight of self-hate.
The only way to grow is to shed yourself of the old.
Spring always comes.
FLIPPING THROUGH PHOTOS WITH GRANDMA
I remember going through newly developed photographs with my grandma.
We'd find humor in the ones where my grandpa's finger would disrupt the composition,
most of which would get tossed.
I wish our thoughts were more like these photographs.
The ones that we like most end up in frames upon our mantels, and the ones that give us pain get thrown away and forgotten forever.
THE MUSIC OF OUR DANCING RIBS
You are worthy of the breath you just took.
So take in another, and another, and another, until your lungs are filled and your ribs dance to the music of existence.
The deafening voice in your head proclaiming you aren't good enough can be drowned out by a chorus of everything beautiful and wonderful and extraordinary about you.
I will forever sing,
"You are infinitely lovely."
WHAT WE WEREN'T TAUGHT AS KIDS
It's okay to cry. Every tear is a river gracefully flowing through the pain, taking your heart to a place it can finally rest.
Sometimes I feel unwanted,
like the mud beneath one's shoe.
When in reality, I am like the soil where beautiful flowers bloom.
BREAKING THE CURSE
You carry the pain from your childhood like an old habit you just can't shake.
But you aren't defined by what your parents did.
So take a moment to close your eyes and let the weight from your family of origin waterfall to the ground and wash your tired feet.
I pray you find peace and become free.
THE HANDS OF A CLOCK
Time is a road that runs between the moment of pain and the closure that comes.
The beauty concerning time is that it always moves forward,
lessening the distance to the peace that was stolen away.
Every step forward you take on this road is a victory.
I like to think about seeds and how they end up where they please, growing into wildflowers with their vibrant colors and free spirits. I like to think about the trees in the distance and the grass that dances in the wind like soft ocean waves. I like to think about how we are just as much a part of it all.
Serenity can only exist in our heads when we let go of the hate we have towards ourselves.
We tend to overwhelm our brains with expectations we simply can't attain.
Letting go, although difficult, is the seed that will grow into the serenity we deserve.
THE BOOKS AT A GARAGE SALE
We are like books,
torn and tattered.
With stories unfinished,
our ending awaits.
But like books, all that matters is the chapters and verses and the words they say.
WORDS WRITTEN ON THE BEACH
The hateful words spoken into the sand of your heart will be washed away by waves of love and grace.
It's okay to rest and take care of the heart in your own chest.
We must first care for ourselves before we can care for others.
So open your ribs and dig,
until you find the beating heart you forgot was there.
Loving yourself is not selfish.
When you do,
happiness fills your bones until it overflows,
touching everyone around you.
A WILDFLOWER, ALONE
When you feel invisible, remember that the wildflower that blooms deep in the field, unseen and shyly swaying in the wind, is beautiful.
THE EBB AND FLOW OF FRIENDSHIP
Everyone leaves when you need them to stay.
Everyone stays when you need them to leave.
Loving yourself is the consistency you seek,
since the only constant that exists is you.
LET IT BE
Healing will come when we stop picking at our wounds with shame and guilt.
THE SUN SPEAKS WITH LOVE
Looming self-doubt clouds the sunrise we are gifted with every single morning.
We tend to forget it's there,
as if we think we don't deserve it.
But, you can only take in the sunrise if you open your eyes long enough to let your mind imprint the picture on your heart.
Still, the sun comes alive hoping to remind you you are worthy of its everlasting warmth.
So open your eyes, even if you're scared, and take it in one color at a time.
THE MOON BEHIND THE CLOUDS
Even when the clouds shield our eyes from the stars,
they still shine on.
Even when our negative thoughts hide our hearts from the loveliness that we hold,
we still emanate beauty.
Even when we can't see the light,
it is always there waiting.
WHATEVER YOU NEED TO BE
You are a red flower in the midst of yellow ones. Or a yellow flower in the midst of red ones. Or a rogue sunflower alone in a field. Or a dandelion dancing in someone's backyard.
Never forget, you are uniquely and wonderfully made.
Shame is the most crushing of emotions that bury us at such a young age.
We spend the rest of our lives digging ourselves out of this pit.
What would this world look like if we taught our children to esteem themselves?
Oh, how it would be glorious.
THE SOUL, AN ATLAS
I unraveled my veins and found a map so intricate.
The center of it all is a heart so delicate.
Every heartbeat is a journey so incredibly elaborate.
Don't you see?
Every single one of us has a world inside ourselves worthy of our attention and love.
THE COLORS ON A CANVAS
To be vulnerable is to pry open our ribs and show the scars on our hearts, all while they still beat.
Despite the scars, our hearts still sing.
To be vulnerable is to show this world there is such a thing as victory over pain.
AN ATTEMPT TO REWRITE HISTORY
Somewhere between our first breaths and now, we learned how to hate ourselves.
I've been retracing my steps trying to find the origin of such a travesty.
You feel so small compared to the world. Yet, you are seen as infinitely valuable in the eyes of the ones around you.
Never forget, when you see this vast existence and become overwhelmed, all I see is you and the vastness of everything about you that is lovely. I hope, one day, you can see what I see.
WHILE EATING AN APPLE
The bruised fruit from our tired labors, although imperfect,
still tastes sweet.
THE SMELL AFTER IT RAINS
I fell asleep to the sound of raindrops on the windows. The soft tapping brought me peace.
I awoke to find a pleasant scent waiting at my doorstep, an aroma that greeted me lovingly.
I am reminded that inside of all of us is a strength like a storm and a gentleness like petrichor.
MORNING BREATHING EXERCISES
Breathe in the beauty that you see when you look in the mirror.
Breathe out the lies this world has told you about how one should look.
THE SWEET SOUND OF HARMONY
I've been writing poems about the things I fear most to get them off my chest so I can burn the pages and watch the flames swallow up the pain before I rewrite the story.
I learned that if we embrace the mistakes we make they become a canvas easily painted over with vibrant colors in a way that tells a story of grace.
You see, we're all in this together.
Our beating hearts should be enough common ground to love your neighbor and engage in community. So let's sing along with life's melody feeling free to sing differently, our voices blending into harmony.
As we grow, we realize a new perspective:
we're called to leave this place better than we found it.
We'll pick up the pieces and cherish them because it's where we came from.
You know, it's the story behind the scars that shapes us, not the pain we felt when they were made that allows us to keep breathing, and stay afloat in the stormy waters that we go through some days.
And when we see our brothers and sisters sinking, no matter how heavy the anchor, we'll reach for their hands until we've got them in our grasp and never let go.
And when we pull them to the shore, we will sing, and dance, and breathe in the sweet air we've been longing for.
We're all in this together.
Excerpted from "Lovely Seeds"
Copyright © 2018 R.H. Swaney.
Excerpted by permission of Central Avenue Marketing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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