This is a favourite poem of mine, not least because it is autobiographical. I wrote in the early stages of recovery from a severe nervous breakdown some 30+ years ago. As I read it again, I am reminded of that terrible period in my life and how, eventually, I came through it, discovering along the way that there is very little help or sympathy out there for people with mental health problems. Years on, feedback on this poem and others I have written about depression suggest to me that little has changed in that respect.
Now, as regular readers know, I am not a religious person, but have always thought of myself as having a strong sense of spirituality, only I take it from nature not religion. Having been wracked with mental health problems all my life, I could not have risen above them without it.
THE LONGEST DAY or REUNITED WITH HOPE
Knocking on doors, nobody there…
Called on the phone, no replies…
Tried the local surgery (come back
in three days) and, sorry the Samaritans
are busy; went to church in desperation,
but - closed for restoration; found
a priest for advice (a kindly man) but
if I didn’t mind, he had a Bible class
Even stopped people in the street…
Did no-one care, and where was God?
Glanced at the sun as a huge cloud
passed over, saw people run for cover
(what’s the use?). Walked on and on,
no pride or purpose; mile after mile…
Darkness couldn’t come too soon.
Glanced at the moon – and something
in the Old Man’s smile made me feel
Lit a candle in my soul that led me home
Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2014
[Note: Slightly revised from the original that was first published in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; subsequently, in an anthology, Fragments of Faith, Triumph House [Forward Press] 2002 and also read on Poetry Please, BBC Radio 4, 2005.