Life, Well Lived, Will Weep

My eyes still filled with unshed tears,
I face the path where darkness crept
Before me, taking everything
I once held dear and stripping from
Me joy’s frail wings.

Death stalks after. Stillness follows
All of Life’s unceasing chatter;
If I win still I shall lose.
Life’s failures are but little deaths
That slink before.

Where once I flew now I must walk
And stumble over stones and roots;
Taste dust and ashes on my tongue
And bleed as failure’s weight
Drives me to ground.

Wait. Knowing that I too must die
And fall at last beyond the reach
Of light and love and laughter I
Become unburdened: I become
Life’s renegade.

I who have nothing left to lose
Must now have everything to gain
And driven down must now burst free,
And take from Life what Life won’t give:
I own my soul.

Life’s a miser; death’s a thief that
Steals Life’s bread when darkness falls.
I’ll shame the thief; I will not weep
But, head high, stand and fight and bleed.
I will not call death friend; I will not
Embrace the empty, silent night—
And when I lose, as I must lose—

With neck unbowed and back unbent,
I’ll run the path where darkness creeps
And scream and shout and pound the walls
And death will cringe to hear me come—
And Life, well-lived,

Will weep.

from Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood, Copyright © 1997

You’ll find Life, Well Lived, Will Weep in Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood

I wrote this poem at the turn-around from a serious low point in my life — in fact, writing the poem marked the turn-around. Within a period of seven months, from August of 1994 to April 1995, I’d found out that the kids’ father, my ex, had been abusing them on his weekends and I’d moved them away from the town where they were born, only to have my marriage to my second husband crash after he and I had bought a house. I moved away from him and the house, taking the kids, the cats, and the computer, and losing most everything else we owned in the process — and to top it all off, my parents walked out of my life. I was broke, I was scared, and I hit bottom, wallowing in depression and serious self-pity.

And then the basic themes of this poem came to me, and I wrote them down, and printed the poem out and taped it to the wall beside my computer, and said “To hell with this. I’m fighting.” I read the poem out loud to myself before I wrote every day, sometimes going over the last two verses a couple of times. And I wrote or co-wrote four books in the period of the year that followed that, and with Matt’s support dug myself part of the way out of the hole I was in, and my kids and I started rebuilding our lives.

One of the books I wrote in that period was Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood, and I gave the poem to Badger to write about Cadence Drake, the protagonist. I’d hoped someone else might find courage in it.

And it’s posted here for the same reason.

2 comments… add one
  • Crystina Jan 30, 2020 @ 16:13

    I’d always wondered if you had written the poem and then added it to the novel, or if you wrote it for Badger. I just shared this with a friend and wondered and thanks to Google found this – thanks for the explanation. Glad you pulled out of the dark place and thank you for all of the wonderful books. Huge fan for years.

    Oh, and I’ve had this poem hanging on my office wall for years as inspiration to keep fighting – the only writing I have up.

    • Holly Lisle Apr 28, 2020 @ 10:15

      I am truly, deeply grateful that it helped, and that it meant and means something to you.

      Until we moved to Ohio about six months ago, I had my packing-tape-laminated original print-out pinned to my bookshelf to the right of my computer. I read it from time to time, not just to remember where I’d been, but to remember what I had to do to get out.

      I currently can’t find it. There’s still a lot of stuff we haven’t unpacked, because basements are AWESOME.

      But I do need to dig around and pull it back out. Put it on the desk. It helps from time to time to remind me of the price I had to pay to get where I am right now. This is a good place. It was worth that fight, and worth knowing that pain so that I don’t forget to appreciate joy in the moments I have it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.