Only Pain

Only Pain

'It's only pain,'
she says, appearing
to shrug,

almost hiding
her rigid back,
her drawn white face,
tight mouth.

The truth is, 
she is afraid
of what is worse
than this.

She fears 
it comes soon:
her death.

And that dying
will lacerate her
with pain even more
shriekingly extreme.

She's practising
how to hold
upright back, calm face
against collapse,

against the screams
she won't allow
being heard.

(A fictional character, compounded of various people observed over the years.)

Sharing this poem at Poets United's Poetry Pantry #435


  1. I can see that guarding against the pain, for fear it will increase. Well penned, Rosemary.

  2. Very strong images here, Rosemary. Sometimes one doesn't really want to come to terms with what lies ahead. It is better, perhaps, to just live each day as it comes.

  3. Sometimes the denial is necessary to continue... just so it doesn't become unbearable. She feels so alone if having a friend around might help!

  4. To stay in between that fear and that holding back is so difficult. Well put.

  5. this reminded me too of the times when the pain is a foretaste of birth - a profoundly stark picture etched deep
    (it is the anniversary of my father's death too but opiates spared him the worst)

  6. Sometimes denial is the only way to survive the pain that threatens to destroy us. Lovely write, Rosemary!💞

  7. I could feel the fear of having to live with pain day after day throughout the poem. This described my sweet dad perfectly in his final days.

  8. A practiced face can get us farther along in this world than one that betrays everything.

  9. I have met this character a few times in my life. I've been impressed, despite myself, at the privacy of pain in favor of a gracefully extended life. Well captured.

  10. Fear can be crippling , I think many try to suppress it hoping for better days.

  11. We do what we can...getting older ain't for the faint of heart.

  12. Sometimes the only way to alleviate pain, depending on where it is, is to scream in a wide open space where no one can hear you. Failing that, squeeze the hand of partner or friend! Holding it in just makes it worse.

  13. One must do what one must, in order to survive. Every now and again the doing takes a lot out of a body and soul. Too much, even. One can only hope she survives the rehearsal.

  14. well written. I get it ...many characters~ one stream of thought; as I understood

  15. I think we all have that denial within us- a preservation tool to cope.Well done!

  16. At first I though this was about domestic abuse, the way the first couple of stanzas read. It is hard to be stoic in the face of such pain.

  17. I much appreciate all the comments. The poem doesn't spell it out, but in many cases I have observed that the refusal to fully express such pain is so as to minimise the distress of loved ones.

  18. A powerful, emotive piece written with an insight that really speaks to that visceral angst of human existence - that is: the inevitability of our death. Virtually all of the loved ones that I have been with, as their death approached, were in some sort of denial (making remarks about the future and such). And yes, I think that, on one level they were trying to minimise the distress of loved ones, but I also felt (at the time) that is was a defense mechanism to mitigate their own fears.

  19. She has come to life for me. I want to comfort her.

  20. I found this very interesting and thought provoking.Endurance is an essential part of life. Some of us are trained to be troopers as soon as we leave the womb.Others have a low threshold for pain and struggle The concept of pain is a very complicated issue and can be discussed at many levels....physical pain vs mental pain etc.Thoughts of mortality are experienced by everyone after a certain age. We are born alone. We die alone. The aloneness is a hard one to face. It is a little easier if one has a genuine belief in an extra dimensional force (GOD) Human affection/ love is a comfort but it does not fill the existential void.I will ponder on this a bit...have read it a few times already but now I must go and marinate my olives. Now you can see why I am not a good theologian:)

  21. Ouch, well captured. I have seen this over the years too. Like you said, many hold this bravely for their loved ones.

  22. Although there is fear and pain, the strength to continue is there.


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