I Won't Lose Myself

By Mark Tulin

PROMPT—Despite ...

Despite everything, I’m still here

I know because I can hear my breath, feel my pulse, see with human eyes I know I am here because I hurt, painful sometimes, other moments just numb I can walk down a street with flowers, stop and just stare Or I can stumble past the rubble, past a homeless man who speaks in tongues I can talk to a Conservative about Trump and not laugh or get mad Or wallow in my own self-pity about the state of the world, my declining health


Despite everything, I still have a voice, have an open heart that loves I can feel the rich person’s pain as much as the poor going unrecognized I can sense a change in the atmosphere after a loss, feel the heavy pall in the air I am intuitive. My mother passed it along, a curse as well as a skill I know too much after years of being a therapist, withdrawn and introspective I know too little after hiding myself in an office with all of my suffocating books I wish that everyone was fed, that people had money so they wouldn’t worry Perhaps, saying a friendly hello in the morning except ignoring me I wish that sickness was a lie, that people only died of love, getting too much

And not disease, not the bitterness of a hospital bed or alone on an empty street corner


Despite this, I still sing when a Beatles' song comes on, even after they broke up

I dance with the Grateful Dead, despite Jerry Garcia being long gone

I color my imagination with pastels and dark reds, and bitter blues

I admire the soft-spoken, cringe at the loud, undecided about the overly friendly

I watch a boat leave the harbor and a shark returns with half a fin

I stand on dry land, remember my wedding day, and a moment of peace far off somewhere

I take a moment, several moments of cleansing breaths and making sure my ears are clean


To free my sticky mind, I snip off the people who gave the evil eye and keep the gracious No one taught me how to let go, not my parents,

I had to learn to release fears myself

I had a crazy mother, now she’s gone from a nursing home to universal oblivion

My father was a king who was dethroned, a produce man without a single pear to sell

My first wife sang sad songs and morphed into different lives with multiple personalities

I’ve watched so many people lose their minds and hope my daughter isn't one of them

I’ve watched so many people forget their lines and stumble off stage embarrassed

I’ve seen people who cry at the drop of a hat while others are as dry as cadavers


Despite this, I remain fixed, planted, heels dug in at the batter's box of life

The same but different, different but not the same

Holding onto the past like it was a bag of Halloween candy, fully of Zagnuts and Almond Joys

Childhood was my heart center, old age my refuge, death my discovery


Despite walking with a cane, living as an old man, losing my hair and teeth

I remain unchanged. I remain unchanged like a spirit that never dies

Through it all, I am that baby born in April 1955 from my mother’s gooey womb

My father still holds me in his arms and keeps repeating my name

No matter what the world does or what names it calls me out of love or hate

I won’t lose myself. I promise.


Mark Tulin’s books include Magical Yogis, Awkward Grace, The Asthmatic Kids and Other Stories, and Junkyard Souls. He is a Pushcart nominee, and his work appears in Amethyst Review, Strands Publishers, Fiction on the Web, Beatnik Cowboy, Ariel Chart, Dreams in Fiction, Still Point Journal, The Writing Disorder, and others. A poetry publisher compared his writing to the artist, Edward Hopper, on how he grasps unusual aspects of people and their lives. Mark is a retired psychotherapist who lives in Ventura, California with his wife, Alice.