faces in the room


slippery as an eel, pain
slides into the crevices of the soul
while no one is looking —

we’re too consumed with life,
light, and love to notice.
it introduces itself surreptitiously
demurely, feigning politeness,
yet entering unbidden into every
inner space it finds. 

without announcement
it shows its face brazenly in

the classroom, the cloakroom,
the dorm room, the locker room.

we expect it in
the emergency room

the recovery room,
the hospital room;

even the birthing room
is no sheltered space,

as birth cannot survive without
some element of death.

but can we see it in
the boardroom, the situation room,

the courtroom, the green room,
the ballroom, the bedroom,
the club room, the playroom? 

it gains entry without media
pass, security clearance, or

fingerprint identification. 

it simply is. 

we can armor up,
power up, ban it,
subdue it, belittle it,

even try to
hide it. 

but this will be an all consuming fight;
one which has an assured outcome.
we cannot conquer pain, cannot
win against it, cannot
eradicate nor deny it. 

it simply is. 

must pain be feared, avoided,
circumvented regardless the cost?
must we cower in a corner

when its draped features appear
in our room, at our

 or can we pull back the veil,
study the contours of its
shape, tracing its wrinkles,
its jagged edges, its jarring
lessons laced with venom? 

can pain have another face other than
the one we hurriedly dismiss, deny,
numb, disregard as deadly?

can it be a window into another
realm instead of a bed of nails which

utterly destroys, devouring
those innocent or guilty
in one mammoth swipe? 

can we bear to
offer pain a seat at our table,
resolving to stop denying
our own shadow, no longer

hiding our vulnerabilities, always
pretending to be above the fray?

can we examine pain
like a researcher, dissect it
as we would in a laboratory?
maybe we can dialogue with it

to lessen its grip on our being,
paying heed to its origins,
objectives, feeling its


when we do,
we find we are not consumed
nor minimized,
we can stand tall, even if

we cannot avoid every room
infiltrated by pain any more than
we can participate in life
while holding our breath.

we either
embrace or eschew,
deliberate or disparage,
shrivel in fear
or resolve to rise with
fortitude, gaining
sustenance in life and death.


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2019
Photo Credit: taha ajmi via unsplash.com
Twitter: @J_Pennz

Instagram: @j_penner_zook


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