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Penrose Waltz


I wrote this during Unspoken Ink earlier this year. It has not been edited- I believe there is a certain quality about something that just emerges from a few minutes of unadulterated writing. I’ve been thinking a lot on the process of getting healthy and becoming happy and content- and this piece floated back to my mind today. I feel like I am constantly shifting full spheres of grieving, celebration, growing, breaking, healing, breaking again, crying, laughing, sadness and grieving and laughing. It is a cycle, but not one that makes any logical sense.

Well first off, it doesn’t go:

Grieving, Healing, Growing.

like it was a staircase;

each step just needing to be climbed; easy

as eating cake on the porch while the summer gives way

to Fall. No,


It’s all over the god damn place

like a tantrum of a five-year-old

stronger than it was at two,

still unable to be consoled.


If it resembled a staircase

it could only be the Penrose steps

going on an on forever amen

and once more now:

when you’ve reached the top, at last!

You’re at the bottom again

and tired as hell.


No, it’s more like the cycle of water

merging between states of being

over and over forever amen.


First you’re Liquid

then something burns you so bad you turn Mist

and ascend to join the other clouds and it’s

cool and warm rubbing noses up there until

there’s too much of all of us until

we gather up our two oxygens and

plummet to earth again.


There is no one way to be.

There is no one form to take;

because once you’re down here (again)

you might travel the full body of a mammal

then wash the wings of a bird

then reflect the baby face of Narcissus

then harden for a season

waiting, breathless,

to do it all over again.


So, no, it’s not 1, 2, 3.

It’s the waltz. but all fucked up.

1 2 3 – 1 2 1 – 1 1 1 – 3 2 1 – 1 3 1

the Penrose waltz:

dancing forever, making tiny strides

here and back, up and down, grief and victory

again and

again and



To read more of the posts from our Unspoken Ink: Young Adult Cancer Creative Writing Group, go here.