Category Archives: Nancy Rankie Shelton

September 25 – Mind Games

by Nancy Rankie Shelton

Thoughts jump into my brain
running around and around
bad ones trampling
good ones
good ones, hopeful ones,
try to grab unwanted invaders
in tight double-fisted clutches
to shove them back out of bounds.

The frantic race, the struggle
becomes so disturbing
the only way
to calm the panic
is to force
other, stronger thoughts
into the overcrowded boxing ring
my mind has become.

So I listen to audio books
blare my music
binge on Netflix TV shows
season after season in one sitting.
I plaster cracks
in the walls and
slather paint
over the repairs.

And I run.
First two miles, then four, then six, now ten.
I swim, thirty minutes at a time,
totally exhausting myself
so that when I come home
my mind will let me
read a book while
I soak in my hot bathtub.

It’s the end of September,
the end of summer,
more than three years after
Jack died.
I’m adding another hobby
designed to
overpower my brain.
I’m cycling.

My first outing with John
was twenty miles.
My second with Nick
was ten.
My next will be
with just me
to see how far I need to go
to completely exhaust myself.

All this running and swimming and cycling
has changed the way I look
to my friends.
I’m told I look great
better than I’ve looked in years.
My mirror
utters no such
lie.

My mirror reveals
increased and deepened lines
that disfigure my neck
and frame my eyes.
Skin sagging from my biceps
mark me old and tired.
Age spots tell more truth
than my friends.

And the thoughts,
good ones and bad,
keep jumping into my mind.
The battle rages
as I try to hold
onto an old self
an old life that slips away,
piece by piece.

Piece by piece I’m losing
Jack, my memory,
his belongings,
things shared
are fading and disappearing.
In tight, double-fisted clutches
I try to protect them, keeping them
in bounds, in my mind.

NShelton

Nancy Rankie Shelton is a Literacy Professor at UMBC. She’s an avid reader and writer. Most of her publications are in literacy education and politics, but her first non-academic publication will be released this fall. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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