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Poems of Trauma & Transformation

Writing about my experiences... gave me new perspectives and skills. ~ Lisa A. Bertsch
A photo of a butterfly in flight. The butterfly's wings are a metallic teal/blue with lots of fine black lines. The background is a similar bluey green color.

Poet Lisa A. Bertsch regards creative expression as a devotional activity. She sings in The Schola Cantorum of Santa Fe, which specializes in sacred a cappella music and is a certified yoga teacher with training in adaptive and trauma-sensitive yoga. Lisa resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Lisa is author of "Grace Leads, I Follow; Poems of Trauma and Transformation", which houses the collection of the poems above. Visit for more about Lisa. She can be reached by email at

Writing about my experiences gave me new perspectives and subsequently skills that allowed me to approach my life in more conscious, effective ways.

The Calling

The light shines

Hot and mean on my skin.

My eyes dart

Seeking cover-

A comfortable hole

To slink back into

A crevice

To neatly wedge myself within

Where I can become as cool and calcified as inert stone.

Finding no refuge

From this grace

This glory

I quake in the beating light


In its permeating presence

I grow still

Allowing the light to flood my being.

My life as a poet began at the age of twenty-four when I fell fifteen feet through a warehouse floor, sustaining a spinal burst fracture which impinged upon 60% of my spinal cord. Although I required major surgery to stabilize and protect my spinal cord, I was surprisingly lucky. Relatively quickly I would sit up, walk, get back to yoga and over time pick up the pieces of my life and get back to my values, plans, hopes and dreams.

Lost dreams

Lost dreams


And once-treasured things

Lie rusting in the swamp.

Acres of lowlands

Scattered with desires




Deep scent of decay floats on the lazy breeze.

No life left here--

Only shells and skeletons


Slithering with snakes.

Thick slime concealing

The lustrous finish of belongings once residing in the heart

Now banished in anger

Tossed in with the dented and dinge


And old car parts.

A halfhearted drizzle turns to rhythmic sheets of rain

Filling the broken porcelain claw-foot tub perched on the hilltop

Bathed in a solitary beam of light.

Water washing


The enamel returns

Polished by remembrances of these once-treasured things.

Scavenge and hunt

Dust off your lost dreams.

Allow them to rise

From the heaps

And reside in the heart yet again.

Yoga led my recovery as I worked to re-embody not only my physical self, but also every aspect of myself. In this process I began to see that despite my lucky break, ceaseless effort, and tremendous progress the injury would forever affect my daily life. I would continually work to balance energy, health, work, socialization, relationships, and not to mention my internal experience. I struggled more than I anticipated in my youthful optimism.

Mountain Prayer

O mountain, what am I to do?

Why do you just stand there while my heart breaks?

Don't you feel the tremors as I do?

Is there no sympathy within you for my human frailty?

In your presence I feel translucent.

I've come to you for solac

But you don't see me here, kneeling in my smallness.

The sunlight washes me away.

Over time I worked to digest this reality, figure out how to work with it as productively as possible and manage the cacophony of thoughts, emotions, sensations, and unknowns I faced. My reality had been turned upside down. I was uprooted. It was completely devastating and unexpectedly freeing. In the face of this hardship came immeasurable joys and poetry rose within me.

The Crack in Reality

So sure of what is real--

Blue is blue

And land is firm--

We build walls

With definitions and names

Obscuring the horizon

The fertile beyond

The place of our inception and destiny.

Find the crack in reality

The exception

The definition that defies known laws

Where yellow is blue

And land is light as air.

I began to collect words and phrases that came to me. When they emerged they felt powerful and effortless, eventually becoming poems. Writing about my experiences gave me new perspectives and subsequently skills that allowed me to approach my life in more conscious, effective ways. In putting experiences that I thought were very specific to me into words, I saw that they were universal experiences that knit me tightly in humanity's story at a time when I felt very separated.

Additionally, I began to notice that when I converted strictly physical sensations into words they by nature became metaphorical. During my morning yoga practice images and poems often bubbled up as felt sensations. I became less frustrated and ruled by difficult experiences if I were able to transform it into something tangible. Over time I saw patterns and links between poetry and my embodied experience and learned that they were part if an indivisible whole.

Although the arts were always a major part of my life, at this time they seemed to emerge rather instinctually, in a way that felt very related to wellbeing and even survival. They seemed to become a necessity. My exploration in using poetry and embodiment as a means for healing in my life and in the lives of others began to take form.

Grace Appears

Where there was only clouded vision

Which grew to timid steps

Grace appears

Lighting the path upward-




Now dancing the dance

Grace leads, I follow.

With her hand

I attempt a dance

More splendid

More beautiful

Than I imagined possible

In my mere humanness.


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