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Walls and Temptation’s Hold

Caroline Bardwell

Two Poems


Everywhere I look there are walls
real – and imagined
They serve a purpose
We cannot survive without them
Defining lines of ownership
Bearing loads
Holding up roofs
Establishing structure, groups, order
to the chaos and sprawl
Allowing growth
Building up and out
Ascending to new heights
Creating new vantage points
Protecting the inside from the outside
–and vice versa
Which is the safer place to occupy?
Inside or outside?
Your side
My side

Who decides their placement?
What materials to use?
What if a mistake was made?
Will someone admit it?
Is there a right way and wrong way?
Your way
My way
Left way
Right way
His way
Her way
Black way
White way
Is there room for failure?
How about improvement?
Is the first choice permanent?
Or can they be changed?
Are they made of straw or sticks or brick?
Are they lined with barbed wire?
Can you see through them
to the other side?
Can they withstand the elements?
Earth, Wind, Fire, Water
Are they built on sand or stone?
A house divided cannot stand

I scan the horizon for doors
Can we pass through freely?
What about our thoughts?
Our words?
Those of others?
Can they?
Should they?
Is there a toll?
Do we know the purpose of the walls?
Or who built them?
Did I erect them?
Did you?
Do we say, well they’ve always been there…?
Do I even notice them?
Do you?
Am I passing judgment?
Are you?
Is the wall in my mind?
Is it a prison?
Am I free?
Am I taking care of my property?
Am I keeping the sunlight out
to protect myself from darkness?

When it’s too much for me —
to keep them from falling down
or to scale them —
do I ask for help?
Do I know where to start?
Do I help ease my neighbor’s load
When they stumble?
Or when their walls are crumbling?
Or am I too busy defending my territory?
Am I inflicting pain in the process?
Distractedly unaware,
I ask the builder
Not my job, he says
I ask the mason
Not my job, he says
I ask the plumber, the electrician, the banker
Not my job, they say
I look at the blueprints more closely
I see the fine print
My house, my life, my car, my keys
My choices
Your choices
God’s hands
God’s grace
His people
Every single human being
Dry bones breathed full of life
Souls from the same source
Bleeding the same color
Crying the same tears

Temptation's Hold, Poetry by Caroline Bardwell

Temptation’s Hold

Nobody’s a stranger
to the intoxicating pull,
the magnetic attraction
that originates
from one whiff of the scent
from that poisonous siren
called Temptation.

It starts off slowly,
building up from a low hum
down in my toes,
warming each muscle
as it climbs upward,
buzzing louder
as time ticks by –
stroking the hips,
grasping the heart,
caressing the shoulders…

the decibels in my mind
increasing in volume
with each passing minute,
the heat radiating outward
generated from my internal battle.
Sheer will against the sensuous grip
of her searching fingertips,
closing around my neck right
before she wears down
my last defense.

How many years had to pass
of failing to resist
before I could see
what was there all along?
That the secret to winning
the wrestling match
could not be found within myself.

Relying upon a power
much higher than I
was my only chance.
I had to slow down, step
back, broaden
my view to take in
the entire battlefield
not partial glimpses,
no longer only considering
what is plainly seen
but also sensing
the forces that are not.

Knowing with all certainty
that nothing is conquerable
on my strength alone
and that fierce flame
called Temptation
does not stand a chance
once I put on the armor
laid out before me
before I was placed
in my mother’s womb.


Caroline Bardwell writes poetry to explore and express her faith. Her work ranges from longer forms of free verse to traditional forms (sonnets, villanelles, haiku/tanka). She also writes about nature and emotional experiences.

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