Empty Years

Hi, thanks for visiting my blog.  I hope you won’t mind if I “wax a little melancholy” for just a moment.  I’m certain this date has some significance to me, but I’m afraid I haven’t yet understood it fully.

I have been married for 27 years.  A few moments ago I signed the final decree of our divorce.  And I wonder, “What’s left of these 27 years?”  Besides my children, I can’t think of a single thing that was accomplished during those years.  They are lost, dried up like leaves in the fall, and blown away.

Following is the only emotions I have today……  of course, in rhyme……

P.S.  I apologize again for the lengthy monologue here….  Open Link night is not a good night to stretch the blog but it occurred to me after reading some thoughts left by friends that this poem probably needs a little introduction.  I chose to honor Rupert Brooke in this poem because he is a deeply emotional and lovely poet who died at the age of 27.  And the poem itself – although misleading – is really about what can be accomplished in a 27 year period….  It’s not about divorce, or sadness, or drugs or death.  I know that few readers today will know who Rupert is, however.  I only know of him because I am a staunch history and war buff.  Rupert became famous for his poems depicting WWI as he viewed it from the front lines.  So I thought more people would clue into the 27 year theme by adding Hendricks and Joplin, who more famously also died at the age of 27.  I admire them all greatly.  It is truly sad that artists have personalities that tend to overindulge everything in life, including drugs and alcohol when they travel that path.  But this poem does not celebrate their deaths.  It celebrates their lives and all they have given to the rest of us.    I hope you will please know that all my poems come from deep within my emotions.  What may seem sad to you is actually the color of my life…..  I am not sad.   Please, enjoy my poem for what it is.  It was not intended to be about the writer, but no piece of art is complete without the mark of it’s creator.  Every Picasso painting you ever see will have it’s roots in some of the deepest emotions probably endured by any human…..  The topic or subject of a piece of art is that which is depicted.  The emotions, feelings, visions, and senses of the artist are only what makes it unique….. 

You’re friend, John
Empty Years
How can a thing live and thrive
that such great love would strive
within years of twenty and seven?

That a whole life could pass
and a man’s mark should last
beyond his entrance to Heaven?

Rupert Brooke should know,
as he penned his last or so,
as Death’s angels called his name.

Hendrix died so long ago
and Joplin we are told
relinquished her earthly fame.

What sights those eyes had seen
before death came between
young souls and all the world.

Greater feats had never been
that memories last within
our hearts and souls to share.

And what of my last?
These twenty seven past?
Has my mark been left at all?

A time others could make great
could leave my solemn fate
with nothing but this listless scrawl.

Dried leaves, blown away, in the fall.
by John Allen Richter

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.

The Dead, by Rupert Brooke

© 2012 John Richter

About johnallenrichter

I am an aspiring Poet and adorer of life, a conqueror of nothing. However I am a champion curator of truth and friendship and hold both of those things most dearly to my heart. Welcome to my mind's eye. I hope you will enjoy what you may find and please know that you have a friend here. View all posts by johnallenrichter

25 responses to “Empty Years

  • brian miller

    i am sorry brother…i can only imagine…have been married for almost 17 years now (i think, smiles) and known her for 20…about 18 months ago we had the roughest time ever and came close…but pulled through it and i think we started hearing what each other was saying….anyway, i felt this on some level having been that close…a hug for you…i am sorry…

    • johnallenrichter

      Thanks Brian…… Since I’ve known you the one earthly endeavor of yours I find most commendable is your honor and love of family… As a mere witness you humble me, friend….. It is quite beautiful.

  • Mary

    John, I am sorry you are feeling so down; but I can understand it…signing divorce papers after 27 years is no small thing. Know that your life IS significant. I am sure people who know you could point to your ‘significances.’ Consider asking a few trusted people. I bet your children would. Everyone makes his / her mark somewhere; and I am sure you HAVE. And you still have time. This may be a sad day for you, but you must also look upon it as the beginning of a new chapter. Think of what you really wish to do now, and begin. I worry when I see you mentioning Hendrix and Joplin. Drugs and alcohol is the answer to nothing. I worry when you write about the dead. I hope you can understand my concern. Keep writing your pain, John. But do know there is more in store for you. Divorce is not a death sentence, and you ARE significant and a worthy and good person.

    • johnallenrichter

      Thank you Mary….. but please know I’m not sad. As I said in my very first sentence above, I’m not quite sure what to be yet. Sincerely, I view the divorce decree as the state’s legal end to the state’s legal marriage. But the actual marriage ended long ago. And I was tickled a little by the drug thing…. But you couldn’t possibly know. I have spent my entire adulthood as a law enforcement officer for the purpose of diverting drugs away from young people! So I won’t be joining Jimmy or Janis anytime soon wiht the silver spoon, but will continue being a great admirer of the gifts God gave them. Unfortunately, artists tend to have personalities that overindulge in life. My weakness is food…… And beautiful old things like cars and radios…. And as much as I would like to “main-line” them, it just ain’t gonna’ happen! Thanks for the confidence Mary……

  • willowdot21

    we also count, those of us who live ordinary lives. We may not burn our selves with “Talent” and spoil ourselves out with drink and drugs . People like us John, ordinary people who get up every day and drag through lives mundane and truly hard we count too. You are worth easily as much as a Joplin or a Winehouse…OH! yes you get up every day /night and serve your community, you are a good person a person of worth! God bless you.

    • johnallenrichter

      Willow……. who are you kidding? I’ve been following your blog for quite a while now and find your talent well above “ordinary.” It’s funny you mentioned Amy. Another really tragic, tragic loss. As I read your words above it brings home some sort of understanding, though, as to maybe why artists as a whole tend to drift toward things like drugs. Amy died of an overdose, like Hendrix and Joplin. Neither of those were suicides, but just overindulgence. There are so many other talented people who do that too, Belushi, Farley, Basquiat, Hank Williams, Cobain, Tommy Dorsey, Bobby Sheehan, Freddie Prinze, Phoenix, Morrison, Billie Holiday, even King George V of the U.K from your neck of the woods… And the suicides! OMG… Monroe, Garland, Teasdale, van Gough, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Ernest and Margauex Hemmingway, Virginia Woolf, and probably most famous Cleopatra and Marc Antony…… For waht reason? OMG….. I don’t know Willow. But for some reason people of great talent tend to fill their lives with overabundance of everything, leading to these awful conclusions…. Their deaths don’t bother me so much, it’s really what they stole away from the rest of us. And I love them all so deeply… (Well, except for kings and emporors and empresses that I just don’t know well.) They comprise a list of people who have decidedly made this world a more beautiful place to be….. Thank you for the confidence dear friend……

      • willowdot21

        I agree with all you say there John but they are not the only ones with talent, they are the ones noticed and in turn flattered. They mostly seem to be needy, needing to be noticed, needing relationships and having something missing in their lives. They drift into drugs, sex and alcohol and when they pass they are revered! Don’t get me wrong John I am a fan of theirs too but and it is a big but! There are the rest of us carrying our crosses fighting addiction, grief loss and still we carry on, still we get up in the morning and carry on. What I am saying, I suppose, is I know all those you have mentioned are worthy of our praise but for whatever reason they gave up, they are the ones who deprived us of their talent it was their choice their weakness or strength ( which ever side of the the glass your point of view is.
        It is the rest John those with great talent who work their day jobs or simply go about their lives be good helping where they can owning up to their faults and weaknesses and carrying on . Using their talents when and wherever they can. You John You! I believe in you! God bless xxxx

  • pandamoniumcat

    Children, what an accomplishment, your mark and influence live through them that will last longer than heaven. Divorce is not easy, and after 27 years particularly hard… I think you will realise your worth as you work your way through this time in your life… I see someone significant reading between the lines and he will return. Take care. 🙂

  • tashtoo

    John…I’m almost positive as more time passes, you will remember what was accomplished during those 27 years. Hard though, when you’re facing an ending like that and can’t see it. The poem is a brilliant testament to what can take place in 27 years….and we have Jim and Amy to add too…I quite enjoyed your dialogue, your honest pen, and would welcome lengthy commentary from you any day. Stay strong and keep seeking the good…you never know when it will sneak up and surprise you 😉

  • ManicDdaily

    First – so sorry about the divorce – awful to go through, like a death.

    On the other hand, I think the poem stands on its own perfectly well without the introduction. Anyone can look back at their last 27 years just about and wonder – and such an interesting combination of 27 years old. I love Brooke especially – about the most tragic poet I can think of–and WWI a particular symbol of wasted effort and empty years.

    Hendrix and Joplin appropriate too in their waste of futures. Thanks. k.

  • flipside records

    What a perfect expression of your present emotions, completely understandable and relatable. That’s what poetry is made of. … Mourn in this time of mourning. But know there will still be dances. And John, I’m certain you know how to dance.

    I’m feeling the same melancholy about my mark. Not that a big one is necessary. But just to feel like I’ve done something I can be proud of, even if no one else notices. Thus far, I’ve found motherhood to be the only thing. Certainly it’s a big thing, especially when one gives her entire existence to it. But then, they leave and do not give mother a care or remembrance, unless she failed. Then, they will never cease the replay of thoughts of hatred. So do I live to make sure I am not hated by my children? Is that a worthy mark? … All this in response to these:

    “And what of my last?
    These twenty seven past?
    Has my mark been left at all?

    A time others could make great
    could leave my solemn fate
    with nothing but this listless scrawl.”

    So much meaning packed into “blown away” … “Dried leaves, blown away, in the fall.” Tossing about. Meaningless, lifeless, dying, murdered.

    I’m so sorry for your loss and pain, John.

  • Kim or Lisa

    So sorry about the divorce and I can understand why it feels like wasted time, but consider this poem as one more thing you accomplished from it.

  • ayala

    John, I am sorry. I know it’s tough even though you are not sad still….I am sending you hugs and I hope the next 27 years will be amazing. Loved the poem.

  • Dawn St Amand Paoletta

    Your words are beautiful. I feel your angst. I am sorry John, even though this is the first time I have visited here. It breaks my heart to hear of any divorce. And 27 years is nothing to sneeze at either. May God guide you well in the days ahead.

  • wolfsrosebud

    aren’t we all trying to discover who we’ll be… maybe it’ll be the words we left behind or the love we once knew… hope there’s enough of both to go around again… love how you’ve expressed your grief in such a creative way… God bless

  • kelly

    Oh, that last line says it all, the cycling of life through the seasons that we can never stop…

    I would offer this, that while it may feel just now that those 27 years were “lost,” you were there, living life each step of the way, and surely that counts for something.

  • ladynyo

    John, I am so sorry for what you are going through. Been there myself, and it is not good or fun. It haunts for a long time.

    your words will pull you through. You are a marvelous, sensitive poet. Sometimes that is the only thing that will bring us through the rye.

    My very best to you….and I loved your poem.

    Lady Nyo

  • hedgewitch

    Thanks for the Rupert Brooke quote–one of my early favorite poets. You underscore here how fleeting life truly is, how each day is a struggle for meaning, and how easily our invested meanings become meaningless and are blown away. We are broken down, over and over, in this life, and those who pick up the scattered bricks and go one always have my highest respect, though I understand the ones who have let their journey take them away–like Joplin and Hendrix, perhaps not intentional suicides, but definitely choosing a course that steered away from life, I think. As Jane says above, keep writing and working towards that moment when things come back into balance–best of luck to you, John.

  • Claudia Schönfeld

    a divorce is always tough i think and even more after 27 years…and i understand the question..we always tend to wanna weigh the marks we left, put them on a scale and have them tagged with deep or not so, with good or not so..i’m sure you left your marks with each step and they can’t be wiped away… just keep the good…

  • Laurie Kolp

    I’m so sorry. My sister ended her marriage of 27 years not long ago and it was still difficult to sign that dotted line. Never will those years be lost, rather archived like a blog. Now you’re starting a new one. Best wishes.

    P.S. Thanks for your lovely comments on my blog.

  • James Rainsford

    This is very sad without however, descending into bitterness. Great write.

  • Heaven (@asweetlust)

    That last line got me….I am sorry for your loss and I hope you can find energy and meaning in starting anew. I don’t pretend to understand divorce as I am still married to the same guy for many years, but I can empathize with the sadness and pain ~

  • johnallenrichter

    Thank you all so much for your support. It makes me really happy to know that even life’s little blips can bring solidarity from friends. With that said I apologize for allowing my poem here to become more about the writer than the art. I didn’t intend for that. But I thought it might be important for the reader to understand why 27 years was the theme of this poem. As I said above, I’m really not sad. I am a bit confounded, i think. I don’t fully recognize or understand the emotions I’m having over the circumstances of my life right now. I know some people go out and “celebrate” a divorce, or do something to commemorate it as though it is something to be cheered. And that’s fine. But I don’t feel as though i have anything to celebrate.

    I love poetry. And art. My favorite poet, Emily Dickinson, did not really document her feelings. Hell, she didn’t even put a date on most of her poems. Sometimes I just think it would be nice to know what was going on in her life when she wrote certain poems, or what was she feeling, or what type of interaction she was having. But we seldom get that with her poems. And I’d like to know what in the hell Edward Munch was feeling when he painted the “Scream.” Or what Picasso was feeling when he painted fucking anything! Did the dude really see life that way? If so, then I’d say he needed some fucking glasses. Or I do.

    So when I give information about my emotions in a given poem it’s not for the purpose of gaining sympathy. It is only for posterity. And I am not attempting to equate my own work with Dickinson, Renoir, or Picasso. There’s little chance my poetry will ever be known by anyone because I have no plans of attempting to publish it. But my associates and friends, as well as my children and their children, might find it interesting to keep my poetry and to understand what was going on in my mind at the time i wrote certain pieces. I have nothing in writing from my own grandfathers. I would so love to be able to know their feelings and frustrations as they moved through the different milestones of their own lives.

    Thanks for visiting all……..

  • kaykuala

    Dear John,
    I’m from the other part of the world far from the US. But I feel taken to have my say despite not being fully conversant of the context of situation or culture that you’re in. I take this as a people thing more relevant to life and emotions to justify my take. It can be quite similar wherever it occurs.

    1. That you’ve related this here points to the fact that you will see others’ views. This is good as you get it off your chest for one and the other is to discover that there are others sharing a similar situation. It makes it a lot lighter when shared.
    2. You’ve taken it very well sans bitterness. You couldn’t have written in a rational manner the way you did otherwise. This is a big advantage you gave yourself
    3. You’re prepared to think nothing more of the ’empty years’ to let bygones be bygones. But I’d like to echo what Mary said. There ought to be some wonderful moments ,big events,memorable episodes you shared with those dear to you especially your children.These should be part of the ‘medicine’ to help mend the situation faster. One should not underestimate the goodness of what runs in the mind of a child (of whatever age) for 1) the frankness of opinions and 2) the willingness to be together with you to lighten the future emotions
    4. As an ex-law enforcer you must have seen many instances of irrationality, violence, hurt and a host of other negative behaviors. Knowing this I have the confidence you are very capable to face such adversities with a clear mind as you already have been bestowed with the strength of character to deal with such situations.
    5. Good luck, good sir! The road ahead is as bright as we want it to be ( feel assured knowing there’re million others who are much worst off than us)


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