The Two Tall Guards

A Christmas Poem that points towards Joy
by Paul Chubbuck

Photo by Paul Chubbuck

There’s a temple you long to enter,
for through the warmly lit windows as you approach
you see men and women dancing,
a tree aglow with color,
a fireplace’s flickering light,
children playing with dolls and toys, puppies and kittens.
And you hear laughter and the sweetest strains of old familiar tunes
beckoning louder as you step towards the open door.

But two tall guards stand between you and the joy within.
Daunting, with pikes and swords,
their intent is unmistakably to bar your path.

In an uncertain voice, you declare, “I belong in there, with those people.
They know me. That’s my song playing just now.”
Fierce and unmoved, they bend not, nor lower their weapons.

You begin to doubt whether you belong,
or if this temple is yours to enter.

But listen to me. You belong.
And I will tell you the secret names of those who stand in your way.

They are called Grief and Anger
and there is no passage through this door without their blessing.
Their senses are keen.
No bluff will deceive them
No quick nod will appease.
No short shrift is well received
and they stiffen further at your impatience.
You must surrender your hunger to enter the temple.
Instead make these two your raison d’être,
the purpose of your coming.

Learn to call them by their names
and sit with them on the marble steps.
You may be here a while.
Bring a cup of tea. Bring tea and cups to share,
for they have much to teach.

Grief can teach you how tears may cleanse unhealed wounds
and soften armor round the bitter disappointments in your heart
for those you’ve lost to death or changing sentiment
and the things you held to tightly which, nonetheless, life has torn away.

Anger can teach you to stop fawning,
and how to breathe fire to protect yourself
and those you love from wrong.

Can you let tears flow until they are complete?
Grief can teach you that.

Can you show your partner fire with no one getting burned?
Anger knows this.

You must stop, attend patiently,
and seek the courage to make these two your friends.
Their curriculum is no child’s lesson,
no short pop quiz.

But the warmth which radiates from just inside their gate is real.
It is true that you belong there.

So do not turn and walk away, as so many do,
shoulders drooping,
resigned to live out their days without the joy that makes life bearable.

You do not yet know what allies these two can be,
or how close they are to ushering you inside.

  • Do you have private questions about the body-mind connection or about recovering from trauma, loss, or abuse? Click here to leave me a private message.

    Paul Chubbuck is a practicing psychotherapist in Fort Collins, CO, using Somatic Experiencing® to help people release trauma, abuse, and loss. He may be reached at 970-493-2958 or through his website at

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