manic chasms


Purple Scaries are swing events. My girlfriends and I used to swing side by side, holding onto the inside chain of each other’s swing as we increased our arcs. When we got high enough, we’d swing our legs toward each other until we could lock knees by crossing our feet. Then we’d let go of each other’s chains and alternate our swinging until our swings twisted together. We called this activity Purple Scaries; we’d twist until we couldn’t keep it going, then put our force into untwisting, only to twist our chains up even tighter the next time, then we’d use our bodies to untwist, pulling our heads in as the bars grew closer, twisting again in the other direction, even harder—over and over again.

Thrill seekers, we were lucky we didn’t smack our heads against the swing set bars. Purple Scaries plague me still, but I don’t share them with my students. I can’t be responsible for the blind stupidity of a thrill seeker, and at 50, if I tried one, I just might puke.

The story about Tiff D in the piece is true. She knows her mother is in jail, but did not know what incarcerated meant until Charles Dickens taught her.


manic chasms 

Purple Scaries twist swings in my mind,
manic and laughing, chains twist round chains,
winding childhood back and forth.
A dizzying affair
hewn from my neighborhood schoolyard,
fused through the halls of today,
annealed in my teaching
manic and persistent.

Tangents wax tales, chased and connected
back to basics.
While the subject verbs the direct object,
we fork through the fodder of our lives,
some of it forlorn, like when David Copperfield
teaches Tiff D that the word “incarcerated”
does not imply reward.

Sudden realizations open chasms to our soul.
Purple Scaries.
That’s what we fall into, that’s what we explore.

Clashing understandings open possibilities for discovery
while manic sand drips through the hourglass
onto the playground, beneath the twisting
swings that drive me to a place
where fear and desire collide
panicked and consuming.

Lunch duty and I find myself
looking up at the Montana sky.

Can Tiff D’s mother sense them from her cell?

Brenda Warren 2012


Visit The Sunday Whirl.


26 thoughts on “manic chasms

  1. Sorry this is a bit delayed. It I have had a bit of dry spell. Hope you had a good holiday and everyone in your family is feeling better.

    I really like this piece. Like those swings, you twisted the past and present together to hold each other. That last paragraph squeezes every bit of angst possible into this writing.

    ” beneath the twisting
    swings that drive me to a place
    where fear and desire collide
    panicked and consuming.

    Lunch duty and I find myself
    looking up at the Montana sky.

    Can Tiff D’s mother sense them from her cell?”


  2. I’m glad you have yet to write from today’s list or I would have missed this one (was busy last weekend). Words are connective links, sometimes sweet, other times scary. I related well with your student because the words have always been both for me. I would guess that you feel good because you made some deeper connections with yourself and others in the writing. Am not familiar with the Purple Scaries (made me close my eyes and hold my breath). Swings have always been a private pleasure for me. We did engage in other scary things, but that’s a different story. Your last two lines are deep connections Brenda, I hope you continue making them.



  3. Love this Brenda – and the back-story is wonderful and serves to remind us (me at least) of some of the foolish (read, dangerous/lethal) stuff we would do as youngsters, how lucky we were to survive growing up – the analogy or comparison of the purple scaries with the real stories of today is so effective, coupled with the very calming ending – makes it all the more chilling to me. A great write.


  4. no Purple Scaries for me, anyday.. and definitely will not let on to my little one about them.. I am sure she will want to try it..
    the last two sentences say so much..


  5. I can remember kids twisting the chains of a single swing to get a different kind of ride, but never imagined twisting two together as you described. I had to read your into twice to believe it.

    Very powerful poem. Maybe rough-hewn, but I think smoothing it would not be wise.



  6. Excellent, brenda… I especially like:

    While the subject verbs the direct object,
    we fork through the fodder of our lives

    I appreciate the info you preceded the poem with, Brenda. I would definitely get dizzy and throw up!


    • Thanks, Laurie. I felt this one needed a bit of back story. I like “the subject verbs the direct object” line, too. My students know that bit, and say it helps them find the D.O. Hoot! Hoot!


  7. Brenda, what a truly sad story for the young girl, Tiff. This piece does have a raw feel to it, very well done. As for the “Purple Scaries”, I was adventurous, but not to that extent, lol.



  8. I did that too with the swings, with my sister I think. But we didn’t have a name for it – and that was before they put soft stuff other than concrete down in stark public parks. I guess it might have taken a few children falling off and in need of some medical care to realize that wood chips or some such other foam or plastic was needed especially where grass didn’t grow to protect children. Since we didn’t have a name for our recklessness it was nice to have the background.
    Some of children have to grow up faster than others. I hope your student can cope with the new vocabulary and it’s definition.

    Thanks for visiting my story verse – Your lists makes my verses come to life.


  9. Brenda – this a raw (in the manner of authenticity!) wonderfully expressive piece. Absolutely one of my favorites without the back-story – with it a shimmering tribute


  10. This felt like the twists in the chains. We used to do that as kids too. This does have a back and forth feel to it Brenda, as if your thoughts we a bit scattered too. I love the reference to Dickens and, the interplay between old worlds and new.
    Great write.


    • Thanks. My thoughts were definitely scattered. Occasionally, I have manic tendencies, and that plays into the piece, too. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and that you used to do purple scaries. Awesome! Maybe we should get together and give it a spin. LoL (not!)


share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s