The following poems mark for me a returning to who I am and coming to terms with the years I spent trying to live up to other people’s artificial standards, dictated by religious fundamentalism. I searched for ways to deal with painful issues and found solace in religion. A solace that I now know I could have found through other means. Not through alcohol or drugs but from within myself and the words that I put down in my stories.

Faith in a higher power can give comfort and a sense that there is some deeper meaning to our lives. However, to get pulled in slowly to a more fundamentalist way can happen. It slowly diminishes you as your own right to think and understand issues is dismissed by those with more standing in that community. They exert more control, judging all that you do. I tried to live up to the expectations of others including my husband but did not see at first the tightening of the noose around me. It became so tight that I suffocated almost.

I finally broke free, baby steps at first. I read novels and articles in secret. Yes, I was caught and lectured on the evil of my ways, but I persisted and took larger steps until I found my own voice again. The following poem relates to this.

Finding Freedom


Mist breaks into tattered wisps,                                        

a gentle sun rises,                                                               

over fields of grazing horses.


Entranced — I go back, riding the backroads,                           

my pony trying to get his head                                          

free of my control.   


I gave my pony his head,                                                   

we gloried in the wind and trail                                                                 

flat out, until we crossed the main road again.               


The train rushes on, horses left behind.              

I left behind all that I knew                                                 

and embraced the new.                                                     

Discovering life,                                               


for promised salvation.


Older I galloped along beaches with friends –                                                   

Glorying in wind and sun,                                      

our souls relieved.              


Another train rushes,

closer to my childhood home,

I gallop flat out again.

©Lisa Essler 2020



We played house,

but built no home



Webs of pastel crepe paper

and bright cellophane



No amount of fine embroidery

can cleave the illusion.

of fulfillment together.


I hungered for

the light and shadow

of life.


Slow poison

ate my luminous spirit

down to a skeleton.


Daring me to reset

Here I am.

©Lisa Essler 2020



Stuffed into little boxes,

right from the start.

  • the good girl

–   Does what she’s told.

–   the bad girl

–  Questions everything.

Words to constrain me.

And I believed…


Where do I fit in?

  • Obedient Angel

–  Sassy Devil

I’m right, yet I’m wrong?

  • You’re one or the other

And I trusted…


In defiance, I screamed.

  • Others besieged me,

–  heart, mind and soul.

–   whispering, You’re wrong.

–  Thundering voices echoed,

  • You’re damned.

And I spurned their hold on me…

  • Many refused to see

the whole of me.

–  weak and strong,

–  brilliant, yet foolish,

– temptress and warrior,

–    lover becomes teacher,

–    daughter matures to mother,

  • wife and sister.

Not always right,

not always wrong.


I am all.

©Lisa Essler 2023