Excerpt for Strength in Silhouette: Poems by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Strength in Silhouette


T. L. Cooper

Copyright © 2013 T. L. Cooper

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by The TLC Press.

ISBN: 0984686274

ISBN-13: 978-0-9846862-7-8


The poems within these pages are dedicated to every woman, every person, who has ever struggled to inhabit the strength within their hearts and minds.


Loay Abu-Husein’s photographic eye and skill with a camera not only brought my vision for the cover to life but enhanced it. I offer him my everlasting gratitude for all his hard work to make this cover what it is. Thank you not only for your work on the cover but your love and support over the years.

My eternal gratitude to Joanne Pence, Lori Felmey, Kelly Deaton, Trish Heath, Leslie J. Douda, Tony Haynes, Cynthia “Ariel” Evans, and Butch Knight for feedback on the cover!

My thanks to the members of the Facebook Groups, Poet and Spiritual Poems, for your feedback on individual poems included in this book as well as for your support and encouragement.

I offer my gratitude to all those who inspire and encourage me to keep writing!

I humbly offer the poems within to my readers with the hopes you’ll find inspiration and encouragement to tap into your inner strength through my words. Thank you for your continued support!

The Love of My Life Redefined

The love of my life

Lives inside of me

She’s never abandoned me

Even when I’ve denied her existence

She patiently waited for the end of my tears

So I could recognize and accept happiness

She held my hand

When I tried to bleed pain from my wrist

She held my head above water

When I thought I’d drown in despair

She sheltered my heart

When I willingly opened it to be shattered

She lifted my soul

When I fell over the cliff into regret

She breathed for me

When I allowed sorrow to smother me

She held on to rationality

When the wind scattered my thoughts

She loved me

Even when I hated me

She knew my strength

When I felt too weak to stand

She guided me toward the future

When I got stranded in the past

So today when I look in the mirror

I stare into the eyes of

The love of my life

Heart Chakra

My shoulders may not be wide

Never have been

But they are strong enough

Always have been

To hold your head when you cry

To offer you comfort when your heart breaks

To prop you up when you feel weak

To hold you high in celebration of your successes

My shoulders may not be wide

Never have been

But they are strong enough

Always have been

To hold my head high when I’m criticized

To square when my heart hurts

To meet my responsibilities

To lift me up in celebration of my accomplishments

My arms may not be muscular

Never have been

But they are strong enough

Always have been

To hug away your disappointments

To comfort your heartaches

To lend you strength when you feel weak

To raise in celebration of your success

My arms may not be muscular

Never have been

But they are strong enough

Always have been

To hug myself when no one else does

To comfort myself when my heart aches

To lend myself strength when I feel weak

To raise in celebration of my achievements

My hands may not have the tightest grip

Never have

But they are strong enough

Always have been

To hold yours when you need support

To give you assistance when you need help

To caress you when you need a gentle touch

To applaud your triumphs

My hands may not have the tightest grip

Never have

But they are strong enough

Always have been

To reach out for the connection I need

To accept comfort when offered

To caress my woes when I need gentleness

To applaud my victories

My lungs may not have the greatest capacity

Never have

But they are strong enough

Always have been

To offer you a breath when yours falters

To exhale a whisper of love to ease your pain

To hold a breath for you as you try something new

To release a celebratory cry for your happiness

My lungs may not have the greatest capacity

Never have

But they are strong enough

Always have been

To pull in oxygen when the act of breathing hurts

To exhale slowly the release of my pain

To hold my breath as I tell you my heart’s desires

To release a celebratory cry for my own happiness

My heart may not be innocent

Never has been

But it is strong enough

Always has been

To understand your vulnerabilities

To offer compassion when you reach out

To reach out when you’re unable to express your need

To love you without condition

To let you go if that’s what’s best for you

My heart may not be innocent

Never has been

But it is strong enough

Always has been

To allow myself to expose my vulnerabilities

To give myself compassion when I need it

To reach out when I need support

To love myself unconditionally

To let go of what isn’t best for me

My shoulders, my arms, my hands, my lungs, my heart

All provide me the strength

To reach out

To love

To embrace life

To find my truth

Within my relationships

Within myself

Reaching out with

My shoulders, my arms, my hands, my lungs, my heart

I find strength comes back to me

Creating a circle of love, compassion, and strength

Allowing me to find my core and invite you in

Breathing Instructions

Breathing doesn’t come with

An instruction manual

My teachers taught me

Breathing is autonomic

No learning necessary…

The body just knows how…





Yet there are times

When breathing fails me

When my body forgets how

When breathing requires


I must instruct myself

Take a breath in

Let a breath out

Breathe deeply

Breathe evenly

Slowly fill my lungs

Slowly empty my lungs





Don’t hold my breath

Don’t forget to take a breath





Breathe in to a count of three or four or six

Breathe out to a count of six or eight or twelve

Until normal breathing returns

Until my body remembers to function

Until the chest crushing ends

Until the panic subsides





Eventually normal breathing returns

Allowing me to forget those

Moments when I need

An instruction manual

Just to breathe

Breath’s Life

I shall breathe

Through it all

When life hurts

I inhale a cleansing breath

Allow it a moment to scrub away the pain

Then exhale fully

Letting all the pain flow out of my body

I shall breathe

Through it all

When life heals

I inhale an invigorating breath

Allow it a moment to energize my cells

Then exhale fully

Letting all the energy ignite me

I shall breathe

Through it all

When life disappoints

I inhale a satisfying breath

Allow it a moment to reassure my soul

Then exhale fully

Letting the reassurance guide me

I shall breathe

Through it all

When life exhilarates

I inhale a centering breath

Allow it a moment to calm my mind

Then exhale fully

Letting balance inspire me

I shall breathe

Through it all

When life takes my breath away

I inhale a living breath

Allow it to course through me

Then exhale fully

Letting breath revive me

I shall breathe

Through it all

When life changes directions midcourse

I inhale a settling breath

Allow it to propel me forward

Then exhale fully

Letting breath show me the right path

I shall breathe

Through it all

Until the moment I don’t

When I finally inhale that final breath

I’ll know I’ve lived the best I could

Allow it to course through me

Then exhale fully

Letting life leave me satisfied


White silk sheets cascade

Pile on top of me

Cover my body

Caress me

Shelter me

Flow through the air

Land one on top of the other

I lay still

Unable to move

Watching one layer of white

Pile on top of the previous

Cover my arms

Cover my legs

Cover my torso

Cover my face

I watch

Unable to stop them

Still the white silk sheets fall

Billow on top of me

Their white purity

Unreal, unnaturally bright

The silky texture slides over my skin

Luring me

Into a false sense of security

My breath strangles

My heartbeat quickens

I struggle to move

My arms

My legs

My torso

To push way

The rich silkiness

I see through the many layers

Your face blurred and confident

You pull the silk sheets away

For every sheet you remove

Four fall in its place

Your movements, your face

Become frantic

I sigh

There’s no saving me

I appear blanketed in luxury

But you and I both know

The rich, silky texture

Steals my freedom

Cuts me off from the truth

Shelters me from reality

Lures me into ignoring the danger

I look up at your face as

The silky sheets slide right out of your hands

You’re determined

To save me

From the choices I made

From the life I sank into

From the silk I once welcomed

I try to move the silk sheets away

It’s up to me to save myself

I desperately attempt to free myself

Frozen in place

Eyes open so I finally see

Gasping for breath

Perhaps it’s just too late

To escape

White silk sheets

Tied Up

You tied a white silk rope

Around my wrist

Around my ankle

Around my neck

I stroked it

I welcomed it

I cherished it

I called it a bracelet

I called it an anklet

I called it a necklace

I took it everywhere with me

It coupled me to you

I didn’t see how the silky rope

Reigned me in

Kept me silent

Stopped my ascent

I never acknowledged the gentle but firm tug

You gave

Every time I stepped out on my own

Every time I spoke my mind

Every time I tried to soar

Until one day

The silk wore away

Exposing rough jute

Chafing my skin

But still I remembered the silk

And ignored the jute

Blood seeped out

Staining both silk and jute

As I felt my bonds grow ever restrictive

Until one day

I looked down and realized

You loosened your grip

You let the rope slip from your fingers

Because I no longer struggled

To step out on my own

To speak my mind

To ascend to my best self

I cried for a minute

Then picked up the rope

Untied the knots

Caressed the frayed edges

Kissed your fingers

And gently tied

The rope around

Your hands

Your ankles

Your neck

While you slept

You really should’ve held on tighter

Instead of letting that rope

Slip through your fingers

Because now I’m free

Work in Progress

My life

A work in progress

You asked me for perfection

I demanded my perfection

I thought I found the answer

To becoming a complete work

I became everything

I never wanted to be

Just to keep you

I forgot who I was

I left behind my truth

I squelched my strength

I extinguished my fire

I fixed everything you hated

I stopped my life

To give you your heart’s desire

Only to have you throw

My lack of life back in my face

The love I desired from you

Smoldered as resentment in your eyes

Every attempt to edit

This work in progress

To meet your whims

Failed your scrutinization

One day I erased the whole

Work in progress

Stared at a blank page

The blank page of me

Backstory flooded the page

Reminding me

We can’t escape yesterday

Our backstories create us

I remained a

Work in progress

Even when I lost me

Trying to fit your narrative

When I finally

Yanked back the pen

And wrote my own story

My inner strength developed muscles

My inner glow began to shine

My truth refused to be silenced

My imperfections began to breathe

My perfections found the light

I released the image you held of me

I rejected the story of me you’d written

I refused to accept that I was

Your work in progress

I embraced my own story

I became

Grateful to be

My own

Work in progress

Puzzle of Me

I looked for someone

To make me whole


I was smashed to the ground

Broken into pieces


Even to myself

I stared into a face I didn’t know

I listened to a voice I couldn’t remember as mine

I touched skin I could no longer feel though it covered me

I smelled a scent that no longer existed though it was mine

I cried tears that didn’t fall

I screamed screams no one heard

I numbed myself to the world

I disappeared into bits

I looked at those smashed pieces lying on the ground

Pieces to a puzzle lacking familiarity

Without a guide to reassemble them, they made no sense

The edges no longer matched

The pieces of me lay there

Waiting, wanting, needing

Someone to put them back together

I begged for someone to reassemble the

Puzzle of me

I longed for someone to see me as whole

Rather than pieces of an unsolvable puzzle

Finally the day came

When I touched the pieces of

The puzzle of me

The first piece stung

So I dropped it

I tried another

The second piece sizzled

So I dropped it

I tried another

The third piece shriveled

So I dropped it

I cried real tears

Watched as the tears fell

On the pieces of me

Preserving them

Leaving them to wait for me

Because in the end

As much as I wanted someone else

To reassemble the

Puzzle of me

Only I could pick up the pieces of me

Only I could reassemble the pieces of me

Eventually the pieces of me morphed

The puzzle of me looked a bit different

Reassembly exposed my rough edges

Reassembly displayed my frayed pieces

Reassembly dulled the truth of me

Reassembly created a whole new me

One the old me found oddly familiar but better

The smashed pieces of me found form

A whole new image emerged

As I reassembled the

Puzzle of me


The mirror reflects back

An image I don’t quite recognize

It is me

Yet it morphs before my gaze

Hands force me to watch

Fingers chisel the change

When I look I see

Strength and femininity in battle

Innocence and knowledge in conflict

Yesterday and today melding

As I grow from girl to woman

The mirror reflects back

An image I don’t quite recognize


You cast me in a role

I never wanted to play

Left me no choice

But to adopt the character

Pushed me live a life

I didn’t recognize

Forced me to become someone

I didn’t like

In that moment when you stole

My choice

You took away something deeper

Something I can never forgive

I lost all sense of me

In an act you casually dismissed

That I can never forget

You cast me in the role of victim

I wore it because I knew nothing else

Until one day I looked in the mirror

To see a survivor

From that day forward I vowed

To be a thriver

Victim erased my power

Surviving wasn’t enough

Thriving, now that, felt powerful

While I wish I’d been strong enough

To not allow your actions to

Cast me in a role

I never wanted to play

The truth is

Your actions changed everything

They changed how I saw me

They changed how I interacted with others

They changed how I loved

They changed how I hated

They changed who I was

They trapped me inside a role

Never meant for me

A role you wrote and forgot

As you went about your life

Without a moment of regret

Today I recast that role

With one written especially for me

And embraced

The woman I was always meant to be


The masquerade ball where I live

Wakes me each morning

Shows me society’s expectations

I paint on my smile

Give you what you want to see

Feel the pain in my heart

Of a million little criticisms

Of a gazillion little barbs

Of infinitely small moments

All surrounding the big event

That redefined me

Melted my core

Erased my surface

Evaporated my essence

Disintegrated my image of me

Forced me to create

A life in masquerade

Hiding the unacceptable me

Inside an acceptable shell

Tamping down what screams to break loose

I’ve come to realize that leaving

The masquerade ball where I’ve come to reside

Means not only exposing today’s truth

But facing yesterday’s suppressed reality

How can I expect others to not be ashamed

When I hide

That thing about me I want no one to know

The one I want to deny affected who I am

The one I hide with a false reality

The one I pretend doesn’t mean anything

My not so secret secret

That forces itself through the cracks

In the beautiful masquerade of my life

Exposing my hypocrisy

As I both reveal and hide

Because I don’t want to be defined

By that event that changed

Who I am forever

Because I don’t want to give

Another that much power over who I am

Forcing me to create

A masquerade ball of a life

Where I could pretend

It never happened

Where I hide even though

I know it wasn’t my fault

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