Alter Ego

I envy those who are composed,
Whose doubts and fears are gone;
While wild and free down inside me
A constant war goes on.

* * *
Deep within my mind and heart
Two men crowd the lane;
One is soft and humble
And one is hard and vain.
Their line of demarcation
Is blurred and slurred and dim;
I’m never sure which one is me
Or which one may be him.

One is forever reaching
For the brightest shining star;
One is happy and content
With pleasures as they are.
One would madly live his life
On earth as common clay;
One would gladly leave the earth
To seek the Faraway.

One is always glad to share
The hurts and pains of others;
One is sometimes crass and cold
And heartless toward his brothers.
One is reserved and cautious
And one abounds with zest;
Don’t ask me to declare to you
Which one I like the best.

One with fear anticipates
A grim and darker day;
One with confidence proclaims:
“This too shall pass away.”
One despairs: “My strength is gone,
I simply can’t go through!”
One declares: “Be brave and strong,
Do what you have to do.”

One would walk the complex trails
Of life’s forbidden ground;
One is content in simple paths
Because he knows he’s bound.
One would respond to siren calls
Unfearful, unafraid;
One hears and heeds a higher call
Which must not be betrayed.

One in moth-like fashion
Would surrender to the flame;
One won’t do so because he knows
He could not bear the shame.
One would drink life’s sweet red wine
To feel its fire and ice;
One will not drink because he knows
He could not pay the price.

One would choose the easy way
Along the lowland lanes;
One on bleeding knees would crawl
Up toward the sunlit plains.
One would rather compromise
Than fight the angry crowd;
One’s head may be bloodied, but
His knees will not be bowed.

One often frets and fumes and sweats,
Disturbed and agitated,
And ends up making everything
Around him complicated.
One is patient, calm and quiet,
Serene, secure and free,
And still believes the sublime thing
Is pure simplicity.

One holds to the philosophy
Of “Now, and not tomorrow,”
And freedom to do what he wants
With no regrets or sorrow.
One holds onto the nobler view:
“Discipline, duty, trust!”
Sometimes he can’t do what he wants
But, rather, what he must.

One is prone to live alone
Unfettered, boundless, free;
One with grace would take his place
Beside humanity.
One’s inner life has seeds of strife,
Depression, terror, violence;
One is caressed and deeply blessed
By whispers, stillness, silence.

One writhes in doubt when bigots shout:
“Your sins won’t be forgiven!”
One bares his heart and bows his soul
And trusts the love of heaven.
One perceives there is a land
Where sinners suffer long;
One believes there is a strand
Where love will right all wrong.

Down in the caverns of my heart
Two men strive and fight;
Neither one is always wrong
And neither always right.
They are a mystery indeed;
How odd, how quaint, how droll
That two such men could live within
The confines of my soul.

In temperament and attitude
They are poles apart;
The only common ground they share
Is deep inside my heart.
In every other matter
They wrestle in great strife;
Their one agreement is that they
Do not agree on life.

I grow so weary and distraught
While trying to referee
The bloody warfare of these two;
I so long to be free!
I oft despair and say, “I swear
I’ll drive one far away!”
But I don’t know which one should go
Or which one to let stay.

For fear I’d make a bad mistake
And cast me out, not him,
My time I bide as I provide
A home for both of them.
At last, I guess, I should confess
To me and them and you,
And tell the truth: I’m more uncouth
Than either of the two.

* * *

From much corroding care
I would be free,
If only I could know
which one is me!

Hal Upchurch, c. 1980