In addition to my more formal writing for clinical and academic readers, I also occasionally slow into the sort of reflective writing that requires a less literal engagement with language to speak to issues and feelings that elude more prosaic speech.  The result has been a handful of publications of free verse, sometimes in professional books and journals, and occasionally in chapbooks of my own.  Here I offer a few samples of this work, along with links to some of the publications in which these appear.

The Art of Longing

This poem arose from a conjunction of events—the recent death of my mother-in-law, the last surviving parent on either side of our family, and my driving for hours through a deep Canadian winter to offer a grief workshop in Brockville.  The periodic bursts of long “O” sounds echoed for me the howling wind, and the endlessly receding landscape evoked the landscape of memory and our yearning for return. The sensory pull between the strong draw of the past and my forward momentum found expression in the evolving imagery, and hinted at an essential tension in grieving.

Those of us who have driven
the long cold road alone
have watched the thin line
of trees, frosted white,
slipping behind

like memories.
We know the pull
of something unseen
beyond the reach of dry eyes,
fixed, blinking

at the distant mist.
We ride the road
with our lonely ghosts,
unwavering in their devotion
like penitents at the altar

of our grief.
This is how we perfect
the art of longing,
learn to nurse the hurt,
refuse the fullness

of this world.
For now, we keep driving,
lean into the dimming light,
lean further toward
winter’s receding horizon,

and away from arrival.

Utah Triptych

1.  Climbing down

The blaze of morning
ignites the cliffs,
evaporates the moon,
hanging ghostly as the coyote’s howl.

It is time to begin the walk,
to be swallowed deep in the throat of rock,
time to climb down,
beneath history,
through the saline memory
of ancient seas
washing the earth
like a scouring hand.

Now the sea rises hot within us,
spills out,
seeks sand, sky,
the root of Utah juniper,
the cone of piñon pine.

It falls away
like a tear of lament.
It bleeds back
into the raised ribs of earth,
glowing yellow as bleached bones.

An old ache throbs still
beneath the pulse of words.
It pulls us
toward the vacancy of arches
fixing us with their empty stares.

The sun leans into us,
and we lean into the rocks.
Each footstep carries us
deeper into earth,
deeper into sky.

Like the desert,
we ripen toward subsistence.

2.  Raven’s roost

We thread through
the sand, the scree, the slickrock,
like shallow roots.
The land’s emptiness seeps into us
with the ochre dust.

Like sentinels,
the great columns of stone
witness our coming,
our going,
impassive as the lizard’s stare.
Life here withholds its secrets
from the unblinking eye of sun.

We stop to allow our words
      to catch up with us,

receive the gift of shade
poured from the upturned bowl of rock.

From a crevice above,
a fragment of nothingness dislodges itself,
shrieks down on us
on a storm of wings.

The raven, its iridescence black as loss,
reclaims the harbor of night
in day’s dead heat.
A dark animus,
it shadows our steps
as we depart,
harbinger of a midnight
that is not yet ours.

3.   Escalante

From the plains of rust red rock
the bluffs rise up,
verdant as an evening song.

The aspens and pines
have gathered the silence
and held it for our ears.
The woods fills our eyes
with the knowledge of green.
The desert is a shadow
we have forgotten.

Everything here is an act of creation.
Even the deer merely confirm
the presumption of life.

Like the stream that feeds
and bleeds the escarpment,
we pass through, and down,
to find an arid ground

to ease the letting go.


The evening before my departure for an invited address at a conference honoring my tragically deceased friend and colleague, Michael Mahoney, I sat in my study contemplating what I would say beyond the formal presentation.  But rather than sitting at my desk or in my reading chair, as I typically would, I ensconced myself on a small divan on one side of the room, musing as midnight overtook the quiet house whose other residents had been asleep for hours.  The conjunction of the empty space— visually devoid of its familiar inhabitant—corresponded with an inner emptiness, a quiet space in which the poem took shape.  The poem began with its title, its double meaning suggesting a deeper reading.

Even the chair defines you
by your absence.
It lifts its arms
to embrace yours, opens its lap
to cup your form in its soft shape.
Without you,
it is an empty hand.

On the footstool the books
mill in their randomness,
forget their call to common purpose.
The pens on your desk
have bled dry of words.
Your tablet is a tombstone
without inscription.

This is how we are cast
by the long light of your shadow,
persist in our objective irrelevance.
Collectively, we have lost
the threads of memory,
of intention, dropped the beads
from time’s limp string.

The clock’s pulse
measures the silence
like a tin heart, registers
only hours since, never until.

Slowly we are hollowing
ourselves through our grief,
as rocks are carved by sand
in a hard wind.

When we have let go of enough
of what we were
and grow perfect in our nothingness,
we will at last find an end
to the yearning,
and finally

have room for you.

Selected samples of verse in print

Simply click to access relevant publications.

Neimeyer, R. A.  (2017).  You make me happy.  Death Studies, 41, 8, 551

Hoffman, L. & Fehl, S. (2016).  Journey of the wounded soul:  Poetic companions for spiritual struggles.  Colorado Springs:  University Professors Press. [Anthology containing several of my poems]

Neimeyer, R. A. (2015).  When the personal becomes professional:  Response poetry in the processing of loss.  Grief Matters:  The Australian Journal of Grief and Bereavement, 18, 2, 38-40.

Hoffman, L. & Moats, M. (Eds.) (2015).  Capturing shadows:  Poetic encounters along the path of grief and loss.  Colorado Springs, CO:  University Professors Press.  [Anthology containing several of my poems.]

Neimeyer, R. A. (2013) Panning, Journal of Poetry Therapy: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Practice, Theory, Research and Education, 26:4, 269-270, DOI: 10.1080/08893675.2013.849043

Neimeyer, R. A.  (2012).  The poetics of practice:  Becoming “well versed” in loss and grief.  In M. F. Hoyt (Ed.), Therapist stories of inspiration, passion and renewal (pp. 206-213).  New York:  Routledge.

Neimeyer, R. A. (2009).  The art of longing:  Selected poems.  Charleston, SC:  BookSurge.

Neimeyer, R. A. (2008).  The poetics of experience.  Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 21, 288-297.

Neimeyer, R. A. (2006).  Rainbow in the stone:  Selected poems.  Memphis, TN:  Mercury.