Below are a selection of poems I’ve written since my daughter, Elisif Janis Bruun, died at age 24 of a heroin overdose on February 11, 2014. The drawings I include to accompany each poem I made recently, and to my mind invoke something of the spirit of the poetry.


Her body
has changed
from wire to round to wire
from wild cat life
one unmeasured impulse
and the next
spinning spinning spinning
night through day through night
madness and madness and madness again
her body
has changed
from itself to something else and back again
only now
a softly subtle wilting
to eyes
that love her
wanting her well.


Boys and Girls

The boy
In the beater
Gold-rimmed mouth
Nacho-chip-orange fingers
Lost eyes
Like a flick of a Bic
Ready to ignite
For another cig.

The girl
Pink thong strap
Above the fringe
Of black spandex pants
So easily pulled down
For a buck
And a fix
Teddy bear on the headboard.

In fluorescent corners
Boys and girls
Change hands
Prey and predator
One and the same
Nobody wins
This dance
Without music
Without chairs.

The Walmart goldfish
Still alive
By the framed photo
Of her son
On Santa’s lap
Wanting something else
Anything else.



is not what holds me
in your room
life smeared across the floor.

You are
rage and raw
pure love and hot pain
a tender contradiction
neck-high in crap
against my loss and shame.

I am
no less mess than you
wondering what it is to be a man
worth the ground my little feet displace.

You and me
holding pawed hands
as best we can
mercy with every breath.

FullSizeRender (1)

*This is an excerpt from a longer poem


Peter Bruun is an artist, curator, and founder of the New Day Campaign, an initiative using art programming and public engagement to challenge stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness and addiction, making the world a more healing place. Learn more by visiting his website at

I had the pleasure of meeting Peter at Mental Health America’s 2016 conference this past June. He is not only an extremely talented and compassionate individual, but one of the friendliest people I have ever met. Please check out his amazing artwork and his nonprofit work with The New Day Campaign. It’s good to know how much good there is in the world.

Leave Peter a comment below and always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.


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