Naked and Afraid

Denise Darby
4 min readMay 30, 2021

A journey from misunderstanding to freedom.

Photo taken by Løtuz, my son

When professor Carl Wooton was asked, “Why do you write?” he responded, “The act of writing a story can give shape to more or less formless memories and lead to discoveries of things I didn’t know I knew…. A poem can give shape to the coming together of a small experience and precise emotion.”

Seems incredibly poetic for someone who knocked me right out of my wanna-be poetic self when I was a freshman in college. Let me explain.

“I often feel you are struggling with something to say,” he wrote in my journal, an assignment he gave to all his freshman English 101 classes. He was a writer, a good one, and I was attempting to reveal a part of me that I had kept hidden.

When doing the assignment, I ached to allow myself the freedom of expression, but I was at DEFCON 1 when it came to sharing my writing. I only gave bits and pieces, leaving hints that there was something deeper in me.

When he left that note in my journal I was caught. The stun of his words stayed in my throat. I was laid bare.

I decided to take a risk and show him a poem I had entered into a poetry contest advertised in a magazine.

I remember the moment as though it were yesterday. I knocked and entered the slightly open door. He sat in a dark office, sideways to his desk as though he were in deep thought. He never looked at me.

“Can I help you?”

I removed the blue book bag from my left shoulder, placing it between my feet, and pulled out my poem saying, “I entered a poetry contest and…”

Before I could finish the sentence, “Let me guess and now they want you to buy the book?”


That was it! That was all I could say before turning to leave, poem in hand, bag once again over my left shoulder. I never shared. I didn’t ask for the opinion I was so desperately seeking. I just left.

I was struggling with something to say. I continued to struggle with something to say. I didn’t receive the encouragement that a young struggling freshman needs to crack the hardness of a stoic upbringing.

I had been writing for as long as I could remember. My writing mainly consisted…

Denise Darby

Mom of two. Poet. Life partner of 28 years. Lover of butterflies and all things alive. Seeker of the truth within and between us.