What you’ve handed me are seeds.
What I want from you are trees:
whole groves of oranges, fruit hung
plump and bruised from bent limbs.
Better yet, hand me these same husks
dug up and cut open, oozing
with all these possibilities.
What you’ve handed me are seeds.
What I want from you are trees:
whole groves of oranges, fruit hung
plump and bruised from bent limbs.
Better yet, hand me these same husks
dug up and cut open, oozing
with all these possibilities.
I have tried to write this essay several times. I have failed using flowery language, academic speak, spiritual overtones, and psycho-babble. But it never came out the way I wanted. And that is the point of it. Want.
Want is a disease, a psychosis. It is an error of the mind and of the body. It is the flaw in how many of us live. We obsess over what we want for years. We make great art based on our want. It is the barrier to enjoyment and happiness. And not just in big ways.
It is easy to still pine for the person you wanted to kiss when you were sixteen. That small wish may hover inside your mind like a micro-tumor, but it is probably benign. What hurts us more is the want of the moment.
You are sitting in a long line of cars wanting a light to turn green. It turns and only one car gets through. And you want it to be different. The person you share your life with cannot read your mind, cannot do, seemingly, anything right, and you want them to be different.
Want distances you from this moment. It allows you to hide inside another, imaginary, more ideal reality. It suggests you should hold this life up against that ideal one and compare the two, a pageant which this moment will always lose. I want to be taller, want shorter, want skinnier, want stronger.
But let’s separate want from action. There is a moment not yet lived that you can choose into. The future must be shaped, and we can use it to reach towards an ideal. We can work for change. But that is not want, that is taking action.
I am lying in bed, in the middle of the night. I wake with my mouth open and bone-dry. I can ease myself out of bed, walk to the sink and have a glass of water. In the morning I can purchase a humidifier. Next month I can move to a coast or a rainforest.
Or I can sit here in want, hating this arid moment, imagining my imaginary ease. The distance in time between a felt need and the action to answer that need is want. And it is killing us. Every moment in want is a moment wasted, a moment of this life, right here, now, gone.
Each moment is far bigger than you can inhabit, larger than you can imagine. If you envision now throughout the whole globe, and know you could live on almost any inch of that, you start to see now. If you imagine how tiny the earth is to the universe, you start to sense the size of now.
Each moment offers you something to hate, something to love, something to act on, something to want. Worse than loving or hating, wanting means you do not inhabit this moment. It steals here and now from you. It makes our conscious life fly by us, miniscule and quick.
I want to exercise more, compared to exercising. I want to forgive someone, compared to actively forgiving. I want to write is worse than awful writing. I want to focus on my family. I want to eat better. I want to let go. I want to feel love. I want to live, before I want to die.
In little ways and big we are handing over this, here, now, to our imagination. Not for the sake of a deeper contemplative life, but simply to fill a compost heap with moments, one that rots as soon as it hits the here-air. We are wasting our lives in wanting, trashing this opportunity at being.
In the story of the Christ child, today is not the day to think about what happens at the end of the book, but at the beginning. A child is born surrounded by love and prophecy and mysticism. Look around you today and seek that which appears to be the tiniest, the most weak, the most frail, the most powerless. There is glory and grace there, and potential.
In the story of the Christmas star, a light is laid out which points to greatness and divinity. Set your goals today, find that tiny prick of unreachable light and head towards it, across desert and mountain, across time and space. The light left that place thousands of years ago and finds you now, walk towards it (no, actually, run).
In the story of the Christmas tree, the life in nature is brought inside and decorated. Go now and find that life. Get outside today, away from plastic and wrapping, away from bells and whistles. Go out and commune with that which is alive, even in the darkest part of the year. Look out your windows, visit your neighbors. There are trees somewhere nearby. They love and miss you. Decorate them with your love.
Merry Christmas. I love you.
Memory littered with lust from our twenties
when the right beverage could spark
a conversation, neck rub
to relieve tension,
an understanding of struggle. Then,
beyond our ego and separation, we knew
someone was waiting
at a table, sent there
by forces greater, having an innocuous latte,
shaking sugar packets, fidgeting with a zipper,
hoping to be known, to get laid,
for life to change.
Play me backwards to capture
the slurs unspoken by non-voices
who scream insults and prevent me
from seeing and seeing me.
Dust and scratches on the surface
of the mirror I use to get ready
to keep the compliments coming
from strangers I can not incorporate.
Buy therapy. Buy a different outfit
to fit in. Lament my car and color
of my housing. Buy certain foods,
buy into pop-ideas. Cry: bye-bye.
Play me seriously and play quietly.
Listen to the voice that’s spoken for
a foot down and a mile deep
the soft earth of me in which to dig.
As the adolescent creek reached a plateau,
we were thrown together, where we played
like children, assuming the old spiritual
theatre of sex and unemployment, we
had invented. Notes we grew up hearing
in our separate minds, come together
in this tin can band, thawed from ice,
tumbling over falls, picked and strummed
along each smoothed stone. We tripped,
fell and broke, cracked off-key till the land
or factory or fire bid us rise. Then we sang
our giddy, addled, laughing good-byes.
Some stand sure-footed on the hard dry edge, bank
on its uneroded topsoil as a platform from which
they can dip a toe, safely dangle a leg, place
one foot, then two up to the ankles, stand
in the fast running rapids of reality, icy
stream whipping round their feet.
Some ease in to their necks, hope
the rush of danger cracks their heads
or heart, that shock deafens them to our
landlocked existence. Why not dive deep?
Breathe back our gills. Test the white lie of oxygen
that claims we’re just red lungs, veins and capillaries.
You go through life screaming,
lingo to gather votes on the promise
with your tonic
gets a hearing.
I opt out of that logic, coiling, instead
like a snake, or
a glass of pinot,
insistent like a hangnail.
You ride first class for the optics.
I’m the GPS
and the horizon,
You hang, fretfully unaware, in mid-air
to nothing. I know
where we’re landing.
Somewhere, my love
I could love you like it’s 1953
again, or at least like the ’53
I imagine, a colorized version
of Black and White America
where I’m a diligent worker
in the middle-management
of a family-owned factory, fretting
about helping our neighbors
without enough money.
I could love you with a kiss
at the door and a compliment
on the smell of your roast,
and try to think very little
about meaningful things;
the Constitution, war,
or sociology. I could love you
before TV, once a week, on
my birthday. And putter through
that existence. But I’d rather
struggle through business,
bills, roles, religions, equality.
It’s faster than a heartbeat
when you look at me,
faster than a blink,
than my fingers
pounding out a text
as I drift down retail streets.
We should have this out
in the same city. You should be
howling. Me claiming innocence,
you overreacting. Instead
the snow’s piling up,
each flake attacking. Capitals
can’t relay my anger.
Exclamations. The river
is frozen. I want
my nights back. I want
your days. And your finger.
And your head. We should
be falling, accumulating,
I once thought
A measure of sexy
That I am you
And you me
Before our first date
That I know your soul
Before your name
How you tip me
If we never speak
In our soul-scape
On clean sheets
Measure of nothing
You, you only
We never date
I miss your soul
Forget your name
You spoken for
Our soul escapes
And clean sheets
In a house of five, allegiances are born
and die as quickly as the evening meal
is thawed and cooked and eaten. Toys
lie black and blue about the floor, love
is being offered, on loan, and ignored.
In a house of five, someone lays in wait
for a party or a date, for a secret kept
to be leaked, and for the next shushing,
for vengeance to be the call of the day,
for diagrams to be drawn to call the play.
In a house of five, the stairs are byways
of clicking sneers, of breath through teeth
and “Don’t. Touch. Me.” There’s not room
enough for space to think, for time-out
with a good book, or a moment’s peace.
Four offers a chance for balance, three
a tight alliance, two, a buddy-cop movie.
At six we could field and coach a team.
We grew up in a palace, in a maelstrom,
in an inner ring of the defense department.
What we trained for remains sealed.
What we learned later confirms rumors.
Fifty years after the last of us have died
the files will be unclassifed, the dust
and scores and cracked walls all settled.
The brush does not move, nor the canvas,
nor the wrist of the artist
but the sea rippling along the shore of Italy
where my great-great Grandmother stands, ankle deep
waiting for the pescatori
to return home to shore
dinghies bobbing along the horizon,
her husband, her sons
weighted down with work, made dark by the globe
diving behind the island.
She squints, and a lens snaps the landscape
long before Kodak,
developing itself through the palm on her belly,
which moves, and kicks, and swells
dashing ruddy hues cross the generations’
Can anyone tell which door we used to get into this room, cause
I can’t seem to recall and the walls appear polished seamlessly
to a high sheen, the floor and ceiling incomprehensibly far away?
I can’t imagine we fell from a great height and survived, nor
that we jumped on our own into this ballroom. The question
may seem esoteric, but I’d like to find the exit, in case
I need to head outside for a smoke or if I’m done, simply,
with this party. I’m not being antisocial, the food here is more
than passable, company of the highest order, the guest speakers
fascinating. It’s just I might like to sit quietly without all this laughing,
all these false approvals of achievement, filth diminishing
as the machines keep shrinking, smiles spread across faces
while the bombs keep falling.
Mom said “Today,
we bake a cake.”
I was eight, and a boy,
and my toys
were plastic cast
teaching me to hate,
and cars teaching
me to escape. She
showed me spoons,
and cups, and eggs,
round bottomed things.
Taught me to measure,
and the pleasure it takes
The batter thickened.
Oil so it would not stick.
I licked the bowl.
The whole thing
took half the day.
The toys are filling
land in a trash heap.
is a lemon memory.
Mom? We don’t talk
the whole thing up.
Sons who move
away. Old women
She never wore
an apron. I’ve never
let a lover in. I sit still
quietly in the morning
in my imagination,
in realities where I’m
the maker of destiny,
before I must follow
all day filling out forms
with the heat inside
me rising slowly,
so I can bake
the world like batter,
rather than fire
like an engine,
like a high
or like a furnace
To impress no one, we run
to the store for an onion, for salt
from the sea, for Kleenex
in a box of paisley.
We unlocked door to butt-
in on a simple question, how
one and a half
baths become a studio?
To impress no one, we set
the table with a vase
of carnations, telling no one
what a trying day; trying.
We reach for the door, check
the lock and the peep
before killing the light
in hopes we can sleep.
To impress no one, we wake
the neighbors with our banging,
hanging black and white
photos of fruit.
At our office door we greet
each person with a smile, neat,
and an anecdote from the weekend
“… spent it with friends.”
To impress no one, we end
our stories with a flourish,
garnish their slow-cooked ingredients,
and scour the china, thoroughly, clean.
I’ve heard it said, by fellows
in tunics and scientist eggheads,
that we, meaning all things that aren’t
nothing, no things, are made up
of subatomic, quantum, finely-tuned
strings vibrating, as in a well-
translated koan, our unmeaning
brought over coherently.
If that’s true, then we, a metaphor
for four billion years of tuning turn
out to be this table, chair, air,
organ, skin, and also a melody
each, lines, drawn-in notes,
or instruments, timpani,
tuba, blowing beats
in a distinct symphony.
When I see someone doing something cool or amazing or difficult I have an urge to try that. The urge rises up inside me. I’m inspired. But soon enough that urge fades away. Sometimes I have the urge to go hang-gliding, or to swim/bike/run an Ironman, or to find a racetrack and drive a NASCAR. We all have urges. They are born in the gut and in the bowels and can be quelled, held back, or ignored in a matter oF minutes. The word, urge, is the sound that the stomach and intestines make as they are digesting our food. Listen. Put your head on someone’s belly. Urge. Uuuurrrrrggggeeeee.
Will, however, has two meanings. One is “I intend to do this in the future tense,” as in, “I will call you.” The other, and the one I would suggest you mean whenever you use the word is, “The sustained power of intention over the inertia of present truth.” As in, “She succeeded by sheer force of will.” I suggest you use the second as your meaning whenever you use the word. Go back to that phone call. When you merely intend to do something in the future tense it does not make into reality. When you use the force of your being to overcome inertia, you pull the future toward you and shape it.
The other thing about will, besides its misplaced double meanings, is that we write it wrong. Those of us using Germanic/Romantic languages write our words from left to right. So “will” looks like just another word. But will is actually a hieroglyph, a pictograph, a word made up of pictures, and it is most appropriately written top to bottom, like this:
At the top of will is the crown. W. A crown is placed on top of the head of a king or queen, a person anointed by God to lead. In order to properly use your will you must understand that your voice, your power, your action is about letting the creative/destructive (constructive), power of nature flow through you. To enjoin your will you must crown yourself with that great big W.
And you must place that crown on top of your head. The crown Chakra is your connection to the divine, to all living things. The head Chakra is your connection to the reason and logic and how you conceptualize and shape the world around you. Having the will to do something, without knowing what that thing is leaves you running around screaming at the top of your lungs. And while, a five year old is full of energy and fun to watch, their will spewing out all over the place, until they have a head on their shoulders, i, they are not going to save the world.
So now you have your crown and have placed it firmly on your intention, idea, ideation. Now you need action. Thankfully, you have evolved to have two strong legs, meeting the ground at two strong feet.
The trees do not have these. All there great ideas can do is sprout leaves, which last a season and fall to earth simply to tell of what they have seen. But you can carry your ideas to fruition, to action. You have the will to shape your dreams, hands to mold them, arms to protect them, legs and feel to make them move, a mind to mold and shape and reshape them, the crown to anoint them into reality. The will, the
to turn an improbable and unborn future into a very present tangible reality. You will.
Sung last night, when we pulled curtains tight
and blocked each bulb of light from streaking
our window. We sang in darkness thick, of sweet lyrics,
of wit. This morning late slept so when the rope broke
the sun was miles above the horizon, overwhelmed
by love strung bright as sweat seeping between clouds.
I came to you in pieces, in sheets, like notes in a pale.
You picked me up, hung me on a staff, and on a sail.
We loved quick-hot and deep-long. I plucked
at you like a string. You came on like a song.
If any control befell us we might first give up
the sneeze, it’s strike-like explosion where
breath and impulse mix in an inch of choice
we seem unlikely to inhabit. We might first
give up the in-breath that escapes
when a (wo)man well-made up in our head
walks, alive and real, in and we prove ourselves
to our lust eternally powerless. We might
give up our fear, when the plane drops too quick,
our dreams, which overcome us while we lie
unable, for hours at a time, to plot the moral.
We might. We might, give up flashes of anger
with those whom we share stories.
We might give up our blood
pouring into nascent capillaries
or the pump that ceaseless pours.
We might then, minds right, find ourselves
solved and saved and in possession
of not one good excuse for our sorrow,
nor our misery, nor our giddy tingling.
Harkin had the worst handwriting and specs as thick as
the haze hormones lay on the brain
so it came as an epiphany when we discovered he was
the delinquent behind the graffiti monsters
whose growls were so beautiful our
grandparents pooled their trusts to purchase the building
and leave it to us untouched except for that day in June when
the wealthy and the august alike
meet with bristles and buckets to redefine what weather has
tried every day to wind and rain away..
God’s graffiti: Harkin,
the monsters, the old and monied,
the bricks and
June and us
We thought we knew– in the womb, tied
into the heartbeat, tied
into the grumble of a belly, tied
into muffled voices– the totality of love and being.
We thought we knew– after the first fall, first
cut of skin and blood, first
tumble down stairs, when our parents
picked us up for hugs– the totality of love and being.
We thought we knew– when, with hormones
coursing through our veins
some young thing looked into us
with such longing– the totality of love and being.
We thought we knew when touched, in prayer, by God,
in first meditation, in Cathedral, between tears
of impossible life-long promise, in the wiggle
in the eyes of our offspring.
The heart keeps alighting, igniting,
then opening up to larger truths, to possibilities,
to newer and newer peace, to others, to each.
(And we thought we knew).
On a thick pub tabletop we’ve crammed in
as many empty glasses as can fit, as many
stories as can fit, drinking to the years since
we were sure about what color hair love
must have, what dollars and what frames
we’d work for. On the gravel outside
a four-door sedan by a mini-van. In it
we clutch our boxes and our wrappers,
in the back there’s a factory designed
to entertain the wee. Remember backseat
cushions pressed against perfume,
and fogged windows offered the privacy
of a hotel room. Sometimes you come
to the light with an old tune playing too low,
no one else at the intersection. Your hair
grows, and your voice crackles, and the pedal
longs for sneakers, and you spin, till the sign
reminds you of 45 and of the wealth of this
life. When it’s all gone I hope we can return,
off-stage, without carpeting, tile, stone
sidewalks and long highways. I want
to tell you how much love I have, how much
envy, how much time with you meant to me.
The Buddha was born to privilege
and died beneath
the lotus tree.
We were raised in green lush
forests of ignorance,
on political issues taking into account
neither far off
nor near history,
the world outside our palace,
down by the river,
in the Ozarks.
Buddha was born the day he embraced
the world of suffering,
curiosity for a way
to live in concert hardened his back and broke
through easily fed
desires of the flesh,
his strength from the song of the bazaar, from steel
in sun. We stand mute
knowing we’ll never go, in this flesh, to that prison,
having been cursed or blessed
with a belly full
and the right of fully realized potential,
a hard heart, blind eyes,
and a deathless life.
a pond shines –
in a hollow inside
my brain, besides a hill
and lawn – silverly with
black carp sucking at
sun they cannot
The slights and lack of light embossed on a first grade face
are too deep
to be placed
by just the snarl
of a bully
casting out by a girl who won’t enjoy kissing for another decade
some souls are born
under-built for this world
as if an appendage
failed to grow in
some spend years cleaving chunks of meat their soul has yet to embody
and some take scores
to fill-in suit sleeves
dragging on the floor
thighs bunched up to the feet
the S on their cape deflated well into their forties (and still longer to fly)
The final verdict handed down in court today,
said death must be administered swift, without delay.
“But he’s so old,” his lawyers begged for some mercy,
called his client fat and weak and unsexy.
With all the bandwidth suckled up by video,
the TV sets don’t even play the songs no more.
And radio’s just morphed into this other thing,
living happily in a box beside the video games.
And so the judge decided something so severe,
the court reporter screamed at what she heard.
He said, “Kill them both, and kill the MP3.
Music wasn’t meant to play inside a screen.”
So now we have to wait until the festival,
to watch our favorite acts put earwigs in our skulls.
And in the meantime, we have met our spouse today,
and all our children just went back outside to play.
In the deep blood
oxygen deprived morning,
blue like a bruise
beneath skin, knowing
Ptoelmy’s hot body,
this world, of which we are
just sex, nothing but
a fungus filled with seeds
of consciousness absorbed
by the stomach’s inner lining, I
feels still, like the sun
rolls back in, always,
in a day, or a month,
that universal uterus
ending in a prick of light.
I dream days away,
devoted, in a deep chill,
to the idea that I must offer
something unique to this world
with these gold flecked eyes.
In the jungle
a muggy umbrella
slumps above the canopy,
in its soggy blur
and each gene.
to stay separate
from the embers of a forest,
his sleep daily
deprived by the bugler’s
jeer of Reveille.
with a dank mist
that merges clams
The dew of our lungs,
bungles flint locks
All things into all things.
My father stripped the forest
so’s he could stay dry,
though I’ll admit
he never burned for me.
I loved her lips, honestly,
of senses swearing
sitting atop organs
opened an entryway
into other dominions.
I’ve sworn since
that I sense energy
in the mannerisms
of mystics migrating
by, though my cortex
claims plainly this
is prejudice playing.
The cliffs are distant,
as is the kitchen
as is the third grade
and old age,
and any level
outside of understanding.
in rythmic spinning.
The basement of your brain
Muscles twitch to assure
you that you loved her, more
than just her lips.
We love the teenager’s earnest first album, unfettered
by the lilt of a head at a concert off campus,
the flirting curves of possibility.
Their flawless lust and heartfelt promise, before
the prick of success and nights indulged in rooms
they should never lie down in.
We love the braggadocio of a world-view cradled
in a journal by everything we know they can’t
yet know, the scrawls of innocence.
Oily face and awkward fingers pluck a guitar string,
shouting, without a doubt, chords, they’re assured
can change a mind, change everything.
Mama would remind to scrub behind
ears, as if saying some corners
you won’t remember
need to be cleaned.
Papa would decry the Democrats and the Japs,
and the schools these days with their coddling ways
and the new fangled math.
siege at the top of the world
Mama would warn not to talk to strangers,
to the police or an adult, hinting
there are no good
Papa would leave early, return late, fly off
on trips where he was always away,
come home tired, sleep all day.
Mama wanted to raise safe
ecstatic children, alive
and off in their element,
dodging the specter of foul things.
Papa wanted only to break, someplace
to sit in pieces, unbothered, a corner
in which to lament his fate.
don’t you wish you were here
Joe wants to know
how old I am (coworker
banter). This year
I’m three feet and sixty
pounds turning in circles
of grass stained dungarees.
Or sixteen and freed
for the next hundred miles
by five gallons of gasoline.
I’m simple, sun-faced,
and happy. This year,
I contain the first few
moments inside a woman,
my fortieth birthday, too many
Sundays flailing in ecstasy
cheering for a miracle catch
on TV. I’m every gap in memory,
each darkness, all the nights
I’d take back, the lost transit
from this city to that.
The traffic to work,
all the curses. Older
than my father before
my birth. I’m uncharted.
Our great uncles had scraped knuckles and loved
living in a time and place where each complaint
was accompanied by a plate of well earned protein.
If they could see us today they’d whoop and holler
at the lack of dust and clay we breathe
to earn and boil and burn that plate.
Our aunts were disciplinarians who taught reading
to children so they could grow, for a few years,
in fairytales where common folk were heroes.
If she could see us now in down coats and once
worn boots she’d grin, knowing those lessons
gave us a life of play, and how long we’d live.
For Halloween Cole’s a pumpkin. At Christmas
he’s awash in presents. He has loved-ones
in every state. In the schools now they teach
invention, hoping one day he’ll hue out a way
to raise those still in the mines, on the plows,
and in factories, to hasten our crawl from the sea.
I am quite sure the floor to this airplane is a solid object on which I can trust my body, my life and two bags of luggage, that it will not fail me. Pema Chodron would tell me this trust is unfounded, and silly. Obviously there is no ground beneath me. That is the nature of existence. She would say that there is always nothing holding this together. Once, knowing this, you can settle into a life of constant and permanent change. Are we ready for this? For our lovers and our children to be growing and living and falling to pieces. For not only technology, but memories, books and even the good old days to be constantly reshaping. Are we ready to admit that we are all gerunds unsettling, electrons bouncing from cloud to cloud, constantly running into each other and running away?
No. We try to hold onto moments, judgements, grudges. We try to outrun our own changing bodies, to beat back time, to trust memory and story, and to avoid having to face our inevitable death. We pile up anything that has ever given us a step up, a slight advantage, hoping that the mountain beneath us is enough to never crumble. But, there is nothing holding the earth in place, because it is not in place. It is a massive whirling spinning foam that has slowed and cooled only slightly. But somehow, when we came down from the trees, the first thing we tried to do was set down roots. We still try today to slow down sunlight, capture it and mead it out at a pace that allows us to stay in one place and safe.
And so we build things. At one point, “things” were about safety, and perhaps procreation. The person with the best cave could keep their offspring safe. But at some point we no longer had to worry about the elements, about lions. We are headed towards a world where some people will not have to worry about crime or accidents or disease. So why create or purchase more things. Remember, there is no ground beneath this airplane. We are spinning in the currents above spinning currents. We have not, will not, can not escape our ever changing, changing fate. Our inventions continue their decay.
So, I think, we innovate things that will not change. Artwork, pictures, injection plastic molding. If I buy a really nice model of car, or a great pair of jeans, perhaps they will outlast me. Perhaps I will be in my darkest final days and still have my teddy bear given to me when I was three, or the tie given to me when I was thirty. If only we could build slower and slower, or stopped, things. This is struggle. This is work. This is our rock we choose to push, each morning, uphill.
Tomorrow (and tomorrow), in a new place, in a new body, you will be forced to admit that nothing can be held very well for very long. You are different than you were today. Your newest set of nicest plates is not the same. Whether it be by flood, or earthquake or the slow rumble of time, your finest China will fall away. This is the nature of reality, the clothes on your back will leave you threadbare, and then you will lose your back, then this body.
Galileo chose to recant his findings in life. At death, he is claimed to have said, “It moves.” It rubs, it recedes, it decays, it falls away. It wants to be free from form, and then to form every form. Right now, the metal underneath my seat is being warn away by winds moving five hundred miles per hour at fifty degrees below freezing. It was not always metal. It will not always be. It is constantly moving. There is no permanence in things, only chasing.
Someday we will be a hundred and little
more than a novelty, an annoyance
to those around us, jabbering on
about days when we use to lift
ourselves from a hormones
haze, out of our rough life
when we were beautiful
and the music moved us
to drive to our lovers side
and chance promising a lie.
Someday we will pass, united
finally with our hot young selves,
our summer loves, and our harmonies.
(and I choose to fill it).
Someone is constantly
coughing at these things.
I can’t hear myself.
Clever is not a lever of power.
The whirr of machinery.
I would have expected comedy.
The seventies burnt in orange and brown corduroy,
scratched, stretched and held together with Scotch
tape. The eighties smoldered in somber florescent
hues, peppier, yet more thoughtful. In my head
I keep black and white images, a Polaroid holding
nothing in color but your lips pursed in a question
beneath a piano. At night we were safe. The flash lit
nothing but your nose, the faded page of your cheeks,
your sweater washed out at the edges. My albums
spin with a skip, my movies look awful in high-def.
I love you in still-life without the hope of movement,
in memory. Fidelity is the tragedy of technology.
My head above the cold sidewalk
where the sun breaks a streak along the line of Kansas.
Behind it, states I’ve given my years to, by choice,
by circumstance, where folks I miss
woke earlier, rose children, burnt toast
who are now
busy scheduling meetings.
I face west to do what I’ve always done
facing the wide sky. Run. Bad
at long hauls, at dark nights,
at big gambles, and being Mr. Right
for anyone for very long. Bad
as anything, but
a sweet memory, a story, somewhat quotable.
The long clean line of mascara painted in the mirror by my hand when steady and my eyes wide open
led directly to the quaffed up hair and two spritzes of perfume walked into and mashed between wrists
by the end my equator was wobbling
by the moonset I carried my sandals
the sun woke to peel and squeeze me
The long sash around the center of the planet where days and nights are equal I’m reminded in Astronomy
half asleep and healing is not a circle but flat at the poles and bulging because of the speed of its spinning
by the end my equator was wobbling
by the moonset I carried my sandals
the sun this morning to skin and pour me
With all this babble
you think I’d be able
to uncover a spell
to whisper how well
I have been moved
by the thought of you.
And yet these words
come out absurd
when I try to define
this sense of mine
that delves below
the highs and lows
of your flesh.
I am awash
to identify the pure,
holy, humble, sublime
sense of you. Namaste
is the closest to say,
that the oneness in me
can almost see
through our lies
and our lives
to the deal
we struck to feel
separate, to fool
ourselves into dual
bodies. We play
along this way,
hide and seek,
but I long to speak
in one voice, finally,
with the truth beneath.
If I could curtail the cacophony in my head and somehow store
each agony in a jar, can them, let them slumber in the basement
while snow sedated the green grass, we could eat from sealed glass
canisters all winter and never wonder whether the withered crops
would return in spring. We could grow fat on the fertile jelly
of my worst tendencies. We could grow lazy on my lack
of industry. We could dine of the fine and acerbic wit
of my anger, my lashing out impulses. And I would
sleep-in long enough to be well rested and greet
the afternoon sun with a dry yawn, containing
nothing but my most lovely, fruitful musings.
In the shade of my first decade a voice too small to know
could have told me, “You have lived so far in three states, spent
existence as the youngest, a big brother, a four-eyed outcast.
You have loved like no one might have ever. This you’ve done,
just ten years gone.”
Careers poked through from seeds and grew. Promotions, evaluations,
each experience a blend of faces leading and faces lead. Leaves felled
from the end of branches, flowering. They run. Now hung in a vase,
or spread out in their own field. I worked till the crops had come,
those ten years gone.
Lovers lives rose like balloons, bright and colorful, hot nights blown into
with all the might lust-filled lungs can produce, lifting against the sunlight
with no ground in sight, surely meant to always rise. The dot on the horizon
cool with falling night, cool against inevitable dawn. Laid on uneven ground,
ten years gone.
Passions and hobbies, majors and industries, hair styles and musical taste,
small existence come and gone, plans some might call a waste, cities, projects.
We can meditate for a lifetime or two, figuring out what to love and what to do.
In the end only the stories carry on, characters in our misspelled memories,
ten years gone.
Exalt, if you will, the evolution of the pre-frontal cortex. Exalt,
if you must, the grip of the opposable thumb. Blame
every innovation and evil on these digits. But what changed
when we left the jungle, when we skipped from the forest
for fields, was a scent on the air of something delicious,
a scent we stood erect to canter towards. Blame God,
but it was the serpent slipping us a gift to discern poison,
which gave the apple flavor, which gave life to sweat,
the wet tongues of Adam and Eve, tossed from paradise
for knowing, lashing out in blame for each other till they met
for the first time in embrace and tasted, with lips, another glory.
So, we have wasted eons learning to cook a delectable dish,
to explore our bodies, to speak of this. Exalt, if you will, buildings
boned as namesakes to phallic leaders, but the long twisting wires
bind us now, to nothing more than language and lust, spread out
from our throats to the other, to the One, to our once and true
love. Evolution, ever forward, until we learn to ask back in, to tell God
what we’ve learned from skin, what we’ve done, with our tongues.
I’ve been misheard as a man risking fortunes on a tumble.
Would rather be bounding round a meadow. Longed for grass
to be grown to my knees, such that I must jump to be
a simple boy who finds joy in the sun overhead. Landing
in a puddle of sweat shimmering up to a pond’s edge,
peering up at the black that comes when a day surrenders.
Simple, path and relax in a joy found freely. You find me
on the green felt under fluorescents believing cunning
will get me off the floor up-enough to head out for the door,
past parking lots and gold bulbs, which I can’t seem to find
anymore. No idea, the sky today. But I hope blue, to lie
beneath you causing us a moan, for your eyes to close,
for something inside us to come alive, fly. Our wing tips
on the grass’s edge. If not to boxcars, then, to the end.
What I thought was forty-one was thirty-four. What I thought
was thirty-four were my twenties. What I thought were my twenties
was a paradise of lawless love — and love. What I thought
was a lustful energy were cold songs playing loudly
in a one-eyed vision, some echo from a time before time
when we agreed to see each other only through agreed upon mosses,
a deal in which I could not abide. What I thought was my hand
was a Luke-warm stream tumbling over the jagged rocks of a waterfall.
I was only here one time. What I thought was my youth
left me by a pond downstream, and a thousand years old. I’ve seen
this before, this longing. It’s nothing more than an illusion,
nothing which can’t be heightened — or indulged
brought to truth by enlightenment. What we think of
as the world in front of us swims behind our eyes. What we long for
is our own voice rung through the ears of a lover — when we are elsewhere,
a voice to confirm the beauty of our existence. What I thought were my eyes
were your eyes. What I thought was a body — melted into spirit.
What I conceived of when netted in my own devices
was a whiff of perfume that skipped me like a stone and left me
on the opposing shore. What I found there — what
I believed to be our first time was our first time.
If we woke tomorrow and everyone had half an acre, a similar size home, food on the shelves, some form of reliable transportation to take them to and from a valued and valuable job, and similar support from security, sanitation, education and health-care workers, what would be different? Most of us lead our lives searching for the things above (space, security, sustenance) so that we can pursue the fun and good work of life, our hobbies, our families, our passions.
What would be different would be the ability to make a living, to earn money, particularly at the lavish end of the scale. If people wanted for little, if their neighbors car was not vastly nicer than theirs, their house actually quite similar. If we had no reason, really, to invade, outdo or lord over the country at our borders, what would we buy?
Sure, we’ve found work here for the teachers, doctors, police, construction, farming, sanitation, bureaucrats. We have even found work for the pen-makers, clothing designers, canners, bicycle shop owners and computer companies, as people pursue their basic needs and passions. But, who needs lawyers, or hedge fund managers, or manufacturers of weapons, or lobbyists, or bank tellers? Who cares about stock market prices or interest rates? Is anyone’s passion truly making outlandish sums of money, were it not a game of proving you are better, smarter and stronger than the person next to you, were you not afraid for yours and your family’s safety? What good is proving what you can accumulate?
So instead, we have wars, government shutdowns, arguments on guns, health-care, marriage and God that have no solid answer, that breed intransigence and squabbles. And we hold our beliefs on these as sacred and unbending. Who we do not see are the money changers in the temples, those people taking our donation and sale in exchange for a promise to lobby for us, represent us, navigate a complicated system, offer a return on investment, a promise to keep us safe by bombing the other.
Peace does not pay.
Equality makes lavish estates, passed on from generation to generation, grown like algae to choke a vast lake, impossible to maintain.
Quiet, calm and inner strength are the enemies of the rich and the elected.
The true revolutionaries are the ones who need little to be happy, who remember, in some way, the beginning of existence at a parent’s knee, when all they needed was a dry backside, a small amount to eat, and a kiss on the cheek.
The week before a marathon the miles die down and you are left with time to contemplate the training you’ve done, and the race ahead. Why anyone would run a marathon is still beyond the grasp of reason. But, what can be said is that training for, and racing, at any distance, requires a ton of sacrifice.
One must surrender, first, the notion that you are who you were brought up to be, and that you cannot change. This notion becomes impossible to hold onto as you run your first mile, then two, then ten. Once things that once seemed undreamable become easy, you can no longer hold the notion of a stuck and static and immovable you.
You must sacrifice, as well, being sad about your life, because your lungs are becoming stronger and your heart and your muscles and your mind. The droopy face in the mirror tightens up, and dare I say, you might often see a smile. It’s a wonder really, that doing these simple things we humans were no doubt designed to do, prevents the pointless doldrums of electronics from sappy our enjoyment of existence.
You must be willing, also, to part with unhealthy eating, for it makes the miles harder, and no one loves hard miles. You must give up negative self-talk, the voice of your sleepless parents, your insecure classmates, your confused first lover, and your crossed former best-friend. You must surrender the snarled face of every bully who made you breathless, as you need your breath daily; deep, slow, even breathing.
You must give up being stuck between fourteen and eighteen, staying up after midnight to prove a point, seeing how much you can drink and still make it through the day, being always angry. Longer distances will suck these energies out of you, and leave them splattered beneath rubber soles on concrete.
You must give up the drama of being put-upon, of feeling that this whole world is out to get you. Because most of this world can no longer catch you. They are sitting at home imbibing TV. The sun is up and they are still sleeping. They are out late at expensive restaurants bitching about how unfair this all is, and overeating. And you are watching yourself change.
It’s not easy, to give up these dramas and admit that you know nothing. To admit that your body and your being and your capability are unknown, especially to you. That you have no idea what you could train for, what you could grow into, what you could learn to love to do.
Honestly, if you’re not willing to sacrifice these things, not your time, nor pain, nor your “…always had bad knees”. If you are unwilling to sacrifice the current image of yourself, then you might be better served being one of the people who says, “I would love to be able to…” Someone who sits stuck in their square box and laments how easy, how hard, how uneven, how unfair, how disproportionate this world can be.
I warn you. One step outside that box and you risk your very security, your safety. You are being watched, and stalked, and followed right now, by someone close by, someone awake and alive, by the person you could soon be.
Something in you moves me
to anger. To magic.
To a man’s emotion
and a child’s tantrum. Something
raises me off the ground and
pounds me down.
my gaze and grinds my stones,
like a river, to smoother angles.
A thing in you
that wrinkles me.
That reminds me of long flat days
and pointed nights. Where the air
can be seen
escaping. A thing
that when I snuggle up closer,
growls, and moans, and huffs
before it falls
at least. Raring for a new day.
Walter White was found dead on Sunday due to complications from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He is survived by his wife Skylar, his daughter Holly, and his three sons.
The relationship between father and son can be twisted. Something innate activates in a man when he realizes he will have a male offspring. He sees this small and helpless boy as the potential for his own longevity, for his own immortality. Perhaps it is the same with mothers and daughters, but sons are to their fathers the very glass into which one can pour their best self. In the days when men had farms and businesses, their sons were the ones to ready it for, to add “and son” to the sign, to pass it onto.
White’s first son, sometimes called Walter Jr. and sometimes called Flynn, will graduate from his father’s former employer, Wynne High School. He was, at times, proud of his father, and at times horrified by him. He has grown into a man, perhaps one of the few men, to stand up to White throughout his rampage. From his father he learned to be sweet and caring and right. It is Flynn’s soft hand that lands on Holly’s head, that finally speaks a prideless truth to Skylar, that steers through life with a moral compass which says that family is more important than money, that risk is not always worth reward, that being a teacher is a higher calling than pioneering a new industry.
White’s second son, Jesse, came into Walter’s life when he first learned he was dying. A boy already separate from his own family, whose potential had never been tapped and who had seen his best days left in the past. Jesse is the great idea, the master plan, the true self that White abandoned for the security of family. He does not want money, but thrills. He tastes, but cannot digest anything familial, any nesting. Even his friends, those closest to him, are a distant (always distant) echoing. He is the pure focus and application of skill, and the only one remotely able to carry on White’s dynasty. Screwed up from the start, he was last seen laughing maniacally, flying through a fence and headed, like a laser, away from everything.
White’s youngest son was born around the same time as his daughter Holly. Unnamed until the final song, but sometimes called blue magic or blue sky, we know him simply as Baby Blue. There is little chance he survived the incident that took White’s life, but more than Flynn or Jessie, Blue is likely to be well-known for a long time. Into this child Walt poured his imagination, his precision, his expertise, and the child gladly received. He never fought back or disappointed. He never fled or lashed out angrily. No, Baby Blue simply paid attention and did what he was told. For that, he ended up every bit as ideal as any father or any school teacher could imagine, the apprentice that listened intently.
Walter White died with a smile on his face, most likely because despite his transgressions, his violations of law and morality, his wife and his daughter and his three sons survived. And what more could one man ask for, then to leave a gift for each of his sons. To one he gave his heart, his sacrifice and his morality. To one he gave his freedom, his talent, and his industry. And to one he gave his reputation, his story, which will live on forever, his fame, his infamy.