Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Politics is a Poke in the Eye



Politics is a poke in the eye.
While driving a speed boat.
Through shark infested waters.
At night.

My eye has been poked.
It’s irritated.
The seas are choppy.
The boat is slapping through the waves.
There’s blood in the water.

I want to keep driving though.
It’s somehow safer if I’m in control.
Whipping violently through the water,
blindly slicing the sea.
I can’t hear the screams of, “Man Overboard!”

The boat, filled with pundits, mouthpieces,
shills, moneyed interests, and fat cats, 
has no time to stop for one overboard,
we’ve got to get to shore.
Regardless of cost.

A green beacon, beckons, flashing,
I can barely make it out through my furious
eye rubbing. The noise of the passengers,
cantankerously accusing each other of letting
another passenger tumble over the side.

Just have to make it to shore,
Just make it to East Egg and
I can let these people go.
I can stop them from poking
everyone in the eyes.

The sea spray stings my face,
and I squint, in the night,
trying to get back on course,
or maybe, chart a new one.

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Minute on a Soap Box



                (Gets up on Soap Box)

PBS recently blew my mind with an episode of American Experience. This recent episode discussed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. An event in American History conveniently left out of my history curriculum while a young lad at school.  It is an appalling example of Immigration “Reform” run amok.

                “The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first major law restricting immigration to the United States. It was enacted in response to economic fears, especially on the West Coast, where native-born Americans attributed unemployment and declining wages to Chinese workers whom they also viewed as racially inferior. The Chinese Exclusion Act, signed into law on May 6, 1882, by President Chester A. Arthur, effectively halted Chinese immigration for ten years and prohibited Chinese from becoming US citizens. Through the Geary Act of 1892, the law was extended for another ten years before becoming permanent in 1902.” - http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/exclusion.html

                This Exclusion Act was law in the United States of America until 1943. It wasn’t completely eliminated until 1965 with the passage of the Immigration Act. During the time the law was in effect, it was determined that even American born children of Chinese Immigrants were not guaranteed the same rights as other American born children of other ethnicities, like the Irish, Polish, Italian or those of European stock.

                It was truly a shameful history lesson. One that I honestly never heard of before until this PBS special. The timeliness of this special was not lost on me as the United States once again and continues to grapple with the issue of Immigration. It occurred to me that Americans have short memories and frankly have failed to learn anything from our mistakes. I’m not saying we have to be perfect, but when it comes to Immigration issues, we’ve been there/done that. And we have apparently, not learned anything.

                The Chinese Immigrants looked different, practiced a different religion, spoke a different language and had altogether different ways of doing things. The Chinese were so reviled they were deemed to be, “unassimilable” to American culture and values; it was thought that it would be better to limit the amount of them here and flatly refuse to allow more into the country.  Frankly, White People didn’t understand them, didn’t want to understand them, and we’re afraid of what they didn’t understand. They decided to, figuratively, kill what they didn’t understand. Sometimes literally.

                It’s no surprise really that this period in American History was not exactly taught to grammar school and High School Students. We were always taught that America was the land of opportunity in which all people, from all over the world were allowed to be who they were and join into the “Melting Pot”.  We were taught the poem on the Statue of Liberty was American canon and it was to be abided, and all peoples, “Yearning to breath free”, were to be welcomed.

                It’s a real shame how my classic American Optimism was once again shattered by this story of blatant legislated bigotry. I always try to believe that the United States of America is a place where everyone should get a fair shake. I know in my heart of hearts it’s a myopic optimism. I was always taught to believe in the good about America and to ignore the mistakes of our past. Bigotry, forget it. Racism, forget it. Sexual Orientation issues, forget it. Just go about paying your taxes and we’ll make sure the big bad (Insert Non-Catholic Nation here) doesn’t bomb you in the night.

                In fact, it would appear a blind adherence to psudo-religion doctrine is the cause of a lot of issues for Americans. It seems a lot of issues between Americans and immigrants, especially the Chinese, stemmed from the fact that they did not practice some form of Catholicism.   I would say the same applied to the Jewish, Buddhists, Hindus, what have you. Yet it would appear it was the Chinese who suffered the most with having their very existence in America legislated.  Basically told, you’re an undesirable and we hate you.

                The Chinese persisted and eventually, through an immense amount patience, hard work and political action, managed to weave their way into the American fabric. And yet, there is still residual mistrust and hatred residing in some parts of this nation. For the Chinese, or anyone who is, “Different”. A mistrust I find very difficult to fathom.

                The same could be said for Latin immigrants, ex-pats if you will, attempting to find for themselves a new life in the United States of America. In fact, the rhetoric about this issue is so perplexing, I’m not even actually sure what name I should refer to regarding those new immigrants. Somehow, “Latin,” seems incorrect.  Perhaps, “huddled masses,” is more apt. I’ll just call them huddled masses.

                These huddled masses, so reviled for their different languages, customs, beliefs and general appearance; are being treated by this current American government in much the same way immigrants in the past were being treated. Our elected representatives enact laws, create restrictions, barriers, and impossible hoop-jumping tricks to limit the arrival of the new huddled masses. It is so reminiscent of the political behaviors of the 1880’s I can’t believe no one has pointed this out to anyone in power.  

                Or maybe it has been pointed out to them and they just don’t care.  Maybe this concept of a Nation, built by immigrants, has been deemed undesirable, and has been washed from history. Just like it was left out of my school boy days.

                (Steps off soap box)


https://www.pbs.org/video/the-chinese-exclusion-act-eixnlw/

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Lifetime to Learn



Life is a struggle,
negotiating daily with the
pains, aches and assaults
to our senses.

Wrestling with the
unknown parts of ourselves,
the known, and the matter
in between.

Teetering between madness
and joy, we pick our battles,
sometimes we win,
sometimes we lose.

There are depths to our minds
that when imagined, are dark
unending chasms to infinity,
of which nothing can escape.

There are soaring heights to
our minds, swooping effortlessly
over bright golden fields of ceaseless
beauty and majesty.

There’s the middle; gray, misty,
rocky, filled with perils and ghosts
of our shame and embarrassments,
and of our potential triumphs.

Navigating this complex human vessel
is hazardous, daunting and damaging,
it’s scary, balanced between being prey
or being the hunter.

Billions of minor choices a millisecond
course through the electrochemical
engine of our brains, fueling desires or
fears, passions and pleasures.

Life, in and out of our control, to tame it
and to be tamed by it, to shake your fist at
it in defiance or accept it in peaceful
complacency.

Life is a struggle,
to be uneasy about it
is normal.
That’s life.

And it takes a lifetime
to learn. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Let's Talk about Words, Baby.



Words are charged with
an exceptional amount of power.
They can move the planet
if used properly. From the strongest
words to the mildest, they have raw
power.

There have been famous words,
heard by every school child and
adult, so a piece of our collective
consciousness, that to take those
words away would be to strip us
of who we are.

The words that make us, inside our
minds, the loves, hopes, dreams,
and monologues are stitched together
in an intricate pattern of delicately
chosen words, a pattern which becomes
who we are and how we’re perceived.

We’ve thrown words away when they’re not
right. We’ve corrected our words when they
don’t adequately express what we’re trying to say,
we’re the constant editors of our own
narrative, and that is what gives our words
such strength.

Words are immediate, present. The words we
choose give meaning to the most inconsequential and
consequential moments of our lives.
Words provide a way to define our reality,
to make sense of the wonder always around us.
Words live and breathe.

Words, can at most times, speak louder than action.
Words can be taken away with a surprised gasp,
or in the rage of a fiery throat, sore from yelling,
Words, are not disposable things to be catted about
willy-nilly. They have power and should be respected
for that power.  Words resonate with our will.

Even the word, “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis”.
Deserves respect.
Yes, it’s a real word.     
It’s medical and super real.
And I use it to make my point,
about the power of a word.

If I heard a doctor used that
word, I would immediately pique up
my ears and pay very close attention to
the words that followed.
A twenty-dollar word like that should
be heeded.   

It goes to show what power,
gravity, metal and or grit any
word can have and how important it
is to use them properly, with mindfulness,
thoughtfulness and some amount
of compassion for the ears your words may
fall upon.

Choose these powerful tools wisely,
sticks and stones may break your bones,
but words can scar you for life.
They can destroy other’s lives,
they can destroy your own life.
So be responsible with this power.

Be responsible with your words.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Tree



“See that tree there,” said the old man.
“Which tree,” I asked.
“The one with the lopsided broken branch resting on the ground. In the clearing,” he replied.

                I looked across the road in the direction the old man was pointing with his shaking finger. I saw a large, lush tree, green with Spring leaves and a full canopy. There was a large broken branch leaning to the tree’s right side, but it too seemed to be alive with growth.

                “I do see it,” I said, “looks like a nice tree.”
                “No. That tree… that tree is evil,” said the old man.

                I looked at the old man’s wrinkled and worn face. His expression was wistfully distant. He seemed to be lost in a memory and was wearing it across his weathered brow.

                “How can a tree be evil,” I asked. “It’s just a tree. Trees in my experience are rather morally neutral.”
                “No sir. That tree wants nothing but misery, terror and general unhappiness for all who gaze upon it,” said the old man.

                The old man pressed his lips tightly as he stared at the tree across the road. The tree was surrounded by large yellow dandelions mixed with a creeping violet colored flower. The leaves stirred gently in the Spring breeze.

                “It mocks me,” said the old man.
                “How in the world can a tree mock you,” I asked.

                The old man turned to me. He looked me directly in the eyes.  I could see his impatience and anger churning behind his aging eyes.

                “I’m telling you young man. That tree, that tree is a trickster. A lying, two-faced, tree of misery and falsehoods,” said the old man.
                “Why do you say all this about this tree,” I asked.

                The old man straightened his back and looked across the road. The tree was bristling in a sharp Spring breeze.

                “I used to see that tree every day on my way to work. It always seemed to stand out to me as I drove by. It was set away and apart from the other trees. Almost like it had crawled away from the forest to make it on its own in the clearing. I felt a kinship with that idea since I too had struck out on my own and was trying to make it. Every day I saw that tree, I felt like it was there for me to see; to remind me that I could grow and become something bigger and better than I was. That tree made me feel like my goals were achievable.  I felt something like love for that tree and wished it nothing but the best but all I got in return was bad luck, disappointment and a feeling of betrayal,” said the old man.

“Wow,” I said, “That’s a lot of feeling for a tree.”

The old man ignored me and kept on with the telling of his tale.

 “One day, after a particularly violent Summer storm the tree seemed to be in trouble. The tree trimming crews for the State seemed set on cutting it down. That large branch you see, still sitting on the ground. It was knocked onto the ground, perhaps by wind, perhaps hit by lightning, I don’t know which. But I didn’t want to see the tree get cut down just because of that one branch loss. It looked like such a healthy and full tree. It has always been surrounded by those lush flowers and thick, full grass. It seemed somehow wrong to cut it down, just because one large branch had fallen during some big weather event,” said the old man.

I nodded along with the old man’s story as I looked out over the tree. The branch was still leaning on the ground, slightly overgrown with flowers and tall grass. The rough edge of where it broke away from the trunk still visible, poking up in defiance of it’s condition.

“So I prayed on it. I prayed so hard that the State would leave my tree alone. I prayed to God to protect that tree. I prayed it wouldn’t be cut down and continue its growth unimpeded,” said the old man.
“I didn’t know you were religious,” I said.

The old man gave me an askance glare.

“Don’t change the subject,” said the old man.
“Sorry,” I said, “Please continue.”

“So it seemed that my prayers were answered. The next day as I drove by. The tree trimming crews were gone and my tree, that tree, seemed to be saved. The tree trimmers hadn’t even removed the broken branch. I was so happy about it. I said so, out loud as I drove past. ‘Well done,’ I said and cheered in my heart at our mutual good fortune. You see, I felt that tree was now safe because of my prayers and in some way the tree knew it and would somehow be grateful to me,” said the old man.

I tried not to snicker.

“Go ahead and laugh if you must. I know it sounds silly. It sounds mad actually,” said the old man.
“I mean, it’s a tree. It can’t have any sense of gratitude or any possible understanding of our human concept for prayer. It’s just pretty…crazy, if you ask me,” I said.

The old man licked his lips and smiled a little.

“I agree. How in this universe could a tree have any soul, or concept of a soul? How could these naturally occurring, organic clumps of wood fiber feel anything? I know it’s a crazy idea. But, what if, on the same crazy spectrum, they know more than we arrogant humans give them credit for,” said the old man.

                I stopped my judgmental snickering and did ponder the essence of a tree’s soul. Could a tree have a soul?

                “Well, I believed this tree had a soul. I believed this tree had a heart. What I didn’t know was that soul was black and its heart was filled with malevolence,” said the old man.

                I looked at the old man. He was leaning back now in his chair. His head held up slightly. He started to speak as if he was giving a eulogy for some long-departed friend.

                “Every morning after that night of prayer, and the apparent saving of the tree, I started greeting it aloud as I drove past. I’d say, ‘Good morning tree, I hope you have a great day!’ and things like, ‘Morning my friend, let’s hope for a good day…,’ and so on and so forth, every single morning. In fact, on the weekends, when I didn’t drive those roads, I felt bad for not saying hello to my tree friend. It became a ritual for me. Something I felt like I had to do, not only for the sake of the tree, but for me as well. Something that re-affirmed our connection to each other,” said the old man.

                The old man’s face shifted. He seemed to be uncomfortable in his chair.

                “Soon after I began this morning ritual of wishing good morning to the tree; things started to go terrible for me.  My job, which I loved, started to become an unbearable burden. My co-workers started second guessing me. My bosses stopped trusting me with important work. I felt marginalized and unimportant.  Then my personal life started to go amok. The woman I was dating started cheating on me with a friend of mine. I got into fights with my family, with whom I had never fought. I lost money on normally sure things. I had car problems that cost a fortune, rent issues, leaks in my apartment ceiling, my friends stopped calling me or hanging out with me and I was heading for some odd forced isolation,” continued the old man.

                I leaned in further toward the old man as he recounted his sudden misfortunes.

                “I couldn’t figure out why things had suddenly started to go so wrong for me, yet every morning I still drove past that tree and wished it a good day and tried to send some positive vibes towards it. Every morning I thought, ‘Well, today is a new day for things to go right and get back on track,’ and yet, they wouldn’t. Things seemed to continue to go badly for me. Yet every morning, I still had to say good morning to my tree,” said the old man.

                He cleared his throat but kept a close eye on the tree across the road. The tree’s leaves continued to flutter in the breeze.

                “Then one day, I had to start taking a new route to work. The normal road was under construction and I couldn’t drive past the tree and say good morning. And that’s when things started to turn around for me. My job suddenly returned to normal, I even got a promotion. I found a new girlfriend who would never cheat on me. My money troubles stopped and I even was able to start saving again. It was as if a magician had waved a wand and all my troubles just stopped. It was just too odd not to notice it. I was feeling quite good about myself again. But then, the construction on the roads stopped and my old route was re-opened. So I thought, I should certainly say hello to my tree friend. I’ve missed him. That very morning, after driving past my tree and saying, ‘Hey tree, I missed you my friend. I hope you’re well and we have a great day.’ The moment after I said it I got in to a terrible car accident,” said the old man.

                I sat back in my chair. I’d heard of this terrible accident before. The old man was nearly killed. He was broken in so many places that it didn’t seem likely he would live. I shook my head in awe.

                “That’s right. The accident that nearly ended my life. All because I decided to say hello to that damn tree. That tree, that tree tried to kill me. It was then that I realized that it wasn’t a tree with a good soul, but one of evil. An evil tree bent on hurting those around it. That’s why it was separate from the other trees in the forest. He was excommunicated. He was banished to be in the clearing on his own. The other trees in the forest knew that tree was bad. A bad seed as it were. He wasn’t cut down by the tree trimmers because they were afraid of it, not because of my prayers. The tree was just evil,” said the old man.

                I stopped myself from saying anything. It was indeed too crazy to comment on. I started to worry about the old man’s mind.

                “I assure you I am not senile,” said the old man, “I can prove the tree is evil.”
                “I believe you,” I said.
                “Sure, sure you do,” said the old man.
                “Well, I mean, it’s just a tree after all,” I said.

                The old man pointed at the tree again but then lowered his arm. He relaxed and took a deep breath.

                “After the accident, I never said hello to that tree again. I never once gave it another kind look or hoped the best for it. Once I recovered fully and stopped being nice to that tree, my life got better again. I met the woman who became my wife, became president of the company I worked for, bought my lovely home, had a family, raised them up to be successful and found a happiness I never knew. All because I turned my back on that tree. That tree across the road,” said the old man.

                He looked across the road at the tree. It’s leaves, still teasing the air. I looked across with him and we were silent.

                “Why tell me this story,” I asked.
                “To warn you. To warn you that there are evil things in this world and to be vigilant against their seemingly innocent influence,” said the old man.
                “Well, I... I appreciate that I guess,” I said.
                “Plus, I wanted you here for this,” said the old man.

                “Here for what,” I asked.
                “To witness that tree’s power,” said the old man.

                I looked out toward the tree. The old man next to me. He whispered softly into the air, toward the tree.

                “Good morning my friend,” said the old man, “I’ve never forgotten you.”

                The leaves on the tree picked up the intensity of their rustling, even though the wind seemed light and calm. I looked around at the graying sky as if a storm was soon rolling in.  I felt a chill and goose bumps on the back of my neck.

                “That was indeed odd, I’ll grant you that,” I said as I rubbed my arms.

                I turned toward the old man next to me. He was slumped forward in his chair, chin resting on his chest. He wasn’t breathing.  I jumped up and grabbed him by the arms and gave him a slight shake. I checked his pulse but it was gone. I listened to his chest but heard nothing.  I looked down at his old face, seemingly serene.  At peace.  I turned and looked toward the tree across the road. It was still.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Too Many Poems About This



Another pile of words
to fall on
deaf ears.

Like cordwood next
to a
funeral pyre.

Picket signs stacked
near the trash
after the protest.

The avalanche already
down the
mountain side.

The seas receding
after the
Tsunami.

After the fact,
we react,
without proact.

Necks are sore
from all the
shaking and head down sobbing.

One more number
posted on the
big tally board.

While repetition
repeats redundantly
because we said it before.

Another pile of words,
spilled on the floor
that we’ll ignore.

No.
No more.
Again.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Running Out of Steam



The giant paddle wheels
turned through the muddy
waters of the Mississippi as
dragonflies zipped through
the humid air.

In the thick forests along the
watery banks, cicada’s buzzed
in their urgency to mate, as soon
as possible, before they have to
die.

The steam stacks, billowing out
clouds of heavy vapor, adding to the
already thick mid-afternoon air,
that was already bulging with rain
on the horizon.

No. Wait…, that’s not a riverboat,
There’s no muddy Mississippi,
that’s just here, in my office, while
I try to keep my steam going to
complete these Monday tasks.

You see, I’m running out of steam
to keep up any enthusiasm for these
mundane Monday chores we’re all
saddled with after such a long and
pleasant weekend.

That ringing isn’t a steamboat whistle,
it’s my office phone, burdening me with the
ills and distemper of the other Earthly
passengers. All needy and corrupted by
false privilege.    

Yet the Walter Mitty of my mind still
dreams of Steamboat adventures,
and the “Tah-pucketah-pucketah-tah pucketah”,
of the steam engines, turning the paddle wheels
through the waters of the muddy Mississippi.