Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Nation of Ideas (Or Oops, my patriotism is showing)

                When a nation such as ours is faced with the corrupting influence of stupidity it’s hard to keep quiet.  I try my best to put a good spin on the daily developments but it’s getting to the point where all the spinning is just making everyone dizzy.  I’m not sure anyone knows where up or down is anymore. I don’t like to get into one-sided political discussions. I think every American in the United States has the right to freely express their ideas and I can certainly afford them the general courtesy of hearing them out; even if their opinion comes from a place of incorrect information, fear, loathing, spite or ignorance. I can listen even if I disagree. In fact, I want them to persuade me to change my mind. I want to hear their words and believe they are indeed well thought out and coherent and built on tried and tested methods of logical thought. I’m not hearing a lot of that though; not at all.

                What I hear is lot of people that are simply afraid and unwilling to reach back into their shared history for examples, information and precedence. I hear reactionary rhetoric from both sides of the political landscape resulting in landslides of mis, dis, and non-information. I don’t hear anything of substance clearly presented or fully vetted by experienced peers. I just hear a lot of heads, on TV, talking and talking about one issue over and over again on hourly loops which never seem to go anywhere and then abandoned the second a new issue hits the presses. There is nothing resolved, solved, explained or even appropriately handled.

                It amazes me that a country built on the foundations of political discourse can be so easily led down the primrose path of simply failing to ask, “Why?” It is our duty to ask why. It is our mission as citizens to ask why and the duty of our elected representatives to provide the answers to those questions. We want to talk about it. We want to know why. They work for us. They should be able to provide us detailed answers.

Why as a citizen do you feel under represented? Why do you feel unsafe? What are you doing in your own community to help alleviate those feelings? Is what you’re doing negatively impacting those around you or are you doing something to help others? We’re a nation of communities, of close knit neighborhoods, and a generalized expectation of the goodness in our fellow citizens. Why are we so terrified all the time?

                I feel at times we’re like children, afraid of the dark and no one seems to be brave enough to get up and stumble through the darkness for a light. They’d rather sit in the dark, pissing themselves in terror than find a way to stop being afraid. The only thing they are afraid of is the unknown, “Fear itself”, as it were.  We don’t have to be afraid of knowledge. We don’t have to be afraid of intelligence. We don’t have to be afraid of emotional intelligence. We don’t have to be scared of empathy, of sympathy, or that people are, “out to get us”.

                We might be a little punch-drunk in all reality. We were effectively the Global Champions, a nation of immigrants and migrants that successfully built a country from disparate points of view, to stacking up political and military victories like some sort of Rocky Balboa. We took a lot of hits during that time though. We were unsuccessful on a few military fronts, we were held back by puritanical/segregated/populist beliefs at home, social and economic down swings and failed domestic policies. We’re still the best contender but we’re a little jangly in our form. We know what we want to say but we have a hard time articulating now, since we’ve taken so many blows to the head.  We’re a little more reactionary and put our foot in our mouths more often than we used to. Our intentions are good but our execution is somehow muddled due to the number or rounds we’ve been in.

                We’re a nation of amazing contradictions, double-standards, stupidity and sometimes insane points of view yet we persist in spite of ourselves. It has always been that way and it always takes an incredible effort of the people to change anything. This is a country of viewpoints, perspectives and ideals and is far greater than something drawn on a map. We have to remember that the United States of America isn’t a place really, but an idea.

                It is our duty to reinvigorate that idea though diligent exploration of ourselves, our collective desires as a nation and as a people.  We must not be led astray by populist zealots, by fear mongers, by war hawks, racial separatists, or those that seek personal power over the good of the people. We must not be suckered by those that wish to dilute the purpose of the United States of America by keeping us stupid or in the dark. We have to stay alert, sharp, and focused on the things that have made this experimental nation a success and avoid the policies of ignorance that have held us back.
We’re a nation of fighters, idealists, thinkers and innovators from all over the world, believing together in something unprecedented in human history; that a nation of ideas can be stronger than any nation of barriers. We will not let the corruption of stupidity take hold. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Story

I love the confidence in a good story.
There’s something so satisfying
watching, listening, to someone
tell a story about a memory or
their life; they’ve told it
a hundred times but have a
sure knowledge that the story
will kill every time they tell it.

It’s amazing to see their eyes
dance with such surety. The
disco-ball of confidence, twirling
in their iris as they get to the part that
always gets the laugh yet only begs
for more details. The part that leaves
the listener wanting more. That one,
awesome part that baits everyone’s attention.

It’s marvelous to watch.
Even better to be a part of it,
and even more wonderful to be
the one telling the story to that
small sea of faces, eagerly
anticipating each word, motion,
and epic sentence.  To see the
light, reflected, in their eyes.

A story told well has a million
lives. It’s re-told, embellished,
re-crafted, and embarks on new
journeys to new ears and eyes.
It’s no wonder we, as a species,
are so fascinated by a well told
story, tale, anecdote.  We love
them, we love the tellers.

Let me tell you about the time I…

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Cheer Up

                “Cheer up,” said the mouse.
                “No. I don’t want to,” said the man.
                “Aw, come on man. I’ll bring you some cheese if I can get a smile out of you,” said the mouse.
                “No. I don’t like cheese. I’m lactose intolerant,” said the man.
                “I don’t know what lactose intolerance is, but I’m pretty sure intolerance is bad,” said the mouse.

                The man sat against the wall. He rested his head on his arms folded over his knees. He felt his eyes watering with the tears that he was sure would come.

                “C’mon man, a nice golden piece of cheese always cheers up my friends,” said the mouse.
                “I told you. I can’t eat cheese. It makes me sick,” said the man.
                “What!?! Cheese makes you sick!?! That’s…just unheard of,” said the mouse.
                “Well, it’s true so just deal with it,” said the man.

                The mouse scratched at his whiskers and sniffed the air around the man. He scurried around the man’s feet, back and forth, testing the air and rubbing his whiskers with his paws.

                “You don’t smell sick,” said the mouse.
                “Well, it’s not a sickness you can smell,” said the man.
                “Us mice are really good at smelling things so, I’m pretty sure you’re fine,” said the mouse, “Plus my brother is a doctor, so I think I know what I’m talking about.”

                The man lifted his head to look at the small brown mouse now sitting between his feet. The mouse was staring back at the man with a hint of a smile on his little face.

                “A mouse doctor you say,” asked the man.
                “Absolutely,” said the mouse.
                “Where did he get his degree,” asked the man.
                “Mouse-ouri State,” said the mouse.

                The man smiled. A slight chuckle. A bigger smile. A belly laugh. The man remembered that sometimes, the little things aren’t as so awful as they might seem.

                “See, you like cheese after all,” said the mouse.
                “I guess I do. I guess I do,” smiled the man. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

It's Pretty Deep

Some days there’s a struggle going
on the deepest parts of my brain
between acceptance and denial
of what I have become and
how I got there.

Most of the struggles involve
run-on sentences and essay-like
tomes of nonsense, all cramming
into a clown car of thought, all
trying to be the one to yell, “First” and toot a horn.

It’s self important, it’s self-pity,
it’s  another day spent in personally
decreed silence because I don’t want to
talk to anyone but desperately want to
with someone special.

I make myself sick with worry about
being alone, being rejected, unaccepted,
shunned, avoided, demonized, hated, feared,
being made a fool of, being a fool,
consumed with anxiety and stillness.

Distracted by it, constantly taunted by
couples, canoodling, kissing, sharing, loving,
laughing, fighting, swearing, looking at each
other in that way that says they know everything
about each other and the comfort they take in it.

I’m ill with the obsessions over my seemingly
self imposed loneliness, because of anxiety,
depression and mediocre self confidence, I think
it’s all my fault, I’m some hideous monster of a guy
undeserving of any love from a gal.  It’s not true. It’s not true?

The burns suffered are deep, through the meat,
into the bone, charred, and I’m not sure when it’ll
heal, if it will heal, can it heal, who would want me if
it didn’t heal, how does it heal, why hasn’t it healed yet,
what’s taking so long, what’s taking so long, what’s taking so long…

The struggle goes on and on, over and over,
in sweeping cycles, like seasons, a season where
one’s fancy turns to spring, romance, love, and
something new, something special and deserving
of adoration and to be cherished.  Then dashed by winter.

Anxiety, depression, has an effect,
It’s like crushing a beautiful flower in the
palm of your hand. Something so lovely and tender,
yet you can’t stop, can’t control,  your hand from smashing it,
and smearing it on the walls.

You wonder if you deserved such a beautiful thing
and then you worry that you’ll never have such a beautiful thing
again, so you do silly or stupid things to try and find it again, but you can’t
find it, so you stop looking and hope the beauty will find
you, but that isn’t working, taking too long, too isolating, too terrifying…

And then, will you just smash it again, in your hand
as you are lost in the beauty of it? Is that what will happen,
is that the pattern? Is there any escape from the loop de loop
of the clown car of thought.  
How does it work? What does it take?

I’m not sure what it takes in this world, to
be deserving of love, to be loved, to have
someone there, waiting just to hear about how
your day was and you can’t wait to hear about
their day.  To look in your eyes and see the best of themselves.

It seems so simple and yet so impossible.
Like running under a starry sky, it seems like
it would be easy to grab the stars in your hands
and scoop them from the air,
but it’s impossible.

The uncertainty of the impossible, or
possible, has been wearing me down,
the edges are rougher with the shaving,
the patience is thinner, the time is
shorter. But it’s deep down there. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

All Dancing Shadows

Dancing in a beach side cave,
back-lit by the bonfire,
casting shadows on the wall,
as the surf rolls in on the wave.

She shimmies, he shakes,
they embrace, they spin, they dip,
they sweat and jump like wild
natives as the ocean breaks.

The beat mixed with crackling flames,
the roaring foam, and their heels
pounding the sandy ground,
intensity without names.

They flicker in fire, projecting lust
onto the carved rock,
heavy breathing,
a conflagration of stardust.

The outside world faded away
in firelight, lost to a beach,
deepening night and thoughts
of soft kisses that seem to stay.

The shadows, existing only for them,
in lives of deceptive reflection,
warped and curved by the cave’s
rough surface, empty of mayhem.

Their bodies stretched up high,
lengthened in the licking light,
reaching for each other,
and the fire in their eye.

Dancing in a beach side cave,
back-lit by the bonfire,
casting shadows on the wall,
as the surf rolls in on the wave.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Where's Veronica?

This morning I thought
about a girl I once
knew in high school and I wondered
whatever became of her,
where did she go?
why did she randomly pop into my mind?

I remember thinking that she was
a tormented soul, trapped in cursed
adolescence with boundless creativity and
nothing but trouble ahead of her.
Did she wind up knocked up, knocked out, or
knocked around?

We were friends you see. Friends at a time
when friendship was the most precious
commodity.  We traded up or down as we
got older, our investments in people changed
as did our sweat equity with others.
Where did those emotional finances go?

She was dark. She was troubled.
She was evolving at what seemed to be
a faster rate than I was. It was something
absolutely remarkable and interesting.
Yet, in the end, after all these years,
I’ve no idea where she wound up.

A teenage boy and a teenage girl,
suffering the malice of puberty in rapidly
changing times. A time of strange potential
and curious discovery, building an intimacy
through mystery.  But never connecting
beyond the demur friendship etiquette demanded.   

I thought about this vanished girl. This woman,
who traveled with me in early teenage misery,
and I wondered where on this huge blue ball she
might be. Do I ever come up in her mental history
or in the checkbook of her past as that one guy
who was there, for a short time, and made a withdrawal? 

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Minute with Mom

I’m not going to say my mother is perfect.
That would simply be too bold.
And frankly, just an embarrassment because
of her unending and immaculate humility.
So I won’t say she’s perfect.

I won’t say she’s super awesome and
totally boss, because she’s really just
trying to do what she can, but, better
than most.  I mean a lot better. Face it,
she has a poet for a son, so there’s that.

I can’t say that she’s the smartest lady,
because I wouldn’t want to insult her
intelligence. I mean, she clearly knows
more than I do almost all the time,

I’m reluctant to say she’s the most funny
lady that ever graced the rest of us with
her ceaseless wit and comedic charm,
because again, I don’t want her to feel like
this is a joke or not to be taken seriously.

I don’t want to imply that Mom gives
the best hugs since the creation of arms,
but, I mean, c’mon, Mom hugs, right?
There’s nothing like them no matter
what age you are.

I am not sure Mom would want me to
brag so much about her, seeing as how she’s
really so good at it herself. My mom is the
best as self promotion and I wouldn’t deign  
to take that away from her.

So, for Mom’s sake, I’ll resist the temptation
to tell the whole world how wonderful, compassionate,
understanding, generous, wise, funny, loving, and
modest she is. I mean, no one is better at modesty
than she. Thanks Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Getting Started

Start and restart,
start again,
start over,
still not it,
start again,
erase that,
start once more,
no, no, no, no,
These words aren’t
stringing together
like I want them to,
Take a breath…

Start again,
no, no,
what rhymes with balm?
erase, erase,
start again,
start over,
start once again,  
one more time fingers,
let’s work together and
get this jumble of words
dancing around the bonfire like
savages onto this
mocking blank page.

(Cracking knuckles)


Thursday, May 4, 2017

When We're Wingless

                The break room was finally quiet as Frank entered. He needed his usual morning cup of coffee to build up his strength.  The room had been too busy earlier and Frank didn’t want to deal with the cluster of all the others crammed in there, reaching for creamers and sugar and stirrers over each other. It was like pigs at a trough. So he waited a little until the coast was clear. As he entered he saw a lone figure sitting at the one available break room table, staring blankly at an empty coffee mug. It was January St. August, one of the chosen.

“I woke up this morning and I couldn’t find my wings,” said January St. August.

Frank did a double check of the room to see if there was anyone else present. January St. August had never spoken to him before.

                “What do you mean,” asked Frank.
                “I opened my eyes, rubbed the sleep off my face, threw the covers off myself, stood up and stretched and I realized that my wings were gone. They were just gone!”

                Frank noticed that indeed January St. August’s giant angelic wings were missing.

                “I had to take the bus here this morning. Do you know how embarrassing it is for me to have to take the bus,” said January St. August.
                “Well, no. I mean, I take the bus every day. I’m sure it wasn’t a big deal. I’m sure no one noticed,” said Frank.
                “Not. A. Big. Deal,” said January St. August, “Well, that’s just rich. You’re some kind of funny guy hm? The office comedian? You’re the wise cracker,” questioned January St. August.
                “No, no, not at all. I’m just, you know, saying that it probably wasn’t… you know, that it wasn’t anything that anybody noticed,” stammered Frank.

                January St. August looked back down at the coffee mug on the break room table. Frank paused and lifted the coffee pot off the warmer. It had barely a sip left in the bottom. He’d forgotten that along with being pigs, his co-workers refused to make more coffee.  Frank cringed and looked at January St. August.

                “Do you want the last little bit of coffee before I make more,” offered Frank.

                January St. August nodded. Frank stepped toward the table and poured the last remaining coffee into the empty mug.

                “Thanks. Sorry I blew up at you,” said January St. August.
                “No problem,” said Frank.

                Frank went to the cupboard and took out the coffee filters and the coffee grounds and started to prepare a new brew. He didn’t want to make any further acknowledgement of January St. August, look in that direction or make the mistake of engaging in any further conversation.

                “I mean, where could then have gone? I looked under the bed, through all the blankets, the closets, the kitchen; I just don’t know where my wings could have gone. There weren’t even any feathers left in the bed when I got up,” said January St. August.

                Frank looked back at January St. August and just sort of nodded. He didn’t know what to say. Frank had never lost his wings so he wasn’t sure how to relate.

                “I mean, what did I do to make Him so mad,” asked January St. August.

                January St. August’s eyes were wet with tears and Frank really felt the sadness that was filling the room. He looked at the coffee maker, slowly drip filling the coffee pot.  Frank shifted his weight back and forth on his heels and tried to avoid January St. August’s sad eyes.

                “Yeah, I’m sorry to bother you. I just, you know, just haven’t said anything to anybody about it really,” said January St. August.
                “It’s… it’s okay,” said Frank, “I’m sure it’ll be okay.”

                The coffee maker gurgled as it dripped the last of the fresh brew into the coffee pot. Frank took it off the burner and filled his mug. He added a little cream and sugar and stirred it all together.

                “Well,” said Frank, “I hope you’re day gets better. Talk to you soon.”

                Frank exited the break room, leaving January St. August to stare sadly at the coffee mug on the break room table.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Light Bulb

A light bulb I received for free
eleven years ago, as part of an energy
conservation movement regarding
Florescent (CFL)  use, burned out last night.

There’s nothing monumental about that.
It flickered for a bit and finally went out.
It was just a bulb I got for free, signifying
absolutely nothing.

It was just a bulb. In a lamp. In my living room.
A room littered with memories, of loving,
losing and leaving. Mixed with laughs,
lethargy and passing moments of loathing.

The bulb, nothing more really, shined over
discussions of love, anger, joy, nonsense,
intimacy, loneliness, desperation, elation,
and numerous moments of embarrassment.

Eleven years of the same bulb, just a bulb,
performing its function without judgment,
consciousness, nostalgia, or regret. It is just
a thing. Just another thing in a room.

A light in the dark is all it was. Just another light
in a long line of bulbs replaced over and over
since the first light bulb was lit by Mr. Edison,
just another bulb.

Bulb technology has probably advanced immensely
in eleven years and the new bulb will possibly last
even longer.  The next bulb might survive into my
fifties, maybe my sixties.

It’s just a bulb after all. What could it possibly
illuminate at this point that could be considered
ground breaking, or Earth shattering, or mildly
amusing. It’s just a bulb.