Hello everyone. I haven’t posted here in a bit. Things have gotten a bit hectic: just finished the last class of a master’s program before the capstone class which starts tomorrow, there was this crazy pandemic (you may have noticed that one too, seems like it’s everywhere), a bit of light rioting and revolution to kick start a social movement that we’d been led to believe was handled over 40 years ago (apparently the powers-that-be got sneaky back then and just kicked it under the rug and for some reason feel it’s okay to be in our faces with it now), I got the opportunity to look for a better job earlier than I expected, and nobody seems to know where the murder hornets are hiding…in short, it’s been an eventful few weeks.
I did manage to squeeze in a few poems here and there and I thought this one fit the atmosphere today. Please enjoy.
To Be Human
Frailty, to be human is to be frail, fragile, easily broken.
Mending takes time, but we don’t take time.
We waste it spreading our cracks to others.
Healing takes effort and direction of will, but snark and snipe are easier
And to be human is to always go for the easier path.
Some few, who don’t do easy,
These we revile.
They are different.
They are not us.
We who are human take the easy road.
The easy road that leads back to the start, never changing.
The hard road of change is not traveled.
There be wolves, trolls, dragons, and other imagined terrors to dissuade
So that the easier decision is made.
Eternity, the universe wants us to be easy and manageable.
Thing to smoothly proceed as predicted.
The cosmos dislikes disorder.
Some order is necessary, too much is stagnation.
Yes the world can end with explosions and chaos,
It can also finish with stillness and quiet.
Either is still an ending.
Indecision and consideration look the same.
One is placid and the other is panic.
Be still, be quiet, await the precise moment of maximum effect.
It is not enough to be human, that’s the starting point, be ever striving to be a good human.
One that your dog will admire until the day you expire.
One that your cat will ignore until you put the food on the floor.
You are human by being born as such; it is not an achievement.
This is the default state. Be better than you were.
Be a good human.
Shun the easy paths of deceit.
At times, the hard path of decision is required.
Grow, strive, be better. Do not fail at being human.
I don’t have any answers to this. In a just world, it would not have happened. But we all know that the Just World is a logical fallacy. This is why. Sometimes things just don’t make sense. This is one of those times. Having failed at rational explanation, I turned to poetry and wrote these three (the intensity scales up in order):
What It’s Like to Be Black
Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be a different color.
I can’t really know, I don’t have the background, the environment.
But I try, I imagine on occasion, the imagination is powerful for understanding.
Imagine your life is like being in a movie, a suspenseful horror movie
And you know you’re in it.
There are times of happiness and joy, successes large and small,
Even a laugh track, because sometimes funny things happen.
Or you say something witty and people laugh.
These are the best times.
Around the corner waits the thing, the villain of the movie.
Doesn’t matter if it’s a supernatural or natural thing,
It’s a thing, and it’s waiting.
Not for you to make a mistake. There doesn’t have to be one.
We all know the black guy dies in the horror movie. Always has.
But you’re the black guy now. And you know it’s coming for you.
Doesn’t matter what you do. Run, hide, flee, plead, fight, submit.
Nothing you do matters.
Hopelessness arrives and tries to sap your will.
If you let it, you die sooner, but in the end you die.
Doesn’t matter what you do.
You die, mostly alone and afraid. Not always, but mostly.
We’ve made such strides, so much progress, but not enough.
The black guy still dies.
This is what I imagine it’s like to be a black guy.
Imagination is powerful, but I’m told it doesn’t really capture the whole.
Because in the end, I can always stop imagining and go back to being me.
We cannot understand each other fully.
There is too much that divides us from one another.
No human can fully understand what being another person is.
It is impossible.
But we can love each other fully.
Imagine a world where the differences between us were what united us.
Imagine a better world where the black guy doesn’t always die.
Imagine a world where justice works equally for all.
Imagine if enough people believed that things will be alright.
Imagine if there is a tipping point where enough belief becomes reality.
What the Hell is Wrong with You
George Floyd was murdered.
For two crimes, one he didn’t commit and one he did.
He was not the forger he was suspected of being.
The crime he was guilty of was being George Floyd.
It’s undeniable, it was him. He did it all day long, every day of his life.
It shouldn’t be a crime to be yourself. To be who you are.
It’s called an ex post facto crime, a crime defined as a crime after the fact.
The officer that arrested him decided to murder him then and there.
No trial, he was saving the city the cost of trying the man obviously guilty of being George Floyd.
He acted as judge and executioner, a bit above his pay grade, but if that’s what it takes to get ahead.
There was no jury, except the three fellow officers that watched.
Not really a jury of George’s peers, but since we’re above the law it doesn’t really matter.
There were no heroes here. There was a victim, George Floyd. And there were four braying asses who deserve no names.
I almost called George Floyd a martyr, but he wasn’t killed because he was advocating for anything.
He was killed because an ass decided George needed to die. He was a victim.
George spent the last minutes of his life in torture and terror.
This is unforgiveable.
This is Evil. With a capital E.
There is no other explanation.
If a person needs to die, a good person will kill them quickly. No suffering, no explanation, no torture.
An evil person will extend the moment of death to insure maximum terror.
Letting the victim know a sense of hopelessness before they die.
There is no vengeance for George Floyd, no revenge will bring him back.
Restore the sense of peace before his passing.
Nothing can do that.
There can be justice.
Four people need to have their names replaced with numbers for the rest of their lives.
One day, in the future, they may realize that they created more evil in the world.
And despair at their actions
It’s unlikely but they might, anything can happen in a world where you can be executed for being you.
The outrage in my soul troubles me
Expressing it through poetry has not helped
To quell the rising tide of hatred in me.
I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know what to say.
But wish the world was not this way.
Solace isn’t found in old punk songs.
Raising ruckus unending.
Singing of better things and misshaped dreams.
I despair at this state of affairs.
I despair at this level of unquiet.
True conspiracy shows the source of the riot.
Trying not to curse is limiting the verse,
Being angry, sanitizing language is hard.
Vulgarity is appropriate, but people stop listening to the message.
I want to be good.
I want to do what is right.
I now know that evil does not come only at night.
Turmoil is loosed in the heart, mind, and soul.
A man was tortured to death.
That we didn’t know him shouldn’t matter.
I want to know this bothers us all.
I want to know turmoil is in you too.
Because if not, then what the fuck is wrong with you?
I wrote this one last year around this time. I overheard someone saying that we don’t celebrate Memorial Day properly. So I started wondering, what is the “proper” way to celebrate a holiday dedicated to remembering the fallen? This poem was the result of that musing.
Death, cold, stark, real.
But have another beer. It’s not here.
Because they’re not here.
Their future is gone so that we can have one free of tyranny, free to choose, free of nooses around necks.
So remember the honored dead, and for what they bled.
There is no honor in death.
Only in life.
That’s what to honor and remember, the lives they led
The examples they set.
Imagine a musket ball tearing through your flesh.
It’s okay, you don’t have to because they didn’t imagine it. They lived it.
So happy Memorial Day.
But why are we happy?
Is it not wrong to be happy someone has died?
What matters we say is what they died for.
But what about what they lived for?
Who are we to judge? We haven’t walked their path. Faced their choices
Whether they live on in Heaven, celebrate in Valhalla, or not at all
Don’t think of it as small
Hidden behind the gratitude of death, they gave what they had
So we could keep what we’ve got.
They might not have wanted to, I’m sure not.
So remember them well, and think fondly of them
While you’re off work and sipping that beer.
We shrug and say “it’s Memorial Day” to excuse rude holiday drivers away
It’s a holiday, should be a holy day, but we can’t even
begin to understand one of those, too many religions. Too many cults
In belief we’re not unified, but that’s why they died
To defend that union of disunity that we all hold dear
So celebrate how you will, because of them, you can
Take it for granted, if that is your way
Pray if you’d rather, that’s also okay,
Grilling, drinking, and eating are remembrances too
Every little thought, word, and action adds to the collective celebration
And thus united, we remember our honored dead. Even when we actually each don’t.
I’m putting together a new book of poetry and a thought occurred to me that perhaps people might like to have a short look at the inspirations that lead to the poems. Not an explanation of the meaning itself, but the instant or thought that lead to the creation. So I will likely be writing a sentence or two for each or maybe just a selection of the ones that aren’t particularly obvious.
Sometimes it is literally just an instant or a passing comment someone makes. Sometimes you make the comment yourself and think “wow, that was kinda deep, maybe I should do something with that”. About 2 years ago I started carrying a small pocket-sized notebook and pen to jot these random thoughts down. You might be able to use the memo pad on your phone, but the electronic process seems to detract from the thought for me. Whatever works for you is best though; unless you are truly exceptional, you will forget that brilliant idea you had for a fleeting moment. Some of what I consider my best works have come from those moments, so I cannot recommend capturing them somehow enough.
The following poem was inspired by a friend dropping a cup of coffee. That image stuck with me and combined in my mind with my escape artist cat who desperately wants to get into the garage without knowing why…maybe he has a reason that makes sense to a cat but baffles people, you know, like pretty much every cat reason for everything. The poem Escape Velocity follows after a pic of the escape artist being himself.
How quickly can you move?
Are you nimble enough?
Do your eyes see with enough speed to react in time?
Are your hands fast enough?
Everything has an escape velocity.
The speed needed to get away, from a planet, a cop, or you.
Rocketships are the most familar to reach escape velocity.
If they don’t grasp it, they are just expensive fireworks.
But when they hit it, they go fast and far into the imagination.
Where are they going?
What will they see?
When they reach escape velocity.
If you doubt your ability to render something unable to reach escape velocity.
Build your confidence, test your skills.
Juggle coffee cups.
No cheating, take the lid off.
Coffee is the best among liquids at achieving escape.
It practically aches to be on the floor.
Coffee is suicidal and wants to be no more.
Much like cats, they give a new meaning to escape velocity.
It’s not just speed with them, it’s the motions of separation.
Quick darts and jolts, supernaturally heavy with a sudden surprise of lightness.
Claws and teeth to test your skill.
They want to escape the mind and the hand.
To plummet back to the ground when on four feet they always land.
Maybe if you practice.
Maybe if you best coffee and cats.
Maybe with some work on your personality.
Maybe it won’t hurt so much when your partner reaches escape velocity.
So one of the entries from earlier this year was about my motorcycle being stuck in 4th gear. It worked out okay that day, stopped me from doing some other things that were planned but ultimately I got it back home.
The new plan was to ride it to the repair shop as the fount of all knowledge, Google, said the issue was likely to recur in the near future. The repair shop is only about 5 miles away…surely it will last that long. But alas, no, stop at one traffic light, just one light and the bike decides it really, really likes 4th gear again. After rolling it to the side of the road, I did manage to get it to slip down to 3rd, but no lower. The bike is an automatic, Honda NC700; a very nice bike, I highly recommend it but after pushing it to the repair shop 2 miles, slightly uphill let’s just say I was less than thrilled with it at the moment. Would have gladly traded for a manual transmission and a chance to kick start or roll start.
I meet some very nice people who wanted to help, but there wasn’t a lot anyone could do so pushing the bike was the only solution I had available. I did get a poem out of the experience, so there’s that. The bike is approximately 600lbs which is not terrible for a motorcycle, but it’s still 600lbs over 2 uphill miles. After getting it to the repair shop, I caught a ride home with a friend and slept the rest of the day (took off work, because exhaustion is real). Pretty, ain’t she? This was taken just after I got it home and before the inevitable scuffing from falling; she’s still pretty, now she has some scars though.
Poem is after the picture, I hope you enjoy!
Sisyphus Used Google Maps
Pushing a rock up a hill for all eternity
As a punishment for cheating death, not once but twice
Barely cresting the summit when cruel gravity wrenches the stone back down the mountain
He probably met some really nice and ultimately unhelpful people
They wanted to help, but there was no place for anyone else to grip the rock
They wanted to help, but there was no place to attach the ropes
It is the task of Sisyphus alone,
Only he can do it, or so he believes
There is no joy in it, and little hope
Casting glances ahead with frequent rest breaks propping the stone against its kickstand
Hoping for a spying of the destination, but alas it is too far for the eye
At the start it was a known distance, two miles no more, maybe slightly less
At least the temperature is cool, sweat would make gripping the handlebars of the stone slippery
An eighth of the way, checking Google maps to see the remaining distance and estimated time
For a glimpse of hope, only to have Google maps dash it
It shows a route that goes back the quarter mile just traversed and thence about one’s arse to reach the elbow
It will not recalculate for the straight-line distance, it estimates an unbearable limit of time
Google maps is certainly a tool of Zeus for use in cursing uppity mortals
Who lack the knowledge of a friend with a trailer suitable for towing a two wheeled rock
Realizing this app is part of his curse, Sisyphus straightens his back, and with no hope
But a hardheaded determination, begins the uphill trek again.
This is one of the last I was able to perform at the open mic night before the world closed. Or attempted to. The self-isolation hasn’t really changed my life all that much; I work from home anyway and tend to be alone by choice much of the time. The only real drawback has been attempting to pick up to go coffee on a motorcycle – it’s been humorous at best.
That being said, I know the quarantines are affecting some more than others. Consider this a trigger warning. The poem is a little melancholy in nature. If you have a tendency towards anxiety or depression, you may want to give this one a pass. It is mean to illustrate the idea that what we think others mean when they say something isn’t necessarily what they actually meant and our perception colors the impact of their words. However, that is not explicit in the poem, at best it is heavily implied. I don’t usually bother with trigger warnings, but this one time, during a global crisis when you likely will not reach out for professional help because it would mean trying it online or by phone and are possibly feeling lonely and depressed, I felt it necessary.
So as you may have noticed, I skipped two weeks of posting due to school, work, etc, reasons. In those two weeks, things here have turned weird. There is a virus that spreads quickly, so please disregard the advice in the previous poem about human contact, the dead don’t hug and apparently now the living don’t either. And that’s okay. We’ll all get through this. We’ll learn some stuff about ourselves and others, hopefully it will be pleasant things we learn and not why the hell you horded a year’s supply of toilet paper.
That being said, (seriously though toilet paper?)one of the reasons I didn’t post was I was setting up an online open mic. I regularly perform poetry at a local open mic and due to an abundance of caution, they decided to postpone public gatherings of 10 or more. This left me and quite a few others without an outlet. So I created one, opened it to everyone, invited all the usual performers, and was pleasantly surprised to find out I was not the only one. If you’d like to check it out, it is on FaceBook at this link https://www.facebook.com/Open-Your-Mic-111891503773433. Feel free to join and post anything you do that is artistic in nature, singing, dancing, poetry, painting, really anything creative to lift spirits.
What follows is the poem I would have done at the regular open mic and did do on the website. I hope you enjoy.
The Shadow Virus
I woke to a mist laying over the world this morning.
A fog of despair depressing everything it touched.
If not for the tears that composed it, it would have been beautiful.
There is a new virus ravaging us all.
Those it does not infect directly; it destroys their humanity.
Forcing hard choices, to store more than is needed out of fear.
Making others do the same to have some, only some.
There is enough, there always has been, but we can’t see that.
Because this virus clouds our vision.
It is a new virus, but its kind has come before.
Disaster, war, calamity, crisis, disease always brings it forth.
It hunts unseen but felt.
By the spirit and soul, if not the body.
This is a virus of the mind.
When ever dark times appear, it makes seem them bigger, more unbeatable, more panic worthy.
The shadow inflates the size of the problem, making an overwhelming image.
To scare us into submission.
It has no form of its own, just our imagination giving it power.
This is the real enemy.
The actual problem we can face. Things will get worse, then better.
This is the way of bad times. It has always been.
We will survive, not all of us, never all of us, but most.
When the fog dissipates and clears,
We will look back and wonder why we thought it was so bad.
Some with sadness at losses, others with relief at endings, but alive and feeling.
We will make up our minds that this will never happen again.
We will be wrong.
We need to combat this virus, here and now, and every time it shows its dark presence.
Shine the light of cold reason on the problem, illuminate it with the glowing twin warmths of kindness and compassion.
Do this, and the panic fades from the mind.
Facing it, acknowledging it, and refusing to submit to it
These are the ways to defeat the shadow virus.
We live in dark times,
We fear, we are afraid
Bad things happen all around us, each bowing our head just a little more
We woke up hungover on New Year’s Day to news of a potential war
Was it right, was it wrong? Doesn’t matter, it happened, it now is.
We retreat into dark humor, gallows jokes, anything to make us smile for a little while because we live in dark times
We fear, we are afraid
Seeing a river of blue lights pass down the street, we joke that someone must be holding the Krispy Kreme donut shop hostage
To bring over 50 cops of different types, sheriffs, police, troopers, helicopters, unmarked detectives flowing so fast with sirens and lights to the scene
Only to find that they are honoring a fallen comrade from the weekend before who died apparently during a routine traffic stop because
We live in dark times
We fear, we are afraid
You aren’t safe from the reaper anywhere; churches and synagogues are not bullet proof anymore
Don’t be loud in a movie theater, and above all the most valuable thing you can learn at school these days is when to duck because
We live in dark times,
We fear, we are afraid
There may be a light at the end of the tunnel
But no, wishful thinking, it’s not a candle and a cursing of the darkness
That’s just a continent on fire, brightening the world
Briefly, until all that remains is ash and skeleton
We live in dark times
We fear, we are afraid
The street flowing blue led to thoughts of honoring the dead
Which is right, that, we should do
Always remember the people that die
But why not honor and celebrate people while they are alive?
When they can appreciate it?
We are social animals, in the wild the animals comfort each other’s fears
Predator and prey stand together, nervously yes, yet together none the less
But we don’t. We need to start again. Take a first step right now.
Hug the person next to you.
Mean it, put your heart and soul into it.
Offer comfort, your fears will lessen as will theirs.
I’ll wait, go ahead, do it now.
Seriously, I’ll wait. This is important.
Because here and now, they and you are alive,
So enjoy the hug, enjoy the human contact, be a social animal
because you never know their fate or yours
And the dead don’t hug.
It seems a simple question
Are with us or are you with them?
Since the beginning of days it has been asked.
We’re the cool ones, the normal people, what you know, your kind of people.
They are the other, the weird people, the strange ones, not our kind.
We’re the same, we don’t change, we’ll always be here for you.
They are different, you know all those vile things you heard about them, well they’re true.
They do odd things, we’ve heard they eat their babies, strange how there’s still so many of them
We don’t do that, we are kind and we are good, and more importantly we are normal.
They are foreigners and weirdly exotic, but do not be tempted by their unusual ways
Those customs are not how we were brought up
So they are wrong.
Just think about it for minute, different is bad and same is good, always has been
It was good enough for your grandparents, their parents, your parents, and it’s good enough for you
So choose right. Come help us form a tighter clique. We’ll leave the others where they belong, over in Otherland.
It’s all they’re good for, filling up Otherland. Using it up, trashing the place, and then they want to bring that here.
This is a cause for fear, it’s not enough to join us, you must shun them, they are other.
Their ways are strange and therefore wrong.
We can’t let them infect us with different thoughts and views.
We have to keep conformity strong within the community of us.
Usland cannot compromise with Otherland. They can be no coexistence.
The very existence of they threatens the uniformity of us.
You’re thinking unsanctioned thoughts right now, about them, aren’t you?
It’s okay, that’s not enough to make you them yet, not while the they exist
As long as they are out there in Otherland, to be pointed at as wrong
You’re safe here in Usland, as long as you toe the line
Don’t step from us to them, don’t side with them, don’t point out where they may be right
By definition they are wrong, and to say otherwise makes you wrong too.
Maybe, just maybe, it makes you a different kind of them.
So what it comes down to is you gotta choose,
You wanna win with us, or with them lose?
Gonna ask you one more time,
You with us or you one of them?
Your answer is always wrong. To answer it at all is wrong.
It’s never been asked the right way.
How do we change the us to include the them?