I came from a place of fireflies,
where men were reasonable and tall,
where people knew me by who my grandfather was, and his, and his.
Where farmers didn’t block views with trees,
To quickly see at a glance from the kitchen window
How the corn was doing, the soybeans.
Where cemeteries were so old they had no one living who cared
and the raspberry bushes
And groundhogs had taken over;
Where being a child meant living outdoors, year-’round.
Where you waved at a passing car
Because they probably knew your parents:
And you didn’t want to hear at church on Sunday about being rude.
I came from a place where my nearest playmate was a cousin, a mile away;
Where going to hang out meant
Riding the old fat-tired-hand-me-down bike,
With one gear, but was great for
Popping the tar bubbles on hot summer days;
And watching the big grasshoppers and flies whiz by,
the birds calling from the trees,
And watching my dog chase another rabbit.
I came from a place of spirits, haunted by the land,
by deep roots down five generations;
Where uncles and aunts would come over
for summer dinners after the milking,
And sit outside after dark in our yard talking,
And how those adult voices murmering made things
Safe somehow as
My cousins and I would chase each other
through the darkness, making up games
Hiding in the bushes and the darkness
on the edge of safety,
Thrilling in the freedom to roam, to be children;
In awe when the fields and grass would
Erupt in a billion fireflies, and we would put
dozens in quart canning jars
For study, and marveling at yet another mystery.
I came from a place, a very common place, that had an order
Of season and harvest, planting and animals, birth, death, renewal;
A place where the farm animals taught
about sex very early, but also about stewardship,
pragmatism, kindness and death;
There were the late nights wading through
snowdrifts to the barn in February’s lambing season,
Fields draped deeply asleep in white under hard,
cold moonlight and wicked winds;
Of helping with the births—which only seemed
to come in bitterest cold—
cleaning newborn lambs off with
old burlap feed sacks
Holding the newborns under heat lamps
until their mothers licked them clean,
Made sure they found the teat and began to nurse,
coats still steaming, tails wiggling.
It was there I learned about birth, and
the miracle of it.
I came from a place that has slowly died since then.
I feel an ache of loss of a place
that gave me my sense of who I was,
Where the places I roamed with my dog
are now owned by Arab sheiks,
where even bigness did not guarantee survival.
It is a place where the invisible glue that once
nurtured communities evaporated from
change and neglect and globalism and meth and, now, heroin,
Where people stay inside and hide from themselves,
Surfing the web for porn, and never once see the
Fireflies rising up in the June nights,
calling children to mystery but with
fewer there to hear the answers.
Ed: I’m researching one or more works on climate fiction –CliFi–that will tiptoe through a increasingly alarming future. In the process, I’m finding some previous works that, while dark, are also windows into the subject. So, to brighten your day, here are two:
On the day the world ends| A bee circles a clover, A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.
On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.
Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.
Note: This poem is presumed to be in the context of the “Year Without a Summer,” 1815, where the entire world’s weather was affected by the titanic eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. There was a lack a perpetual fog and widespread rain leading to crop failure and widespread famine. The effects were felt most heavily in Europe where the prices of bread rose significantly leaving many people incapable of affording it. This then led to widespread riots which included the burning of bakeries to protest the cost inflation.
Modern people haven’t experienced anything quite like this, but speculations about “Nuclear Winter” had to do with similar dire results of nuclear war.
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came,
and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons;
cities were consum’d,
And men were gather’d round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;
Happy were those who dwelt within
the eye Of the volcanos,
and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain’d;
Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour
They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks
Extinguish’d with a crash—and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil’d;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look’d up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash’d their teeth and howl’d: the wild birds shriek’d
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl’d
And twin’d themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought—and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devour’d,
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur’d their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer’d not with a caress—he died.
The crowd was famish’d by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap’d a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak’d up,
And shivering scrap’d with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other’s aspects—saw, and shriek’d, and died—
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend.
The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr’d within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp’d
They slept on the abyss without a surge—
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir’d before;
The winds were wither’d in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish’d;
Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—
She was the Universe.
I asked for the superpower of “Folding” for my birthday.
It cuts out the middle man:
Gimme a calendar with tricky bits, I said.
I’d fold weeks, months, years, centuries together,
jump to any time, past or future.
The first would be hanging with
the first human band to walk out of Africa .
I’d wait in the shade of a date palm, by the Nile,
bounce rocks off crocodiles, watch the south trail.
I’d cook hot dogs and hamburgers,
and have beer chilling on ice.
History’s first tailgate.
I would show them an iPhone, photos, movies.
Order something from Amazon—
Wouldn’t that be a good trick!…
Maybe a slinky, some bows and arrows and knives.
A chemistry set. Aspirin. Cargo pants,
broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
Trail mix. Snickers.
It’s in our interest that they survive the trip.
I’d tell them to be kind to one another,
Let them think I was the Great Spirit, then disappear.
A little reminiscing. Reposting this just because I love this song. It makes me feel good. Time to head back to NOLA soon. …
“My ex grew up on da Rue Royale, and she had a way of making the word ‘water’ sound SO good. More like ‘Wahrter.’ I love y’all’s town. And the world’s FINEST women come from New Orleans. You may quote me.” –Carl Huffman
Trying to recapture a feeling…but what do I know? I’m just a white, white boy with too many miles on the transmission who dropped in for a few days of pretend. Nah, I’m just being coo-yon. That place can get under your skin quick. I’ll be going back. Ça c’est bonContinue reading “‘Tu Le Ton Son Ton’ *”
A famous writer was in his study. He picked up his pen and started writing :
1. Last year, I had a surgery and my gall bladder was removed. I had to stay stuck to the bed due to this surgery for a long time.
2. The same year I reached the age of 60 years and had to give up my favourite job. I had spent 30 years of my life in this publishing company.
3. The same year I experienced the sorrow of the death of my father.
4. And in the same year my son failed in his medical exam because he had a car accident. He had to stay in bed at hospital with the cast on for several days. The destruction of car was another loss.
At the end he wrote: Alas! It was such a bad year !!
When the writer’s wife entered the room, she found her husband looking sad & lost in his thoughts. From behind his back she read what was written on the paper. She left the room silently and came back with another paper and placed it on side of her husband’s writing.
When the writer saw this paper, he found his name written on it with the following lines :
1. Last year I finally got rid of my gall bladder due to which I had spent years in pain….
2. I turned 60 with sound health and retired from my job. Now I can utilise my time to write something better with more focus and peace…..
3. The same year my father, at the age of 95, without depending on anyone or without any critical condition met his Creator….
4. The same year, God blessed my son with a new life. My car was destroyed but my son stayed alive without getting any disability.
At the end she wrote:
This year was an immense blessing of God and it passed well !!!
The writer was indeed happy and amazed at such beautiful and encouraging interpretation of the happenings in his life in that year !!!
Moral : It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.
I know how to make a bed While still lying in it, and Slip out of an imaginary hole As if I were squeezed out of a tube: Tug, smooth—the bed is made. And if resurrections are this easy, Why then I believe in all of them: Lazarus rising from his tomb, Elijah at the vertical— Though death, I think, has more than clever Household hints in mind and wants The bed made, once, and for good.
Some poems make me an archaeologist.
I roll back the stone from the tomb of some
long-buried memory and analyze artifacts.
It seems more and more important to
look for what I can, to catalogue
it and make sure contexts are in order.
I can clearly see a soft brush
moving in my hand, delicately
clearing the dust from that time I was six or seven,
and we were at recess, in the monkey bars at
an old, old school building now
torn down 20 years ago.
The day was warm and bright,
glowing in that special benign October sun,
the girls squealing and running
—just fast enough to get
caught before everyone got tired—
as the boys chased them around and around.
Learning the rules of the mating game.
The lemon-yellow maple and bright-red oak
leaves in the sloping park just off the playground
were down in wind-shaped drifts. Farm kids all,
we simply asked a teacher for the rake
which she got for us, and we
made piles, big crunchy soft piles,
and jumped in them while Mrs. Fish looked on,
her arms crossed, sharing the moment,
stretching recess a few minutes because she knew
moments like this would end soon enough
and we would grow up and be gone…
and of course she was right.
Time and memories intertwine
like a ball of earthworms.
It’s hard to know where one starts
and the other ends.
They say we cannot remember things
before a certain age. The wiring is still not right for it.
We may see pictures and know
we were alive earlier, but that’s just
the picture album version of life;
the real switch in us is still not on.
Mine came on when I was two-something years old.
My parents tore down the old chicken house.
It was in the afternoon of a slightly cloudy day.
I had a coat on, so it must have been
still early in the year. Late March, maybe.
The grass was the vivid, exciting green of spring.
Old boards stained with decades of manure
ended in a pile that would be burned.
Dust and old feathers liberated from hiding places.
A fixture in my world changed.
We can change things,
Even old things.
That was my first memory.
It’s funny, but I cannot remember
my parents that day. Just the scene in front of me.
My dog guarded me, stayed by my side until
the demolition exposed a rat’s nest.
She attacked with a speed and ferocity
that was both thrilling and scary.
There was a brief, violent battle
just feet from me, with screaming, then silence.
She came and sat beside me again.
I felt safe with her there.
And knew the difference
between life and death.
The switch was on.
And I knew why the grass was so green.
Stumbling around waiting for the coffee to kick in, I somehow came across the Japanese word “Dokkōdō“. Then… I wondered… If we got the news we had a week to live, what would we do with that? While this isn’t all part of my personal belief system, there are some good ideas here and it’s not too different from several traditions in Western religion.
The “Dokkōdō” (Japanese: 独行道) (“The Path of Aloneness”, “The Way to Go Forth Alone”, or “The Way of Walking Alone”), is a short work written by Miyamoto Musashi (宮本 武蔵) a week before he died in 1645. list belowContinue reading “Dokkōdō: The Way of Walking Alone”
It’s difficult to imagine the conversations
between Jesus and Buddha this very moment
These androgynous blood brothers demand our imagination.
They could ask Shakespeare and Mozart to write words
and music, and perhaps a dozen others, but they’ve done so.
The vast asteroid on its way toward LA goes unmentioned.
in “The Shape of the Journey,” 1998. Copper Canyon Press
“There is the image of the man who imagines himself to be a prisoner in a cell. He stands at one end of this small, dark, barren room, on his toes, with arms stretched upward, hands grasping for support onto a small, barred window, the room’s only apparent source of light. If he holds on tight, straining toward the window, turning his head just so, he can see a bit of bright sunlight barely visible between the uppermost bars. This light is his only hope. He will not risk losing it. And so he continues to staring toward that bit of light, holding tightly to the bars. So committed is his effort not to lose sight of that glimmer of life-giving light, that it never occurs to him to let go and explore the darkness of the rest of the cell. So it is that he never discovers that the door at the other end of the cell is open, that he is free. He has always been free to walk out into the brightness of the day, if only he would let go. (192)”
― Sheldon B. Kopp, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him: The Pilgrimage Of Psychotherapy Patients
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
everything here seems to need us –Rainer Maria Rilke
I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
What are the odds
Of that one seed
Falling at that precise instant
(Not a second earlier, or later)
On that particular day
On just the right side, facing the sun,
In just the spot where there was an opening
Where there just happened to be enough soil
Where the mason had left a gap last year
Because it was time for lunch and
He was in a hurry.
When the breeze randomly moved in just the right strength,
In just the right direction
And stopped at the right moment.
So that when the rain came by
in just the right amount
And then, just in time,
The impossible became probable,
And mere potential became actual.
One seed out of millions.
I think it’s good to be astonished by at least one thing a day. My favorite line from this is “do not look for sparks in ashes long buried”.
by Gündüz Vassaf
“They say I am between the East and the West.
An identity crisis! Whose? Mine or theirs?
Enough of this nonsense.
Take the labels off and look at me. Just look
You won’t need a guidebook. Like all cities, I have my own sense of time.
I am a labyrinth of layers that only makes sense without a compass.
Trust me. Let yourself be, let yourself go.
But be careful what you go away with.
When you leave, all my empires, my religions, and passions
will be your fertile soil wherever you go.
Praised that I am, I am not proud. Much has been written about me.
To those who have found me melancholic
I say, “do not look for sparks in ashes long buried”.
To those who seek, amusement, I do not exhibit my past as
decorations for a perpetual carnival.
I am a home, I am a home without owners.
If you’re hesitant, not sure which way to go as you walk about, follow one of my cats. They will lead you to places, introduce you to people,
point out secrets they keep even from me. They, more than anyone, are the longest continuing residents of the city
A challenge to those who see the future in my past,
I am an obstacle for those who see only the future.
I see change with the patience of centuries.
Some want only to change the past and shout opportunity.
Look at my silhouette from the bridge on the Golden Horn.
Time has not passed me by, it has protected me.
I ask you, the same”.
Sing a song of beginnings,
Of times beyond knowing…
Float me up to the mouth of the void and kiss me, gently;
Cut the bonds of convention, set me loose
‘Til sunrise paints the world again in fire and life
And my true spirit is called forth by awe and wonder.
I don’t know for sure, but I think the next few decades are going to be hard on our children and grandchildren. They’re going to have to learn how to be tough, tough people. They will be tested more than we have, and I’m afraid we haven’t prepared them. The seas will rise, conflicts will grow and spread, and refugees will flood out away from it. Worse than now (I hope I’m wrong).
I’m not sure how to feel about this. But I suddenly have a craving for bananas. Aaaaand…. I’m pretty sure this is not going to come as a huge surprise to those of you with two X chromosomes…? 🙂
“…Surprisingly, we found that in many ways the gorilla Y chromosome is more similar to the human Y chromosome than either is to the chimpanzee Y chromosome,” says Kateryna Makova, professor of science at Penn State…”
It may take time to find the trapdoor,
To get this pavement out of my eye.
I have options, but I see things.
The ones who slept out there last night,
Sitting on worn steps, jittery, cold,
Asking for change, for a cigarette,
Muttering streams of gibberish, eyes haunted.
I’m a warrior on the QT.
But I have options.
I was randomly wasting time on the web when I stumbled across this earlier. At first, I thought someone had caught me in one of my surprise sneezes this morning. My sinuses hate the cold, dry air this time of year.
The truth is a lot more interesting. Ontario-based photographer Michael Davies timed this impressive shot of his friend Markus hurling a thermos of hot tea through the air yesterday in -40°C weather near the Arctic Circle. At such frigid temperatures water freezes instantly to form a dramatic plume of ice. For the last decade Davies has worked as a photographer in the fly-in community of Pangnirtung in Canada’s High Arctic, only 20km south of the Arctic Circle, a place that sees about two hours of sunlight each day during the winter.
“I know we’re not saints or virgins or lunatics; we know all the lust and lavatory jokes, and most of the dirty people; we can catch buses and count our change and cross the roads and talk real sentences. But our innocence goes awfully deep, and our discreditable secret is that we don’t know anything at all, and our horrid inner secret is that we don’t care that we don’t.”
― Dylan Thomas
And tomorrow, a few of us will vote in the neighborhood. 🙂
Early morning is the best time to see the distant, busy world come awake.
Before dawn, with the sun finding them before he finds the world,
The criss-crossed ribbons of smoke five miles above
Are turned to neon ice from behind
While we drink our coffee, sit on the step and smoke,
Looking to the east. To the coming brilliance of another dawn.
At the dozens of contrails already streaking the sky, turning reddish and pink and
Changing shades of pastel fire.
In one of the busiest flyways anywhere, all the overcrowded metal tubes
Leaving Newark, Philadelphia, La Guardia, Kennedy, Boston for
Tokyo, San Francisco, Seattle, Beijing and LA. pass silently overhead, and are soon gone.
But sometimes sleep won’t come, and I also sit on that step in the quiet hours.
The day’s high travelers are still somewhere else, and the sky is serene,
The crescent moon is already nearly set, the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades wink
In their cold, virginal nunnery, wanting to pull a cloak around themselves for warmth.
Orion is in its winter place, militant, telling me the cold months are coming soon,
As if the bite in the air weren’t enough.
But sometimes this time of year, an hour or two past midnight, when the trucks
On the distant interstate are finally silent, the hum and puzzle of restless
Humanity staggers into fitful, resentful sleep,
I can just make out, faintly, tweets and calls, carried on the cold air
From hundreds, or maybe a couple of thousand feet overhead.
Some nights there are none, but some nights there is a steady feeling of
A dark river moving above, and, sometimes,
The noise is clear enough to tell that
Last night, it was a flight of Canada Geese ploughing the air to the south,
To winter feeding ponds in Louisiana,
In the rich mangrove swamps of Florida,
Near the Sea Islands of coastal Georgia.
I don’t know all the calls, and at night there aren’t a lot of them.
It’s a serious business, after all. Nothing to sing about, flying on
Through the night, thousands of miles.
But there is some calling and response. Just enough to make sure that
The flock is nearby, and safe, that you’re safe,
Headed in the right direction.
Save the energy for the trip.
Do nothing more to let a lone human–
Sitting in the dark far below, looking up past you at the stars,
Wondering what one has to do to get some sleep–
Even notice, most of the time, that thousands of you are passing.
But I imagine buntings and Baltimore orioles, scores of streaky brown
Song sparrows, and dozens of jewel-toned warblers–
Northern parulas, black-throated greens, magnolias, and all the rest.
I’ve learned that songbirds migrate at night, in great rivers,
But they do not sing. Not then. Singing comes later.
But for now, they’re leaving us, heading to warmer waters,
Plentiful food, easier living and rest.
Singing is better on a branch in the warm sun of the tropics, sipping the
Sweet juices of some overripe papaya, or tasting the white meat of a succulent nut,
Feeling the thrill of life, the search for a mate, the joy that bubbles up unbidden
When wheeling above a sun-splashed sparkle of blue and green.
I can sense them flowing past, tonight, and it saddens me.
There aren’t as many as there were a few short weeks ago.
I know what’s coming, and there’s no changing that.
But they’ll be back, full of tales of adventures,
They will sing the story of the great Wheel of life, of the turning
Of the seasons, of renewal that comes after a testing.
How close the clouds press this October first
and the rain-a gray scarf across the sky.
In separate hospitals my father and a dear friend
lie waiting for their respective operations,
hours on a table as surgeons crack their chests.
They were so brave when I talked to them last
as they spoke of the good times we would share
in the future. To neither did I say how much
I loved them, nor express the extent of my fear.
Their bodies are delicate glass boxes
at which the world begins to fling its stones.
Is this the day their long cry will be released?
How can I live in this place without them?
But today is also my son’s birthday.
He is eight and beginning his difficult march.
To him the sky is welcoming, the road straight.
Far from my house he will open his presents-
a book, a Swiss army knife, some music. Where
is his manual of instructions? Where is his map
showing the dark places and how to escape them?
It happens. The dry spells drift in around my ankles like sand, and before I know it, I can’t move.
Oh, well. These times happen, and we try to figure out what to do. It will pass, and then something new will either delight or dismay, sometimes simultaneously. On this day, a day of sad remembrance, it is a time to pause, and think of the People.
The summer was eventful, meaningful, powerful and full of the closing of some doors and the exciting, tentative opening of others. And over it all hovers the terrible news of murder and suffering and liars loose on the land, of children dying for no reason, of the sins of the powerful, the stupidity of the masses.
In the meantime, I read your posts and silently urge you on. Don’t worry about me. I’m resting, that’s all. Getting down to basics. It happens. It will pass. I look out on the rooflines of old mansions from my high perch. The Fall sunshine kisses the leaves that still grace the trees and suggests things in dappled shadows on the wall. It is a good place to be, a perfect place to rise in order to sink down into the meat of things.
And in the meantime, I read, keeping company with others to show me the way to kick my feet free and to step out onto the long road again….
Note: This is evidence why it’s a bad idea to put me in charge of anything.
Memo To: the “Under-appreciated and Whiny” code Monkeys downstairs Web Development Department
From: That Idiot Upstairs Who Signs the Checks
Hi, guys. I need to talk to a web developer. We’ve got a little bug in the code on the Hello Poetry site. Our pages are telling readers to submit “suggestions” on a mouse-over of the little pencil icon.
To Carl Sandburg, in this example. Of all people.
I know….Yes, none of us, including me, saw the problem when we OK’d the final design. No fingers are being pointed. However, now that I see it, live, next to Sandburg’s name, and others, it doesn’t seem like our finest move.
He’s been dead for several decades—30 years before the Internet—for one thing, so there’s little chance he’s going to get any emails. For another, he won three Pulitzers, and we haven’t won any, nor have our readers, as far as we know. And he probably wrote a couple of million poems. Let’s quietly disable that feature before writers everywhere see it and say mean things about us on their blogs. You know what drama kings and queens they are …..
An average joe comes in
and orders thirty cheeseburgers and thirty fries.
I wait for him to pay before I start cooking.
He ain’t no average joe.
The grill is just big enough for ten rows of three.
I slap the burgers down
throw two buckets of fries in the deep frier
and they pop pop spit spit…
The counter girls laugh.
It is the crucial point-
They are ready for the cheese:
my fingers shake as I tear off slices
toss them on the burgers/fries done/dump/
refill buckets/burgers ready/flip into buns/
beat that melting cheese/wrap burgers in plastic/
into paper bags/fries done/dump/fill thirty bags/
bring them to the counter/wipe sweat on sleeve
and smile at the counter girls.
I puff my chest out and bellow:
“Thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries!”
They look at me funny.
I grab a handful of ice, toss it in my mouth
do a little dance and walk back to the grill.
Pressure, responsibility, success,
thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries.
I listen, and the mountain lakes
hear snowflakes come on those winter wings
only the owls are awake to see,
their radar gaze and furred ears
In that stillness a meaning shakes;
And I have thought (maybe alone
on my bike, quaintly on a cold
evening pedaling home), Think!-
the splendor of our life, its current unknown
as those mountains, the scene no one sees.
O citizens of our great amnesty:
we might have died. We live. Marvels
coast by, great veers and swoops of air
so bright the lamps waver in tears,
and I hear in the chain a chuckle I like to hear.
You know that moment when some idea just-weird-enough-to-be-worth-blogging-about happens? The it’s-not-true-but-ought-to-be moment? The kind of thing we normally keep to ourselves but have gone slightly cracker dog? So we don’t..?
I just had one of those.
You know about Moore’s Law for computers? Where they double in power or speed every few months now? So more and more transistors can crunch numbers faster and faster, and the computers are so small that every human has at least one in a pocket—except when it’s glued to said humans’ hands, which is pretty much 24/7. I mean.. c’mon, people!
But I digress….
I wondered… when a certain point is reached, and the Web—the Baby Hive Mind—switches on one day–no, I mean REALLY SWITCHES on— and makes people forget kitten videos on Facebook, and Kim K’s non-human butt, forever. And we all realize the damned dress WAS Gold and White, dammit!
And once switched on, phones…home.
What I wondered (oblivious to a dozen serious problems with this assumption) was…. what if we’re part of the experiment? That we’re designed to build eight quadrillion microscopic computers and hook them all together globally? And what if we’re only one of a billion planets, all doing the same thing, and someday all switched on?
I wondered the same thing you just did: Exactly who–or what– would we all be trying to call?
And you know that other kind of moment? The one where you notice people are backing away from you slowly, a look of concern on their faces?
This was going to be just an anniversary rerun, happily marking one year today since my stroke. And I apologize for the need to make this a little darker than I’d intended. But I think you’ll see why.
I’m doing well, happier than ever, tapping deeper into the craft I love, and enjoying new friends —you— as never before. I’m living much more healthily, have lost 23-pounds on the way to 35 or more, and the satisfactions of this blog alone has reduced stress. I want to be around for a while, tasting the sweetness and bitterness of life in equal measure. I’ve never felt so alive. And so I thought to put up a simple marker to a very interesting and rewarding year.
But the Universe has a perverted sense of humor. Within the week, other news reminded us that there is bad with the good, and that what builds us up can tear us down, too. A meeting with a surgeon today told us what comes next for her.
Cancer. Again. Breast. Third time. Fourth diagnosis overall. The good part, if there is a good part, is that they caught it so early that it’s still at Stage Zero. Some more consultations are to come, of course. And ultimately, a major surgery. But, no chemo this time. We must be content with such small gratitude as this. But it is enough.
It seems that one can have one of two reactions to something like this. We can feel the close brush of the thing we will all eventually face, and be driven inward, fearful. Or, we can realize that Fate comes at a time of her own choosing, and none of us knows the day or the hour. The choice is always between fear and shriveling down, or doing what must be done in spite of the fear.
Life will break you if you let it.
April 24, 2014 ….
On Thursday morning, I woke up feeling funny, my right side partially paralyzed. After waiting far too long, I went to the ER and learned that sometime overnight a tiny blood vessel near the center of my brain on the left side, about the level of my eyes and near the hypothalamus, had been blocked by something. The loss of blood to a tiny, tiny area deep in my brain has made things I took for granted now difficult.
I went to bed feeling normal, woke up a stroke victim.
But, it’s turned out as well as could be expected. I’m home, the symptoms are fading away, and the docs think I should recover completely. I was extremely lucky.
It talking with someone else today I was reminded of this song by Johnny Cash, on the last album he recorded “The Man Comes Around.” The phrase– “whirlwind in the thorn tree –in it sums up the last couple of days, how events can take over and we’re whipped around and wounded, feeling out of control.
This is terrific. A small image that opens a door onto something big.
by Donald Hall
White roses, tiny and old, flare among thorns
by the barn door.
For a hundred years
under the June elm, under the gaze
of seven generations,
they lived briefly
like this, in the month of roses,
by the fields
stout with corn, or with clover and timothy
making thick hay,
grown over, now,
with milkweed, sumac, paintbrush.
winter drifts, the melt in April, August
and men and women
who sniffed roses in spring and called them pretty
as we call them now,
walking beside the barn
on a day that perishes.
He coils in the shadows, waiting to strike,
All hunger and muscle and wariness,
Effortlessly hanging in the cold flow.
Protecting his spot from rivals,
Roofed by the tangled roots of a sycamore
On the inside curve of a stream.
He hangs in the eddies where little effort
Is required, moving tail and fins
Slowly, constantly, in time to the swirls, unblinking eyes watching,
Hunger poised, patient and eternal.
The tree, like him, lives a life preordained,
It is a solitary, haggard remnant of dense forests gone to pasture
Since before work horses ended hot days with long
Draughts of the dark, ancient, cool, waters moving
Under their lips to the ocean.
His back, mottled like the liquid play
Of sunlight through ripples on a rocky bottom
Keeps him invisible until he moves.
His hiding place is deep, carved out over decades
By cold waters that fell in the pines, sank into hard soil,
Seeped patiently through limestone
Fissures in the far mountains,
Fed by rains a century ago, dripping, trickling, moving
Ever downward, finding the light at last
Through fissures in the Earth,
A thousand mouths
Frozen spouts, rimmed in mosses that wave goodbye,
Each one part of a babbling chorus that
Swells and flows and carries the
Soul of the Earth to the sea.
And the dark old fish waits, smelling the current for food above,
Wary because he has felt the
Surprising stab of hook before,
And spit it out,
Or has felt the silent brush of death
From the shadow of an eagle cruising above,
Looking for a reckless fish to take back to her chicks.
The dark fish smells something coming,
Turns into the faint scent, tasting the water, smelling, testing,
Wary but eager. Rising.
Dark fish rising, to strike, to feed, to hide
Until the next time.
and, to be perfectly honest, it bums me out.
So many great ones! —libidinal heroes,
idealists, warrior-chieftains, revolutionaries,
fabulists of all sorts, even the great Irish pig farmers
and Armenian raisin growers —and who,
I ask myself, am I by comparison? Calmed
by Valium, urged on by Viagra, uplifted
by Prozac, I go about my daily rounds,
a quotidian member of the quotidian hierarchy,
a Perseus with neither a war nor a best friend,
and sink to the depths of despair
on the broken wings of my own mundanity.
If only some god had given me greatness,
I surely would have made something of it—
perhaps a loftier, more humble poem than this,
or some übermenschliche gesture that would reveal
my superiority to the ordinary beings and things
of this world. But here I am now, one of
the earth’s mere Sancho Panzas, leading
those heroic others through the world on their
magnificent horses, merely turning the page, dreaming
my own small deeds into their magnificent arms.
Regrets and sorrow rise at night, old ghosts of half-remembered sin accuse with phantom fingers, jabbing from the shadows.
A promise broken, the hopes of others unfulfilled, choices made for all the wrong reasons… fear and ignorance behind most.
Rising, in a dream, is a vision of Uncle Willie’s death. Alone, on pavement at night with steam rising from a grate. Clutching a threadbare cast-off coat that once jumped from cabs and hung in coatrooms of offices on Wall Street. Uncle Willie, cast-off, with one hand reaching out. For no one. Anyone. Everyone.
And he fell. In the night. Alone.
On the streets. With steam rising from an iron grate icking his dirty white hair with hot indifference. In the night, on a littered street slick with greasy rain.
Mocha skin reflects in trickles of fallen rain congealing on asphalt, streaks of light stretching off, away. Eyes open, rubbery face melting away as he dies. “What did I ever do? Why?”
Eyes open to the end, but not seeing the answer. There is no answer. We have no answer. Pain and death come to us alone, always.
But some remembered Uncle Willie when the story of finding him hit the paper. Mourned him again when he was found and lost in the same moment. Hand to mouth… “Oh, Uncle Willie!” Tears, and the same pain of that awful question with no answer.
We turned into the drive,
and gravel flew up from the tires
like sparks from a fire. So much
to be done—the unpacking, the mail
and papers … the grass needed mowing ….
We climbed stiffly out of the car.
The shut-off engine ticked as it cooled.
And then we noticed the pear tree,
the limbs so heavy with fruit
they nearly touched the ground.
We went out to the meadow; our steps
made black holes in the grass;
and we each took a pear,
and ate, and were grateful.
I usually spend some prep time reading– books, poems, other bloggers, quotes — before writing. The quote at the bottom is one that hit me today as I was looking for something to help a young friend find the courage to plunge ahead, not knowing how things will turn out. We just move forward, into the mist that is the future, and if we’re lucky, we learn to embrace the unknown with love.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
Or can we? I’m not sure who started this, but I’ve heard the message all my life that a wish is as good as it needs to be. We live in a Disney fantasy. Wish to be an astronaut and it will happen. Want to be a billionaire hard enough and the dollars must — must — eventually roll in.
Well, it is all bullshit, isn’t it? I know people had good intentions and wanted to be encouraging, but this led to children getting ribbons for just showing up, and trophies for “participating,” even if they sucked at whatever game it was. I don’t think that’s such a good thing to do to a kid. I’m not advocating cruelty, but merely truth. “You are going to need to practice a whole hell of a lot if you want to play the piano in a way that doesn’t hurt people’s ears.” What do you think?
My own experience and thinking falls more in line with Pressfield’s, below. We are the sculptors of much of our own destiny, taking the raw clay of us and scraping away things that don’t belong, and shaping the rest into the true realized self. It takes a lifetime. It’s frustrating for the young, but this is something that just takes time. A lifetime.
But we can’t control everything. By no means all, as others act upon our lives and random chance acts on the paths we’re on, and the Universe has a perverse sense of humor.
But isn’t it a big enough job to just be active in our own creation, using whatever raw materials we’re born with or find around us?
“We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it.
“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
Hardline, drive-by corporate blinders,
Power lines in danger, so kill the trees.
Strip mall grocery store chain did nothing.
They had plans to build another store and stood by as
Brain-dead high school grads, bellies hanging over belts,
Cigarettes dangling, trading insults and missing the world,
Took chain saws to the blooming
Trees that every spring draped an ordinary street in uncommon beauty.
Cut them back to stumps,
Thrilled by the power of the engines, the noise,
But the power company has the right.
Now they’re all gone.
And the chain grocery that could have done something has
Abandoned the old store, which sits vacant and ugly.
Empty, mutant decay, no cost to them, no punishment for the blight they left behind.
If they had just left the trees behind, to grace the street in uncommon beauty,
It would be easier to forgive.
But they don’t think that way.
The chainsaws don’t tell the man/boys, joking and eating doughnuts and coffee
“Leave this tree, boy. Take care, boy. Don’t be such a boy, boy.”
“Once you kill the tree that paints this ugly street with uncommon beauty,
Life goes on, the grocery moves down the street and drags it’s captive
Audience down the street.
But uncommon beauty, the grace, has died. And the power lines don’t care.”
WHEN Abraham Lincoln was shoveled into the tombs, he forgot the copperheads and the assassin … in the dust, in the cool tombs.
And Ulysses Grant lost all thought of con men and Wall Street, cash and collateral turned ashes … in the dust, in the cool tombs.
Pocahontas’ body, lovely as a poplar, sweet as a red haw in November or a pawpaw in May, did she wonder? does she remember?… in the dust, in the cool tombs?
Take any streetful of people buying clothes and groceries, cheering a hero or throwing confetti and blowing tin horns … tell me if the lovers are losers … tell me if any get more than the lovers … in the dust … in the cool tombs.
Sorry, but this sort of thing makes me geek out. If you could compress 2,600 years of human history into a 5-minute graphic following migrations of known, notable people, it would look like this. This shows several parts of the world through history, including back to the Roman Empire.
I’m procrastinating again. Resistance. Finally got some work done today, though, so the truth comes out. The old enemy got me, made worse by doing some traveling and not writing every day. Lesson learned.
Again. *Big dramatic sigh*
Part of this comes from worrying too much about what people might think of what I produce. So I have the above visual aid for times like these.
This is how I picture those people. It helps to get in touch with the ridiculous, which is the same thing as the reality of our lives. Your mileage may vary with this approach, but feel free to steal it. I wonder sometimes if my medication is really doing me any good.
Long overdue takedown of something awful. If you like this, just google “Bill Hicks” and “marketing” for an even more NSFW take on a pernicious evil that is driving the car with Thema and Louise and all of us straight over the cliff.
Set to something close to Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Suite Judy Blue eyes”, Weird Al skewers the hateful plague of meaningless business-buzzword-BS.
Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone. For the sad old earth must borrow it’s mirth, But has trouble enough of its own. Sing, and the hills will answer; Sigh, it is lost on the air. The echoes bound to a joyful sound, But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you; Grieve, and they turn and go. They want full measure of all your pleasure, But they do not need your woe. Be glad, and your friends are many; Be sad, and you lose them all. There are none to decline your nectared wine, But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded; Fast, and the world goes by. Succeed and give, and it helps you live, But no man can help you die. There is room in the halls of pleasure For a long and lordly train, But one by one we must all file on Through the narrow aisles of pain.
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