POEM: The Lost Heart of Wore

Dave lost his head
On the edge of barbarism
Shariq found his blown to pieces
On the edge of civilization
Savage swordplay and droning videogames
Medieval meets modern
Death metes equally
To those dispensing
Aid to enemas
And bad abettors
In gruesome gambols
Where the hows always wins
And the whys are confounded
Weather fatally sored
In phase too phase war fair
Or insights of a video chimera
A cross continence
Either weigh
Each respectively
Given the finger
In a speak easy of honor
Wear suits are sir rated
And buttons pressed
United in death
Lilliputian tears fill our see
Crescendoing whoppers bound by feared flees
Fooly contempt plated
Wear wee be headed
A long the heart of wore
Our ultimate objective
Hour final destiny
Only too find ourselves
Naked to death
And life
All the amour
Of which elicit

This anti-war poem was inspired by recent beheadings, which seem to have been very effective in eliciting a spirit of war in Team America.  Such barbaric acts by our enemies strike at the heart of our civilized sensibilities, much more than our regular less-than-civilized killings of the occasional enemy and more frequent nearby noncombatants.  U.S. wars have droned on for years.  This has been mostly below the radar of U.S. public awareness and above retaliation by its non-American and un-American victims.  There is little doubt that when theatrical barbarism and video-game inspired drone warfare meet that war will be the big winner.  The losers will be uncountable. The few winners will be unaccountable.

This poem’s title is a take off on the infamous treatise, The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.  Wearing your heart is a dangerous thing when the drums of war are beating.  No doubt, the world can be a scary and dangerous place.  Nonetheless, I am convinced that humanity is in much greater danger of losing its heart than losing its head.  Each of us will be dead some day.  The more important question will be whether our hearts are intact, not our heads.

POEM: A Weigh of Death

If you must kill
For your way of life
It is a weigh of death
Knot a way of life

This short poem cuts to the chaste on this anniversary of 9/11, formerly unknown as the anniversary of the U.S.-backed, CIA-directed military coup in 1973 of the democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende.  Now, back in the good ole USA, the only military coo you will hear is accompanied by the drums of war, playing up the only apparent choices as killing or doing nothing, in order to preserve our so-called “way of life.”  The foundation of this band of brothers (and occasional sisters) is built upon well-remembered dead Americans and easily forgotten non-Americans, the vast majority of whom are civilian noncombatants, possessing no name except collateral damage.  Shame on US for being so blinded in this mirror war and a callous just US.

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Check out hundreds of more anti-war quotes and peace quotes.

POEM: Bee The Sting

As in nature
I did stir
A kamikaze threesome
Of yellow-jackets
Making their presents known
Too me
Wherever egos
Joined by white-coats
Hopefully not fallowing me
As will bee
Or not to be
And little
Did they no
I would swell
With more than pride
At their deathly pricks
And the shock to come
Working best under
Lo pressure
A life long
Pursue it
A pin cushion
Buy day and night
Nature’s suicide cheated
Yet feeling
Thy sting
Eventually in choir
Sew what?

This poem is autobiographical, inspired by a bee sting, actually three yellow-jacket stings, that I got a couple of days ago.  Such a tale is made dramatic as I am allergic to bee stings, and without quick treatment I would be dead.  I was tearing out English ivy from my front yard bed when I felt three stings in rapid succession, probably within 5 seconds, before I even saw the attacking insects whose nest in the ground I had apparently disturbed.  At least one yellow-jacket followed me as I went into the house.  I had to deliberately maneuver to prevent it from following me into the house.

Fortunately, just two days earlier, I had picked up my epi-pen (to inject epinephrine/adrenalin) from the pharmacy.  Unfortunately, I had it sitting on the couch where I had planned to read the instructions at my leisure —  I had not (read, I had sufficient leisure).  Unfortunately, I was not entirely sure whether it was better to read the instructions and self-inject or seek emergency room treatment forthwith.  Being only five minutes from St. Vincent’s Medical Medical Center emergency room, I chose to race off to the ER.   I grabbed my epi-pen just in case things took a turn for the worse on the way. Fortunately, I was not experiencing any significant symptoms yet.  A yellowjacket chased me out to my car, and again I quickly maneuvered to keep it out of my car.

As I sped to the ER I could feel my hands tingling and getting itchy.  When I got to the emergency room, there was no intake person at the front desk.  She was at another desk taking down information from another patient.  I tapped the prescription box containing my epi-pen on the counter to get her attention and announced that I had been stung by bees several times, that I was allergic to bee stings, and that I would soon be going into shock.  She stated that she would need to collect my personal information first. I deftly and quite accurately tossed my prescription box to her and I said that it should contain the pertinent information.  She equally deftly caught the box — perhaps she was well-experienced with such procedures.  Fortunately, I had seen my new primary care physician within the last week or so, so my current information would be readily available on the computer.  I then carefully laid down in front of the reception desk as I had passed out in the ER the last time I was in this same ER for a bee sting reaction, and I did not want to add any injury to insult.  She asked why I was laying on the floor and I explained to her.  She said that they would get me in a wheelchair.  I said that I would get off the floor when I got a wheelchair.  She seemed discomforted by my lying on the floor.  I comforted her by saying that I am sure that their floors were clean enough for me to pass out on them.  By this time, I noticed that little white welts were forming on my arms and legs.  My whole body was flush and my heart was racing.  Given the circumstances, I think that I was rather calm; though I don’t think I was perceived as being the most patient patient.  I was not entirely convinced that the emergency room was necessarily best geared up for emergencies.  This was also based on my previous experience with a bee sting reaction in the same emergency room where they made me sit in the waiting room waiting for medical triage.  In this experience, as the shock took hold, I indicated to the intake person that I was getting light headed.  The next thing I remember I was being lifted onto a gurney, as I had passed out and slumped off my chair to the floor.  Fortunately, this did not add any additional injury; though I did take some insult in this.  The doctor later told me that she feared I had stopped breathing, which apparently moves you up the triage priority list real fast!  Later, I would half-joke that I would fake passing out in order to get seen more quickly.  Lying on the floor with full lucidity was my real-life compromise, given that this was no joking matter.

Okay, back to the situation at hand.  I started to feel pressure around my ears as the swelling and welts continued to bloom.  After a few minutes, a man came to me and asked me what I was doing on the floor.  I explained it to him.  He said that they did not have a wheelchair available, and he asked me to stand up.  I stood up and walked with him to the intake room, sat down in a chair next to a computer, and I started answering questions. He clacked away on the keyboard in what seemed to me a rather routine way.  After measuring my heart rate at 166 beats per minute (about what my heart rate would be if I was running full speed), his sense of urgency seemed to pick up.  He made a call.  Another person came and walked me to an exam/treatment room.  He left me there alone and said that someone would be there soon.  I couldn’t help but wonder how long.  I laid down on the exam table and waited for a couple minutes, though they seemed like very long minutes to me.  At this point, there we so many welts on my arms, legs, and body that they were beginning to merge into essentially one large metropolis of welts for each section of my body..

When a nurse arrived in the exam room, she started asking questions and attaching me to a blood pressure cuff, oxygenation sensor and EKG leads.  Then, a doctor arrived, asked some more questions (plus some of the same), and did some physical exams.  The nurse inserted an IV and the doctor ordered epinephrine.  I noted that the dose they gave me was identical to the dose in my epi-pen.  [They explained later that one should always inject the epi-pen immediately after an offending insect sting.  I know that now.  The nurse later offered to show me how to use the epi-pen and was confused by a different design than with what she had experience -- apparently, a new technological, perhaps technical-illogical, innovation sometimes called progress.]  I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the front desk person coming in amidst all of this and having me sign their consent to treatment form.  Was their any expectation that I would read this legal document then and there?!   Perhaps my (im)patient antics to that point, as well as not refusing the ongoing treatment, constituted a legal definition of desire/consent for treatment, but the lawyers must have their way.  My only comfort in that absurdity is that the crooked, illegible, left-handed signature on the form will not likely garner the highest price on eBay upon my postmortem celebrity value.

They sat me up and gave me an oral dose of prednisone, a steroid to bring down the swelling.  Even with the fast-acting epinephrine in me, my reaction got progressively worse.  My face was swollen and numb, feeling something akin to that experience after dental anesthesia.  While I had no difficulty breathing, I did have substantial discomfort like gastric reflux pain at the base of the esophagus.  The doctor indicated that my abnormal EKG could be an indication of a small heart attack, though he did not state any connection to my “esophageal” pain.  I did remember all those ads for not mistaking a heart attack for mere indigestion.

At the height, or perhaps depth, of my reaction, my EKG went abnormal and my blood pressure was 56/30 (normal is 120/80).  The doctor said that the abnormal EKG reading might indicate a lack of oxygenation to the heart.  They were quite stunned and concerned with this extremely low blood pressure.  They were perhaps even more stunned that I was still conscious!  To provide additional motivation, I informed them that I am much more fun when I am alive.  Fortunately, my sense of humor was largely intact.  I was on the edge of consciousness/unconsciousness for perhaps five minutes or so, as they tilted the exam table feet up and inserted another IV for additional medication(s).  I definitely had a heightened concern during this time as I strongly prefer my unconsciousness to be long bouts of normal sleep.  While I meditated on the thought of my potential death for a few moments, I had a fairly high confidence that I was in good enough hands to keep me alive, if perhaps not conscious.  While getting the attention of a team of emergency room professionals may take some time, once you’ve got their full attention, they are quite capable. Fortunately, my EKG was normal within five minutes after the abnormal reading, and my blood pressure started to normalize.  The “emergency” had climaxed, and I was about to move into the chronic patient hood.

As I was recovering in the ER, the doctor explained that he would like to admit me to the hospital so they could quickly get a cardiologist consult in-hospital, who would likely order and conduct a cardiac stress test that next day.  They had already tested immediately for blood enzymes that would indicate a heart attack, which proved negative (which is good).  They did the same test again after two hours, which was again negative.  Still, the doctor explained that it could take 24 hours for the enzymes released from a damaged heart to show up on this blood test, and he wanted to repeat this test every six hours.  I inquired as to whether my state of anaphylactic shock might, in fact, be an “informal” cardiac stress test, and that an abnormal EKG under such conditions might actually be quite normal.  He said that could be the case, but that they like to have controlled conditions to interpret cardiac stress reactions.  The alternative would be to see my primary care physician, get a referral to a cardiologist, who would order a cardiac stress test if so desired.  Of course, this would all likely take several weeks.  I consented to being admitted, partly because of the simplicity and alleged speed of the process, but also because on the observation ward I might get better management and discharge planning for the allergic reaction which would take many days to treat and get back to normal.  I consented to being admitted to the hospital.

After about a total of five hours in the emergency room, I was admitted to the observation ward of the hospital.  It was almost 7 pm.  The nurse speedily did the appropriate intake just before the 7 pm shift change, put me in the one-size-fits-none hospital gown, hooked me up to monitors and various gadgets, and we were off.  To make another long story shorter, I could have managed my post-sting allergic reaction — the blooming of welts and itching — better at home.  As is well-known, sleeping well in a hospital is a lost cause.  For example, I wrote the above poem after being woke up by the phlebotomist at 3 am to take my blood and during the ensuing a 2-1/2 hour ordeal to get two over-the-counter pills (Benadryl), one at a time, to control my blooming welts and itchiness.

I was under an NPO order, which means you can’t eat or drink anything, due to potential testing needed the next day.  So, I was poorly rested and without food or water while waiting.  As I like to say: a hospital is no place for sick people!  Instead of the cardiology consult happening in the morning as they stated as their prediction, I didn’t see the cardiologist until after 2 pm and some uncertainty as to whether the order for the consult was put in.  This consult lasted less than 10 minutes, basically asking me if I had any heart difficulties when I exercise — of which I do not. He matter-of-factually confirmed that an abnormal EKG reading when in anaphylactic shock is quite normal, even expected. He still recommended a stress test but kind of laughed when I asked if they were going to do it that day.  I did manage to get out of there by 5 pm, even getting a meal in the hours waiting for discharge.

Fortunately, I have medical insurance, unlike in my previous hospitalization for a bee sting (when I learned the hard way that I was allergic to such insect venom).  I am curious to see the bill.  Nonetheless, I served society well as a job creator.  Plus, I am deeply grateful to live to see another day!  May we all cheat death occasionally and be patient with the annoying details…

POEM: A Full Life

Charlie’s life was full
Every available space laden to wrest
His productivity well suited
To his interests
Taxidermy and robotics

This short poem offers a challenge to what it means to have a full life in modern Western civilization, where increasing speed and productivity are worshiped as the means to a good life.  I am a big fan of rest and empty spaces as an essential way to fully round out one’s life.  Our culture’s addiction to productivity, fitting in (“well suited”), and a focus on narrow interests has most of us bamboozled.  In this poem, the inane and the productive meet in the metaphor of taxidermy and robotics, representing the deadening and dehumanizing effects of an overfull life.  This metaphor also juxtaposes vocation and avocation, where it is unclear what is a job and what is a hobby.  While this may be confusing, it hints at the underlying connection that a capitalistic culture makes.  Capitalism works best when we devote ourselves to both work/productivity AND inane consumerism.  Capitalism wants to own both vocation and avocation.  Of course, an endless array of inane avocations are offered, as long as they support the consumption of some product or service, hopefully in the service of distracting you from the emptiness of your “full” life and the avaricious nature of endless “growth.”

Emptiness can be revolutionary.  This is why capitalism works best when it crams every available space with inane crap.  Capitalism’s very life depends on it.  Surely, capitalism must provide abundant avenues to distract us from our emptiness.  However, emptiness is not empty!  If we sit with our emptiness, in the sense of lack of fulfillment, this will foment unrest poorly suited for capitalism.  Even further, in experiencing empty spaces and silence, we expand our perspective, the framework upon which we see things, allowing us to truly grow.  Buddhists and Taoists are particularly adept at exploring such realities.  Deists might frame this as silence being the language of God, that small, still voice.

After experiencing a period of relaxation, have you ever then experienced increased anxiety or dread when “going back to work” appears on the horizon?  In a life abundant in balance and wisdom, while work requires effort, it does not require dread.  Dread is a sign of imbalance.  Chronic dread signifies a shortage of wisdom.  Dread speaks to us.  One of the central concepts (the first of the Four Noble Truths) of Buddhism is often stated in English as “Life is suffering.”  I have heard this elaborated upon as realizing that life requires effort (work).  Work is not the enemy.  Work is an integral part of life — as is rest .  The issue becomes how to achieve balance and minimize suffering.  I like the image of breathing in and out as a metaphor for balance.  Questioning whether breathing in or out is better misses the point — as is often the case in Western convergent thinking.  If you do ask which is better, the only sensible response is “what did you do last?”  If work causes anxiety, then rest.  If rest causes anxiety, then work.  If everything causes you anxiety, then look to emptiness.  Of course, emptiness often looks like rest, but there is good work to be done there…

POEM: There Is Something About Dusk

There is something about dusk
A gentle luminosity
Embracing the culmination
Of a day’s chores
Twilight invites any weariness
Into a slow motion space
Where tomorrow is unkneaded
That in-between place
Where light lingers
And shadows soften
As a sentient glow
Soothes the spirit
And vivifies the soul
Swaddled in the gossamer rest
That has no resemblance to sleep
But akin to dreams

This poem is is unusual for me in that it is not jam-packed with puns, with only one obvious pun and another very subtle one.  I wrote this poem last night after taking a leisurely stroll at dusk through my neighborhood, the Old West End historic district in Toledo.  I have loved dusk as long as I can remember.  I have long loved dusk because of its forgetful knowing.  I find a special feel in those in-between places that knead not the past nor the future; a gentle now suffices.  There is peace in being freed from any insistence to grapple with awe that looms.  Dusk offers a luminosity that is lucid but not urgent.  May such refreshing glimpses capture your tension, even if just, before you loose your soul…

POEM: Sex Before Marriage?

He in choired
So you think people should have sex before marriage?
My straight forward rejoined her:
Hell, I think people should have sex before breakfast!

This short poem is a playful response to the straight-laced attitudes of many religious folks surrounding sexuality. The “in choired” intimates that he is speaking out of a community, most likely a religious community. Ironically, a congregation’s choir is perhaps the most likely part of a congregation to contain gay folks, often condemned by fundamentalist or conservative religionists. In some cases, a congregation’s choir may actually be more gay than happy!

The leading question implies the desired answer and is designed to put the questioned on the defensive. The whimsical answer transcends the intended course of the debate, with an unapologetic celebration of sexuality. The “straight,” “forward,” and “rejoined her” implies a straight male responder — perhaps even myself — who is not backward, perhaps straight but not narrow. Beginning the response with “Hell,” playfully mocks the judgmental implications of hegemonic religiosity. The argumentative nature of judgmental questioning betrays the very tender nature of authentically intimate sexuality. As neither a fan of orthodoxy nor the dominant Catholic version of sexuality, I will not be drawn into the narrow and unwelcoming clutches of evangelistic mass debaters.

In the end, if this poem made you laugh, it has served its purpose.

POEM: Rent This Poem

Rent this poem
Call 419-244-2169

This simple poem is a parody of commercialism.  This poem mocks the lack of real content in many advertisements.  Unfortunately, countless advertisements bombard most any available space in our lives.  Such ads compete for our valuable attention and threaten to fill our minds with inane content  My poem does have some real content though — yes, that is my real phone number.

POEM: What Sup? — Owed to Michael Brown and Ferguson, MO

They come with walls of armor
And arms, oh, the arms
Ever prepared to do the riot thing
Will their fear be matched
By the fire in the bellies
Of protesters
Waving conflagrations
Or hands bound
Staring down such a dear accost
As inevitably meet
Each hankering in their own weigh
For just another
Setting at the table
Inescapably found
In the porous of communities
When poach talk
Left behind
In an escaping domesticity
Beyond bred and whine
And parting shots
Dis tending question
What sup?

This one goes out to all of those in Ferguson, Missouri, dealing with the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown by a police officer — yet another young black male killed without justification by a white police officer in America.  Michael Brown is dead and racism is alive and well in America.  Much of white America is apparently puzzled by the outrage, focusing on how they can protect themselves from the rage of their victims.  The cries for security, meaning white security, overshadow the cries for justice.

This poem reflects on the militarization of law and order, which is more consistent with the crime committed by a law enforcement officer than protecting and serving the community where that crime was committed.  You just have to look at who is dressing for a riot.  Hint: it’s not the masses of peaceful demonstrators.

The main images used in this poem center around the home as the foundation of community.  The porch and the dining rooms where lives are shared and bread is broken is a glue that holds together community.  Still, when it is not safe to walk the streets, porch talk and a good meal are not enough.  There is a time to take to the streets and reclaim one’s community.  The good people of Ferguson and America deserve an answer to the question, “What sup?”

POEM: The Death of Poetry

A critic posed
A question
Is poetry dead?
But for the piles of dead poets
Worth only one read assent
A qualm comes
Over me
As death summons
Unwanted clarity
Between write and throng
Stern and bow
A demanding curt see
In deifying gravity
Those eternal questions
Only to pass a weigh
Into yawning darkness
And for what must be left
To others
Making light
Of unfathomable depths
Know less than a resurrection
Uplifting that which cannot be lifted
To be more
Than a fly by knight
Scrounging heir to inspire
Till the finality of our daze
Whatever
You call the question
Too the cynic
The answer begged is “yes”
To the forged quest in
At best a loan victory
To the poet
There is know
Question
And undying rejoin

This poem was inspired by an article, from no less than the New York Times, entitled, “Is Poetry Dead?” that was sent to me by my Dad. Fortunately, the subtitle was “Not if 45 Official Laureates Are Any Indication.” Nonetheless, that even posing such a cynical question can inspire poetry is answer enough to such a foolish question.

When the eternal questions wrought from the foundations of reality can no longer summon the slightest awe from which any human dare speak, then poetry may be declared dead. The death certificate will be signed by absolute prose. Such last writes will have no need of a wake, and nothing human need be bared. THE END.

POEM: As I Poor Myself

As I poor myself
Out into the streets
A pasture for the people
At ease with just us
Weather soon becoming
A torrent of change
Oar that which trickles our fancy
A tributary to humanity
That no’s know bounds
And has no interest in banks

This poem is about that which makes us human, which can run still and deep or as a raging river.  Much of life is somewhere in-between, yet hopefully that which reflects our passions and fancies.

This poem also weaves this being human into community.  We cannot be fully human alone.  Or better said, we are more fully human in community.  This may take the form of joining hands and hearts in working for justice or simply enjoying the company of others.  Such accompaniment breeds further humanity.

Since being human tasks us with the never-ending paradox of needing to be more than human, we face an eternal question of choosing growth or decay, participating consciously in the unfolding of life or feudally try to hold onto what is passing by.  Humanity is furthered when its members are self-transcendent and when humanity transcends itself.  This perpetual opportunity and call for growth seeds a certain rebellion into any status quo.  There are always frontiers to cross, new lessons to learn, and new experiences to take in.  The most vital moments in life cannot be banked, and this poem concludes simply with a bank shot.  The true currency of life is not money, status, or power, but courage, hope, and kindness.  And life is never so exacting that there is not change left over…