Customer Service POEM: On Hold

Holed for service
A fool 40 minutes
Before it curse to me
Awe this while
Writing a verse
And now
Awe is write with the whirled
And still
Feeling somewhat loopy
With Muzak
As the soundtrack of my life
A borrowed cell
To get my net back
As technically
I have no phone
Without it
Beating this conundrum again
Buy perpetually wading
Virtually forever
A least weigh
Passed an hour
As much after
Out to lunch
Liable too due the same
In need of stomaching something else
…and halve an our later
I’m done
With out to lunch
Buckeye CableSystem you suck
The poetry write out of me

I wrote this poem while on hold with Buckeye CableSystem after my internet went out. Unfortunately, my phone runs off of the internet, so I can’t use my phone to call service. I have a landline, no cell phone. I borrowed my neighbor’s cell phone. After 90+ minutes on hold, I decided to hang up and dial again. Fortunately, they answered this time, after about 15 minutes. They had the internet up and running after a few hours. Unfortunately, my phone still doesn’t work, 13 days later, as my telephone provider, Pioneer Telephone, concluded after a week that whatever change Buckeye CableSystem made to the network was blocking the phone service. Perhaps typically, the phone technical service folks didn’t bother to tell me what they had concluded; I just got an e-mail that the ticket was closed. I sent an e-mail copied to both service providers asking them to get together and work this out. I haven’t heard anything yet. Perhaps they tried to call me!! I have been pondering stepping up my media sabbaticals. As I will soon enter week three without phone service, I suppose that I should be careful what I pray for.

IMMIGRATION POEM: In A Parent Idiocy

In a parent idiocy
Wee are tolled
The right
Thing to do
Is children
For sake
In wanting
To be a legitimate American
Leave your children behind
A crashing symbol
To not here
As freedom wrings
A bout effacing the music
A band in family values
Trump-it-ing
A minor problem
Into ruin U.S. racket
And those halving hearts crying
Whoa to those without!

This poem goes out to all those whose hearts are breaking because of Prez Donald Trump’s cruel policy of separating children from their parents when refugee families or immigrant families seek refuge in the United States of America. LOVE is a Traditional Family Value PEACE BUTTONHate Is Not A Family Value PEACE BUTTONThe Trump regime’s cruelty is matched only by their cowardice, making the grotesque claim that the law requires them to separate immigrant/refugee families, and even the absurd claim that the Trump policy is the Democrats’ fault. Their capacity to not take responsibility for their actions peers to no no bounds. This clarion cruelty may doom any Republican family values rhetoric for quiet awhile. Let family be a family value! Let’s rise up and end this cruel policy and work for refugee/immigrant polices characterized by compassion and generosity, not fear and xenophobia.

BICYCLING POEM: Mother Earth And Her Cycles

Mother Earth
Has her cycles
Look out!
Respect her cycles
Don’t be a fossil fool
Ride that bike!
Powered by living humans
Not dead relics
Exorcise those fossils, fool!
Ride that bike!
Get that warm feeling
And cool breeze
The perfect combo
Of vigor and refreshment
Ride that bike!
It’s in your nature
And even if it don’t make cents
It’s in your interest
Do it!
Just cause
Your Momma
Has tolled you too

I wrote this poem at the beginning of bicycling season this year. I get great joy and satisfaction from biking around, human powered, in sync with Mother Nature. I find biking in the city a natural for practicing mindfulness, simply by virtue of the attention required to stay alive and un-maimed from motor vehicles operated by licensed zombies. I appreciate the exercise that biking affords. As I am in my fourth year without a car, my instinct that my car getting totaled was a gift has proven true. I am grateful that I can live well with the sometimes inconvenience of not having a car. I feel some solidarity with the majority of humankind that doesn’t have a motor vehicle. My love affair with Mother Earth grows deeper…

Activist POEM: Yet Another Trump Tuesday at Sen. Portman’s Office

Yet Another Trump Tuesday at Sen. Portman’s Office

Empower verses
In power
What is won to think?
Lying in wait
Miring our advocacy
Swamped with democracy
When and how to mete US
We go through the drill
Lairs of representation
As hour representative
Represented by representatives
And sum how still amiss representative
Even as anyone can read the signs
Along standing
Hi noon
As if genuflecting the one
Who helled office
Only in attendance
In a shadowy cloak
Wore of attrition
By hook or crook
Never quite present to us
We no demonstrably
We have hit AWOL
Yet ever so rightly
Will pass on our tidings
And the next weak
In wake of yet an other attack
We will rise agin
Sea you soon

Indivisible Toledo holds a Trump Tuesday protest at noon every Tuesday outside Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s office in Toledo. We have been doing this since Donald Trump’s inauguration. Activism Is My Rent For Living On This Planet -- Alice Walker quote POLITICAL BUTTONTypically, a legislative aide has meet with protesters at least every few weeks. Yesterday, a legislative aide met with us for the first time in over two months, a new record for unavailability. We have never been able to meet with Sen. Portman, nor has he ever met our oft repeated request to have a public town hall meeting anywhere in Ohio — though we particularly invite him to have a town hall meeting in Toledo. Our meeting was particularly intense, reflecting cumulative rage over President Trump, and the silence of Republican congresspeople, specifically Sen. Portman. Sen. Portman has over four years til his re-election campaign, and he seems intent on biding his time during the tumultuous Trump presidency. Globalize THIS - RESISTANCE [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONHe is a quite reliable vote for the Trump agenda. This poem was inspired by our meeting yesterday, and our chronic frustration in not having any direct access to our elected official. Of course, with or without Sen. Portman, the resistance will continue.

Feel free to browse my designs on dissent and resistance.

FUNNY POEM: Weight Fore It

In the dark
Weight fore it
There it is
That singular smile
Making light
Of everything
Taking a twinkle
Over
Awe the whirled
As never
Settling for number one
Even as wading for it
On and on
As inevitable
As unstoppable
Groan
Only doing what comes naturally
Going
That second smile
On that throne
Laughing
In efface of death

	 Human Race has one really effective weapon: laughter - PEACE QUOTE BUTTONCourage to Laugh Master of World as He Ready to Die - PEACE QUOTE BUTTONThis poem is autobiographical, reflecting on my persistent inability to be serious while simultaneously and chronically dealing with serious issues. While my joking may be self-deprecatory, I specialize in deflating and parodying the powerful, dangerously powerful, if that’s not redundant. For me, the lightness that characterizes the best of life comes face to face with the all-to-often brutality and injustice that intersects, often vivisects, our lives. This laughing in efface of death is my most treasured place to be, in the role of jester, for which I am willing to die, that is, die laughing.

Anti Donald Trump POEM: Wear The Truth of Donald Trump Lies

For Mexico
Donald Trump lies to the north and south
For North Korea
Donald Trump lies to the east and west
For Venezuela
Donald Trump lies to the north and south
For Iran
Donald Trump lies to the east and west
Yada, yada, yada
Etc., etc., etc.
Who can boast of that place
Where Donald Trump does not lie?
Is the site of that third eye monster ever astray?
Possessed of a super power
Engendering division
Dealing humanity into different specious
Of coarse
He thinks not
Before utter clap trap
And the buzz of confederates
As the bull of America
As in China shop
Sow much for America thirst!

This poem is owed to Donald Trump, the Liar-in-Chief.  As the Republican Party fumbles in rebuking The Don in debasing America and Americans, the chicken-hawk that is Donald Trump has come home to roost in the frighteningly apt “White” House.  As The Don, a boorish bully, shamelessly unleashes his Donald First branding scheme, he piles up countless firsts, not the least of which is, as Ta-Nehisi Coates put it, being the First White President.  As The One character vainly tries to expand beyond his erudition to 144 characters, his incoherency is exceeded only by his hypocrisy.  His orange-faced lies, his signature leer, blends his red and yellow temper in strange perfection.  Perhaps beneath his rusty grimace he is truly just an orange supremacist, a buttress for the totality of all that rhymes with orange.  Any weigh, the question remains, “Who will ever no?!”

POEM: Awe The Less

I woke up
Knot a moment too soon
My values dying on the vine
Just realizing
In efface of
Every dollar
Unspent
Awe the less
I had to urn
And in that mean time
Aaah, lined my values
Every little thing on the table
Like the crack of daze break
In hail
Of every thing of late
That interminable rush
Expressly beyond reach
Eclipsing will
To simply be

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication - Leonardo da Vinci quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONclock with NOW at all times SPIRITUAL BUTTONThis poem is an ode to less is more, aligning life to our deepest values, and slowing down in helping us get there.  Speed kills, substituting urgency for importance.  We rush to accomplish never present values, getting nowhere but in record time.  Rushing to dreamed futures we outrun life’s manifold presents, that which is fixed in unbroken attention to timeless values and awake to now.

This day, may we each experience a deep presence to that which is awe ready present.

Bull Shit Meter - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTONOr…in countering every pretense dropping, cut through the stuff that makes life grow.

POEM: Owed To Stormi, The Poetess

It was a dark and stormy night
The starry heavens
Replaced by blinding light
Striking as lightning
Startling awe
But the bravest
From places unseen
With undeniable power
Sow ready to rumble
Reigning like a queen
Poet, poet her, poetess
Oh my God
Correction!
On my goddess
Her super natural wind
Clears deadwood from mighty oaks
And what remains
Still
Stands
Of gentle reads
On the edge
Of the river of life
And in her wake
Sleepy souls
And well wrested
A like
Find themselves
In what might
Be called
Daylight

I wrote this poem a while back in homage to Toledo poetess, Stormi, aka Paula Blocker, who graciously hosts a poetry reading every Friday night at The Trunk, 3353 Franklin.

ANTI-FASCISM POEM: In Efface of Creeping Fascism

He was a custom
Too accept
That creep
Creep
Creep
Of fascism
Without a furor
Incite
Picking wons
Fights
Posedly agin
And agin
Sow frayed
Peering opposed
Laws and orders
As just
Be for
It’s too late
Over
Due
In efface of populations abashed
In habiting legions of apprehensions
With all
Act right
A weigh
Even as if
Unhinging
On won soul

got fascism? POLITICAL BUTTONThis anti-fascism poem was inspired by some recent situations in my life and my reflection on the endemic response of many to use the rubric of “picking one’s fights” to avoid pushing back against creeping fascism.  My most recent experience with creeping fascism was on a long bus trip when a U.S. Border Patrol agent boarded the bus during a layover at a station in the middle of the night.  The agent asked some riders “Do you mind telling me your country of origin?”  First, this was odd because we were in Rochester, New York, several hours from the Canadian border (a known backdoor for alien entry); and the bus had been in the Buffalo station, which is much closer to the Canadian border.  I Don't Agree With President Vader's Policies, But I Still Think We Should Support Our Storm Troopers POLITICAL BUTTONThe Border Patrol agent was profiling passengers and he never asked me, a white guy, anything.  The agent also did not ask for identification or “papers,” so he was not very rigorous in this fishing expedition.  Perhaps this was a tip of the hat to the honest-faced people he was profiling, but I strongly suspect that the primary purpose was actually to make people afraid rather than nab aliens or criminals.  QUESTION AUTHORITY Before It Questions You POLITICAL BUTTONAs this agent was questioning passengers, I was pondering what to say if he asked me the loaded question: “Do you mind telling me your country of origin?”  Of course, I minded.  Refusing to answer the question was my first preference.  I could answer honestly, that I was born in Haiti.  Perhaps I could reveal to him that I am a convicted felon.  Maybe I could let him know that I detest creeping fascists.  But, alas, I didn’t fit his middle-of-the-night profile.  Perhaps us hippies are going to have to work harder to make the list.

A Nation of Sheep Soon Beget a Government of Wolves - Edward R. Murrow Quote - POLITICAL BUTTONI was somewhat surprised and very much creeped out by this incident, but it has increased my resolve to push back against creeping fascism at every opportunity.  As luck would have it, I arrived back in Toledo early morning Tuesday, in time for our weekly Trump Tuesday protest outside Sen. Rob Portman’s office and his aid happened to be available that day to speak with a group of us.  So, I was able to share this story of the Border Patrol agent on the bus.  Plus, us Trump Tuesday protesters had been experiencing ongoing creeping fascism in the form of building security arbitrarily limiting only four of us in the lobby at any one time to fill out comment sheets for Sen. Portman.  While there was an alleged policy regarding this, I suspect it never existed, nor could it hold up to constitutional muster.  One Nation Under Surveillance POLITICAL BUTTONThis alleged policy apparently applied to an identifiable group of people peaceably assembling, not, for instance to a dozen apparently random people in the lobby.  The lobby security guard didn’t like us, and he spoke demeaningly, especially to the women protesters.  Most of the protesters complied with this arbitrary restriction by herding only four people at a time into the lobby.  However, I made a point of filling out a comment sheet only if I could be a fifth person.  I never got any hassle for doing this, but if I had, I would of insisted on seeing a written policy.  For whatever reason, there was a new security guard in the lobby.  The new security guard didn’t care how many of us came into the lobby.  As five of us entered, I declared the new reality, “We now have 25% more democracy!”

Police Everywhere, Justice Nowhere POLITICAL BUTTONBeside directly oppressing target groups, creeping fascism has the nefarious side benefit of training others to tolerate little creeps of fascism that may seem uncivil to resist.  I find this a good example of how our quest for propriety can interfere with simple, and small, moral actions.  Perhaps ironically, resisting these little creeps may bring about disproportionately large consequences.  I contend that this disproportionality is the best evidence for an unjust situation and social control through intimidation.  Unfortunately, the risk of disproportional consequences is the very reason that people often cite for not resisting, and in solemn pronouncements of practicality state, “You have to pick your battles.”  Of course, you do.  Though I prefer to call them opportunities.

Feel free, to browse my anti-fascism designs.

POEM: This Is Knot Poetry — When Red Allowed

Waiving his red pen
He made his mute point
That spoken word is knot poetry
Like meting
Meter and anti-meter
And the invariable deconstruction of awe
As if
Employing free
Versus
The hire mind
For awe
That its worth
Save in alliteral weigh
Abut
Alas
Bringing too bare
Undisciplined obscenities uddering
As opposed to the ladder
As any won
May eye
Make this suggestive
Perhaps you’s
An unpronounceable cymbal farmerly no’in as prints
Pulling weeds
Of biblical pro portion
Fore whatever
It maybe worth
There is know space
Sandwiched
Between poetry and knot poetry
Between amateurs and prose
Knot that which isn’t
Nor which is
The wurst
I ever metaphor
Whatever
Call me
I am
An outspoken unspoken word artist
Unspellbound in my crappy weighs
And should upon
In the coming daze
Sow called poets anon meet
As shepherds to sheep affix
Due the write thing
Feel free
To shut the flock up

This poem was inspired by a blog article that a friend shared, entitled, “Spoken Word Is Not Poetry.”  My immediate response was simple: “I find it helpful to see everything as poetry.”  Of course, this is the gloriously useless mode of perception I aspire to use awe the time.  However, this poem represents a more detailed critique of the assertion that spoken word is not poetry. The author of this article pined that many readers at open mics are not trained poets and typically use free verse or prose poetry.  I must confess: I am an untrained poet, except by my tutelage under various muses.  Further, the often quick use of vulgarities offended the author’s parently higher sensibilities.  I strongly suspect that the work of any poet or poets is never complete as truth in word, as opposed to doing the deed in life, because life is F’ing ineffable.  Claiming that spoken word is performance art, which it is, seemed to be a means to taint spoken word artists as something other than poets. I certainly don’t mind being seen as more than a poet!  I wonder if the author would consider a novelist not a novelist if they read their work aloud — that would be a novel idea!  I related to the author’s point that an important part of poetry is the relationship of the reader to the written word without being nailed down by a verbal representation (or layering upon it performance art).  Most of my poems are best read silently, to allow for the multiple interpretations and meanings to brew within the reader; this process is at the heart of my poetry.  I find it difficult to read many of my poems out loud because I must pick one way to read the poem which inevitably shortchanges the beauty of dancing multiple meanings.  I must admit that when it comes to my poetry I am conveniently an anarchist, formally rejecting socially constructed boundaries of form. I do not doubt that the many fine forms of poetry developed over centuries are worthy of attention.  Nonetheless, I consider deflating pretensions as fodder for my poetic vocations.  If this itself seems pretentious, please feel free to take a meta view of my sow-called poems as self-parody.  At the end of my daze, I want parity for awe.

POEM: Promedica My Ass — Owed To Branding

Logos used
Too mean
Know ledge
Like that age owed ad vice
Would you jump off a bridge
If every won ails did
As in sayin’
Bye your good will
As money oozes from the non-prophet, health care (sic) system
The sores of philandering philanthropy
Well, come to PR medica
An unholy owned subsidiary
Of Tourette’s Industries
You will swear
Buy them
Weather you want to or not
Their marketing deportment is
As good as goaled
As black as poets inc
Greasing their wills
Stuck with irresistible pitch
As verbally contracted
Not worth the pay per
Printed upon
Yet this awe
Will in deed
Make it passable to live
As resistance is feudal
And being
Penned
Is what poets due
Indubitably
Sow branded
As live stock
For tolled
Too get a rise
The Tao jones
Working in our flavor
Over and over and over
Un-till bank rolled
In a dark ally
Buy and buy
Hour justifiable salivation
Attending too in trap meant anon
Agin and agin and agin
Fore the yoke is on-us
Awe the more
Fore the fire brand
Not with standing
In a flesh of genius
Is incensed
As won red scent
Becomes too
Until udderly crying out
In an unherd-of steer
I love the smell
Of nay palm
In the mourning
High noon
And too fly by night
Sullen this, sullen that
Soully worried
How irate
In some won ails size
Butt, its my skin in the game
Lonely hoping
Knot to be found
Within and without
My pants around my knees
As its only
My panties in a bunch
Over
Awe that madders
Poetic license
And corporate patronage
Some body
Has to
Pay the piper
To keep your roost ere plumbed
As upright as it comes
Why cant you
Say “uncle”
You know
Like that rich uncle
Who wants you
To sit on his lap
And tell you
Bed time
Stories
That will mark you for life
Butt kept mysteriously in a family weigh
As long
As in your genes
As in c’est la vie
Or sow, I’ve herd
As if
We are posed to be prod
Of being cattle
Scarred I’ll go
All Gandhi on you as
BE the beef
Awe the wile beating a different conundrum
Refraining that whole eat me thing
The mark of the best (sic)
Or rather sic sic sic’s
Sow fresh and hoary unholy revelations
Indulging vain wishes for dead presidents
And CEOs
Men of letters posterior to autograft
Ass-ever-rate
In playing defense
At my offense
With such propriety, proprietary and property
For my own good, posedly
Their mirror deflection
But, but, but, but, but
Except two a t
And so
I’m bare assed
And without
They’re money
You’re nothing butt
A bum
And the rush
Too be just
THAT

I am not a big fan of branding, whether it is of livestock or in corporate public relations. I was inspired to write this poem because at a regular monthly poetry reading they secured a small amount of funding to pay invited featured poets. Will Work For Universal Health Care POLITICAL BUTTONThe source of funding included local community foundations plus the nearly ubiquitous ProMedica, the largest health system within the Toledo region.  I have come to call Promedica, “PR Medica,” because of its often over-sized logo and branding in Toledo, aka ProMedica-ville, is nearly omnipresent in venues big and small.  I found its intrusion into the local poetry scene offensive, particularly because I am an iconoclastic, anti-commercial poet who specializes in addressing social justice issues.  This was a little too close to home for me.  I announced before my open mic reading that I did not want to be considered as an invited poet.  I suggested that to de-commercialize this reading, sending back the portion payed for by ProMedica, along with a strongly worded letter (might I suggest F and U), would be in order.

This is not the first time that I have unleashed my poetic visions against ProMedica.  The first time I devoted a poem to ProMedica was when they sponsored a state-wide poetry contest on the topic of anti-hunger with an honorarium to the winning poet that would befit and maintain the status of starving artist.  My unsubmitting, unremitting poem: Speaking With Spoken Sword: Owed To Hungering Fore Anew ProMedica.

Health Care is a Right Not a Privilege - PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTONSingle-Payer Health Care - Everybody In, Nobody Out POLITICAL BUTTONProMedica, if you want to combat hunger, pay all of your employees a living wage.  ProMedica, if you want to fulfill your mission and redeem your non-prophet status, devote 0.01% of your revenue toward advocating for universal health care, everybody in, nobody out.  Until then, you can bye this poet all you want.

MUST READ POEM: Incarcerated Truth

MUST READ POEM: Incarcerated Truth

But for the slip of the tongue
There could be
Having
Been given
The slip of paper
With a key
Too incarcerated truth
Knot to be
Read aloud
There is know God

Many of the simplest and most profound truths in life are best experienced in silence, where anything spoken would only detract from the experience.  If this poem is read out loud, it communicates the opposite meaning of that in silence: “There is no God” versus “There is know God.”  The reference to God sets up the conundrum of trying to communicate spiritual matters when words necessarily get in the way, often turning them into spiritual madders.  This poem is a big tip of the hat to the Tao Te Ching’s opening line: “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.”  I have longingly loved this opening paradox which offers the poetic challenge of improving on silence.

Truth may very well lie in the manor in which it is spoken or knot.  Free of words, we may experience the hole truth, going down that place from which hares split.  Down, down, down — nothing softer, nor closer to foul.  Sublime temptations beg the ineffable won, only to be housed in feat of clay.  Any peep would be, as if, to bring the roof roof down, that within ear shot of any eavesdropper.  Even the most dogged ear tome would knot avail the rabid homme, the whole as nothing, but hollowed ground.  To no end, as soil one self.  Making me, want to pop eye: I AM, what I AM?!

A Spiritual Autobiography

I wrote the below spiritual autobiography a dozen years ago as part of a servant leadership study group.  While it definitely needs updating, it serves well as a brief overview of my spiritual history and development over much of my life, particularly my early years.  Fortuitously, my humor remains righteously irreverent and my faith grows.

RUTTS
by Alex Haley
(that’s just my pun name)

The year was 1961. Preceded by John, a child was conceived, fathered by a closeted gay man, in Bethlehem, on the outskirts of the city of brotherly love. In my mother’s womb, I was transported to Haiti, where my parents, as doctor and nurse, were beginning their service as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee. A dozen (and a half) generations ago my ancestors had fled religious persecution and military conscription in Germany to settle in America. For a new beginning, they were gifted with land from William Penn. This land was some of the most fertile in the world; so fertile, in fact, that even gay men father children there! Though now in Haiti, they were soon to be counted again among the privileged of the world. I was born. And on this journey, Joseph followed. Continuing my heritage as a sojourner in a foreign land, I was born a true child of the 60s.

I have no specific memories of those first couple of years in Haiti. However, only in recent years have I realized my ideal vision of serenity as sleeping without a care late in the morning in a mountain cabin while the rain pounds on the tin roof likely came from memories as a baby (now, if only I can figure out why I have a pleasant association with the smell of skunk!). Also, I am told that I was scared of most white people. Strangely, I am still haunted by white people on occasion.

After a brief stint in Detroit, perhaps explaining my love of urban life, I grew up in a small town in Michigan. The town was Mennonite-free, so I was raised a United Methodist. My childhood was strikingly trauma-free (only striking in retrospect). I knew safety. I knew predictability and caring. Our family always ate meals together, beginning with a prayer too short not to recount here: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” A lot more theology in that prayer than I usually give credit. Our family participated in worship and church functions regularly. Worship was generally boring. One of my few memories was a teenager with a guitar, singing “Blowing in the wind.” I guess that would have been contemporary music, huh? And that was before Bob Dylan was a Christian. I attended Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and youth group. I only vaguely remember confirmation. I remember good times. Except for a desperately poor matching of gifts by placing me in a children’s choir – my first, and really only, experience with “playing hooky.” I loved summer camp. First there were church camps, then Boy Scout camps. My younger brother and I earned Eagle Scout ranking (the highest in Boy Scouts) in record time. Our scoutmaster was easygoing and playful. Perhaps paradoxically, it was easy to achieve in that environment. If “achievement” had been required of me, I probably wouldn’t have done it, or at least wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much. When we later moved and joined another scout troop, which was probably better organized and certainly more rigid, we dropped out after a while.

My understanding of diversity was child-like. I knew that Catholic families were the ones with five or six kids. Good families to play with. My best friend’s dad was Cuban. He also had two older half-siblings. In retrospect, this was the only somewhat non-traditional family I recall; though I don’t recall giving it much thought.

I was baptized at age eleven. Apparently, I was out of the country at the time such events usually occur. Fortunately, my understanding of baptism was still pretty much that of an infant, so it worked out well. I was confirmed a year later. About this same time, I was in little league baseball. In an attempt to deal with performance anxiety, I kept a pocket-sized New Testament in my back pocket. This crude attempt at spiritual osmosis was discovered by my brothers who with little affection labeled me “Bible boy.” I didn’t like this. I remember that my parent rebuked them.

When we moved to Dearborn, Michigan, before my ninth grade, my parents looked for a church nearby, but had little success – “too suburban” I think. Not surprising, considering we lived in a nice home with a pool, only 100 feet from a golf course. They decided to return to their church from earlier years, Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, 20 minutes away. Central is the oldest Protest-ant church in Michigan, and has been called “the conscience of the city.” Always a leader in social justice, their most widely known pastor preached pacifism before, during and after World War II. I was soon to be raised on 45+ minute sermons, truly epic sermons. A turning point happened to me sometime during my high school years when my mom took me to a peace conference at church. My eyes were opened and my heart would soon follow.

I went to Hope College, a small, private, liberal arts school. It was a Christian College, as were most of its staff and students, mostly Reformed and Christian Reformed. However, it was unlikely that I would ever be Reformed; conservatively speaking that is. My college years began with my father lightly warning me of these Calvinists. I didn’t know what he was talking about. My first roommate and I, who were boyhood friends, unknowingly were matched because we were both Methodists – apparently, a rare breed thereabouts. Early on, I must have been an easy target for an overabundance of evangelism. A friend invited me to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I went to what turned out to be a practically diversity-free zone; even ALL of the other persons in my small group were named “Kathy” (though probably a diversity of spellings). Later, when I saw out my dorm room window the friend who invited me, I said, “hello.” She asked me what I thought of the meeting. I shouted from the second floor window something to the effect that it was “too religious.” I did like church, and I went willingly. I even went to chapel services three times a week – religiously. I was also on part-time staff of the campus ministry. Though a biology major, I was frequently mistaken for a political science or philosophy major. Apparently, I was succeeding at the liberal arts (or at least the art of being liberal).

I very soon got involved with a small group of students known as the World Hunger Committee. Being a United Methodist, I must have known that there would be a committee for that! This formally launched my work in social justice, and my personal interest in stewardship, vegetarianism and nutrition. That first year, God brought together this son of a Mennonite with a Hope graduate who was a Mennonite (perhaps the only one). I told him that I was concerned about President Carter re-instituting draft registration. He said, “Why don’t you start a peace group?” I said, “Yes.” Fortunately, I didn’t now what I was doing. So, I helped found “Hope for Peace.”

For my own concerns, I hooked up with a Viet Nam war-era draft counselor. To make a long story short, when President Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration, I was identified in the Detroit News as a non-registrant. Being the only publicly-identified non-registrant in Michigan, I garnered much media attention. Eventually, the Reagan ‘get the government off your back’ regime and his Attorney General, Edwin ‘people are only hungry by choice’ Meese III, saw that out of millions of non-registrants, I was number 13 to be prosecuted. In the end, six years later, after heroically losing half a dozen pre-trial motions (with the help of a volunteer team of legal experts), my older brother dying, graduating from college, getting married, having a son, graduating from graduate school, and getting a job, I defended myself before a jury of my peers (though none of them were subject to the law I was defending myself from). I lost. But what did I win? (that is, beside three months room and board at the taxpayers’ expense) I learned to live in good conscience. I learned to refine my beliefs, even amidst great public scrutiny. I learned about civil disobedience, or as A.J. Muste, a great American pacifist and Hope College graduate would have said, “holy obedience” (in my write mind I say, “wholly obedience). I learned that the U.S. government has the absolute authority to draft any citizen regardless of conscientious objection. Any exception to this is due only to “legislative grace.” I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my government. Actually, I presented my case at the Detroit Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, in conjunction with a resolution to support young men’s consciences who were subject to draft registration laws, whether their conscience led them to register or not. The resolution failed. So, I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my denomination.

During college, after guest preaching at my home church in Detroit, someone came up afterwards and said, “I didn’t know that you were in seminary.” Nonetheless, I consider myself a theological mutt. I have drawn from many Christian traditions. I have studied Asian religions, and I am drawn to Buddhism. I am an amateur philosopher (that is, until someone pays me) and I am intrigued by the angst of existentialism. I have experienced a spiritual re-awakening in Alanon, which has given me things that my church could not. I believe that “religionism” may be the ultimate “-ism,” preventing us from experiencing the oneness of God. I may be a leading candidate to be voted, “most likely to be heretical,” by the powers that be. This is my orthodoxy. I believe that paradox lives in the neighbor of truth; and we should love our neighbors. In true Zen-like fashion, I find that irreverence is often the highest form of reverence. Among my heresies is my unabashed appreciation of “The Simpsons” (but, as the Hindus would say, “Don’t have a cow.”).

After an intense summer working for Bread for the World as an organizer, and days before my senior year began, my brother John was killed in an avalanche in Western Canada; but only after dropping out of college while on foreign study, wandering, rock-climbing and working (pretty much in that order) for a couple of years in Africa and the Western U.S. His death has given me a much greater sense of mortality and the preciousness of life each day. I actually find funerals as fruitful opportunities for reflection and renewing my sense of “living in the moment.” I have undervalued such opportunities. One of the few regrets in my life was missing three of four funerals of my grandparents.

My paternal grandparents were particularly religious. Only upon the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary (and doing the math) did I realize that my father was a near-bastard child to a teen mom. Years later, when my sister was pregnant and out-of-wedlock at age 19, my grandfather said, “The sins of the grandfather are being visited upon the granddaughter.” My thought: get over it! Well, at least, I can now understand why my gay father was closeted until his parents were either dead or demented. While I didn’t see healing in my grandparents, I saw that having an understanding of God under construction is a good thing, and sometimes demolition work is required.

That brings me to my marriage. To make a long, and usually happy, story short, my marriage of 11+ years ended 10 years ago. Nonetheless, we were blessed with two wonderful children, Joshua and Kathryn. I love being a parent. It may be the closest I’ve been able to experience what God must feel in His/Her unconditional love for us. Kate’s life is an ongoing miracle since she was born with multiple heart defects. She underwent two heart surgeries, and at one point with surgical complications, a doctor, trying to be optimistic, said, she has at least a 50/50 chance of living. A brush with death. There’s that mortality thing again. Not unlike death, I thought I had no problem with divorce – as long as it was happening to other people. Accepting our divorce was the most difficult thing I have ever dealt with.

Being out of a “relationship” for a number of years helped my re-develop my relationship with myself and with God. This came more through Alanon than church. Now, being in a relationship for eight years with a wise and beautiful woman has taught me to appreciate life as it comes, one day at a time – with both of us half single, half single parent; no longer with in-laws but ex’s. I’ve learned that God makes all things new, and often faster than I want. God never gives me what I want; God always gives me something better!

My career. God brought me to a career in public health, as I savored its roots in social justice. God brought me out of public health, re-naming me “Top Pun,” and appointing me as a jester for peace, where the pun is mightier than the sword, and justice is no yoke. My canvasses are buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and the World Wide Web. My business, by definition, is good – that is, maximizing prophets. My business is exactly on schedule; though I don’t know what the schedule is.

God brought me to Central’s neighborhood, and a few hours later, to Central. Centralites were my kind of people. Some happened to be Christians who were gay. Through my social justice work, not my public health work, God brought me to work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This opened further opportunities to work with persons who happened to be gay. My dad “came out.” My parents divorced. God had prepared me.

I have issues with money. I aspire to live simply, gracefully facilitated by my recent poverty-level earnings. Living with less financial security has inspired me to give today because I may not be able to give later. Whatever old car I’m driving facilitates my prayer life (of course, no “auto”-biography would be complete without a mention of my car).

I am a mystic at heart, journeying as a gifted rationalist, Caucasian, male, father, lover, businessman, American, etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. While embracing the enigmatic, I hope these few words will offer you a clue as to who I am. Hopefully, these few words will offer you a clue as to who we are. One of my favorite poems is from Muhammad Ali: “Me. We.”

In all, God has never left me; except for an instant in 1981, but that’s another story…

POEM: Cruel After Math — Owed to Sen. Rob Portman’s Health Care Vote

What kind?
Of cruel after-math
Is Sen. Portman working up
The American people
Facing death
Bye the tens of thousands
Buy the tens of billions
For tax cuts
For the richest Americans
For loaded corporations drunk on power
What is owed
To the flush and the flushed
To the affluent and the effluent
How does this add up?
What is the take away?
Is this the American will?
The right to health care
Or merely the extreme right of congress
Into an afterlife
Leaving loved wons behind
And nothing else
A cruel after-math
It’s your cull
A nation divided
Halves and halve nots
And what might
You be culpable of
Americans may ever no
Of a partisan’s last will and testament
Sow telling
In the ends
And the means
Of congress
And its reverse
Progress

This is the poem that I read at today’s health care protest outside of Sen. Rob.Portman’s Toledo office (see video of poetry reading).  A large laminated version of the above poem was delivered to his office.  There were an estimated 45-45,000 protesters.  In the photo below, I am pictured in the center next to “Flat Rob,” a cutout of Sen. Portman that we use to conduct our own town hall meetings on the street, since Sen. Portman does not see it fit to hold official town hall meetings with his constituents.

Sen. Rob Portman Health Care Protest

POEM: A World Worth Fighting For

Once agin
His eyes went
Threw me
Populating lonely
A whirled
Of perpetrators and victims
Bad asses and good ass
Of which I was won
Haunted by wonder
In what kind
Of world
Would we halve
Been friends
Now that is
A world worth
Fighting for

In a world flush with partisan rancoring and polarized perspectives, it is easy to pay know tension to each other’s humanity, often valuing each other less than common ground.  Who is a hero? He who turns his enemy into a friend. The Talmud quote PEACE BUTTONIn a world wear the lyin’ between winners and losers is sharply drawn, like an unbrakable sored, we risk a fate worse than deaf.  When we are effaced with the phallus choice forced upon us between perpetrators and victims, there peers no amor culpable of shielding us in what is right or left, split in two, halves and have nots.  The flush harbor in their stately effluence of fauxs.  Oar their wins carry them aweigh, atop endless serfs and bounteous fleeting vassals.

Can one side fit awe?Peace - One Side Fits All - Peace Dove - PEACE BUTTON  Courage to Stand Up and Sit Down Listen - PEACE QUOTE BUTTONCan we engender enough solidarity and courage to make peace?  What does fighting for won an other’s humanity look like?  Who knows, perhaps the genuine struggle to answer such questions in our living and dying may very well be what makes this a world worth fighting for.

Summer Solstice Poem: A Day of Longing No More

The longest day of the year
And nothing too due
He was well
Grounded
Sent to his roam
Bye know won
On the level
Of ants
Who never say “uncle”
With blades broken
Beaten by the sun
Sow green
With envy 93 million miles away
As feeled of dreams
Un-till
The king dumb
Of man
Clamoring agin
Fore mow mow mow
Wanting soully
Ever more

On this summer solstice day I took a leisurely jaunt on my bike down to the Toledo Art Museum lawn. Next to a stream of consciousness, I wrote this poem.  This poem touches on a common theme of mine: absconding from the business and battles of everyday life.  May your daze get shorter from now on.

POEM: That Cursory Savor

Life
As present
Did not add up
As if
A zero
Sum game
The passed getting bigger
The future getting smaller
That good buy
That eminent lessen
As holy for gone
As refuse
As waive that fortune
Having only
Too come to wrest
With that cursory savor
The eternal
Now

That was Zen - This is Tao - FUNNY SPIRITUAL BUTTONHere is yet another poem on the theme of the eternal now. Life can seem to pass by so quickly with so many distractions, perhaps wondering where it all goes. Know madder how attached we are to things, they seem to pass.  The present, arisen from the past and cascading into the future, is awe we have.  And we find ourselves, moved by weigh of this exquisite mystery, in the mist of where the passed and the future are knot won or the other.  Long the weigh, most of us look for a savor of some sort, weather short and sweet or lingering and rarefied.  Not with standing, we are prone to cling on, fighting increasingly alien forces, light years beyond any measure of good taste.  Our salivation dries up before our face, caught in a scrunch, as whither every fecund moment reseeds in a parent mummification.  And in spite of everything, the Tao jones arises again and agin…

POEM: Wrenching Machine

He threw himself into his work
Like a wrench
More than just
A gag
In a wrenching machine

They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold; and I deem them mad because they think my days have a price -- Kahlil Gibran quote POLITICAL BUTTONQuestion Consumption - POLITICAL BUTTONHere is a Monday poem dedicated to all anti-work workers, those less-than-willing cogs in dehumanizing machines.  I am so grateful for being my own boss and running my own business, where I can escape many of the heart-wrenching accommodations faced by wage slaves.  I heartily recommend simplifying your material needs to help minimize any need of selling yourself to dubious employers.  This also doubles as an anti-consumer, low-resource consumption lifestyle.  May we all find meaningful vocations untethered to capitalist exploitation.

Debt Slavery - No Chains Necessary (Sisyphus) - POLITICAL BUTTONIf Wealth Was The Inevitable Result of Hard Work, Every Woman In Africa Would Be A Millionaire -- George Monbiot quote POLITICAL BUTTON

Simplicity Trumps Affluence [Royal Flush] SPIRITUAL BUTTON

POEM: Nonpartisan Shootings

Weather running the country
In too the ground
Or playing hardball
So well practiced
America pines
For that national past time
And return to nonpartisan shootings

The shooting on a baseball field full of Republican congressmen and staffers has jacked up partisan wranglings and a united front of buy partisan preyer.  STOP [with bullet hole as O] POLITICAL BUTTONOf coarse, violence is the ultimate partisan activity, fashioning stiff lines between life and death, conveniently favoring won’s life over an other.  Our national celebrity worship teams with hour enduring desire too be led to brake through our collective amnesia over mass shootings daily reeking havoc among mere pee-ons. Gun violins unremarkably persist as congress works to legalize silencers — strange, I never heard that.  In the end, for whatever end, I am agin gun violence, agin and agin and agin…

Feel free to browse anti-gun violence designs.

NRA Not Representing America POLITICAL BUTTONGuns Don't Kill, Gaping Holes in Vital Organs Do POLITICAL BUTTONGet Real, Like Jesus Would Ever Own A Gun And Vote Republican POLITICAL BUTTON

Guns Are Not Pro-Life POLITICAL BUTTONIf Guns Are Outlawed Only Outlaws Will Accidentally Shoot Their Children - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTONGuns Don't Die People Do PEACE BUTTON

 

POEM: Devil’s Advocate

He was invited too serve
As devil’s advocate
But he prudently recognized
That the job was utterly filled
Declining the precipitous prize
And elevated gratuitousness

At one point or another, we are each tempted to take up, the downside of an argument.  The temptation to play devil’s advocate is yielded to with such regularity that more often than not such encumbrances serve only to discourage rather than uplift.  Don't Explain Your Philosophy, Embody It POLITICAL BUTTONReflexive skepticism often bludgeons another’s confidence.  Incessant dissection and paralysis of analysis can stall horse sense.  The evil genius of devil’s advocacy is in the seemingly safe purview of inaction.  Sins of omission are much easier to defend than sins of commission.  Endlessly attending multifarious schools of thought offers erudite inaction at a faction of the cost  Nonetheless, in a world already fucked up, practicing safer sects doesn’t go far enough.  Inaction favors the status quo.  In action favors change.  Fortunes favor conservatism.  Fortune favors the bold.  The Devil needs advocates like we need a hole in ahead — don’t fall into that claptrap!  We learn more from what we due than awe the rationalizing in the whirled.  I’ll see you in the real world and raze you 100 devil’s advocates.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONWhy not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is? Mark Twain quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON