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: Double Oh Seven Up

Double Oh Seven Up

He bought
That violence works
Buy strong
Wield men
Where once lust
Now found
Like some secret
Agent of change
As if
Like first see’d
Bared in some virgin soil
Unable to grow any further
Only ending
With another stiff
Drink
As know other
Shaken
But not stirred

This poem melds the themes of mythologized violence, superficial sexuality, and substance abuse as ultimately ineffectual coping mechanisms to deal with narcissistic adventures that shake up others lives but are barren of inspiration.

This poems title, “Double Oh Seven Up,” is one of my poem titles that ends up… being a more integral part of the poem, elucidating further its overall meaning. The “007″ pun sets up the context for the poem by appropriating all of the glorified violence and easy sexuality from the Ian Fleming James Bond mythic biopics, where a license to kill and bonding one’s jimmy to anything that moves is the order — or disorder — of the day. The pop classic of “shaken not stirred” becomes a metaphor for the impotence of alcohol or other numbing escapes to soothe the real pain of violence, leaving us with mere Seven Up, like some taunting virginal martini falling flat at that. Indulging such lower ordered ways of being in the world — e.g., live and let die — represents a form of arrested human development. Such narcissistic adventures ultimately prove unsatisfying, that is, outside the timeframe of Hollywood and its cinematic consumer products. Maybe there is a reason that the term “theater” shows up in warfare! The “Double Oh” is a passing tip of the hat, a glimpse of recognition, that the merry-go-round of addiction to violence can only be escaped by refusing to order another “007 Up,” no matter how good it feels in the short run.

Combining violence and sex in such storytelling creates a seductive world view, at least for the alpha male demographic, creating the illusion that violence solves problems and that somehow chicks are attracted to bloodshed that does not foretell life-giving commitments. Mean wile, back in the real world, we are left with another stiff, soiled innocence, and soul-numbing coping mechanisms

As a bonus pun, the secret reference is also a reference to The Secret, a book and movie that almost fetishizes personal power, downgrading communal solutions and blending narcissism and spiritual enlightenment in a near perfect tour de force, which purely coincidentally harnesses consumer success in the US self-help marketplace. HINT: Never buy any product that includes ‘secret’ in its title or description, especially if preceded by The.  Of course, as they say, if it sounds too good to be true, you may have a self-help bestseller…

POEM: Quiet the View

Hope
Was
Present
On the horizon
South
East
West
North
into the fabric of existence
Be not afraid
Weather
Looking up
Looking down
Such peek experiences
Are awe ways just
Round the corner

I haven’t published a poem in a while.  I have been attending to other stuff, such as a couple of family reunions and moving my Mom from out-of-town to really out-of-town.  I have written poems during this time, though most of my poetry and verse has simply returned from whence it came.  I feel that I have irreversibly headed down the path of a poet.  My mind regularly (or irregularly) drifts toward poetry.  Most anything can trigger inspiration.  If poetry where a second language to learn, you might say that I am dreaming in poetry now, as verse becomes second nature.

This poem was written during a break from helping my Mom move.  We were in her 25th story corner apartment in a downtown Detroit coop apartment building.  Of course, she had lived there long enough that there was way more than 25 stories now.  I was enjoying the fabulous panoramic view when this poem sprung from the horizon.

As is oft the case, this poem is about hope.  Hope has always been.  Hope is present now.  Hope is always on the horizon.  Hope is SEWN into the fabric of our existence.  The phrase, “Be not afraid,” has special significance since it is the instruction that Jesus most frequently gave his disciples.  Hope, like many godly things, can be elusive.  Fear seems to be very effective at getting our attention; though much more blunt than the subtleties of hope, faith, and love.  Jesus leverages the palpability of fear to preface his deeper messages.  Fear is a great diagnostic tool to identify our personal blocks to experiencing hope, faith, and love.  If we can’t get past fear, then hope seems…hopeless.  Life inevitably has its ups and downs.  The difficulties in life can mire us in the rough edges of life, those corners that we can’t see around.  May you have the presence to seek peek experiences and find that you round the corner.

POEM: Sew Your Frayed

Fear takes you
Too the toil it
For those privy to life
If you have years, listen
Courage makes you
What sow ever the seasoning
Spring dew
Or winter flakes
You knead not be
Scared for life
Weather an incite job
Or out word bound
So telling
Down with that
Quizzical expression
Facing your maker
Sew your frayed
Stranded
Over looking
Needle-less to say
What will
It take
Enough
To send a chill down your spying
Feeling so
Small still
Voice
Which can knot
Be herd
In a big baaaaad whirled
Wear everything
Is holey
Flocked up
As you
Sheepishly secede
Just getting
Threw it
Wandering
If only
Poor Me
Might be
Better off
Dread
Then mined
Racing
As if
Possessed
Yet without
Apprehension
Shuddering your vary life
Frighting fore breath
Too feel the qualm
As dismay
Or may not
Come about
Or in courage found
A future borne
Weather bold over
Or destiny snatched
You will
In deed
Learn
To let go
And discover
Whatever
Attain meant
Having shown up
As fully present
Equal too
The fair and bizaar
Yielding
A candid life, sow sweet
On the up and up

This poem about fear was by request — yesterday.  I thought that it would take a couple of weeks to get to it, but the muse is fickle and demanding.  Thanks to my neighbor’s unduly loud alarm going off AGAIN at 5 AM, I surrendered to wakefulness and wrote this poem.

Fear and worry seldom pay good dividends.  I do find fear to be a great diagnostic tool to identify issues that I need to be aware of and work on.  Fears seem to populate the surface of life, often masking deeper desires.  One of my favorite quotes is by Amela Earhart, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”  Our lack of peace is probably directly proportional to our lack of courage.  I cannot tell you what form courage needs to take in your life, but it is the engine of peace.

I often like to boil ideas down to their simplest distillation.  One formula for life that I’ve run across has impressed me with both its brevity and power:  Show up.  Pay attention.  Tell the truth.  Let go of the outcome.  This covers a lot of ground!  May you find wisdom and courage to secure a sweet peace.

Owed to Knot Rhyming

The ability to rhyme
Is not my paradigm
I brandish cacophonies
To unleash new homeys
Word
And soul full plurality
Welcoming that which can knot
Be beat

My poetry is offbeat.  That is not to say that it doesn’t have rhyme or alliteration, or rhyme and reason.  I brandish cacophonies to unleash unexpected cognitive dissonances that may provide momentary shortcuts and brief openings to our hearts.  Since the longest distance in the universe is from our heads to our hearts, there is great utility in such brain bypasses opening up the possibilities of new heart operations or inducing strokes of genius beyond calculation.  Cutting through such a knot is the metaphor used in the ancient Greek myth of King Gordius who set out a challenge to untie an incredible knot, promising great power to whoever could do it.  Many tried and failed, including the best and brightest.  Then, one man took out his sword and sliced the knot open with one stroke of genius.  The conventional wisdom of applying ever more clever brain power and ever more nimble hands missed the simple solution of using a wholly different tool.  Our heart is a holy different tool than our brains and hands.  As an organ of sense perception the heart can discern truths beyond sheer intelligence or brute power.  You knead knot believe this.  Though the heart may just prove a cut above the wrest…

 

POEM: Never Wanton Too Leave

In the tree of life
I take my leave
Looking not
To politicians, generals, celebrities, or philanthropists
For salvation
Re-lying not
On triangulating hourly opinions
In gluttonous cynicism
That fuels no bodies everywhere
But their own
Leaning not
On skulking intelligence
And hulking legions
Bulwarking the eternal fewed
With the shock and awe of epic fauxs
Not giving my nod
To looking glass likenesses
Endorsing make up
For broken weighs of life
Nor counting on
Oversized purses
Itemizing riddled coffers
Curmudgeoning us to death
Only bequeathing
Close-fisted sermonettes
Instead
I look to
Neighbors
As well as I kin
And friends in deed
Awe ways in courage
So gorge us
Prone to gentleness
To won another
A parent
And a peer
In our wake
We gather intimately
Cultivating our bounty
Where everyone is a head
And strangers honor guessed
Only kneading dough
To break bread
Round the table
At know time
Turing on us a test
Knot on your life
Leaving no one behind
Never wanton too leave

This poem strikes again at my frequent theme of the inane versus the meaningful, pitting the superficial and dehumanizing forces of the powers that be against more intimate and personal ways of relating to one another.  The poem also intimates the bounty of healthy human community that wins hands down (and fists down) against lesser machinations of the political, military, famous, and monied.

I feel obliged to disclose the most obscure pun in this poem, lest it be gravely mistaken as a typo or such.  Turing on us a test is an alliterative pun for turning (e.g., turning the tables), but also a reference to the Turing test which is used to distinguish a human being from a machine (human intelligence versus artificial intelligence).

I find the notion that humans are just complicated dirt as both bizarre and dangerously foolish.  If humanity cannot distinguish between itself and inanimate matter, then we should hold very little expectations for humans and any higher potential.  The rationale that seems compelling to some, that we are merely some type of biological computer, leaves the human heart empty, sterile, out of reach, and puzzlingly irrelevant.  Anyone committed to reducing all human friendship, love, joy, hope, and faith to deterministic factors (mere machinations) is an amputator of humanity and a denier of the mystery of life.  My hope with this poem is to remind folks that living into the mysterious grace of life, particularly human life, when shared, not denied, leads to growth of said life.

The title of this poem, and its final line, Never wanton too leave,beckons the metaphor of the tree of life.  We are each a leaf on the tree of life, we cannot live alone yet we are an important part.  There is both a profound humility and sacred value in being human.  May we never be less than we were created to be, nor overblown, in finding our way in life.

POEM: Birth Day Present

On my birthday
I was given
As were you
A time machine
A way faring
By lusty seconds
And so moving
Fates billed
To hour credit
Surpassing daze
And weaks
A sort of colander
For casting generations
And spirited characters
Of a future entranced
Passing sentries
With unguarded lives
Vaulting destiny
By wreckless leaps
And bounds
Unleashed
Of those who might
Steel the future
Or simply junket
Never poor tending
Anything except their raze
In rapturing time itself
Never coming second
When every one
Is of won accord
Awe due
To the present
Unpassed

This poem goes out to all of you who have a birthday this year!  The present is ever present. Like they say: there’s no gift like the present.  The future is born of the present, and the future captures much of our attention.  Nonetheless, we live our whole life in the present.  The practice of mindfulness recognizes that NOW needs your full attention  Of course, you can reflect on the future or the past NOW, in the present.  The point is that conscious awareness is a huge part of what it means to be human and to live fully.  Paying attention to our life, whatever that is at any given moment, is the stuff of life.  As John Lennon so famously observed, “Life is what happens while your busy doing other things.”  May the moments that you live each day make every day a birth day.  As Will Rogers said, “May you live all the days of your life.”

POEM: A Scarecrow’s Doo

My life is very
Scuffed up
Round the edges
Hither too
Better than
A scarecrow
Keeping
Snobs a way
As they brood
Over heir dues
Wile
They are off
Making hay
Their own
Abrade
Turning straw men
Into goaled
Only for stalling
Such rumpled stilt skin
As tress up
And wig out
Combing the whirled
As eye sport
A primordial stile
Simply a tease
Even within
The realm
Of possibility
Dread locks
Or without
Mull it over
As if
Disguise a loser
Uncaptivated buy genteel waves
For going
AWW
That you are
Blowing in the wind
Air to the throne

This poem is an ode to living on the fringe, even if your life becomes somewhat scuffed up.  Living on the edge can be in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom and way of life in the dominant culture of so-called Western civilization.  Concern about status and appearance, as well as a fixation on material conveniences, drives many to trade deeper meaning for inane existence.

Many settle for a life too easily demarcated by stereotypes and oversimplifications.  I like to joke that my long hair is for the convenience of others in easily identifying me as a “hippie,” so they don’t need to spend much time really getting to know me — which is to love me!  Using the metaphor in this poem, my hair serves as a scarecrow to drive off superficial people.  Encountering stereotypes which make one uncomfortable can serve as a simple weeding out mechanism.  Of course, those that really know me, know why I have long hair, and why I pray for the day to cut my hair.  Also, those that really know me know that I don’t cringe from the label “hippie,” but it is a poor approximation of my character and life.  I am not particularly “hip,” my sexual mores are “live and let live” but hardly a free for all, and I like my consciousness unadulterated by drugs.

I try to assume that people are irreducibly eccentric and idiosyncratic.  In short, I believe that every person is infinitely interesting.  Of course, spending a great deal of our time exploring these individualities cuts into the efficiency of reducing people to shorthand stereotypes, placing them in definable little boxes, so that we can navigate people more like things and life can be more predictable.  Some of this is inescapable as we have to form an impression, however tentative or temporary, about people.  The dangerous temptation that is a threat to humanity is to solidify our views of people and discounting their unfathomable humanity for our convenience and striving for efficiency and productivity. This can blur the immeasurable difference between human lives and things.

I propose that a wise precept would be that, if in doubt, choose people over things — every time!  Perhaps the most valuable gift we can give one another is our presence.  Who wants to compete with another’s interest in inanimate matter (or inane matters) rather than have another lovingly delve into the whole of who we are?  Of course, simply being with someone, spending time with someone else, is a profound vote for how much you value them.  This is much more the currency of life than money and stuff.   We are so much more than dust in the wind, even stardust in the celestial wind; and whatever that “so much more” is is what we should pay attention to, if we want to participate in life, not simply have a life lived for us, as if we were simply complicated dirt.  We are not blowing in the wind, air to the throne…a scarecrow’s doo.

POEM: Big Bang Burrito®

Under a first rate inquisition
I mussed a test
I don’t know
If God
Can make
A bean burrito so big
That God can’t
Eat it
Such a peerless quest in
May be
Scorn points with sum
To be little God
Though conceivably
A cause
Fore the big bang!

This poem and joke is a mocking attempt to deal with mocking.  Questioning is great, as close kin to curiosity.  In any case though, the answers we come to are led by the questions we ask.  Sometimes our questions just don’t rise to the occasion.  This elementary school question about God’s omnipotence is such a question.  To make my point, I would proffer that this poem is a complement to the question: Can people ask a question so stupid that even God would be forced to publish a comeback?  Framing omnipotence as brute force, God’s purpose as some carnival showiness, and/or insisting the God be able to be digested whole by human brains, leaves us with a limited universe of pre-ordained “acceptable” answers that are unsatisfying.  Perhaps God has published God’s resume in a glorious splendor transcending what can be captured in the human mind and reduced to a scale or scoring system that would allow the employment of God.  Perhaps God doesn’t even want to be “employed.”  Perhaps God doesn’t demand authorship rights, but seeks only presence.  “Seek and you shall find” has an unspoken sister phrase, “Don’t seek and you won’t find.”  Many skeptics of religion and spirituality are rightfully wary of claims of authority, and how acceptance of certain authority squelches curiosity.  Nonetheless, what if God’s presence in the universe is supposed to be an ever-unfolding mystery with intriguing clues and an irreducible amount of doubt to assure that the game is perpetually beguiling?  Endless discovery of God’s fathomless presence.  Sounds to me like curiosity may very well be a fundamental facet of true religion.  Jewish tradition holds that the face of God cannot be seen by human eyes and live.  Perhaps we would be torn from our human existence with such revelation, either dying as a human and/or transmuting into a form of being which can adequately hold such knowledge and experience.  There is an image in the Old Testament (Exodus 33:23), “Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen,” where it is held (beheld?) that Moses sees God’s butt (backside) as he departs the encounter, but Moses will not be allowed to see God’s face.  In an endless game of curiosity and intrigue, this may just be one aspect of that relationship.  Pessimists may just consider this God mooning us.  Yet, since God’s son was a carpenter, should it really come as a shock that the Father is a plumber?  Or, perhaps, God is otherwise occupied, maybe in a Big Bang Burrito® eating contest.

POEM: The Meaning of Vex Lex

In a universe beyond apprehension
She caught herself
Vexing once again
Is there meaning?
Looking above
The stars just winked
Looking below
The grass said
“How can you stand it?”
Looking forward
Her next meal said
“Eat me.”
Looking back
She grasped so many broken peaces
Looking in
She divined an unfathomable whole
On her look out
Giving weigh
Too eternal vigilantes
Buy passing awe
The enduring
Rejoined her
Instead fast
As kin
Neighboring on
Know ledge
And good will
In solid-air-ity
Surfing
With lonely
A stout bored
For a pair a docks
To weigh anchor
In what was meant
For sailing
Weather a loan
Or going on and on
Con currently
Now and again
Making head weigh
When put to see
Awe to gather

This poem was inspired by a facebook post asking, “Is it the human curse to be constantly seeking meaning in life when there really isn’t any?”  This poem is for you, Polly, and all of angst-ridden humanity.  Of course, looking for ultimate meaning on facebook may be analogous to looking for love in all the wrong places.  Joking aside, I feel the existential pain of such questioning.  My conservative Christian college roommate warned that I shouldn’t take the philosophy course: Existentialism.  In a display of prudent Calvinistic theology, he said this is a place you shouldn’t go.  I was raised to question and explore.  One surefire way to raise my curiosity is to say you shouldn’t go there!  Banned books should probably well populate our reading list.  I never seriously questioned not taking the class.  Existentialism, nihilism, and the oft-elusive quest for meaning are frequent themes in my poetry and associated rants.  I would never say to not go there.  I would suggest that you not build a home there.  The profound freedom expounded upon by existential philosophers bids us travel widely and put scarce stock in a cozy number of questions or answers.

Rather than giving another pages-long rant on existentialism, or an extensive apologetic on meaning, I will let my poem due most of the work.  I will point out that I find some humor in this most serious of questions.  This poem launches with a series of anthropomorphisms, the stars, the grass, even your next meal, begging some equal standing with you to answer your question.  This is meant to be funny in multiple ways.  I find funniness a particularly good antidote to excessive seriousness.  However, for you philosophical types, projecting human qualities onto inanimate or “less animate” nature is often a first line of critique on the question of God.  I would agree that limiting your search for the supernatural in nature is setting the bar too low.  The mismatch in the adequacy of question to answer makes for a laughable pair of foolishnesses: looking to dirt to enlighten us and considering ourselves to be just dirt (albeit very complicated dirt).

Surely, we can fill a lifetime with learning about nature and its wonders, but we should look up the proverbial food chain rather than down it to find higher meaning.  Or, at a minimum, we should focus on the apparently most evolved life on earth, human beings.  If by happenstance humans are the most evolved conscious beings in our known universe, are we reduced to permutations of cannibalism, or is there some higher power to nourish us?  I find the metaphor of cannibalism as quite apt, since the first monarch of existentialist philosophers, John Paul Sartre, spoke forcefully and eloquently about two subjects never being able to connect, forever trapped in alternately being a subject and making the other an object, then being reduced to an object by the other.  Of course, any philosopher that claims that two subjects can never connect as subjects, besides permanently disabling human relationships, certainly precludes any human-God relationship (subject-Subject).   It is worth noting that later existentialist philosophers claimed that subjects can actually connect without reducing the other subject to a mere object.  Not to get caught in intractable discussions of God, it will suffice to say that I believe this, that subjects can connect with one another.  First, this recognizes that human relationships are the everyday stuff of subjective beings living out their nature.  This seems to imply that human community is foundational for human fulfillment.  More provocatively, this opens up the possibility, dare I say hope, that we can connect with some higher power (Subject) to facilitate our spiritual evolution and find greater meaning than that which can be deduced from mere facts/objects of the physical world/nature (or intuited from individual human subjects).

You may note that I consider subjects/subjectivity in the realm of the supernatural, transcending the natural (not negating it).  As confirmed by quantum physics, observers (subjects) influence and change the natural world without any evident contradictions in the deterministic aspects of the scientific world.  In short, at least some form of transcendence of the merely physical/deterministic world is allowed; in fact, necessary to account for quantum physical evidence.  Of course, this brings us full circle to where we began, leaving open the question of the nature of the indeterminate (e.g., free will) and determinate (e.g., physical) aspects of reality.  Basically, the accepted convention of modern science is that the indeterminate has no nature, which is represented by the concept of “randomness.”  Randomness is an indispensable component of the current understanding of Darwin’s evolution of species.  A relationship with nothing is necessary to stir up possibilities allowing for new configurations of life-forms [I don't think that it was an accident that Sartre's foundational work was titled, Being and Nothingness].  If evolution was fully determined then some form of God as a first cause with a specific nature would be necessary, and there could only be one outcome, the present reality.  I think this sort of view is rightly rejected as a poor representation of life as experienced and as any notion of God.  However comfortable you feel with the notion of randomness, evolution, as presently expounded, does a masterful job of explaining the origin of species.  However, evolution is silent, even impotent (which is key in any theory so thoroughly wrapped up in reproduction), in accounting for the origin of life itself.  This concept of randomness strikes me at least as problematic as assuming that there is any nature within the realm of indeterminacy.  While the concept of something coming from nothing has often been used to mock those of a spiritual inclination, this is an essential conundrum of modern physics, both in quantum indeterminacy and in a unifying theory for quantum physics, Newtonian physics, and the theory of general relativity which applies to astronomical scales.  The assumption that all truth lies within reductionistic science has been disproved by Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which is a mathematical proof that there are always predicates (true statements or facts) that lie outside any possible mathematical or rational system.  Those positing some form of metaphysics (spirituality) simply claim that there is some nature outside of facts and truths that can be ascertained by reductionistic science and assembled into any rational system.  Further, many claim that we can ascertain truths about the nature of reality through subjective experience, not fully verifiable by science.  This connection to other subjective/indeterminate realities can bring about a fuller understanding of reality.  In such ethereal undertakings, I seek in solidarity with others to incarnate such realities in our lives, thus making our lives fuller, more congruent with reality.

I posit that life itself encompasses the subjective, and that there is a nature to nature, a nature that transcends and lovingly gives birth to countless wonders.  Transcendent.  Loving.  Giving birth.  Wonder full.  This is the God I seek.  We need not leap from essential uncertainty to an abyss of meaninglessness.  We need not build arbitrary prisons to some cruel god of logic, while others walk and explore a world brimming with life and meaning.  Nor do we shrink from visiting those in the darkest of places, for even God overflows there.  I seek to worship a God that cannot fit in any box anyone can construct.  I leave such gods to the dustbin. The present is evident, even if the future is not.  Life is a gift.  Pass it on.  This is the nature of life.

For those of you who waded through my rantings, or those who were wise enough to read the last paragraph first, you are now titled to learn the meaning of vex lex.  Vex lex is a takeoff on rex lex, which means “Law is king.”  Vex, of course, means to distress or bother.  Thus, vex lex means to be distressed or bothered by the prospect of law ruling our lives as our ultimate authority.  Most of us recognize that legalism often strangles life.  The law can be government or any system of thought (ideology).  We are born to be free.  Our room to grow is unending…which can be vexing.  Game on!