POEM: Word Jonesing

She said
Your poetry seems like a lot of work
I said
It’s less wordsmithing
And more wordjonesing
Or sew it would seam

There is little doubt that reading my poetry takes some work.  It is commonplace in my poetry to have multiple meanings (puns), multiple parallel narratives, quickly shifting mixed metaphors, and erudite references, whether scholarly or from obscure pop culture.  This often makes for a highly alliterate reed, demanding enough flexibility to bend with the shifting winds of meaning, and seeing passed the tides of meanness.

In this poem, the launching point is from the reader’s perspective, implying that it is both difficult to read and difficult to write, or “wordsmith.”  While the former may be obvious, this poem shifts the focus from mere difficulty of work to the underlying passion fueling such effort, “word jonesing.”  At its best, in writing poetry there is an irresistible pull from the allusive muse.  Sometimes I even experience the poem writing itself, from whence I dare not say!  Thus, transforming the Smith and Jones of words into something transcendent.  The concluding line, Or sew it would seam, references how this process results in a seamless body of work, where I typically hold out some healing message, even to be unfrayed in kneading knot keep up with the joneses.

POEM: Balms Around Every Corner

Truth lives at peace with facts
Facts war with truth
As an orderly
Gone astray
In an awe in compassing hospitality
Scurrying from one stat to the next
Drunk on 100% proof
And in all probability
Will perpetually pass attest
With no lack of patients
Ever-presently over-looking
Medicine beyond
Preyer or medication
Still interrupted
Buy balms around every corner
Wear all is qualm
Where residents may not be drug
Round after round
Caching bullet points
For the heeling of others
A pour trade for lush living
In truth
Many facts cannot pay
They’re fair
In a cosmos a-washed with excellence
As truth is tolled
One piece
Is not as good
As what fallows
Or even Quickens®
In know way pandering
Anything other
That which they see
The whole in their soul
Wonting more than a void

This poem addresses a very common theme in my poetry, the relationship of scientific certainties and metaphysical realities: facts and truth.  The relationship between our mind and our heart has a profound affect on how we order our lives and how we experience the world.  Like facts and truth, the mind and heart are not contradictory, in the same way that science and religion (physics and metaphysics) are not contradictory; e.g., “Truth lives at peace with facts.”  Nevertheless, conflicts arise dependent on our view of the whole (“The whole in their soul”).  Metaphysics, a necessary element of spirituality, is a transcendent, awe-encompassing view of Truth.  Physics, the world of facts, is also a necessary part of human reality, but a necessarily incomplete view of many truths/facts.  Physics is the foundation of everyday living, providing a highly predictable platform for a coherent life, the rationale making life feasible.  Metaphysics enlightens physics, shedding light on higher, more complete realities.  Metaphysics imbues physics with meaning, the reason to live.

The fundamental problem that I see in modern life, especially Western civilization, is an undue fixation of “certain” aspects of reality, e.g., “Drunk on 100% proof.”  This addiction to focusing only on the lesser robs us of meaning, in a barren self-fulfilling prophecy — which makes sense, it just sucks!  I think that such a partially blinded view of reality is wrapped up in fear.  Whether fear leads to such a worldview or such a worldview leads to fear is a which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg type of argument.  Regardless, they are self-reinforcing.  So, why is such a worldview so popular?  I suspect because the force of certainty is a great selling point in trying to come up with a comprehensive view of reality.  If you are a certainty addict, the line you draw around reality is highly predictable, exactly parallel to that diaphanous line where our five senses stare into the nebulous abyss of metaphysics, the world of feral uncertainty and unpredictable freedom.  This place of metaphysics is messy, at least at first glance; and many find it much easier to look away.  The strangely beautiful thing is that the world of metaphysics is as highly ordered as the physical world, even more elegantly so!  The crux of the issue is a willingness to venture beyond the comfortable certainty of reductionistic science, bringing things down to familiar level, where things are easily coherent.

The train to increasing scientific understanding certainly has many hubs, branches of science, but train stops typically end at the last station before metaphysics.  And going beyond one’s station is scientific heresy.  Nonetheless, such a limit is arbitrary.  First, even in the most orthodox science, there are unprovable assumptions (see Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem or my crazy poem, Wading for Gödel).  In short, the mathematician Gödel proved (yes, proved) that any mathematical or logical system will always have truths that lie outside the ability of that system to prove them.  Second, from our assumptions, highly ordered worldviews mysteriously arise.  This is true for both reductionistic science and metaphysics.  Reductionist science makes the most fundamental mistake possible, violating its most orthodox — dare I say sacred — premise, by blindly accepting that it is assumptionless, the most blessed assumption, making scientists merry.  Science can rightly test hypotheses, but not assumptions.  Science cannot answer the question of where coherency comes from, or even whether coherency is better than coherency!  I vote for coherency being better, but I can’t prove it!  In fact, science cannot even speak to better or worse, only what is (at least at the time of the experiment), and with high probability: IF this happens, THEN that will follow.  Even with science’s well accepted foundational assumption that coherence is better than coherence, the elaborate worldview which unfolds logically and through rigorous observation cannot account for meaning!  It can catalog, categorize, compare and contrast the many ways that people behave within posited systems of meaning, but science must stand silent in declaring any one system Truth.  This is the truth of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem.

Unfortunately, this inherent limitation in logical systems brought to light by Gödel receives little appreciation.  Plus, instead of going forward with this understanding, recognizing its implications for further advances, we continue down a proven illogical, scientifically heretical, path of some type of pseudo-logical imperialism.  We must transcend this dead-end.  There is not much surprise that the scientific revolution during the so-called enlightenment led to an atrophy of metaphysical literacy.  Any pondering of anything metaphysical, let alone “God,” appears that it necessarily must be degraded.  And we are left with an amputated worldview, reduced to science’s presumptuous and incomplete reach.  Meaning escapes our grasp.  Alienation grows.  In fact, the imperialism of objectivity cannot account for subjectivity at all!  In this bizarro world, you, as a subjective being, don’t even exist — or at least you shouldn’t exist!  Is it any wonder we have created a world unfriendly to humans?  At best you are just one more “thing” to deal with, and likely with your unpredictability, formerly known as freedom, you will find yourself less favored than inanimate things and virtual reality mimicking what we truly long for.  The ancient alchemists’ scientific dream of led to goaled has been sorely unachieved.  Without going the next step, embracing metaphysics, we are doomed, “Scurrying from one stat to the next.”  For millennia, humans have asked and earnestly tried to answer the great questions of life.  Taking on the tried and true methods of science — hypothesis generation and rigorous observation — schools of thought, competing theologies, and myriads of human experiments, have resulted in a rich body of metaphysical understanding converging on eternal truths endowing humanity with a wealth unfathomable by perhaps most post-Enlightenment worldviews that have been posited.  Still, gaining from such wealth requires an entrepreneurial spirit.

God is the greatest balm to go off in history.  God is the pinnacle of metaphysical ponderings and wanderings.  Embracing our own subjectivity and the tantalizing possibility of other subjectivies, most commonly recognized as humans, and less well recognized as God, enriches our universe beyond measure.  Exploring our inner life, our own subjectivity, with the same disciplined observation of science, yields new truths, beyond mere science.  Exploring the subjective realities of others and how they resonate or react with us, opens progressively wider and deeper possibilities.  Experiencing God can help center our subjective experiences around a unity in reality that transcends and transforms our being and functioning in the world.  Of course, speaking about God is even far less productive than speaking about food and expecting delightful tastes and bodily nourishment.  Nonetheless, human language, can be a launching point triggering hunger which presages satiation.  Experiencing God is a new birth that is best communicated by our transformed lives.  For me, trying to speak about experiences of God is the birth of poetry.  For me, writing poetry is the mind and heart making love.  Even then, the occasional offspring are less reliably joyful than the love-making.

As I like to say: life isn’t fair, it’s excellent!  May you find wholeness and hospitality in your most excellent journey.

POEM: Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday

Guess what I herd
It’s Super Bowl™ Sabbath
Quite coincidentally on Sunday
And I’m not sure who’s playing who
Perhaps the Cowboys and Indians
Or the Lions and the Christians
The eternal argument weather
Its just
A little gamey
Or THE GAME
Either weigh
Teeming
It’s all-American
Only more so
Unlike baseball
Hear the greatest fans
Are on the bench
Couching their devotion
In hyperbole
Still
Ever hoping that
The game
Is more interesting
Than the commercials
Praying for a comeback
If only we can just stop ’em!
The incessant commentary of the retired
Mature men
Alternatingly offensive and defensive
Only sew I’m tolled
And sow I will
Endless possibilities
Each with much deeper rootings

As you might have guessed by this poem, I’m not much of a sports fan.  I don’t necessarily have an inherent problem with sports.  I do see sports obsessions as a big part of the playbook to distract people from the real issues in their life.  As some mild catharsis, this may be fine.  Nonetheless, I suspect that for the millions of Americans who spend time following sports second only to work, this probably doesn’t represent a healthy balance in life. Of course, if people are actually playing sports, I find this much more worthwhile. Unfortunately, we have bred a spectating American culture more than a participatory one. Western civilization may not be able to stand (and may have to settle for sitting on the couch) without living vicariously through celebrities.  I suspect that if alien anthropologists visited America, they would likely conclude that sports and/or making money were the leading religions, outdistancing traditional faiths.

I don’t think that it is an accident that one of the most violent American sports, football, is among the most hotly contested among its fans.  This strikes me as not too far removed from fomenting patriotism in the run up to war when Team America is scheduled to go up against loathsome Team Anybody Else.  Competition is one thing; world domination is another.  For instance, has anyone else wondered why the World Series in baseball only includes U.S.!  Such blind arrogance and American exceptionalism makes the world a more dangerous place to live.

I do love rooting for underdogs, so you can reliably guess which team I’d root for, even if I’m not even aware of the game. So, whether it’s Team Tweedle Dee or Team Tweedle Dumb, you may just find me silently somewhere else…

POEM: State of the Union – Barack Obama

The State of the Union

In come in equality
Barack Hussein Obama
Raising a question
Of will he deliver
His second state
Of the union
Different than the first
Shot from Chicagoland
Now addressing
From 1600 sumpin’
Pennsylvania Avenue
A White House
Supremely courting
Separate but unequal
Early childhood education
Ivy league schooling
Whether constitutionally a lawyer
Or a product of a miscegenation
A black community organizer
A white Harvard lawyer
Finessing Goodwill industries
Racking the Gap™
Lust but always found
His customary locution assured
In custom HeartMarx suits
In trademark blue
Navy blue
Projecting power
No longer caught
In the wrong hoodie
Or his name isn’t Hussein
And what race winning
Between time and money
Soul and intellect
Vulnerability and power
Weather fair skin in the game
Or black ass on the line
Given the can
And the will
The eternal questioning
Lying in the fold
The gap
Between Barack and Obama
In-creasing
And yes
De-spite the rhetoric
We can
And we will

I heard on the news that President Barack Hussein Obama will address income inequality and early childhood education in his state of the union speech today.  Given Obama’s presidency thus far, that’s all the rhetoric I needed to launch this poem.  This poem is a play on the tensions between who we want to be, who we think we can be, how others view us, and what expectations others may have of us.  From many angles, the inescapable tension present in the body politic and the body of Barack Obama is a race question.  For a long time now, I’ve found it puzzling that a biracial person in America is quite universally identified as the minority race.  In America, if you are half black and half white, you are black.  Is being black some type of pollutant that defines someone?  Is this some type of white fear that black is actually stronger than white, posing some inherent threat?  No doubt, culturally, for bi-racial people, it makes sense to identify with one’s minority status, since this defines ones external reality quite pervasively; thus framing to a large degree one’s own experience.  Of course, this is really a cultural question because the genetic foundation for racial differences is as flimsy a foundation in science as profoundly dangerous a reality on society.  Put simply, race is a social construct.  Race is a lazy and prejudicial classification of humans feeding our own biases.  Racism distracts us from the deeper realities of our oneness as a human family.  Racism is a tool to divide and conquer others.  Racism can no more be won than war can be won — it only creates more lost human potential.  I empathize with President Obama who must daily face the many powerful contradictions or tensions in his life and America.  However, I see class trumping racial identity.  I find it a much more coherent view that Obama is a Harvard lawyer than a black community organizer.  His high social and economic class seems a much better explanation for his actions than his racial and ethnic heritage.

Fortunately, my aim in human relations is infinitely higher than merely explaining, or even predicting, human behavior.  We can, and likely will, argue about the extent of human freedom, for any particular individual or “class” of humans.  Still, we are always at least somewhat free.  And it is in this space, whether narrow or wide, that we define our humanity.  This is true for the President of the United States of America, the presumed leader of the “free” world.  This is true for me and you.

If you follow politics at all, you cannot escape that even the most powerful person in the world, presumed to be the President of the good ole USA, is plagues by limits on his freedom, or perhaps more appropriately, his ambitions.  Personally, I revel that lowly me can do things that the President could not fathom; such as living without an alarm clock, or truly taking a week off.  Politics is said to be the art of the possible.  I’d like to think so.  However, it seems that politics is captured much more accurately as being the art of the probable.  The art of the possible is about acting out of an idealism ever-appreciating the stark reality that we can choose to act freely within reality present or looming.  Shrewdness is not well served by fixating on mere probabilities at the expense of our freedom, that defines us as human.

Of course, in this poem, I hope to raise the “race” question to a higher level, not bound by mere particularities, especially racial identity.  Ah, yes, the quest of a poet to tease out eternal themes and universal truths from our particular lives.  In this poem, this is framed as various races: between time and money, soul and intellect, and vulnerability and power.

Still, I am not, nor wish to be, immune from particularities.  I relish in the deliciously punny and serendipitous particularity that Obama wears custom Hartmarx suits.  I have taken the liberty of spelling this brand (probably trademarked!) with my own trademark style: HeartMarx.  The tensions and irony run deep as it can imply a (hidden) heart of Marx for Obama, or the pinnacle of a personal capitalistic brand perhaps too well-suited to speak authentically of income inequality.

May your state of union with reality be harmonious and joyful.

POEM: The Autobiography of Tao Rex

The opening lines
Of the autobiography
Of Tao Rex
Alias Not Neil:
Neil was a man of substance
Who was not waiting
For it to come into style
If in the course of life
He should cross
Kingmakers
And Job creators
He would not settle
For being a part
As sum illumine knotty
Though some might
Say naughty
Whatever could be said
Of such calamities
Or calumnies
It is not about kneel
Or similar conventions
The rest
Rights itself

This poem is a tip of the hat to the Tao, and a hybridization of the eternally one Tao with social activism.  An appreciation of the wisdom of the Tao recognizes the unique, ineffable, and dynamic way of life.  This way does not mistake mere style with deep truth of the Tao’s reality.  Living into the unity of the Tao does not settle for being a mere part of the whole of reality, but dynamically seeks harmony of the part and whole.  The Tao’s connection to social activism springs from this unity, giving rise to human rights shared by all.  Those who would parcel out reality for their own individual gain may be clever, and even powerful in their own right, but such behavior impugns the shared character of humanity.  Kneeling, or bowing, to such powers is often considered simple, conventional wisdom.  Nonetheless, the Tao is not about kneeling to convention, but seeking the deeper spring from which all life arises in harmony, even perfection.  And from The rest/Rights itself.”  Not surprisingly, The rest is a pun, meaning both “all else” and “the state of resting.”

The rest begs a spiritual perspective, a transcendent perspective, because reality can never be fully tapped by the mind and/or heart.  This endless reserve, The rest, can be viewed as the source of all being, a higher power, or God.  East and West meet with The rest of the Tao and the sabbath of Jewish and Christian spiritual practice.  Honoring the Sabbath is the fourth of the infamous ten commandments.  The sabbath commandment is the culmination of the three commandments; they go together.  The first three commandments are about a proper relationship with the one true God, the highest and most sacred reality.  Beyond the “I am” of the first commandment, we are instructed in the second commandment to not reduce the sacred to mere images, “graven images,” daring to reduce the whole truth to a partial truth.  The third commandment is similar in that it warns of taking God’s name/character in vain, to impugn the very power of God, the sacred source of all being and moving.  Trusting, putting your faith, in this sacred source, parallel to the Tao in Taoism, is demonstrated behaviorally by respecting/honoring rest, recognizing that there are far greater powers than ourselves from which life’s bounty rests and springs forth.  To disrespect the Sabbath by trying to rely exclusively on our own power is idolatry, putting ourselves above God, The rest.  Translating the Sabbath day commandment to modern-day capitalism and its relevance to social activism is basically God calling for a work-stoppage every week.  Honoring the Sabbath witnesses to the primacy of God, The rest.  This radical act, an apparent non-act to some, is a powerful threat to capitalism’s constant assertion of perpetual busyness to grow and thrive.  Capitalism’s worldview, basic operating assumptions are idolatrous.  Capitalism is idolatrous because it regularly discounts the sacred act of honoring The rest.  In capitalism’s equation, The rest, is a barrier to maximizing profits and productivity.  Even the more sophisticated view of recognizing that rest may be needed to maximize worker productivity reduces The rest to mere utility, a means to an end, not a honoring The rest as good in itself, a gift from God.

Related to the modern fixation on utility, the practical, secularized mindset of postmodern culture usually skips to the last six commandments which deal with more easily recognizable behavioral elements (though “honoring mother and father” seems a transitional commandment for moving from a proper understanding of the order of things in heaven to earth).  The remaining commandments deal with murder, adultery, theft, lying, and greed.  Of course, focusing even only on these commandments leaves plenty of critique for capitalism, with its inevitable warring over creation’s bounty, siphoning wealth from the weak, lying to self and others to cover one’s dishonorable tracks, and perhaps most infamously and audaciously arguing that greed is good!

May you find rest in the sacred source of all being.  And may you fight restively for justice from such a bounteous place.

POEM: If I Were King

If I were king of the world
My first official act
Would be to resign as king

It is a common fantasy to be a powerful ruler so that you could enact your will over others.  This short poem is a simple, straightforward, and absolute condemnation of such “Lording over” others.  This is a variant on the theme of absolute power corrupting absolutely. The temptation to use such great power is strong, even if for just a little while, to get a few very important things done.  The essential problem is that any monarchical will over others cannot escape the larger reality that a mass veto of the masses’ will is inherently anti-democratic, even if done with perfect motives.  Surely a beneficent king is better than a cruel and selfish king.  Nonetheless, monarchical power is inherently illegitimate; that is if you ascribe to democracy and power of the people.  The point is not to have monarchical rule!

I suspect that I will never have to deal directly with the temptation of being king.  Still, the sin of “Lording over” others exists at both large and small scales, and we all confront such temptations.  For Christians, even the “Lord” Jesus didn’t “Lord over” others.  Instead, Jesus was a servant leader, leading by example as a servant.  Though this seems to be a lesson oft forgotten by many Christians.

Jesus incarnated God’s nature as a host ever-inviting others into fuller and more mature relationships, which are dynamic and respectful (reverent).  God’s edicts, as contained in the rules of creation, are a framework within which to experience these relationships, and these rules are “subjects” to God’s will and character.  Legalisms, which make easy prey of any ideological system, are not the end of “good governance.”  Whether mistaking the sum total of reality as the laws of nature discernible through science, or the legalisms of political or religious elites, we should not make the mistake of worshiping the created over the creator.  Reducing God to a set of rules is deeply pathetic, imprisoning the Creator in a box and pinning ourselves to design specs falling far short of our full capabilities.  God is more, and so are we.  May you experience the “moreness” of God and yourself, in an ever-deeper and maturing way.

POEM: Near Life Experience

A few years back he had a near life experience
It might as well have been
A disaster movie
Stream of consciousness meets tsunami of denial

This funny little poem addresses a sort of reverse polarity of near death experiences.  People that are alive and have a near death experience are typically glad to return to life and are often powerfully reinvigorated by the experience.  On the other hand, people who are just cruising on autopilot, barely alive, may find a true life experience overwhelming or threatening.  Seeded by a minimum of real life experiences, some people may find denial the best coping mechanism to extinct such pesky life experiences, never really allowing them to take root or lead them to places anew.  Of course, most of us live somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of full consciousness.  Paying attention takes energy and focus.  Most of us are lazy enough to travel in well-worn grooves that demand less mindfulness.  Certainly, even habitual behaviors can be experienced mindfully, but the energy and focus needed to see seemingly familiar situations with a high degree of freshness and openness can be daunting.  If you had a thousand people go through the motions of a “regular” day of yours, they would each experience it differently.  This is because any situation can be viewed from a vast array of perspectives.  So, what would be the different perspective of your experiences from the point of view of the other people with whom you interact?  What of people from a different country or culture?  a different planet?!  Our built-in egocentricity makes looking at everything only from our own perspective a default mode.  Of course, the care-taking of our own selfish interests reinforces this tendency.  It is no surprise that I am more interested in my own desires and interests than others.  Nonetheless, a key characteristic of life is change and growth.  To grow, to evolve, we must develop competencies to view our life and the life of others from an ever-growing array of perspectives. To be a competent human being we must be able to see life from a variety of perspectives.  May you experience the vast richness of perspectives, seeing the depth of your own experiences and the depth of others’ experiences.

MLK Day Poem

I have attended Toledo’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Unity celebration for many years.  Today, I decided to pass on this year’s “show” (yes, the organizers used the term “show” to describe the festivities).  In recent years, I have seen this ceremony devolve largely into a whitewashed view of Dr. King and his difficult, unpopular work.  Not surprisingly, dead prophets are much more popular than living prophets.  From these “shows” in recent years, you’d think that MLK was the leading purveyor of generic volunteerism, charity detached from justice, flying a banner of “why can’t we all just get along” rather than “put some skin in the game for justice.”  These reinventions of Dr. King are dangerous since they transmute his hard fought battles and crucifixion by gunfire into a cheerleader for the status quo, the powers that be.  The image that comes to my mind is the rich and powerful atop their fortress of money, status and power looking down upon the masses calling for smiling faces and “positive” attitudes in the face of their unjust privilege and recalcitrance.  Instead, we should be calling out institutional classism and racism, perpetual wars (even the failed so-called war on poverty), wage slavery, income inequality, and reigning plutocracy.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed--Martin Luther King, Jr. T-SHIRT

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed–Martin Luther King, Jr.

In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2014, I am issuing a reprise of my epic MLK poem which I wrote two years:

Owed to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rekindle the story
Of Martin Luther
King, Jr.
An unequaled story of two halves
Those who halve
And those who halve not
As far apart as North is from South
A Protest-ant leading a Reformation
To not have a preyer
What kind
Of moral fiber
In a sea of White
To pick
A fight
Bringing
Not even
A knife
To a gunfight
At the OKKK corral
Taking a beating
All that they can give
To the man
A hymn
Of racial harmony
Effacing off
With ballads
Against the elect
Impervious to ballots
Votes cast
Both sides agree to only won thing
Nobody wants even one King
Let alone a King, Jr.
And resistance is feudal
Incredible odds must be faced
At least
Hate to won
How to right a bout
A fray sew
Epic
Verses
Governors, mayors, and sheriffs
Wee the people
Wile police do the bidding of property owners
That would be U.S. versus “them”
Nationwide there would be no holiday
For aegis to come
With their eye halve a dream speech
Portending
Something between a White Christmas
And some Valentines Day massacre
Like anyone could be that cupid
Fêted
That somebody will eat Jim Crow
The too haves
Called out
“Be patient”
“Change takes time”
Like a sentry
Long asleep at his post
For a bad check
100 years overdue…

view the full MLK Day poem here.

You can also download a free mini-poster of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Obama “I have a dream…I have a drone.”  Surely, if Dr. King were alive today, he would be speaking out against and taking action against drone killings.

POEM: Atlantis Rules

Atlantis Rules

The young Atlantean
The imprudent progeny
Of the now forgotten
Famed experimental physicist father
Was more infamous
Than his fabled land
In pawning his dad’s curiosity
And not taking his mother’s quiet advice
A lot on his plate
All mixed up
A recipe for disaster
Pasta touching antipasta
Fulminating in gastronomical proportions
Swallowing up his esteemed realm
And all that matter
Left for speculation
His lost continence
Embarrassingly flushed
Privy only
To his posterity
And time enthroned
Being wiped out
As history often is
Quite essentially mum

This short story of a poem is a whimsical take on a bad joke and the persistent mythology surrounding the lost continent of Atlantis, particularly the speculation about and the fascination with its epic demise.  The bad joke, really bad joke, is based on the physics of matter and anti-matter, popularized by sci-fi buffs; specifically, that when matter and anti-matter come into contact there is a huge explosion upon their mutual disintegration.  This whimsical tale parodies both the epic significance of Atlantis’ demise and the oft-underestimated importance of mothers’ advice, stemming from the hand that rocks the cradle.

This poem is a good example of how my twisted mind works, connecting seemingly unrelated facts and themes into an epically dysfunctional family which strangely resembles truths!  Of course, for those who find all of this difficult to digest, there is the perennial reference and joke about incontinence and other such eternally hilarious crudités.

Like the best of stories, this one is wrapped up neatly in untraceable facts, imploding upon itself in a climactic cautionary tale, quite deliciously epitomizing the myth’s truth.

POEM: I Went AWOL

One day
I went
AWOL
A
Well
Ordered
Life
I’m not sure
If anyone noticed
If they did
Judging me
By my backside
I would be too
Looking forward
Mirrorly suggestive
Of one’s self
In what might
A peer
A site to behold
But not
Aiming for the moon
In lieu of stars

Walking away from the dominant and dominating culture is an informal way of going AWOL, that is, the military acronym for Absent WithOut Leave.  In this poem, the AWOL acronym stands for A Well Ordered Life.  When you find yourself facing away from the dominant culture, you can expect that others will judge you by your backside.  In traversing the road less traveled, the price the dominant culture extracts by any counter-cultural behaviors, is more than made up for by aligning oneself with the stars, rather than the moon, a lower site to set for brown-nosers and mere associates of all types.  Much of modern life in Western civilization is built around group identities rather than passionate pioneering.  We idolize celebrities.  We cozy up to those with status and power.  We our often possessed by our possessions, identifying more with what we own than with our own character.

The opposite of traversing down the road less traveled is living vicariously through the lives of others.  Perhaps one of the greatest illustrations of this is in the cinematic great Cool Hand Luke.  I find this movie one of the most way existential movies ever.  The main character, Luke, played by Paul Newman, quickly develops a reputation as a “cool handed” man hell-bent on finding his own way in his own way.  Here I am referring to the “stop feeding off of me” scene, where Luke, broken down, pleads with his fellow inmates to stop pinning all of their hopes and dreams on him; in essence, saying “get a life of your own!”  In this scene, Luke had escaped from the chain-gang for a second time, having been away for a while, stoking freely the fantasies of his fellow inmates left behind.  Here is the script containing that scene from Cool Hand Luke:

It is Saturday afternoon. Carr is distributing mail and
packages, the men clustered around; others lying on bunks,
making wallets, etc.

CARR
Magazines for you, Dragline!

ANGLE ON DRAGLINE

Dragline sits up from his bunk, astonished.

DRAGLINE
Magazines? Who’s sendin’ me magazines?

He looks at the package. Carr has tossed on his bunk.

DRAGLINE
From mah uncle? Ah never heard from
him in eight years and now he’s
sendin’ me magazines. He musta gone
crazy.

He has torn open the package, looks through the magazines,
which are movie fan books, lies back to flip the pages. In
background. Carr is continuing the mail call. Suddenly Dragline’s
eyes widen, his mouth opens, but he catches himself and closes
it before he has revealed himself.

INSERT THE PICTURE

It is taped to page in the magazine. It shows Luke in a suit
and tie, holding up four aces and a joker in one hand, arms
around two buxom over-made strippers. On the table in front
of them is a giant bottle of champagne and glasses. Scrawled
across it is something in Luke’s writing.

ANGLE DRAGLINE KOKO SOCIETY RED OTHERS

Seeing Dragline’s reaction, they have gathered around.

DRAGLINE
Looka that! Two of them. Oh my…

KOKO
I’m dyin’. I’m dyin’.

Dragline suddenly realizes the danger and closes the book so
Carr and the Wicker Man don’t catch on. The others reluctantly
move away. Dragline casually hands the magazine to Society
Red.

DRAGLINE
(whispering)
What’s the writing say?

SOCIETY RED
(opening to the picture, reading)
Dear Boys. Playing it cool. Wish you
were here. Love, Cool Hand Luke.

DRAGLINE
Oh my. Oh my… Give it back here!

Red surrenders the magazine. Dragline opens it again and a
look of pure bliss settles over his face.

KOKO
Lemme see it!

DRAGLINE
(violently)
Get away!

He looks over at Carr but Carr has moved away, is talking to
the Wicker Man, his back to the men. Koko, Loudmouth Steve,
Gambler and the others hurriedly cluster around Dragline.
Their voices are eager intense whispers.

KOKO
Lookit the brunette…

BLIND DICK
The blonde’s gotta better set.

GAMBLER
Some legs.

LOUDMOUTH STEVE
They must be six feet tall.

TATTOO
…And the champagne.

SOCIETY RED
(from his bunk)
Domestic.

TRAMP
Wonder how he got the dough.

ALIBI
He’s probably a salesman. You can
make pretty good money if you know
what your doing in selling.

GAMBLER
A salesman! Cool Hand Luke a salesman?

BLIND DICK
He’s probably a gigolo.

MECHANIC
Or a con artist.

LOUDMOUTH STEVE
The head of the rackets.

KOKO
(reverently)
Oh lookit that brunette.

DRAGLINE
Mah baby! We’re diggin’ and dyin’
but our boy Luke is lovin’ and flyin’.

They all gaze at the picture with loving, dreamy, painful
rapture.

OMITTED

INT. BARRACKS (NIGHT)

Blackass time, dull, sad, boring. Koko sits idly flicking
cards from the poker deck, men staring into space. The cards
sail by Society Red who is clipping his nails.

SOCIETY RED
Stop that.

KOKO
How about you tryin’ to make me?

SOCIETY RED
Oh for…

They slowly subside.

KOKO
Dragline, lemme look at the picture.

DRAGLINE
(feigned innocence)
What for?

LOUDMOUTH STEVE
Yeah, Drag. Get it out for a look.

DRAGLINE
You’re just a kid. Whatta you know
about it? You don’t wanna see that
dirty picture. Luke and those broads
an’ all that booze.

KOKO
Come on, Drag. Lemme take a look.

DRAGLINE
It’d go to your coconut head. You’d
start getting ideas. Maybe even pass
right out.

BLIND DICK
Dragline! Be a buddy!

DRAGLINE
How much you figure it’s worth, a
peek at this here picture? A quick
look, I’m not talkin’ about no
memorizin’ job.

KOKO
A cold drink.

DRAGLINE
A cold drink? You mean one cold drink?
To feast yore starvin’ fishy l’il
eyes on The Picture? A true vision
of Paradise itself? With two of the
angels right there in plain sight a-
friskin’ round with mah boy?

KOKO
A cold drink? Okay?

DRAGLINE
Well — okay. It’s a deal. One cold
drink, if’n you please. In advance.
One chilly bottle right here in mah
hot l’il hand… That goes for the
rest of you mullet-heads, too.

Activity as the men dig out coins to purchase drinks. Dragline
pulls out the magazine and the men all gather round, gazing
into it as though it were a crystal ball. Suddenly the wicker
door slams open and as the men look up…

THEIR P.O.V.

Luke is dumped to the floor, face down, unconscious, by Boss
Paul, Boss Kean, others. The Captain is standing there over
him. Luke wears a new prison uniform and two sets of chains.

CAPTAIN
(to Luke)
You run one time, you got yourself a
set of chains. You run twice, you
got two sets. You ain’t gonna need
no third set because you’re gonna
get your mind right… And I mean
right.

He looks at the men who are stunned by the juxtaposition of
their hero in The Picture and the reality of the unconscious
figure before them.

CAPTAIN
Take a good look at your Cool Hand
Luke.

With his foot he prods Luke over onto his back.

CLOSE ON LUKE

As he rolls over we can see he has been badly beaten.

OMITTED

NEW ANGLE THE MEN

As the Captain turns and walks out past the guards who follow,
and the wicket chute CLANGS shut, Dragline, Koko and others
move forward and gently lift Luke onto the poker table.

DRAGLINE
Oh mah poor baby. They done you real
good… I don’t know if you gonna
have them gals chasin’ after you for
a while…

CLOSE ON LUKE

lying, eyes closed.

SOCIETY RED’S VOICE
I’ve got some aspirin.

KOKO’S VOICE
They half killed him.

ALIBI’S VOICE
He should have a doctor.

DRAGLINE’S VOICE
Don’t you never learn nuthin’? They
ain’t gonna let no doctor see what
they dont to him…

ANGLE ON DRAGLINE, OTHERS

Dragline looks up at Carr who stands hovering above them.

DRAGLINE
Carr, kin we use your razor to clean
up where they cut his head?

Carr moves off to his canteen area.

CLOSE ON LUKE

as Blind Dick, Gambler, others move in…

GAMBLER
How you feelin’, buddy?

TRAMP
He don’t hear.

TATTOO
Somebody get him something to drink.

SOCIETY RED
Here.

Gently he tucks two aspirin tablets into Luke’s mouth, holds
a cup of water to Luke’s mouth. Luke’s eyes slowly open, he
drinks the water.

DRAGLINE
That’s my baby.

KOKO
He’s gonna be awright.

NEW ANGLE ON MEN

as Carr moves in with a razor, bandage, etc. The men clear
to give him room.

KOKO
Luke?… We got the picture! See?

He holds it up.

CLOSE ON LUKE

His eyes squint open, close.

BLIND DICK’S VOICE
A pair of beauties. Best I ever seen.

TATTOO’S VOICE
You really know how to pick ’em.

LOUDMOUTH STEVE’S VOICE
Tell us about ’em. What were they
like?

CLOSE ON LUKE

as his lips open. He speaks slowly, painfully.

LUKE
Picture’s a phoney… Cost me a week’s
pay.

NEW ANGLE THE MEN

KOKO
A phoney? Whatta you mean, a phoney?

GAMBLER
We saw the broads.

BLIND DICK
Yeah. Did you have them both at once
or —

LUKE
It’s a phoney. Made it up just for
you guys.

LOUDMOUTH STEVE
Aw, come on. We saw it all.

TATTOO
The champagne.

TRAMP
Some life.

FIXER
You really had it made.

LUKE
Nothin. I had nothin, made nothin.
Couple towns, couple bosses. Laughed
out loud one day and got turned in.

KOKO
(about to cry)
But — but —

LUKE
That’s all there was. Listen. Open
your eyes. Stop beatin’ it. And stop
feedin’ off me. Now get out of the
way. Give me some air.

Stunned, the men shrink back.

DRAGLINE
He ain’t himself. He’s all beat up.
Cain’t you see that? He don’t know
what he sayin’.

I would definitely recommend watching Cool Hand Luke — again if you’ve already seen it!  Great movie, and a way more entertaining way to get a lesson in existentialism than reading Sartre!

POEM: Hungering for Answers

Hungering for Answers

We should stay the course
To turn the corner
To see the light
At the end of the tunnel
Yet long-term solutions
For the hungry
Are difficult to stomach
As for those who have
Empty hearts
Eatin’ out
Over the question
What too due
And how fast

This is another poem in honor of the 50th anniversary of the “War on hunger.”  Well-fed minds are familiar with the tensions between short-term “charity” and long-term solutions in addressing social issues.  Of course, long-term responses and procrastination across generations often go hand-in-hand among those with well-fed stomachs.  Hunger is not an issue that can be compassionately put off.  Tomorrow’s solutions still leave today’s empty belly empty.  It strikes me that the juxtaposition of great wealth and grinding poverty in our world yields a parallel juxtapositioning of empty bellies and empty hearts.  A typical excuse that well-fed minds make to their empty hearts is that continued hunger will teach those hungering how to be more responsible and avoid their hunger at some later date.  This sets up a bizarre serendipity in that children are most likely to be poor and hungry as well as thirsty sponges for learning.  So, what are these hungry children learning?  My guess is that hungry children learn more about the callousness of those with excess than the obvious lessons in securing food.  As if the excruciating experience of grinding poverty isn’t incentive enough!  Apparently not.  Of course, there are profound social factors outside of the control of hungry children and the overwhelming majority of hungry adults.  Given these realities, it is absurd to posit that individual irresponsibility is the primary cause of hunger.  Probably much worse than absurd; in fact: empty-hearted.  May we smash the barriers that keep us from sharing our abundance with those who have too little.

POEM: Their Undoing

They control the levers
Of a vast machinery
Of business, politics, education
They know no equals
Fusing work and ploy
Blind to their match
Game and set
Unable even to follow their own ruse
Our future
Remains
Incalculable
Though we be out numbered
What we have they can not possess
That which we share freely
Will be their undoing

The powers that be is simply a term for what levers exist at any given time to control worldly power.  These rules of the game, like any other set of physical rules, has inertia, a predisposition to continue of the path it is headed.  Without human volition or choice outside these rules, these rules will continue on their present course.  With human choice, these rules can be changed.  Unfortunately, making choices outside the reward system present at any given time comes with costs that are not incurred by just going and getting along with the status quo.  Of course, some courses, some cultural conditions, are less stable than others, and just like a physical object running into some natural limit, cultural realities will shift even without human volition.  The widespread hypocrisy in politics and business, making one set of rules for oneself and other rules for others, make such a culture less stable, less sustainable.  In every case, the rules farther from reality will be disciplined by natural limits, even if not met with particular courage and effort from humans.  Human choice is about shaping ourselves and our culture into a desired state.  Stability and sustainability are about harmonizing ourselves and human culture with natural limits, which is basically reality.  The hypocrisy of trying to maintain or manipulate two separate realities, one to your own selfish advantage, and another reality for others, is both inherently dangerous and stupid.

This poem refers to several forms of undoing.  The cowardly choice to follow a culture’s existing rules despite evidence that it is a vote for a lesser reality, is a danger to stability and sustainability.  This sort of default non-choice is actually the easiest (laziest) to justify based on present cultural conditions, demanding no changes.  This is the first form of undoing, the sheepish version.  Of course, many actively work for their own selfish advantage, an evil which puts us all at risk for the retribution or push-back from natural limits overrun, the undoing of evil.

The positively human form of undoing is actually an intentional undoing of dangerous “unrealities” in a culture.  This involves persons freely accepting a cost or sanction (or forgone reward) to better harmonize oneself and one’s culture with natural limits, to undo the status quo.  This is in tandem with other natural limits molding lesser realities into a more harmonious whole.

Freedom is not free.  Reality is perpetually shifting, in a a dynamism that can never be fully pinned down.  Exercising freedom demands effort to assess the changing conditions of outer reality, as well as disciplined self-awareness and courage to nurture peace and harmony from within.  The powers that be has a negative connotation because it reflects an all-too-common, lazy, and biased mode of being: using inequalities in our culture simply for our own advantage, not the advantage of all, which requires much more effort and work.  Our freedom has a purpose: to harmonize ourselves and our culture with ever larger realities or natural limits.  We are free to choose to get real, in a harmonious shared reality, or fight reality for some narrower, short-term gain, selfishly carving out lesser realities as our own little fiefdoms.

As cause for hope, reality will have its way!  The higher powers present in reality are powerful allies with which to align oneself.  History is full of the high and mighty forces of any given day lining the dustbins of history.  The struggle continues but has the promise of a more sustainable and stable future built on a foundation of higher and deeper realities.

POEM: Fearmongers

Fearmongers

Fear-mongers rein upon US
And weave so much dread
Of what dismay due
We simply back into
A dark future
Like bit players
In a bad horror film
Where more than budgets are slashed
And we feign surprise

This short poem addresses the pervasive human experience of fear.  Though the fear addressed in this poem relates to the daily weave of fear, almost like background noise, which leads to learned helplessness in our body politic.  Everyone is familiar with the classic horror movie behavior of backing into a dark, dangerous situation, with the audience calling out to pay attention to the completely predictable eventuality of being slashed in some way.  This irrational cinematic behavior provides the image for this poem.  Further, the inevitable slashing is juxtaposed with feigned surprise.  This feigned surprise is the logical outcome of being cowed into fear so pervasively that obvious scary outcomes coming our way need to be denied to rationalize our feelings of helplessness.  Perhaps the least surprise should be expected around the persistent reality that fearful behaviors lead to fearful outcomes.  Fearful means are inextricably linked to fearful ends, just like any other means and ends are tied together.  Ultimately, fear brings out the worst in us.  Endemic fear immobilizes us as a well-functioning society.  A politics of fearmongering, and a society awash in fear, has little grounds to expect to flourish.  May we have the courage to resist and challenge fearmongering.  May we openly and honestly address the inherent scary outcomes within our body politic, so that reasonable and sustainable outcomes can be nurtured.

POEM: About It

About It

I am helpless
Though God
Is more eloquent
Just saying
I love you
And there is nothing
You can do
About it

This poem is a tribute to human helplessness and the redeeming love of God which we have no control over.  Being helpless is a universal human experience.  While this can be frustrating, helplessness is a vulnerability that can open us up to experiencing God.  This poem juxtaposes the typical experience of human helplessness with the simple and hopeful reality that God’s love for us has a unconditionality; we are helpless against it; we can’t do anything to change it!  The “it” in the title and at the end of the poem is another of my intentionally ambiguous pronoun which refers to both helplessness and God’s love, the mutually reinforcing core themes of this poem.  The message of hope and grace is that not everything that we are helpless over is a threat to us — quite the opposite.  Life itself was unbid by us, yet we partake of it.  We are awash in a sea of grace.  This doesn’t obviate the fact that we are also surrounded by inhumane, even hostile forces.  Nonetheless, such grace, and a disciplined awareness of such grace, can offer a powerful counterbalance to the forces of evil in the world.  Reflecting such grace into a difficult world can really mess with the minds (and hearts) of your fauxs.  So have some fun with it!

POEM: Setting Sail

Dear brother
This morn
I must part
Like the wind
I can
Know longer
Take your merchant ship
Any moor
Borne to sale
For that is knot
What I was billed for
To harbor
In relative safety
My cell in a dudgeon
Seeking asylum from
My most rugged dreams
And giddy travails
For this is
What it must be
A boat
Beyond fortuitous cape
Err akin a strait jacket
A-company-ing such a torrent
Of allusions
Weigh more than
I can fiord
A lock-ness monster
On every channel
A rout to cove it
With others’ bayou
For-going more spunky cruise
Yet before I am
Awe a loan
Scarcely able
To creek
I am disposed
To hanker a mist
Opportunity to feel
The rein in my face
A cross
My bow
Slinging my buoyant bones
Beyond sovereigns
So so stately
Powered by the moist awesome winned
Any challenger might face
A salt on any countenance
As wee grow stronger
With every see
That seventh heaven!
And in the end
If you get my drift
In come docked
For missing inaction
My life know more
Than a message in a bottle
Know assurance
That upon my death
Will pay
Cruel comfort
To those left to morn
Until you sea
Your craft is rigged
And waves bigger than you
Bid you
Your sole to leave dry ground

This poem is inspired by the John Shedd quote: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”; as well as the proverb: “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”  Of course, there is a parallel narrative weaved within this pun-ridden poem.  This parallel narrative speaks to the forces that keep us from setting sail on our dreams, reining us in on shore with seemingly better things to do.  In the rough seas of life, may you not merely seek safe harbor, but take the opportunity to hone your sailing skills.  The strange inevitability of life is that you won’t make it out alive; so, hopefully, at the end of your life you can pass attest to the thrilling aspects of life, not merely how you kept secure and comfortable til the end.

POEM: Come Alive

At a party
A stranger
Approaches several guests
With great anticipation
Won by won
Not asking them
The routine inquiry
“What do you do
for a living?”
Instead asking them
“What do you do
that makes you come alive?”
Though it soon becomes clear
There is only one real question
Will they ever be the same?

This poem is inspired by one of my favorite quotes, by Howard Thurman, a theologian and activist: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  This poem uses one of my favorite poetic devices, other than puns of course, the intentionally ambiguous pronoun; specifically, they in the last line.  This can refer to the several guests, or as to whether the answers to the two questions will ever merge into the one same answer.  As you would have rightly suspected, both of these interpretations reinforce one another.  The only use of a pun, twice, in Won by won, is a tip of the hat to another favorite quote of mine, by Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  This line infers that change comes about not simply by pondering questions, but my living and modeling the change that we want to see in the world.  The inquiring guest adds their own life to the weight of the question.  In a related quote, by the great Albert Schweitzer: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”  The poem is mine.  The quotes driving this commentary are others’.  Of course, plagiarism is the highest form of flattery — a quote attributed to an unknown but highly flattered author.

POEM: War on Poverty

War on Poverty

In our nation’s capital
We are drowning in think tanks
Our chief armament
In the war on poverty
And for all of their business
They have made up their mine
Poverty is not the problem
Poverty is the solution
Yet the war ever undertaking
Congress versus progress
Commander-in-chief of CEOs
Backed by supreme courts and county jailers
Triune bosses super intending won
Until six feet under
With nary a heart
The only pauper resting spot
From their holey canons
Granting fiats where one can scarcely ford
Pronouncing victory
In their own dialectical weigh
Emptying their echo chambers
Buy and buy
Only saying
Let them eat ordnances

This poem is in honor of the 50th anniversary of the “War on poverty” declared by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.  Of course, there is war and poverty aplenty still.  Sometime in the 1980s, during the inglorious Reagan regime, I heard a phrase which has stuck with me ever since: Poverty is not the problem; poverty is the solution.  Fortunately, this phrase was uttered as a biting critique of the implicit assumptions of a capitalistic plutocracy.  The war on poverty is about the same age as me. The material wealth in the United States of America has more than tripled during this time.  Further, for at least centuries, there have been enough material resources to meet the basic needs of every human being on this planet.  Answering the question of why there is widespread poverty worldwide and within the fabulously wealthy U.S. is perhaps the most important inquiry humans on this planet can address.  The only real scarcity on this planet is within the human heart.  Talk is cheap, and rhetoric is not very nutritious.  Surely, Man does not live by bread alone.  As surely, Man does not live by focaccia alone.  Mother Theresa perhaps said it best: “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”

POEM: Unending Vocation

She summoned me
To tell me
Of my new job assignment
I soon realized
That it was
Not beneath me
But behind me
So I moved on
In my unending vocation
As I was tolled

This poem is autobiographical.  This experience of mine could be viewed even as the first step in my unending vocation of poet.  I have often used the phrase “Not beneath me, but behind me” to describe the process that I experienced leaving my “regular” job and career.  This specifically applies to the new job assignment referred to within the poem.  In retrospect, I don’t think that my supervisor/boss expected my job reassignment to be a discussion, but rather a simple informing me of the way in which I was to me managed.  This disconnect exemplifies why I made a relatively quick decision, within a matter of days, to not accept the new assignment and request part-time work entailing my old job duties which were being curtailed.

I also knew that any job with this employer was terminal.  I would have to do something different.  It took me almost two years to quit the part-time work afforded me while I was starting my own business.  Though the decision and timing were more about my emotional and spiritual health than financial.  I hadn’t netted dime one from my new business.  Nonetheless, I knew that my toxic job environment was killing me, bringing out the worst in me.  Certain death is a good motivator.  I choose life, however uncertain, than certain death.  This choice seems somewhat obvious, but I think that it is a choice not made nearly as often as it should be.  Probably something to do with learned helplessness, settling for mediocrity, and false pride.  I took pride in being autonomous and tough, living on breadcrumbs.  I would rail against the stupidity of my employers for not even providing me breadcrumbs for my high aspirations.

Fortunately, I eventually came to realize the great gift that this total desert was, for me to be able to separate myself from such toxic work relationships.  It reminded my of my divorce, in the sense that I felt that my chosen profession, of which I was well-trained, was mine, and these fools should leave, not me.  Of course, this wasn’t going to happen (actually, in the case of my divorce, this did happen).  So, I left.  The leaving of my profession was entangled in another reality, that of having 50-50 custody of my kids and not willing to move elsewhere for work.  So, fate had its way with me…and I am all the better for it!  I sort of backed into parlaying my unique talents into a new vocation: as the greatest punster for peace in the English-speaking world!  How many people can say with certainty that they are the best in the world at something?  What a privilege to not relegate such a momentous reality to a mere hobby.

This whole process was very humbling and awe-inspiring for me.  I have grown a great appreciation for going through “bad” stuff, trusting my own instincts and the benevolence of a higher power to come out on the other side even better off.  I consider myself to be a very creative and imaginative person.  I consider myself very intelligent.  I could not have predicted the good things to come.  I fooled myself into thinking that I could foresee and control the future.  Fortunately, I could not.  Fortunately, my future was better than I had even dared imagine.  From this experience I have come up with a saying: God doesn’t give me want I want; God gives me something better!

May you find the courage and wherewithal to follow your instincts and dreams, trusting that there are powers at work that will bring good things into your life, even better than you dare imagine!

POEM: Each Day a Work of Heart

For every won of us
Each day
Is a work of heart
Canvassing inexhaustible possibilities
Of epic themes
Momentary epiphanies
And daily grooves
Imploring colors
Exploring textures
Mating with perfect light
Not mirrorly framed
Buy the ornate
Or threw making a scene
Shooting blanks with one’s chimera
Taking residents
In a mythical selfless portrait
But climbing stares
Crossing a-ghastly gape
Enduring risky convictions
Chopping epilogues
Aslumber jack knows
Would
Like the back of his hand
If only
How to brandish a climax
While never pandering exhibitionists
And never finishing
As a museum
Of beginnings unknown
Endings all too familiar
And what work
Goest unseen
The ultimate intra-mural
Being more than animated
For an others viewing
And awe the rest
For if the day is seized
Even gallery slaves
Can Marvel®
At what is still life

This poem is intended to help you remember that your life is a work of art, a work of heart.  Hopefully, the mining of you heart’s treasures is a lifelong and joy-filled adventure.  I hope that you have the courage to dream, partly for the simple joy of it, but reserving a few special dreams to make come alive for yourself and others.  May you take risks in service of your dreams.  May you focus less on how others judge and misjudge your most treasured dreams.  May you know what makes you alive, and may you know this more deeply than anything else in the world.  May you live into this knowledge wholeheartedly.  If you should fear that your dreams and passions might not fit into what the world needs, rest assured that what the world need is for people to come alive!

POEM: Forgiving Justice

Forgiveness can no more refute
The demands of justice
And its claim reguarding the lost
Than justice can outflank
The necessity of forgiveness
To open the door for peace
A heart rendering choice
The difference being
Securing one’s house
Or living in a precarious home

Being a lifelong peacenik, I have happened across numerous conversations along the lines of: which comes first, justice or peace.  It’s not quite a fair question, but my heart tells me that like produces like.  Justice produces justice.  Peace produces peace.  Like many questions posed as either/or, the truest answer more resembles both/and.  The question is really about forgiveness and grace.  Everybody at sometime wants forgiveness or grace when they have behaved badly.  If justice were sufficient, then forgiveness should be denied.  But we want more.  We want peace.  If you feel that justice is sufficient, and that you are willing to forgo peace, then I suspect you may have some unresolved anger issues.  Of course, anger can be a great driver of working for justice.  This anger can be a good thing.  Equally true, anger is a poor foundation for forgiveness and grace.  Peace comes from a place rooted in hope and possibility.  Peace cannot be guaranteed, but it can be denied.  Peace is a gamble.  Peace requires taking a chance.  As John Lennon said, “Give peace a chance.”  As Gandhi said, “Peace is possible.”  Peace is not simply a theoretical possibility.  Peace is also rooted in the direct experience of forgiveness, grace, and love.  The sheer gratitude of having a life present that was given to us without our doing often gets eclipsed by the dreadful threats of loss of that life, by whole or piecemeal.  The gift of life makes possible all else in our life.  If our life is taken from us, have we lost more than we have been given?  Dare I ask: how can this even be unfair?  As I like to say: life isn’t fair, it’s excellent!  I sense that this question has been answered in the reality that it is a rare person who would believe that it would have been better to never have been born at all.  It may be equally rare to find folks who can persistently focus on this primary grace making all things possible in our life rather than dealing with the actual or feared losses in our lives of things that we have built or gained at least partially due to our doing.  The latter is the makings of justice-seeking.  The former is the makings of peace-seeking.  Justice-seeking and peace-seeking are not mutually exclusive.  However, achieving peace requires a perspective rooted in the grace of life, which is fragile and uncertain.  In fact, the very fragility and uncertainty of life makes it all the more precious!  I do see peace-seeking as a higher function, encompassing and fulfilling justice-seeking.  Peace-seeking is rooted in gratitude, the expression of recognizing grace.  I think of it this way:  To truly believe in justice, you must believe in justice for all.  Believing in justice and fairness only for myself or some in-group (which I happen to belong to) is not justice.  Like Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently and simply put, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”  With widespread injustice, which no sane person would deny, to seek justice for all means balancing, risking securing justice for yourself and your own in order to achieve widespread justice.  Such a bold undertaking can only be embarked upon with a measure of grace and forgiveness in your heart.  It is the promise of hope — real possibility — rooted in the experience of grace and forgiveness, that is an inescapable element of fulfilling justice.  There must be a peace in our heart, based on this real possibility, that foreshadows the peace and justice that we hope for.  So, what is my answer to the question: which comes first, justice or peace?  My answer: gratitude, and, of course, the corollary of gratitude, which is forgiveness.  Forgiveness is an expression of fairness, even justice, that others should be afforded the same infinite and sacred respect for life that life itself deserves.  We have already “won” by being alive.  The rest of life just needs to be lubricated generously with such a gratitude-filled awareness.  So be aware, life is good!