POEM: Human Beans In A Chili World

What’s too like
To be
Human beans
In a chili world
Offering ourselves
As nourishing fare
In the face of
Ingrate full consumers
Somehow besting
Our pre-sumptuous purpose
Of going to seed
And razing our own
Only to be
Food agin and agin
As brood over
What incite us
And what has meaning
At the end of your daze
Is the same
What’s eating you
Those unpleasant spitting images

This poem is an ode to one of the deepest paradoxes in life: that you must lose your life in order to gain it.  No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they'd die for. MLK QUOTE BUTTONSuch a paradox is replete with metaphors of seeds, death and resurrection, of sacrificing that of great value for that of greater value.  Plus, in life there is no dress rehearsal: we won’t be food again!  Of course, that perplexing aspect of human life which is infinitely complicated is humans: ungrateful, self-centered, and irreducibly exasperating.  In my view, the best way to see more clearly in the fun-house mirror that is human life is to cultivate self-awareness of psychological projection, the powerful and cunning tendency to attribute to others what is subconscious in ourselves, particularly the bad stuff.  In laymen’s terms: spot it you got it!  Of course, such cultivation is mirror reflection if there isn’t any skin in the game — little is harvested with simply good intentions.  Pacifism - A Way of Life - Man Does Not Die By Bled Alone -- PEACE BUTTONSelf-sacrifice is inescapable if we are to unearth enduring meaning rather than perpetual mean-ings on earth.  The ubiquity of iniquity, the proclivity to project our own evil onto others (“Those unpleasant spitting images”) is the tragic root of writing people off as chaff rather than cultivating seed.  Would You Die For Common Ground PEACE BUTTONThe paradoxical solution is that by becoming food for others, and — as in vice versa — by becoming food for ourselves, we are awe saved.  Such wonderment eternally returns me to loving my enemy, a journey that can only be made within one’s self and never without others.  I find this mysterious process at the heart of social action — the nexus of the inner and outer journeys, joined at the hip — perhaps most succinctly described in the social activist creed and Mexican  Zapatista proverb: “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”  Or, in an earlier version, from the Greek poet Dinos Christianopoulos:  “What didn’t you do to bury me / but you forgot that I was a seed.”  The counterculture reality embodied by Mr. Christianopoulos was as a homoerotic poet in the 1950’s, accompanied by its commensurately dangerous seed.  Whatever you may offer as a human bean in this chili world, may it be nourishing fare.

Old Hippies Never Die We Just Flower Year After Year POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: Namaste

Who dares ax
Why I am
Sow meta for
As the spear it in me
Razes up
Too meat the spirit in you

http://www.toppun.com/Religious-Spiritual/Buttons/Don-t-Have-A-Sacred-Cow-SPIRITUAL-BUTTON.htmlThis poem is an ode to my favorite version of the greeting “namaste:” may the spirit in me rise up to meet the spirit in you.  My poetic version plays with the meeting of the spiritual and physical, the spirit and the flesh.  How do the sublime and the crude coexist?  The short answer is that life is marvelously messy.  Daring to question why I am the way I am can be a precarious project.  Delving into why the great “I AM” is “I AM” can be downright dangerous.  Existence is puzzling; essence more sow.  One of my projects in life is to be in touch with my bastard nature, daring “too meat” the spirit in you.  The churning of my spirit yearns to kiss the whirled of flesh, and perhaps more.  The paradox of “Razes up” speaks to the inextricable cycles of destruction and creation, countless resurrections, risings up from the ashes like a phoenix. Re-born Again and again and again and again SPIRITUAL BUTTON This is a death-defying game: “the spear it in me.”  Still, I like to stir things up.  Things that are settled strike me as dead.  My Karma Ran Over Your Dogma. SPIRITUAL BUTTONWhere there is pretension, expect to be punctuated with vulgarity.  Where there is cynicism, expect to be flooded by my delugings of unabashed hope.  I will hurl sublime poetry over your ahead, but I won’t pick at your soars.  I will lob softballs to hit you out of park, but know one will keep score.  The hallowed and the hollowed will mete.  There are plenty of weepin’s in this life too be had.  How ever, weather I reach hi or lo, behold my arse and all.  Think good that the pun is mightier than the sored!  What ever this life is, it is the most beautiful thing I ever metaphor.  Metaphors Be With You SPIRITUAL BUTTONNamaste.

 

 

 

 

 

Please feel free to check out other spirit-filled, inspiring and life challenging designs:

A Conclusion Is The Place Where You Got Tired Of Thinking SPIRITUAL BUTTONIf you are in control, then you are going too slow. SPIRITUAL BUTTONWhy not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is? Mark Twain quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Not All Who Wander Are Lost SPIRITUAL BUTTONFind Your Own Way -- Buddha SPIRITUAL BUTTONThey will say you are on the wrong road, if it is your own. Antonio Porchia quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Don't take life so seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway. SPIRITUAL BUTTONFirst Things First But Not Necessarily in That Order SPIRITUAL BUTTONReality is for people who lack imagination. SPIRITUAL BUTTON

BORN AGAIN and Again and Again SPIRITUAL BUTTONEver Wonder? SPIRITUAL BUTTONGot Inspiration SPIRITUAL BUTTON

The Beginning is Near SPIRITUAL BUTTON

POEM: Howie Tried And True

Too fine
The word
That was lust to him
As a gossamer knight he
Oh Howie tried
And true
Enough
Wading in silence
Only to peer
Parently from know wear
To meat
His every knead
Too fine
Word
Maid flesh

This is a poem about the role of the muse in writing poetry.  On occasion, I exclaim, “Where does it come from?!”  This is an indirect compliment to awe that the muse does, plus a certain humility on my part for feeling unable to take credit for awe of my work. For me, the creative process often includes the experience of both peak concentration and seeing something come from seemingly out of nowhere, no place for which I can give adequate account or testimony, except perhaps in a completed work.  The creative process often entails both intense flow and an irresistible beguiling that on occasion may be mistaken for work.  There have been more than a few times that I have been gloriously exasperated by the joyful wear of a relentless muse, for which I can only gleefully apologize.  This poem employs a sexual metaphor to better reveal the palpability of the artist-muse relationship.  Also, this poem climaxes with perhaps the most profound aspect of religious theology: incarnation, spirit imbuing flesh.  In Christian sacred text, this is referred to as “The Word became flesh,” from John 1:14.  That which is most ethereal — God, life, light — becomes that which is most palpable to humans on earth.  These juxtaposed metaphors are similar to my description of writing poetry as the head and heart making love — which makes me simile.  May your life be overflowing as your ineffable spirit is enfleshed in this world.

POEM: Boulder Climate Change Strategy

Know madder
What
The body politic wants
Wee are
A given
Political climate change
Fueled agin
Buy dollareds
Hot air
And cheep solutions
Trapped in a net worth
A slew of zeroes
Proffering barren fruit
Taking
Their cut
Wile the snare drum beats
US like lemmings
Lurid over
A bluff leading know where
With the last feather in their icy cap
Plunging a head
At breakneck pace
Their ultimate un-doing
In won weigh or the other
Hung by a tight rope
For good
Snappy necks ‘n dashing suits
In their bald Sisyphean crowing
As gods joke
Boulder for brains

This is another in my unrelenting series of global climate change poems.  Western Civilization Is A Loaded Gun Pointed At The Head Of This Planet -- Terrence McKenna quote POLITICAL BUTTONI mock cowardly politicians beholden to earth-destroying corporate interests, offering only half-ass solutions to what is likely the greatest threat to humanity and the planet this century.  I mix several metaphors simultaneously, but the prime metaphor is of Sisyphus as the symbol of grandiose futility.  Of coarse, the climax of the poem offers Phoenix-like hope as these Sisyphean politicians bash their brains out on the rocks of the reality they so persistently deny and discount.  And for good measure, and a backup plan, they also hung themselves with their own rope, in a tip of the hat to the old Marxist joke that capitalists will sell the rope to the executioner for their own hanging. And for a triumvirate of metaphors to seal their destiny, a bird metaphor (“cheep solutions, “last feather in icy cap,” and “bald Sisyphean crowing”) assures that the brains dashed against the rocks are bird brains as well as boulder for brains.  Be on notice chicken-hearted and bird-brained politicians, there is no escaping the carnage of my poetry!  Of course, I hope to embolden planetary citizens to take bolder action to relieve such politicians of any authority or power over the fate of our Mother Earth.  Man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself --Rachel Carson quote POLITICAL BUTTONMay the people of planet earth rise up and create a sustainable destiny for humanity that fully respects the deep harmonies of nature.

POEM: Wanting Amor

It is never
Enough
I want amor!

This very short poem, like most of my poems, can be read (at least) two ways.  The first line, It is never, can be read as one not getting love, declaring Enough, and wanting amor.  Or, this love poem can be read as having amor and always wanting more.  Of course, both of these ways of reading this poem definitively want more love!

While I think that the question: how much is enough? is a critical question to answer well in order to live a satisfying life, I am drawn to the expansive nature of love that ever yearns for ever more love.  I believe that the built-in desire for love to replicate, grow, and expand is why reciprocity in relationships is central.  Love not reciprocated, not appreciated or honored, naturally flows to where there is amor and desire for amor.  Of course, love, in its overflowing nature, puts itself out there as an ever-flowing invitation, but it occupies and relishes those places where the invitation is accepted.  Love may very well be the life force, or, at least, one of its better metaphors.  Love spills awe over the place, but grows best where it is welcomed by open hearts big enough to take in its grand gifts and embraced by fertile attitudes of gratitude.  Can we be too gracious?  Probably only if we have some distinct notion of what is enough, what we might settle for.  Love in action, as a verb, cannot settle, as it is imbued with an ever-expanding nature.  May you not settle; may you grow in love and find it returned a hundred-fold.

POEM: That Wholly Lessen

Kneeling before
Mother
Earth
Shattering
Knews
Buy sum mirror mortals
That scant except abundance
Farced too
Under stand
That wholly lessen
Taut
As awe for one
And won for all
And what too due
To be apprehended
Those borne too big for their breaches
Both yearning their keep
And wanting to cry like a baby
As partially dread
King Solomon’s wisdom
Discerning a real mom
From a ‘mother’ in name only
In every crook and nanny
Of awe that might be
Haunted by possessions
Those who cull out
For halve of everything
As if
Like some indivisible man
In a crowd
Stealing a weigh
Amidst a pound of flash
As a parent
As won
Divided buy too
Is not twice one peace
However disposed
Won is to give
Forbear
Meaning less labor
For priceless heir
And each arrival
Comes a bout
In his stork visit
That universal root
Digs ever deeper
Beyond belief
Yet sum people
Proffer a Roamin’ umpire
A tempting
A scuff-law-less Caesarean delivery
To buy pass
The belly of the best
Dilatorily a void
Mete cleave her
Where even moderation can be excessive
Only too grasp
After brooding over
In a so-so pregnant pause
And sow ill-conceived
Being a touch bankrupt
Morally in half-way hows
That irresistible fix
Working for you
And know won ails
Halve the weigh homme
Leaping twice across the chasm
Returning
To Mother
Earth
Won way or the other
Making a hole world
Of deference

Here is yet another poem about the ongoing crisis of Mother Earth’s destruction.  To portray the half-ass response by so-called developed nations and industrial powers that be, I employ the metaphors of King Solomon’s infamous wisdom in dealing with dispute over motherhood and that of crossing a chasm in two leaps.  To add another metaphor regarding our relationship with Mother Earth, we want to have our cake and eat it too!  In the case of the King Solomon judgment, two mothers living in the same household claimed a baby as their own.  After one of the mothers accidentally smothered her own child while they were sleeping in her bed (by the way, an ancient public health problem that persists today), she claimed the other mother’s baby was her own.  Without enough evidence to make a reasonable determination, King Solomon wisely and shrewdly ordered the baby cut in half, so each mother could have their “fair” share, to determine their reaction.  The true mother insisted the baby be given to the false mother to spare the baby’s life.  The false and jealous mother said go to it.  Of course, this revealed the true mother to which King Solomon ordered the whole baby as hers.  Our greed and jealous protection of our own unjust interests would rather halve the world we live in than deal with a whole new world.  Globalize THIS - ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONAs greed and envy continue unabated, we naively and vainly assume that things will “naturally” work themselves out.  As if the day after we can reassemble two halves of a baby and have a whole baby.  This is akin to jumping a chasm in two leaps.  It don’t work that way!  Our fundamental disrespect for motherhood is a parent to anyone who possesses the wisdom to differentiate between motherhood and smother-hood.  Of course, in the real world, there is no second baby to even attempt to appropriate.  And the chasm is too wide for even a long series of half-ass measures.  I’ll take a flying leap here: we either return to mothering Mother Earth or we will return to Mother Earth, as a specious not suited to evolve any further.

POEM: Free Verse

You are trying
Too figure out
Perhaps even singularly a verse
Paying sum game
Never getting
A head
Dis integrating
As a metaphysical meting
Of meter and anti-meter
Unmoved
Object
And unstoppable farce
With unending meanings
Crying
Help
Lessly under stand
In during a sublime accost
The prize of free verse
Only getting what
You pay for

This poem is about the difficulty inherent in understanding most poetry.  There is little doubt that most of my poetry is — sit down for this one — difficult too under-stand.  My poetry niche of puns, word plays, metaphors mixing, and parallel, interweaving narratives dancing in tension, calls for the exertion of effort to unlock its treasures.  That good things require effort is a paramount law of life exceeded only greatly by the law of grace, that life and its goodness are even available to us at awe.  Poets learn both of these laws well under the tutelage of muses of most any sort.  You get what you pay for.  But don’t look too deep or you may very well get way more than you bargained for!

May you plumb the depths and scale the heights of artists looming a bout, and may you find more than mere scraps…

POEM: How Ever Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb

In his rock
Solid doubt
Thomas
Had herd rumors
Of unflailing love
Abuzz of hope so high
If only
To find himself
Quite
In the dark
Wear time stops
To the ever sow gentle
Beating
To a singular conundrum
As sound as it gets
In the artlessness of won’s
Perpetual searching
Where awe is aloud
And know license kneaded
Yet so long
Due
Over
Come
Warming to the extremity
In a hospitality of patients
Still
Not sure
What he thaw
He’s frozen code
Hesitatingly lust
Pulling out
Aplomb
The surest proof
Of assurance
Yet knot enough too
Drink the Kool-Aid™
Turning to whine
Taken in
Bred of skepticism
Only willing
To live on
Crumbs
That will
Surly re-seed
In annoys
Of the daze
The quest in
For gotten
How ever dumb dumb dumb dumb

This is another poem on a familiar theme of skepticism of skepticism.  In this poem, skepticism is juxtaposed with a simple and profound reality at the center of each human life: your heartbeat.  In fast-paced, postmodern society, we live in a precarious and constricted mental and spiritual territory.  We are, well, maladapted to ask “What have you done for me lately” a-long-side routine strings of epic fails to live in the moment.  In a triumph of evolution, we walk a mathematically constructed line that every mathematician knows doesn’t exist except as a mental construct.  And then we complain about God’s ethereal nature — with a periodicity much less regular than a heartbeat, in between ignoring God’s good creation.  I can’t help but note that the bulk head of such complaining seems more fitting on bar stools than in poem or song.  Of course, I don’t recommend sobriety when it comes to being drunk on poetry.  In the book, The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, the main character tells two stories: one hauntingly mesmerizing and another as a police report.  When asking another character which story they prefer, not surprisingly, they choose the captivating story; to which the main character replies, “and so it is with God.”  I, for one, would much rather be captivated by a good story than limit my reading — and living — to police reports (though many good stories include police reports).  I strongly suspect that God wants us to make epic stories of our lives, for our hearts to beat captivating rhythms, to grow bigger and fuller today than we were yesterday.  For this to happen, at some point, we have to make stuff up as we go along.  This process can be analogous to scientific discovery, proposing stuff that we are not quite sure are true and then testing them out with out lives.  Not surprisingly, scientific-minded folks are greatly disturbed when religion hypothesizes great truths and then fails to adequately test them in the here and now.  Not all shit is worth making up.  Fortunately, most any shit can be used as fertilizer.  Even cautionary tales are indispensable.  Nonetheless, as Native Americans traditionally began their storytelling, “This may not have happened, but it is true.”  Or, as I might put it: God is the coolest being I ever metaphor.

But back to the even more palpable.  Your heartbeat serves as a metaphor, gentle reminder, and literal lifeline to, well, life.  The heartbeat is both a shared human reality and intensely intimate and personal tether to life.  In astounding irony, the common ground of a heartbeat at the center of each human life seems to be easily taken for granite, that is, common ground.  There may be a fine lying between common ground and complicated dirt, but I suspect that the road less travailed makes awe the difference.  Akin to breathing, our heartbeat is a great center for meditation, that is, simply centering our life (see my poems, Breathing and The World’s Shortest Meditation).  I find the persistence, reliability, unobtrusiveness, and effectiveness of both breathing and our heartbeat as a wellspring of metaphors and insights into the deepest nature of life.  Still, may your life take definition by those moments which take your breath away and that which makes your heart to skip a beat.

POEM: The Taoist Dowager

The Taoist dowager
Bends gently to that before her
Inclined to bless
Those below
Indivisible
To the high and mighty
Wholly touched
Braille beyond the see
Maid of tender harmonies
Composed
Of one, a chord
The maladies of life joyfully singing
Farming the music of our years
Covered by perfect lines
Of what may be
Momentarily forgotten
Only later recalled
By progeny
And prodigy
And even those
Occupying there posterity
Like some kind of bum
Or a baggy lady
Udderly fool of it
From cradle to grave
Fully pampered
Content
To cede generations
For a moment
For hour
A muse meant
This consummate ode lady
Siren from beyond hear
A thirst only quenched
By water on the rocks
Having strung out
Countless improbable moments
A mist
An impossible life
Beyond contemplation
Not getting bent
On 100% proof
With a taste that smacks of grace
A singular savor
Unpalletable to sum
Treated like a fragrant
Bye others
Having
Perfected that groovy hide
From a rash
Of uncommon sense
Fore hers
Such an inconceivable vehicle
As chary it
Like the wind borne
In quiet the mine
A sentience unabridged
Having awe ready arrived
A slow motion ninja
Only to be
In what will be
Carried away
In eternity

This poem emanated from the title phrase, Taoist dowager, that emerged from one of my many ruminations.  As is often the case, a phrase that is too good to pass up grows into a complete poem.  I am drawn to Taoist philosophy and Eastern thought in that it seems to quite reliably offer balance to Western modes of thought and being.  The dowager metaphor is apropos in that it is typically a feminine sensibility that is the antidote to afford balance to dominant and domineering Western male culture.  Plus, wisdom is often rightly associated with increasing age and experience, not the least of which is experiencing and reflecting on the vulnerability inherent in senescence.  Buddhists make a practice of meditating on their own inevitable death, not as popular a practice among the young and seemingly invulnerable.  Nonetheless, Taoism claims the ever-present and eternal as accessible in the now, a certain holy equality, a pathless path, perpetually wooing us with enlightenment experiences that cannot be grasped but hold the key to living in harmony with reality and all living beings.  The folly of every age is to try to reduce such knowledge and wisdom to some type of elixir that can be bought, or more to the point, sold.  Even after being taken countless times, the allure of the latest snake oil quite reliably rouses our more base instincts.  The basest instinct blocking our experience of the Tao, the Way, is to take, for our self to acquire something from an other.

Clearly, in the Way of things, things come our way.  However, being given, to receive something, and taking, claiming something as one’s own private possession, are opposite perspectives.  Being given, receiving, is an attitude of gratitude and selflessness.  Taking is an attitude of greed and selfishness.  Now, Taoism is lauded for its mastery of complimentariness, the understanding that opposites interpenetrate each other and are only conceivable in contrast to one another; e.g., you can’t conceive of light without dark, or tall without short.  There is little doubt that a deep appreciation for the complimentary nature of reality is a powerful tool to keep us honest and on track in perceiving and aligning our life with reality.  Still, there are clues within each opposite to their relationship to the Whole, the Tao.  Its conceivable to me that people could live in perfect harmony, without contradiction, with an attitude of gratitude. It is inconceivable to me that people can live as greedy takers without contradictory and irreconcilable selves.  In the mysterious light of the Whole, gratitude is more consonant with reality.  Further, taking, claiming something as one’s own private possession, without any claim upon it from elsewhere is simply self-assertion.

There seems to be a consensus among philosophers and theologians of all stripes and perspectives that human beings cannot be the ground of their own being.  On one end of the spectrum this was most famously articulated by John Paul Sartre in his book, nay tome, Being and Nothingness, which built the intellectual foundation of modern existentialism.  On the other end of the spectrum, most human beings throughout human history have claimed life to be a gift from God (or gods).  Sartre and some others are content to contend that human freedom is condemned to naked self-assertions, however well-clothed in rationalizations.  God-seeking humans have sought a source of life, a ground for their being, a giver who is also a subject, not a happenstance collection of stardust within a serendipitously profoundly ordered universe.  The harshest and most minimalist existentialists settle for an existence where subjects cannot truly meet, or, if taken most strictly, cannot even be confident that other subjects even exist.  Such a bizarre assertion is welcomed by God skeptics who cannot fathom a Subject, but the corollary laughable denial of other human subjects’ existence is kept conveniently and shamefully out of public consciousness.  Taoists and many philosophers of consciousness posit something akin to a Consciousness that all consciousnesses partake in, a whole in which each part is inescapably in relationship with, even if well-clothed in ignorance and plausible deniability.  Christians speak of being made in the image of God.  Taoists, perhaps the least literal in their claims, allude to a dynamic Whole that informs our being of the Way.

A beloved metaphor often employed by Taoists is water, with all of its life-giving and unusual properties yet part of daily, seemingly-mundane experience.  The one who lives fluidly like water moves easily around that which is hardened.  Yet water, given time (an equally mysterious aspect of life), wears down mountains [see patience as the mother of all virtues!].  This poem gives a tip of the hat to this water metaphor with the lines: A thirst only quenched/By water on the rocks.  Thirst cannot even be conceived without quenching — unless perhaps you have the brutally masochistic tendencies of an orthodox atheist existentialist who braves permanent and absolute alienation (from even one’s self).  The line, Siren from beyond hear, intimates the dangerous half of thirst.  The water on the rocks alludes to the sober attention needed to recognize that water and ice (on the rocks) are fundamentally the same stuff, just in a different form.  Having strung out/Countless improbable moments/A mist/An impossible life/Beyond contemplation.  When faced with conundrums and uncertainties, there is a common tendency to hear beguiling Sirens and throw ourselves against the rocks.  Sober minds recognize this as A mist/An impossible life/Beyond contemplation/Not getting bent/On 100% proof.  In embodying an attitude of gratitude and selflessness connected to the One, one can quiet the mine/A sentience unabridged/Having awe ready arrived/A slow motion ninja/Only to be/In what will be/Carried away
In eternity.  May it be so.

 

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…

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: On a Roll!

In my write mind
I am on a roll
Plain and simple
And there is nothing butter
On that!

I haven’t published a poem in a while.  This is because this week the muse has had other plans for me.  I found myself working on an epic poem.  I soon realized that the nearly infinite reservoir of material and possibilities destine this poem to be of epic proportions.  In the midst of the rising poetic genius, the above short poem emerged.  This is a poet’s poem about being in the zone.  Of course, the metaphors can be extended to any of life’s moments of peek experience into its awesomeness.  May you find yourself on a roll soon…

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: Eternal Seasoning

A house divided soon Falls
From fair-weathered friends
A summer fallowing
Hommés united spring eternal
From perennial buds
After a parent winter
So goes
The eternal seasoning
A savor for all
The whirled

This short poem is about hope, friendship, and collective action.  I must give props to M.K. Gandhi who said something with a similar sentiment: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it — always.”

Hope is a common theme in my writings.  Partly because the world so commonly seems in so desperate need of hope.  Partly because I find the nature of hope intriguing, elusive and indefatigable!  After all, I literally graduated from Hope College!  Of course, it was with a B.S., so you may want to take what I say with a grain of salt.  Though, personally, I’d prefer that you’d take it with innumerable grains of salt, as in Gandhi’s Salt Campaign for independence from British rule:

Led by Mohandas K. Gandhi, the Congress’s Working Committee decided to target the 1882 British Salt Act that gave the British a monopoly on the collection and manufacture of salt and allowed them to levy a salt tax. Although he faced initial ambivalence and opposition to the idea of targeting the Salt Laws, Gandhi asserted that salt would help unite Indians of all religious communities, castes, and regions for salt represented a basic and crucial dietary need that the British colonial government monopolized for its own benefit. By encouraging all Indians to defy the Salt Laws by manufacturing and selling salt themselves, Gandhi argued, Indians could collectively challenge the authority of the Raj.

At the time of the Indian Salt campaign (1930-31), the United States was in the Great Depression, as a result of reckless financial speculation, another great trickle down from the money changers of the world.  Some things never change.  The more recent Occupy Wall Street movement recognized that the 99% vastly outnumber the 1% and that direct democracy, empowering the masses to take control of their lives without relying on the profiteering inter-mediators of the 1%.  Many mourn the rising and falling tides of social movements, but the currents favoring truth hold sway forever.  Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”

The “house divided” reference is both to Mark 3:25: “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand,” and the famous speech by Abraham Lincoln during his presidential re-election campaign amidst the Civil War (NOTE: “civil war” is perhaps one of the greatest oxymorons ever).  The most famous passage of the speech is:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

As described in Wikipedia, the people’s encyclopedia, Lincoln used this speech to frame the epic moral and political question of the day:

“Lincoln’s goals with this speech were, firstly, to differentiate himself from Douglas, the incumbent; and secondly, to publicly voice a prophecy for the future. Douglas had long advocated popular sovereignty, under which the settlers in each new territory decided their own status as a slave or free state; he had repeatedly asserted that the proper application of popular sovereignty would end slavery-induced conflict, and would allow northern and southern states to resume their peaceful coexistence. Lincoln, however, responded that the Dred Scott decision had closed the door on Douglas’s preferred option and left the Union with only two remaining outcomes: the United States would inevitably become either all slave, or all free. Now that the North and the South had come to hold distinct opinions in the question of slavery, and now that this issue had come to permeate every other political question, the time would soon come when the Union would no longer be able to function.”

This poem attempts to capture some of the flavor — the eternal seasoning — of this perennial cycling and recycling of the work for justice throughout our lives and across generations.  Savor the high tides, but be not discouraged when the tectonic shifts of social change seem imperceptible.  Winter always passes, and hope springs eternal.  And if you still have a headache from all of this, just mix two metaphors, ingest gently, and call me in the mourning.

POEM: Laundered Hearts

Laundered Hearts

On those journeys
Through dark
Night
Watches
Ending only
With mourning
Broken
Finding yourself
Alone
With a ponderous God
Separating darks and lights
Threatened by grays
Hanging on by hairs and threads
Frayed
Washed out
Left
Only
Facing
The new borne
With blues and pinks
Occasional
Fresh attitudes
So nigh eve
A tough pill to swallow
That great beyond
Slipping passed
The Adam’s apple
Impassable to unknow
So stern the guardin’
Parently
A name
So hollowed
The coming reign
For given trespasses
Daily bred
On earth
As it is in heavin’
Temptations so waited
As lead
Into deliverance
Lying in stork contrast
Crying at the drop
Of a feather
Sticking together
Amidst the tears
In the veil
Throbbing us
Of our temple
Un-till
Our hearts beat back
What mourning brings
Is new dawnings
For those following the light
For light penetrates the dark
And we fear not vice verse
Burnishing us for all time
With laundered hearts

It seems that death and mourning has been on my heart recently.  After a long hospice experience with a friend, I received notice that my Dad’s ex-partner’s Mom just died.  I knew that he had a long slog of it.  My note to him triggered this poem.

Like most of my poems, this poem explores both the dark and light side of our experiences.  Death is an epic theme that frames and molds how we approach life.  Mourning is an essential developmental skill to navigate life.  There is much to mourn in the world — some distant, some nearby.  Eventually, death will close in on us.  None escape.

To bring this poem down to everyday reality, I use the metaphor of laundry.  This can represent the routine tasks that we must continue even if we are in deep mourning.  Sometimes this can reconnect us to our everyday living. “Laundered” can also imply an illegitimate, sleazy, or illegal process, such as in “laundering money.”  Both of these images can converge into being put through the wringer.  The real question is what comes out the other side.  Hopefully, something stronger and deeper, even cleaner, more pure.

I have also built into this poem the contrast, “the stork contrast,” between death and new life, newborns: the blues and pinks.  Those with more life experience know that such youth possesses certain naive qualities as well as a refreshing aspect to life.  Death puts these in sharp contrast.  Hopefully, this stark contrast imbues life with all the more preciousness.  My deepest trust and faith is that life is larger than death, more powerful than death, and even death can strengthen life.  In this poem, this is captured by the allusion to light penetrating dark but dark being unable to dispel light.

When death rubs up to you, may you be burnished, polished, and come out with a cleaner and brighter heart on the other side.

POEM: Hard on the Poor

Hard on the Poor

Our moral compass
Goes south
Skewering
Those below
Under lyin’
Poverty abashed
Without abjections
Needle US
Too say
Pricks
Hand shakers
And grand standers
Razing just for fund
He’ll freeze over
Before changing any position
Undertaking another bleak poll
Never about-facing mistakes
Fueled by deft ears
As the eaves drop on the homeless
Given props by spooks
Out of focus groups
Like miss diagnosing
The mortified
A rhino virus
In the middle of the living
Room for a growing boy
Like a Pinocchio knows
Running up bills
Virulent peckers
A fecund plague
Deifying gravitas
With hearts sow cold
Bringing them to their sneeze
A wretched climax
Eyes watering
When seize it
Progress
And congress
Members stiff
The public
Relations privatizing
A press corpse
Unable to issue a retraction
Interminable hacks
That even in their coffin
They are still
Convinced that they are
Looking up
Mean wile
Enjoin bye
The least of these
Has been
All ready
Spinning
In their gravy
Known as
Underground resistance
Ever more
Digging their new haunts
Offering no quarter
Giving berth
To just deserts
Best served
Cold
As south is south
And north is north
Encompassing awe
Probity

This poem offers a bevy of mixed metaphors and social commentary.  I wrote this poem before the latest Republican government shutdown, but its themes are eternal in politics.  The rich get richer and the poor get the shaft.  Republicans moralize to others and then epitomize sleaziness themselves.  Politics is governed more by money than the needs of the people.  Proselytizing politicians paint themselves into a corner driving their internal contradictions into explosive stupidity matched only by their intransigence.

Still, reality gives feedback.  Karma wends its way into the path of even the morally blind.  With wisdom, the subtle nuances of life’s ways can be discerned from a distance, and it’s gentle signs guide us in harmony.  With increasing foolishness, a dulled capacity to read wisdom’s kindly signs, ever-increasingly blunt warnings of impending danger will be offered.  If we insist on continuing down ever-increasingly perilous paths, mere red flags will turn to violence — sometimes physical violence, sometimes emotional violence, sometimes political violence.  Violence is the province of fools, whose understanding ends at blunt instruments.  May we keep our eye on wisdom’s gentle signs guiding us to harmony amidst giant oafs clumsily swinging their blunt instruments.

POEM: Synctretised Swimming

Synctretised Swimming

Unearth as it is in heaven
Land and see
The evolution
Of God’s creation
And learn
Who or what
Our teachers be
In theology schooled
Like fish in water
Expounding on thirst
All the wile
Shitting where they drink
Considering it a symphony
When just one movement
And by miracle
Pinching loaves and fishes
Feeding scores
Still
Some live on bread crumbs
And what will follow

This is one of those poems that came to me in the middle of the night, and a few lines quickly grew into a full poem.  The poem’s title, “Syncretised Swimming,” is most apparently a pun of “synchronized swimming.”  Probably less obvious, is the reference “syncretised” which refers to syncretism.  “Syncretism is the combining of different, often seemingly contradictory beliefs, while melding practices of various schools of thought. Syncretism involves the merger and analogizing of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths.”  Religious purists view syncretism as some form of error or heresy.  This poem speaks against such religious purism.

So, why the “synchronized swimming” reference?  Schools of fish swim in perfect synchronization, moving the same way instantly, in a way that science cannot explain.  This mystery is used as a parody reference to the three seminal lines: In theology schooled/Like fish in water/Expounding on thirst.  Trained theologians, awash in mystery, manage to move in surprisingly similar ways, apt to expound on a set of similar abstract truths that may engender blank looks like when trying to explain thirst to fish in water.  Theology undertakes the humbling enterprise of trying to make mystery a science.  Of course, mystery cannot be fully explained by science — that’s why it’s mystery.  To try to reduce mystery to a science would deny and kill mystery by pretending to banish it.  My objection to religious purists and the issue of syncretism is that ultimately there are things that we cannot know, in principle!  Philosophers and theologians call the discipline of what we can and cannot know, epistemology.  The heart of theology is ultimately unknowable in any modern scientific sense.  This rubric of theology builds in an irreducible amount of hubris for any absolute claim.  This is why I see a necessary foundation for spirituality is openness, especially if one is looking for a living God that moves.

The reference to evolution evokes a popular conflict between scientists and some religious people, most heated between those scientists who don’t understand epistemology and religious folks who don’t understand science.  I don’t think that there is a conflict between religion and science.  Rather I view religion and science as complementary fields which need to give proper due to one another.  I intend the analogy of evolution more specifically as a context for my mixed metaphors.  Most poignantly, the line “Shitting where they drink.”  For humans, generally understood to be more advanced than fish, “shitting where you drink (eat),” is an obvious and palpable example of short-sighted and self-destructive behavior.  For fish, not so much.  The difference is context.  I think that religious purists tend to view syncretism in a limited context, perhaps not worthy of the unfathomable depth and diversity of God’s creation.  As a biologist, I look at human culture as analogous to ecosystems.  There are countless possible configurations of thriving ecosystems.  I see human culture as similarly adaptive; though human’s seem to have an accelerated trajectory of epic successes and epic fails.  What this ultimately means is appropriately a theological question.  Nonetheless, I have perhaps a more synchronous view of religion and science, whereby they are both judged by their fruits; what is produced, what works, what follows.  Of course, the most intriguing questions are not about mere utility and manipulation, but what constitutes a good end or state of affairs.  In this case, theology trumps science.  Which is fine in my book, as long as it doesn’t thump science.

I get a chuckle out of how God can take our impure, zigzagged paths and sanctify them. I get somewhat less of a chuckle out of how we humans can seem to take credit for this through our various programs of sanctification, none of which are very pure.  As a former United Methodist, I chuckle that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement never envisioned as separate denomination but desired only to be an Anglican – of which he lived, breathed and died.  Of course, the Anglicans, the Church of England, is a sooty descendant of the Roman Catholic church which had irreconcilable differences with a King over divorce.  Even further, Christianity, at times claimed solely by the Roman Catholic church, is founded upon Jesus, a Jew who never wanted to be anything other than a Jew.  Yep, Christianity is a Jewish sect.  Thank God for syncretism, holding it all together amidst our unholy messes!

POEM: Infectious Hope

Hope is a blood-borne pathogen
The seed of martyrs
Inflaming that allergy to injustice
Present in us all
Infected by a singular epiphany
Of friend and foe
Alike

I see hope as an irreducible reality in human nature.  Just like “Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again” (William Cullen Bryant), hope is rooted in a realm that mere brute force or violence cannot destroy.  Even in the face of deep despair and generations of disappointment, hope finds its way into our hearts. Hope rises like an infectious weed, out of control of the powers that be that rely on violence to grasp onto control. Trying to describe hope reminds of the description of love in the movie Shakespeare in Love: “Like a sickness and its cure together.”  In this poem I use an analogy and metaphor of hope as an immune response by reality to injustice. Of course, viewing hope as an antidote or a poison or pathogen can be a matter of perspective.  In the face of objectively crappy situations, hope can be viewed more cynically as Pollyannish. The blood of martyrs can be seen as a tragic waste or as fuel for hope and resistance to injustice. Hopes indefatigable nature can elicit respect and well…more hope.  While I posit that hope has a mystical quality to it that cannot be banished, perhaps the closest I can get to capturing its essence is the last three lines of this poem where people are “infected” by a singular awareness that friend and foe are one, “alike.”   I see hope emerging and growing where this epiphany takes root.  For instance, I consider “Love your enemy as yourself” as Christianity’s greatest commandment.  Jesus upgraded the Old Testament’s “love your neighbor” with this greatest of spiritual challenges:

 “You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48, NIV)

This is the greatest spiritual genius that I have ever seen!  This strikes me as the most straightforward and simple way to encapsulate one of the most basic tensions in life: balancing self-interest with others’ interests.  By explicitly linking these two, Jesus harnesses, leverages, and even redeems, the powerfully dangerous psychological dynamics of egocentricity and selfishness.  No doubt, the trinity of hope, faith, and love is called upon to dare confront such a powerful challenge.  Of course, the genius and simplicity of this formulation doesn’t make it easy.  Though in it I find much hope, even infectious hope! 

POEM: Poetic License

One day I went to get my poetic license
I drove them crazy with their test
at the DMV
Perhaps next time I’ll try NASA

This poem reminds me of the scene in the movie, “Dead Poets Society,” where the teacher at an exclusive boy’s prep school, on the first day of class begins:

The teacher, Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams) sits at his desk at the front of the classroom and opens up one of his books.

KEATING
Gentlemen, open your text to page
twenty-one of the introduction. Mr.
Perry, will you read the opening
paragraph of the preface, entitled
“Understanding Poetry”?

NEIL
Understanding Poetry, by Dr. J. Evans
Pritchard, Ph.D. To fully understand
poetry, we must first be fluent with
its meter, rhyme, and figures of speech.
Then ask two questions: One, how artfully
has the objective of the poem been
rendered, and two, how important is that
objective. Question one rates the poem’s
perfection, question two rates its
importance. And once these questions have
been answered, determining a poem’s
greatest becomes a relatively simple
matter.

Keating gets up from his desk and prepares to draw on the chalk board.

NEIL
If the poem’s score for perfection is
plotted along the horizontal of a graph,
and its importance is plotted on the
vertical, then calculating the total
area of the poem yields the measure of
its greatness.

Keating draws a corresponding graph on the board and the students
dutifully copy it down.

NEIL
A sonnet by Byron may score high on the
vertical, but only average on the
horizontal. A Shakespearean sonnet, on
the other hand, would score high both
horizontally and vertically, yielding a
massive total area, thereby revealing the
poem to be truly great. As you proceed
through the poetry in this book, practice
this rating method. As your ability to
evaluate poems in this matter grows, so
will – so will your enjoyment and
understanding of poetry.

Neil sets the book down and takes off his glasses. The student sitting
across from him is discretely trying to eat. Keating turns away from
the chalkboard with a smile.

KEATING
Excrement. That’s what I think of Mr. J.
Evans Pritchard. We’re not laying pipe,
we’re talking about poetry.

Mr. Keating then proceeds to instruct the students to tear the whole introductory chapter out of the book.  This peaks the interest of some of the students (and a little horror in others).

Of course, the heart of my poem pivots on the dual meaning and paradox of getting a “poetic license.”  A license is typically some form of certification or accreditation indicating that the applicant (they don’t just pass out licenses!) has successfully demonstrated adherence to prescribed rules based on the conventional wisdom of the era.  In contrast, “poetic license” refers to the freedom a poet takes in order create an artistic expression.

I view poetry as first art, and second science.  Now, to be fair, a fluency in linguistics can greatly aid one’s expression.  Nonetheless, if you put random words on a piece of paper and meditated upon them, strangely poetic relationships, phrases and themes would likely emerge (in the mind of someone).  In fact, this is one method to my madness.  Usually a poem is first born of a phrase or two that strikes me out of the ether of my life.  Then with a general theme, I associate related words, phrases and concepts.  Mining the infinite juxtapositions of puns, alliterations, metaphors and irony, characterizes my basic style of writing.  In my longer poems, I typically develop parallel narratives that are in tension, sometimes paradoxical.  Often there are several different ways to read a set of words or phrases, depending on punctuation and where one begins and/or ends the phrase/sentence.  This is why I often avoid punctuation and put short phrases or single words on a separate line.  This allows the reader to more freely experience the dance of associations and multiple meanings.  While my own basic point of view usually emerges with some clarity, sometimes by simply ending on a particular note, I definitely see truth as living in the neighborhood of paradox, and the struggle for and the balance of these tensions is at the heart of most of my poetry.  Poetry is less “laying pipe,” than flooding the reader with images and ideas, thoughts and feelings, that expand our consciousness and enrich our experience.  Of course, you are free to live by your own rules… 

POEM: Metaphors be with you

Metaphors be with you

This simple one line poem which is only four words is a takeoff on the Star Wars saying, may the force be with you.  Is it any surprise that one of these four words is a pun?  Of course, I love metaphors way more than Star Wars, which I enjoy quite a bit.  I love metaphors because they can hit you right in the face with an apparent literal meaning while simultaneously launch a much grander and ephemeral meaning.  I suppose that literalists are confused by metaphors.  However, I might note that literalists are confusion.  This poem is also a simple blessing that the metaphor rich reality in which we live is ever accessible to you.  Like another poem of mine, everything else reminds me of everything else.  Rather than a reality that is barren of meaning, reality is so robust with meaning that it nearly busts out everywhere.  So, metaphors be with you!