Posted in Beauty, Health, Poetry

A House Divided

I have recently been going through a lot of my writing from the last decade, both poetry and prose. I am working on assembling poetry by theme. The goal is a poetry chapbook of some sort. I am also trying to actually work on the memoir that I have been talking about working on for the last two years.

Seven years ago to the day, I wrote this. At the time, I posted it for all the world to see on my blog, this very site. For various reasons, all posts between 2004 and June 2015 have been deleted. Still, I posted it for the world. And still, things still lingered on for another 5 years, to the day.

Assonance or Resonance?
So desperate, I need some respite, in this place of war
I need a place to say some things I haven’t said before
A place to say the names of the bones behind the door
Voices echo in this headspace as you creep across the floor
Just like that broken record I picked up discounted in the bins
Only one side ever plays and the last song never ends
The last word gets repeated ’til I lift the needle from the skin
Mixing metaphors with my dopamine, like whiskey with my gin
Should we exit like we entered with no input from our friends?
Or give them all one more chance to peer around the bend?
If this ship is really sinking, they could be our rising wind
Can’t help but thinking…
They’d love another chance to play pretend
Maybe in this pool of listlessness, they’d be quick to condescend:
“Can’t comprehend why she didn’t leave him long before she did
Of her own volition, no contrition and no cognition turned to shit
It was painful to watch her dying from all those wounds she hid”

It would be far too easy for me to be angry: Where were my friends, family, seminary colleagues, professors, pastors, mentors, people who declared their love for me and my ex-wife while we were both crying out for help, each in our own way?

I think ultimately there is a twofold lesson for me: First, I have to write for me, for my own “salvation” and mental health, come what may. No matter who reads it, or how many, or how they respond. And secondly, I have to learn to separate those who appreciate my writing whether on a blog, in spoken word performances, or hopefully someday, in a book from true friends. And I have to do my part to hold close to the latter.

Jesus and Lincoln both purportedly said, on their respective campaign trails, that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Most of my life I have been a house divided: A free spirit, free thinker, trying desperately to cling to the dogma of the past to save me from the flames of hell. A self-proclaimed “extrovert” who took a Myers-Briggs Test, scored ENFP but has struggled with life-long social anxiety. I have worked just as vigorously to shut people out -who would love to love me – as I have to draw them in.

But I am changing. Good gawd, even at the ripe old age of 40, I am changing for the better. For most of my life, I have suffered from a simultaneously self-hating and self-aggrandizing fear that the eternal fate of others might be inextricably-intertwined with my words: my excelling or failing to say, “Jesus loves you.” But now I know that I have to be able to look myself in the mirror in the morning and say, “I love you.” My “salvation,” my mental health depends on it! And others depend on me. They wouldn’t be lost or hopeless without me. But I contribute to their happiness and well being right here, right now. So I continue to work towards casting out my own demons. I continue to work towards my own mental and emotional emancipation.

I am a house, perhaps in a permanent state of remodel. But I am no longer closed for repairs. Welcome to my living room. Take a seat. Or don’t. I have many stories to tell.

Posted in Poetry

Youth

We used to scream, barbaric yelps until
Our throats were raw, our voices hoarse

As soon as the winter thaw would permit
Kick and stamper like a sadistic horse

Groping for the light of a sliver moon
Until our hands were as heavy as a horse

Around the corner, we peaked at freedom
Like the head of Shasta’s horse

Mothers’ grip, fathers quiped bitter words
Until throats were raw, their voices hoarse

—-

National Poetry month. Day 19. Poem 11. Not going to try to catch up. But I will try to get a few more poems out in the coming days. This is a ghazal.

Posted in Poetry

Numbers 5

She stands behind a locked corridor
Frightened, not sure what she’s waiting for
The accusations come from one who swore
He’d be her shelter, when he bought her from her father
She once was somebody, or at least somebody’s daughter
The priest mixes dust now, with the “bitter water”
This is the right of any man who is suspicious
These are the Män som hatar kvinnor, malicious
This is the wrath of the almighty and capricious
These are the stories we choose to gloss over
Forced miscarriage of a child that she longed to shoulder
Would she have walked the corridor if anybody told her?
Did she scream? I wonder if anybody heard her
As I drive by the church sign that reads, “abortion is murder”

—————–
This is my attempt at a Blues Sonnet. National Poetry Month 2017. Day 12, Poem 10. It is was inspired by the Bible passage, Numbers 5:11-31.

Posted in Poetry

There’s Gotta Be Another Way

It was the last time we burnt down that bridge
The one we had resurrected so many times before
The rains forced us to take shelter on the ridge
All the past we’d tried to bury was washed ashore

We each tried to phone our gods, no more reception
Warned by the old guards of Harvard and Oxbridge
And the lunatic fringe, since our very inception
It was the last time we burnt down that bridge

We called in the cavalry, in the name of Calvary
Never knowing we were starting the last great war
Some never gave up on phoning the god of Galilee
The one we had resurrected so many times before

Soon there will be no one left to tell it
No matter, history is always redacted and abridged
We tried to whisper, in vain we tried to yell it
The rains forced us to take shelter on the ridge

No one could hear below the echo of rain and gunfire
I’ll keep whispering, Keep keeping, until we are no more
A faith in us that breaks my heart and makes my guts tire
Until all the past we’ve tried to bury is washed ashore

————–
Cascades don’t always rhyme. This one does. Deal with it. And it’s imperfect because I slightly altered the final repetition for effect. This one was inspired by trying to bring together two different writing prompts, in a writer’s group I am in. One was to write about political unrest without resorting to tired rhetoric or propaganda. The other was based on a friend’s dream about collapsing bridges, a storm and a world in which we could talk to gods on cellphones. This is my 8th installment for National poetry month. I am still one day behind. But I am still aiming for 30 new poems in thirty days

Posted in Poetry

To Forgive

I forgive you for hating me
I forgive you for having harder stares
Than my dad when I ate second and third
Helpings of sweet, buttery confections
I forgive you for saying worse,
Much, much worse
Than any underclassman
Who bullied or shamed me
In grade school
I forgive you for forcing me
To go to reparative therapy
Where a charlatan with a BS in Bible
Posed as a shrink
Eager to hear my confessions
Always asking me
To shut the door when I leave
I forgive you
For pushing me down
For never giving me any grace
When I legitimately and gracelessly fell
On my face
Like that night outside of Rumors
When I never should have drove home
I forgive you for living dangerously
For always telling me
That my soul was in danger
Until body, mind and whole self was there
I forgive you for a lifetime
Of sucking the life from me
And cutting all of my lifelines
I forgive you for pushing others away
With the same magnitude, used
To force me to my knees to pray
I forgive you for hating me
Without reason
Naked, weaving
In and out of rhyme,
And I’ll look you in the eye
And tell you to your face
Next time
I catch your eye
And your hard stare
From the corner of the mirror

Posted in Poetry

All Access

This is how
We celebrate life
Open mic
Open veins
Blood spills over on the floor
Maybe saving lives

—–

This is my 5th installment for National Poetry month. I am short one entry. Maybe one of these Sundays, I’ll write two. This is a shadorma. I am going to run out of short forms and be left with all of the long ones. All Access is the name of the open mic I host on Thursday nights. This is what we do.

Posted in Poetry

Etched

Fifteen years ago, she woke up and wore white
All was ready: the pastor, the cake, the dress
The girl who never wanted to have children
Would say “I do” to an overgrown boy. Love!
Sometimes it blinds us to the worst in others
Gone bad, held captive, we forget how to smile

Etched on my memory: her red hair, her smile
My tux black, my vest silver, my shirt starched white
I stood with her, and with him, before others
A night spent chasing every other dress
With Bacardi, and falling deeply in love
With anyone! Such is the way of children

I got drunk; he got high, we were all children
I brought the music to make the people smile
He asked me to pray, and I did so with love
I think I spilled yellow beer on my starched white
I never knew how to act when “properly” dressed
Or in any attire in room full of others

She wasn’t my first crush, so many others!
Before, after, such is the way of children
It used to be any pretty face with a dress
Or many a chiseled face, with a handsome smile
I always mistook exposure of pearly whites
Or crooked yellows for an open heart, or love

A year, and three weddings later, I found love
I cried that day, more than all of the others
Yes, even more than the veiled woman in white
We had a plan, we made a life, we had children
Thirteen years, I watched the fading of her smile
We inflicted wounds no god or shrink could dress

Slow change of heart, a sudden change of address
An old friend with the most familial of love
Picked me up, made me remember how to smile
But was I what she had known in the other?
Another boy, surrounding himself with children?
Or worse, like an old sweater, washed with the whites?

Break the familiar! She was not like the others
Love scattered, like adults throw candy at children
Etched on my heart: her red hair, her smile, her black dress

————
Another one for National poetry month. This is a sestina. Sestinas are one of my absolute favorite forms of poetry. This is the third one I have ever written.