Park Bench

Where’ve you gone?

The sun’s arc

Has traced my decline

Splintered thoughts

Paint worn reveals grain

Rusting wrought iron

The tears you shed

Long evaporated

Are now replaced

With frost’s steely touch

The part of me

That still holds chin high

Is patinated with jogger sweat

But the words stand testament

People still wondering to this day

What cornerstone of a community

What deeds did you do

To be immortalized on this bench

Looking out over this lake

But you were no luminary

You didn’t found any company

You were so much more than that

You were my father

You were my friend

And someday I’ll pass on

But it’ll still be you they think of

In moments of well needed rest

Grass brushing at ankles

Dragonflies darting to and fro

In loving memory

Institutionalization

Institutionalization is the couch indent

It’s feeling so at home in our thoughts

We miss our depression when in remission

The stability of groundhogs day

The stability of groundhogs day

The stability of groundhogs day

It’s why so many of us finally give in

Just as the right medication kicks in

It’s too much too fast

It’s questioning it all from the cocoon

Then finally getting our wings

Only to fly high enough to plummet

Don’t get me wrong there are bars

But the day comes when they change

They no longer hold us in

But keep the world out

It’s that movie where prisoners are freed

Walking out into the sun they are blinded

The light actually causes physical pain

It’s more than just getting used to

It’s more like getting dependent on

We desperately need a sense of control

In this chaotic world

Whether we find it in bed in a dark room

In the bottom bunk in a 6 by 8 cell

At a mindless, unappreciative job

We know exactly what to expect

There are very few variables

We are the water that Bruce Lee speaks of

Desperately looking for a dusty cup

That’s rarely removed from the shelf

Maybe it’s all shades of grey

The varying degrees of sadness

Before we step out

Into the blinding light

We should take the trip slowly

From the depths of the pitch sea bottom

In a kind of decompression chamber

That trickles the light in, in degrees

So by the time we breathe fresh air

We won’t recoil in pain from the sun

This birthing in dimly lit room in a hot tub

Life is harsh…take it easy on yourself

And ease into it

What can I say about Love?

What can I say about love

That hasn’t already been written

On the walls of gas station bathrooms?

Dispense with the regalities

Drop the pomp and window dressing

Love is nothing more than transactional

We trade time for promises of happiness

We give up pieces of ourselves

Hoping reciprocity makes us whole

All of this we do at great peril

There are no fucking guarantees

We diminish with every dance

We are decaying isotopes

You can calculate my age within seconds

Simply by measuring the holes in my heart

Love is just a painkiller

Heart holes grow larger

Euphoric you press ever onward

You’d think the dance would be aerobic

But there you’re farthest from the truth

Asphyxiating cells scream and die

Your lungs burn as if on fire

You claw at your throat

Hoping to taste youth’s freedoms

How far back do we need to go

To be before death stood at horizon?

When the time we could give was endless

It’s here where marrow no longer hums

Your body a tuning fork looking

For harmonic resonance in others

I know for certain that we die alone

This tragedy pervades everything we do

We hold hands just so there’s a letting go

But at least we don’t walk alone

The cadence of time marching

In lockstep with our decay

I know the gift of time is unrivaled

Except for the moments you are given

It’s not continuous but a string of tableaus

Those times you said you could die

Die in their arms, and you’d be happy

Or, when wishing a moment was infinite

These moments are the last to flicker out

The brain performing a fireworks finale

Fingers intertwined blazing in inky skies

Then denouement

And that is something

Perhaps everything

Somnambulant Explorer

I’m investing in Tesla to test out my toughness

I divested in diaries to skip out on dowries

I spun all the muster and fuss of the spinster

I’m a mister who missed her so I could ration my minutes

Fingers outstretched I fetched the gold band from an old hand that lingers

Searching for answers I’m lurching at dancers

This middle earth dearth was worth all this curse

I’m resigned to decline the divine if it means less time with my kind

I try to master my mind faster, a spell caster lost in time, a bastard

I’m just a sleepwalker, a mumbling talker, who dreams of being spoiled, you see, living off book royalties

Pulse

Cast shade upon me to give me greater depth than the tissue paper I feel I’ve become

Talk about the times when I hacked and slashed my way into the jungles of discourse

Remind me of how there is fun to be had in the mixing of mindsets and the study of emotional alchemy

I can feel myself waning so grab my hand and, if you must, teach me the sound of one hand clapping

Tether me with fishing line and barbed hooks to the things I hold closest to my heart

So, even when the vacuum comes, I’ll whip and dance like a kite in a storm but remain earthbound

When I’m pulled inward by the dance of the mind’s cinematography you must sing me the melody of dialogue

Place my hand to chest so I can feel the now of your tempo and strengthen the action over intention

Despite all of perception being funneled through the lens of mind we must move corporeally

Despite the mind triggering muscular contractions, it is more important to take journey’s first step than to just plan it

The neurotransmitter’s dance achieves potentialities that only have value in causality

The mindspark will bring about no fire without fuel or oxygen

So feed me in experiences and breathe warmth into these hollow bones

These self inflicted wounds will only heal if I think you want them to, like plants that grow healthier through conversation

Photosynthesis is the plant kingdom equivalent of synaptic transmission

But even we need the sunlight to keep our hallowed bones from crumbling

So walk me in your sunlit pastures and dig your nails into my flashy palms whenever you sense me drifting

I need now

I need you

I need you now

Charmed, I’m sure

Do you ever remember bits and pieces of books, movies or poems?

Not enough to string together an effective google search

But enough to feel the faint outlines of an emotion

Maybe it was a book you had to read in 5th grade

Something you skimmed just enough to barely pass a quiz

But had changed you in some unknown, imperceptible way

A pall you carried from a long forgotten poem

Which still shades the world a color, a tint 

One you’ve so long gotten used to, that you don’t even see it anymore

Having lived so long in a home that was licked by fire, that you no longer smell the ash

A pall you refuse to part with, because you find comfort hiding beneath it

You hold onto these pieces, like charms that once hung from a now broken bracelet 

Charms that symbolize something, a connection no longer made

A handwritten letter that references or alludes to things you know nothing of

A letter meant for the person who lived there before you, with no return address 

If you knew the sender of the letters, the purchaser of the charms

Maybe you could divine meaning from them

Like dream interpretation, but foolishly forgetting that you are all the participants in your dream

You are that book, that film, that poem…those letters. Those charms. One day I’ll have you figured out. 

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Would you believe me

If I told you

The song playing in the other room

Just faint enough to be imperceptible

Will color your entire day

That it’s set your head askew

It’s an overlay

The weather in the novel you’re reading

Is an outward projection

Of the main character’s inner turmoil

The howling wind

The driving rain

The rainbow that sometimes follows

Your subconscious will hum that song

As your own weather system moves in

An unwitting participant

An actor following stage directions

Every night the play is slightly different

Every day a different song plays

In the other room

Just out of earshot

Each day, unaware you hum these tunes

An ear worm

It burrows into the minds around you

They begin to weather parallel storms

Manifestation

Virus

Synaptic transference

Daisy chain

Bucket brigade

The buckets are filled with tears

Of joy

Of sorrow

Of acceptance

They taste like the song

If you want to be the change

Get up and go to that other room

Change the station

To a song that stokes your flame

Of hope

Of empathy

Of love

No amount of buckets could douse

Then go about your day

Humming

Until the whole world resonates with you

Until the ripples reach the darkest corners

Change the station and change the world

A River Runs Through It

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I always declare on forms that I’m American Indian or Alaskan Native

Now I realize, better than others, that I’m only half Mohawk. Only.

I don’t know if I do this to increase my chances of getting hired or to warn

I know I don’t look like your stereotypical idea of what an “Indian” should look like

This white guy you see, who can hold a tan through winter, is accessible with his wavy hair

The collector of the forms gets the best of both worlds…white-looking and diversity

A straight of the Rez, long-haired, stoic, traditional Native told me I was an apple

I am a product of the government’s relocation policy. Get them off the Rez.

That’ll assimilate them

So I don’t speak Mohawk, just as my mother doesn’t, but my grandparents did

No ceremony to get a traditional name, like most of my cousins have

I’ve never been to a sweat-lodge

So his remark was meant to hurt me. There are layers. On the surface it stung

It stung because I thought we were friends. So why would he intentionally hurt me?

I knew I didn’t choose where I was borne…off the reservation. Not my fault

However, I was in my mid-twenties, so I could’ve regained what was never given to me. I could’ve returned home again

But remember…the camera might add weight, but the mirror doesn’t lie

Try to fit in

Next layer…I’m ecstatic that he thinks I even look Native, as being an apple implies

I always wished I looked more Native

He tells me a couple weeks later that the guy behind the counter at the campus gym was racist towards him

He called him, “Chief.”  He looked at him with disgust. Told him there are townie gyms he would be better off at and told him TO MAKE SURE he wiped his sweat off the machines

Did this make me feel better that I pass as Caucasian? That I somehow dodged a bullet?  No.

I was a rage filled apple. I wanted to cave this ignorant lunk’s head in with a dumbbell

I was his brother, even if he didn’t think so

You see, generational pain exists in your DNA, right down to your marrow

These sublimated rivers of tears, that hollow out the ground beneath us, thrum beneath our feet

Like elephants and house pets, we feel the earthquake coming days in advance

The caverns created beneath us are filled with the stalactites and stalagmites made of our ancestor’s calcium. They’re bones.

Every step is precarious if the ground is hollow beneath you. For native Americans all ground is hollowed and hallowed

I look at my son and wonder if I should raise him to check that box, or not

Only a quarter. Try to fit in. Only.

Step carefully my son.

 

No weight

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Give no weight to these words

They are the mumblings of a madman 

I scribbled them on the padded walls of my mind

Ink drawn from the heart’s-well with pointy nail clippings 

Instead, lay your faith in that first sip of morning’s coffee

In the peals of young children’s laughter 

In how your fingertips feel at home in the small of your lover’s back

Find your home with outstretched arms digging fingers in three knuckles deep

So a hurricane couldn’t shake you loose 

I’ll be tossed about by the whimsy of your smile and faded memories 

Smirk at my chaos if it makes you feel better 

Find truth in your realism and folly in my Impressionism 

You can Rockwell while I melt into Dali-ance

Find comfort in repetition 

Find comfort in repetition 

Find comfort in repetition 

I’ll ride the adrenaline roller coaster of fractal chaos

You’ll never really feel quite as alive 

As when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from

The food tastes better and your kisses sweeter 

When each time felt as though it could’ve been the last

But here we are

You in your well worn path

My mind a wandering nomad…a vagabond 

Things seem so much simpler to you

So give no weight…to these words

“Hey, beautiful!”

It’s all too easy to boil it all down

To take a lifetime of experiences

And throw it away like a grocery list

Not even the items anymore

Not bread, milk and eggs

Just a piece of crumpled paper

It’s easier to throw away like that

Junkie, tweaker, or drunk

All ways of seeing a person

Seeing them as crumpled paper

Ready for the trash can

I thought this way, like many

The path of least resistance

It hurts knowing I’d been that way

That I’d given up on people in need

My moment of awakening was gentle

At first

Then it hit like a hammer to the chest

We had become foster parents

A shirttail relative in need

We’d care for her little girl

While she worked on herself

How could she?

Was the question that burned in my head

I took the human away from her

With every thought

I boiled her down

Then, when I could throw her away

This little two-and-a-half-year-old

Beautiful, cheery, little girl

Upon meeting me for the first time

She reached up

Held my face in her hands

Her tiny little hands

Moving in little circles on my cheeks

She looked me in the eyes

A smile of beautiful acceptance

Beaming from her face

And in her tiny, cooing voice

She said, “Hey, beautiful!”

She said this three times.

After the third time I’d realized

She was telling me what she’d heard

Probably every day of her life

From her mother

That’s when the hammer hit my chest

Her mother wasn’t crumpled paper

She was more than I could imagine

Most important of all things

She was…is a loving mother

With this painful realization

I came to understand

All peoples with substance use disorders

Are worthy of our kindness

Of our acceptance

Of our love

It was a painful realization because

Because I had to look myself in the mirror

I had to weigh myself

To see how I’d come up short

I’m still working on me

Trying to be better than who I was

Day by day

I smiled and walked outside

After she chanted the incantation

The third time

And I cried

Just as I cry now

In the remembering

“Hey, beautiful!”

We’re the very words I needed to hear

Whether you’re fighting battles

That no one knows about

Or you’re following the easy path

Know that you are worthy of change

And that you’re beautiful

“Hey, beautiful!”

Cornhusk Doll

I’ve been thinking about childhood

Those fleeting puffs of foggy exhalation

Rising from a deer’s muzzle just before it darts

The what brought me heres

The what made me whats

The what I bought marred me where ats

Cheese grater logic

My childhood was not unusual

Don’t we always think this?

We could’ve been daddy’s little helper

Grabbing the shovel off the back of the truck

Listening to it scrape against the road

The smell of a bloated raccoon settling in our lungs

And on that lonely, country road

We defined the word normal

And perhaps, no not perhaps, but with certainty

We defined ourselves

It wasn’t until we made friends

Until we had sleepovers

Until they took us to their places of worship

That we learned the raccoons we carried in us were different

That some heard the tinkling of a shop keeper’s bell

Not a scraping shovel

And the tinkling brings the flavor of ice cream to mouth

While others heard the slick sound of leather

Gliding through belt loops

This brings a different, salty, coppery flavor to mouth

In books we learn that despite how different we appear

We are much more alike

We hug those broken characters

And in doing we hug ourselves

Happiness and joy have faces

Sadness and pain do not

One is photographed

The other is smothered beneath down pillows

Living your whole life allergic to feathers made you that unlikely to fly

So it’s in these exchanges

Sleepovers, books, comparing and contrasting

That we give face to our tenderness

Despite what mischievousness may come

Hold the gaze and be ready to embrace

Healing is necessary

Like a clean road, without death’s reminders, is necessary

Even if just in stretches

You can’t sustain the same facial expression forever

Except in death and in memory

And in photos

Don’t disassociate

Give it a face and a name

Anchor it in thought and emotion’s hue

Take ownership of the repercussions

Give it a face

[On one of my many trips to the reservation of my ancestors, my clean air fund, my gentle reminder that you can both be loved and feel just slightly out-of-place, as we half-breeds often become vaguely aware of, I was told not to draw a face on the cornhusk doll I was creating. It was a shared moment between me and my beautiful, Native-complete cousins, that suddenly, taking on a list due to course change or the water getting in, looked askew or askance. Don’t give it a face or it will get into mischief. You’ll find the doll in places you didn’t put it. This undoubtedly bothered me. The spookiness of it. Now, as I’m thinking of childhood, the elements of of it make me uneasy. Children. Faceless dolls. A clear warning against mischievousness. I suspect it’s settled into my middle aged frame. Trace minerals that either lend to stronger or weaker bones. I’d like to think I secreted a face on that cornhusk doll. As much for me as for you, both then and now]

She thinks

She thinks she’s the emotional one

Crying during sad movies

I adore her in those moments

Seeing beneath the bark for an instant

When the movie’s over she’s ironwood

She thinks I’m stoic—evergreen

She sees my smile at the death scene

I’m not making fun in those moments

I’m envious

I’m touched and I’m envious

I see her tender humanity then

But I’m jealous of those moments

As they are seldom

For me there is a tissue thin veneer

I am always on the verge

Always wounded and mourning

She is a mighty oak

Dripping seasonal rains

I am a weeping willow

Whose roots run six feet deep

Having weathered countless storms

Many branches haven’t budded in years

They are stiff and creak in the wind

I’ve a hollowed trove of nuts

For a squirrel that’s never returned

Rotten leaves serve as mulch

Feeding on my own decay

Giving me the energy to wax poetically

The parts of me that are green

They are green because of her

I try to shade her in a mad world

But I lean into her and she doesn’t know

I’m always afraid of the next big storm

That it will take me down

Uproot me

She’s a mighty oak

But, she thinks I’m the strong one

What if

What if they add the belief of god

To the list of psychological disorders

And afterlife, and fate, and the soul

Would you believe them

Would you breathe a sigh of relief

Would a weight be lifted from you

Or would you feel robbed

The last chapter torn out

The color drained away

Meaning gone

Would you find yourself screaming

At the stars

Shivering as the snow settled on your

Naked body

Your breath floating away in little puffs

Watching the bottle of pills

Float on the water

Then gone

Beneath the bridge

You’re standing on

Had this moment always been

A second an eternity

Or, did something come before

Your breath floating away in little puffs

Shivering.