Teach them

Children change everything

A complete shift in priorities

Someone is counting on you

Depending on you

Their very survival

Most parents take this on

With pride

With resolve

Others try to simply make it work

Like taking on another job

Another checkbox in a list

Some will reprioritize

Putting the child first in all things

But hold onto some part of the before

Drinking with the boys on Friday nights

Restoring that old car

Or getting the boat ready in the spring

But most often

This change

Kills dreams

Aspirations

How can I possibly

Who’s time am I wasting

What’s more important

These formative years

That’s right…formative

What foundations are we laying

Be a good soldier

Be a good consumer

Be a good student

Color in the lines

Fit into the cookie cutter

That dreams are transient

That they should

Should

Should

Should

Be a good dad or mom

Have their 2.3 kids

Balance their checkbook

Tuck some into a 401k

Perfect attendance

Buy the latest and greatest

Poetry is a phase and not a need

Be a creator of needs

A dutiful cog

In a widget factory

Who knows…maybe Disney

Next year

For now, practice assembling

A perfect child

Blindfolded

On a cot

You could bounce a quarter off of

Formative…

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Make them artists

Involve them in your dream

Teach them to love language

Form

Movement

Music

Teach them independence

Self-soothing

Self-entertaining

Self-reliance

Share your joy

Share your love

Of humanity

Of humanness

Trade WiFi connectivity

For soul to soul connectivity

Don’t feel bad

For spending time on expression

For asking for 5 more minutes

To finish that poem

Teach beauty is equal to duty

Maybe you’ll achieve your dream

Maybe they’ll learn to fight for theirs

Formative…

En Passant

In my youth I used to play chess

I never really took it all that seriously

Never joined a club

Didn’t think about competing

It was just a game

But it was a part of me

It was a distinction

Of mine and of that long ago era

A Queen’s Gambit resurrected it

A phantom limb I’d forgotten even existed

And now I feel a spectral itch

Where no appendage should be

This set my head on tilt

How many other limbs

Did I let atrophy along the away

How many withered from neglect

How many were purposefully elastrated

Is this pruning a part of growing up

Does getting rid of the weak ones

The distractions

Make the stronger ones even stronger

Or just give us more time to focus

On the ones that suit our faculties

Do we know the right choices were made

When drawing became difficult

When fingers ached from guitar chords

Did we opt for an easier route

One we felt we had a better chance with

Of obtaining fame and fortune

Or do they simply resonate with our souls

Maybe they worked best at catharsis

Who knows

Maybe they’re never really gone

Maybe these phantom limbs

Are nothing more than neural pathways

All laying dormant

Waiting for a spark

Which could be anything

A movie that has you feel a cigarette

Between index and middle finger

A habit you kicked years ago

A song that makes you weary

From pulling all night cramming

For a college course whose ideas faded

The sound of rain on a tent

And you look down at hands twitching

They’re twisting ropes into a clove hitch

When merit badges meant everything

But the fascinating thing of all this

Often this body memory is subconscious

And the electricity dances and fades

In a dusty area of the brain

Frog’s legs attached to electrodes

Dance a do-Sa-do and allemande

The smell of a gymnasium is faint

Like when she smiles at you

And you feel a pulse of warmth

Your body remembers being loved

And now you itch for more

Show > Tell

I could tell you I’m in pain

Or show you the nail gouges in my knees

I could say I’m happy spring is finally here

Or invite you to the exorcism

Show you despair’s shadow

As I vomit up the pitch onto cellar walls

Where it will hide in the damp coolness

Woken by the crunch of leaves underfoot

In a few month’s time

Until it envelopes my heart

For the next long, motionless winter

The Dream

Why do we hold on?

Why can’t we just…let…go?

It fucking defines us

We let it define us

We LIKE that it defines us

It means there’s more

More than your 9 to 5

More than your carpool lane

More than your social media likes

More than your Netflix suggested list

That with the right amount of light

The right amount of water

The right amount of bullshit

Of believing you can

Despite the odds

That we could succeed

At something truly worthwhile

To do what you love

To love what you do

To be remembered forever

Immortality

By finally letting people in

By opening yourself up

Exposing your truth

Your psychoses

Your vulnerabilities

Your humanness

And showing other wounded

That they’re not alone

But this dream takes a toll

The biggest of which

Is self belief

And why is that so…fucking…hard?

So many of us with a story to tell

But gagging on the first syllable

Afraid that once we do speak

We’ll realize we’re alone

And always will be

Listening to those words

Echoing off cold, brick walls

That a dream never achieved

Is better than the death of that dream

Even gagging on that syllable

We are trying and possibility exists

So why do we hold on?

Because we’re through sleepwalking

Now it’s time to wake up

Time to put in the work

Even if the gagging

Brings the taste of copper

We will swallow it down

And retch out the next syllable

Together we are a chorus

Commodity

What’s standing in my way?

Me

You practice saying croissant

While I practice saying thank you

And I’m sorry

When all I want to scream is…

I take compliments

As a toddler takes a booster shot

I follow conversations

The way a boxing commentator

Describes a 10 round flight

Finesse the points or swing for the fences

Or pretend to be good neighbors

As fences often are

We all say we want truth

But all we really want is OUR truth

When confronted with another’s truth

We swallow it whole

Hoping it doesn’t scratch on the way down

And that it doesn’t change the color

Of our shit

When it is done sustaining us

But remembering you

Never feels quite as important

As you remembering me

But remembering YOU

Never feels QUITE as important

As YOU remembering…me

But vampirism grants immortality

And ripples mimic wind currents

To the point we confuse words

With actions

Sometimes words are all we have…

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

I miss

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I miss the younger me

The weightless unencumbered me

The carefree and aimless me

I want to hide beneath the weeping willow

A nature-made fortress…of solitude 

Where, like Superman, I flew

Thin branches wound around my bone-thin forearms 

Leaping against the pull of gravity

A mind that didn’t carry sorrow 

Or guilt 

Or servitude to the almighty dollar 

A helium balloon in the clouds

Tethered to unslumped shoulders

How I soared 

I bent spoons with my mind

Slayed dragons with vorpal sticks

I worshipped the mother in this church 

Light shining through stained glass leaves 

Many moons later

Barely able to lift head from pillow

I’ve sidestepped into a different reality 

Where I no longer felt like I fit and I made sense

This alternate timeline

After 12 hours of contractions

I find myself sentenced

Now I’m a contraction at the end of a sentence 

It is what it’s 

Pendulum

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The pendulum swings

From pearl to gastrolith

I feel it’s weight with each shifting

In this damned uncomfortable chair

When it’s a pearl

It’s a story

A captivating tale that sets me apart

Sets me on the path of being

Actualization

When it’s a gastrolith

It’s still a story

A forgettable pablum not worth noting 

Securing my place of anonymity 

Forgotten 

The weight, either way, is there

It’s gravity a nagging reminder 

Often paralyzing 

There are times, though

When the bits of wire and rusted nails

Break free from the ingested magnet

Where all the world’s pain collects

These bits of detritus regurgitated 

Coming out through a torn throat

In bloody, mucosal, pyroclastic eruptions

There are times, though

The body feels warmth from the insoluble 

It gently encases it in layers of nacre

Making its expulsion more tolerable 

The vomitus a pictada fucata 

Throat stretching to accommodate 

The goose that lays a mother of pearl egg

In either case, the process is necessary 

Whether avoiding a stomach so full

I beach myself on distant, unknown shores

Having broken the elemental barrier 

Born again, but into desiccation 

Or the calcium that makes up the nacre

Is cancerous in high concentrations 

The body evicting a deadly tenant

A baby gestating too long

In either case, the process is creation

In minima

Like a young child staring in awe

The first time they make

Crying when the toilet’s flushed 

Or the first piece of art 

That makes the side of the fridge

There is value in the letting go

Not the reckless abandon of encopresis 

But the satiation of a need

The building of an edifice of confidence 

But just like the microdosing of dopamine 

It’s a bandaid for a puncture wound

True healing

A resurrection, not just a seance

A real fucking dose, not just a bump

I have to stop hiding

I have to  take the leap

But I daydream about skydiving 

And am afraid to fall

In the end, the true fear is failure

That if I cut myself open

If I dig this weight I carry out of my guts

If it’s DOA

Then I am empty, a shell, a testa

And where do I go from there?

I only have one recurring dream

And one ever-present nightmare

Reminder

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It had been so long that no one remembers just when it had happened. You’d think an event like this would be clearly recorded in our history, but like the wholesale slaughter of the Native Americans, it’s something those in power would rather forget—in order to feel human, that they’re part of something great. 

These little statues appeared everywhere and all at once. There were more in the areas you would expect to find them, at schools, parks, and grocery stores, but there were quite a few that must’ve formed in secret…in backyards and in bedroom windows. Rooted to the very ground upon which they stand, many were tried, unsuccessfully, to be moved, like atrocities from high school, social studies, text books, so we could go back to feeling normal.  This just wasn’t going to be the case. 

This horrific tableau. These children who were neglected and/or abused simply froze from their grief. Their little hands clenched so tight, fingernails puncturing what was soft, tender skin in their palms, leaving the burgundy dried blood on their hands and in spots on the ground below. The place where their tears had trailed down are now dried up streams, that left behind salt crystals that glitter in the sunlight. Their heads tilted completely back, as if their last action was to look to the heavens, the heavens that had clearly forgotten them, and then scream. Their mouths open as wide as their little jaws would’ve allowed, some almost appearing to open even further, like snakes that dislocate their jaws in order to swallow a much too large piece of suffering. 

If this had been the extent of it, then we might have adjusted. We would walk past them as if they were just pieces of furniture, or telephone poles, or some art installation that has been there so long…we don’t even see it anymore. But, again, this was not the case. 

We quickly became weather junkies. We’d watch every forecast. The weather man spending the majority of his segment pointing at the proximity of isobars. When those isobars were close together, this rapidly changing pressure gradient, meant wind. People would call into work on windy days more than on days of unrelenting snow fall. 

These statues, with their tilted back heads and their mouths agape, resonate when the wind blows, like blowing across the top of a plastic soda bottle. The sound that issues forth from this chorus is so soul-twistingly sad, that the strongest amongst us fall to our knees and sob uncontrollably. 

Those that had ones in their open windows, in their back yards, and on their porches…simply moved away out of shame, hoping to start fresh. 

There was a period, as the accumulated dirt across their faces, from the residue of long since removed duct tape attests, where we tried to stifle their song. But the very sight of these children, who were silenced in their suffering during their lives, standing their with taped mouths was more than anyone could handle seeing. The tape was quickly removed, but the stripe of dirt across their mouths serves as another reminder. 

As bad as all this was—as if this wasn’t enough to show us the error of our ways, we had to explain these statues to our children. Like most children their questions were never ending and built on the last, until it mounted to a crescendo, where we would finally just break down and say, “I don’t know, baby, but we’re better than that now, and it will never happen again,” tears rolling down our faces, as we hug our children tightly. Each child giving the slightest smile and tiniest of nods, as if to say that the lesson has been learned. 

Those that tried to use them falsely as a warning to misbehaving children, as if their temper tantrums would lead to this, were met with a implacable, marrow-deep knowledge that this was a lie. 

No one knew if this was a one time occurrence, or if more were to come if we stayed on the same path, but some hoped that, if we changed our ways so truly, that these children would come back to us. Even though they were generations old, we would take them in and finish healing them, and ourselves. 

We are still waiting.