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. 

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

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.

 

Like me

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Are you like me?

Never really sure just how others take you

Do they really like you or just tolerate you?

When they laugh at your jokes

Are they being courteous or sincere?

Are you like me?

Giving those you meet the benefit of the doubt 

Assigning a whole backstory to why they did what they did

Justification for treating you shabbily 

Are you like me?

You dutifully take in the sorrows of others

Everyone’s therapist they can vent on

But can’t open up yourself

Either for fear the floodgate will never close 

Or being thought of as weak

Or facing your own frailty 

Are you like me?

Do you come undone?

At the thought of the pain and sorrow 

That is being endured in the world

At any given moment

Are you like me?

Despite your emotional connection to the world

You’d rather stay home and read or watch a good movie

Despite your interest in the human condition

You’re trying desperately to be a zen master 

Finally shutting up that interior monologue 

Am I like you?

Do you like you?

Do I like me?

Are you like me?

Fragments

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At the intersection

Of memory and dream

Of actual and fabricated 

I remember being very young

In my childhood home 

The wind whipping outside

The storm door slamming

The glass cracking 

Another moment I’m walking

Down the alleyway and slipping around 

I don’t know if I was told of the incident 

Before or after the memory’s birth

So at some level I doubt it’s authenticity 

My grandfather had beaten up my uncle 

Leaving blood on the ground

That my little feet lost traction in

I remember the old variety shows 

That inspired me to tap dance

In my grandpas work boots 

On the wood floor of the back hallway 

Or was that fashioned from stories?

I remember being on a car ride 

Going up north to the reservation 

The driver let go of the wheel

Enough play the wheel wobbled to and fro 

In my young mind it spun untethered 

My little world spinning with it

This blurring 

These dark waters

They take on the shape of their containers 

But are impossible to see through 

They are still a part of my sum

And they affect me in ways

Both that I’m aware and unaware of

But I am a survivor 

I build castles out of these sands

That so readily slip through my fingers

Unless wetted with tears of silent knowing

While I know some of these memories

Are fashioned to erode at my foundations 

There are others that give support

I’m sure there’s a long forgotten song

Whose lyrics have faded into pasts’ patina 

But the outlines of the sound wave 

Of the singer’s guttural scream

The lamentation that speaks of my sorrow 

That props me up

To take on another trying moment

Thank you Joplin, Holiday, Morissette

Thank you grandma, mother, aunts 

Thank you my lovely wife

Thank you for your songs

I stand another day because of you 

Am/Is/Are

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Masturbation is the frantic scratching of a phantom limb

Happiness is a momentary suspension of clear sighted realism

Unconditional love is antithetical to survival due to loss of self

Politics is a real life Plato’s cave and we are the prisoners

Money is the mortar we use to build walls out of our insecurities 

Kissing grew from chewing food and passing it by mouth to our babies 

Dilated pupils are attractive only because we see our attractiveness reflected

I’m a dog who only wants to be petted but was taught to smell cancer

And I’m just sitting here trying to figure out why I cry watching Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams’ character says, “It’s not your fault.  It’s not your fault.  It’s not your fault…”

Embolism

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Homeostasis is the yin yang of energy exchange

          The lighter goes out and the needle sucks up the amber

Equilibrium is a parasol in the hand of a tightrope walker 

          Through a cotton ball filter

A random number generator built from the algorithm of ginger ale bubbles 

          He was either new, careless or greedy

Two imperceptible bubbles combine and wink into existence 

          Maybe all the above

The paper thin walls allow the oxygen to pass into capillaries 

          When he drove that spike into his hungry vein

He said he knew frogs breathed through their skin

          He forgot to tap the syringe and plunger out the air

Because they died from the gasoline before he could get the lighter lit

          Before the high had time to hit he watched a clear section slide up his arm

He remembered a science experiment with celery and red food coloring 

          Frantically he hammered on his arm with his other hand

The celery looked like it had blood running through arteries 

          Hoping to break up the large bubble into much smaller less lethal ones

All the talk of good intentions were folly in his eyes—be the change

          Brain spinning like a top thinking death was nigh

He was steeped in class struggle and was an activist through osmosis 

          Two imperceptible bubbles combine and wink into existence 

Chant

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I think that when I’m picking at self inflicted wounds, channeling the dead, dying and dishonored, feeling the full weight of the world’s apathy upon my chest, and bleeding it upon the page…that I’m at my most sane. In fact, I would say that it is during those periods when I sleepwalk through life, filling a role, swallowing back the acid at the rear of my throat with a smile, and become a living currency, an end to a means, that I’ve slipped into an oubliette of depravity. Sublimating the curses and tics of universal verity bubbling up from the magma of my bones is the original sin, that can only be abated by chanting a prayer older than any Hail Mary’s, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo’s. I am here for but a moment. Allow me to love you, to be loved by you, and to be remembered. I am here for but a moment. Allow me to love you, to be loved by you, and to be remembered. I am here for but a moment…

Marathon

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I’m tired. Wondering if this marathon is worth it. There are moments of happiness but these bittersweet, pixie stick, sprinklings don’t make this dead horse I’ve been beating taste any better. I need these motions I’ve been going through to have a sense of novelty, or this tin man is gonna start waving off the oil, and let the tears that always seem to be just at bay flow until the rust sets in. But we are what we do and I’m just a lumberjack who, as a child, dreamt of seeing the stars—thanks to my mom and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. No matter how fast or hard I chop these baobabs I don’t clear any sky. Even the mightiest of oaks bend to the will of the wind over time. I think that’s how I ended up here. A steady northerly. Now I’m a twisted bonsai on someone’s mantle and I’m trying like hell to drown out the screaming birds that inhabit my tree felling dreams. I’m just wondering if the promise of a new day is adequate payment for today’s indignities—if this marathon’s finish line is worth the effort. So many have went from tired to retired to expired in short order, but that’s the carrot they dangle. Carrots help you see in the dark, which might be the key to dealing with your golden years. I hope, by then, I’ll be able to shake the chill that’s settled in the marrow of my weary bones.