Lean in

I’m so fucking happy

You’re not with me?

Here’s a joke to get you there

I’ll laugh the hardest

It makes it easier for you

But lean in

Listen hard

And watch my shifting eyes

I’ll laugh until I cry

I’m always envious

Of those who voice their pain

Who have no trouble bleeding

Each beat of heart

An arterial spray

But lean in

Listen hard

And watch hands limp at sides

This is just where they hide

I think—no…I know that if I start

I won’t stop until totally drained

Ready to be propped up

A formal way to hide

A much needed transfusion

Of formaldehyde

But lean in

Listen hard

Hands balled tight

I don’t even know how deep

The nails will go

I know there are limits

But is it a hardline?

Or does it shift by the moment?

Is it a mirage from heat off skin?

The glistening always moving away

With every step forward

But lean in

Listen hard

Capacity to reinvent identity

Means either all lies or nothing but truth

You can only describe the unknown

With commonplace words and terms

So I plumb this oubliette

With the span of your arms as rule

Because I could only ever trust mine

When I matched another’s tip to tip

But lean in

Listen hard

Because the mirrored fragments I steal

I give back with the only fingerprints

That truly promise identity

Lean in

Listen hard

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

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. 

Overlay

0086ABBA-F325-4643-A640-E9059D562850

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

7CE0D087-09E2-4F27-8D0F-DA093AE9CD5A

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

F2C4D1D0-33BD-4C95-B103-D3E6C1D8F865

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

Like me

CF30B86C-E15E-4F49-A2E5-063BECCDA3F9

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

4269ED03-2E94-4AD7-8552-4C7A889AD51F

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 

Symbiosis

3B8798D5-5F97-4359-8605-5FD88E3AD58A

She strips me bare

My soft belly exposed 

Vulnerable 

This is where trust grows

From bud to bloom

Venerable

She straddles me

Maintaining deepest eye contact 

Inseparable 

She howls with her mother’s tongue 

I am immersed in matrilineal sorrow 

Utterable 

Crimson nails dance along my sternum

With speed and precision I’m splayed 

Sufferable

The cracking of ribs reverberates

Parts never meant to see light, exposed 

Discoverable 

And now she is inside of me

Her hands cradling my beating heart 

Containable 

She whispers in my ear her pain’s origin

Darkest demons vomited from soul’s well

Considerable 

I am drowning in her depths

The deeper, the colder, until heart freezes

Irrecoverable 

I begin to ebb beneath her…diminishing 

Her hands suddenly massaging my heart

Incomparable 

Resurrected by her touch

The fragility of my life in her hands

Amissible 

Speak your truth and purge your pain

I’m here as long as you hold my heart

Paradisiacal