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

Overlay

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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

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. 

Mandala

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I took my poems and pinned them to a giant cork board. Butterflies of every hue. Like a conspiracy theorist or a detective hunting a serial killer, I connected the poems with string. My crazy wall. I connected them by how old I was in the memory that spawned the poem, by themes of love and loss, by which of the two poles I steered towards, or away from, if the poem was looking in the past, thoughts of the future or grounding myself in the present. It started out looking like a spiderweb, and I plucked the strings of love and watched the poems thrum and give off chords of joy. Then I strummed the strings of loss and a mournful sound issued forth, making the room waver and dance. The strings of depression hung limply and could not be played, but the beauty of their draping form stood out amongst all the straight lines and angles, and the strings of anxiety were so tight they were shrill in the plucking…almost pulling the poems from the board. As my eyes moved about the board I found myself, simultaneously, smiling and teary-eyed.  As the web flowed about in waves from the welling tears, I had to wipe my eyes clear. To my astonishment, within what was to become my life’s dream catcher, was an outline of myself, arms outstretched to what could only be stars. Dumbfounded at how I didn’t see it sooner, I traced my fingertips about the edge of it. My hand eventually settling on a bare spot, a hole, at the center of this wondrous mandala, right where my outline’s heart should reside. I pondered whether this void represented the parts of me I’ve kept hidden or parts I’ve yet to discover. I vowed to fill this hole. To keep writing. To keep catching butterflies. 

The grass

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I have been to the battlefield

And I am forever altered

I’ve witnessed boys trying desperately 

To prove themselves as men

The war-cries of youth long died out

In the early morning stillness 

I’ve stepped among the bodies

Lying in twisted heaps

The landscape a horrific tableau 

The marginalized finally finding comfort

Here, this band of misfits, this motley crew

They knew without doubt

They had each other’s backs

Where life had taught them 

They couldn’t count on anyone 

That they’d never get a fair shake 

That they’d always be sized up

Lumped in with the stereotypes

A two dimensional symbol

Less than human

I was four, going on forty

And even then I sensed the sadness

That seeped from their pores

Along with last night’s alcohol

These purebred warriors

With perpetually tanned skin

And arrow straight, jet black hair

And me, a halfbreed

Fair skin and curly, brown hair

I wanted to be them

But I only inherited their sense of sadness 

And of not truly belonging anywhere

An outlier amongst the marginalized 

If I wasn’t stuck up on this fence 

I’d show you the grass is the same 

On both sides…

Bloodstained

Son/Sun

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There is romantic love 

There is familial love 

There is love of animals

There is love of objects

There are loves I’ve forgotten

There are loves I’ve yet to experience 

These may very well be branches

Off the same beautiful tree

None of these compare

To the love I have 

For my three year old son

I think conditions have to be just right

Like moondogs, rainbows and eclipses

I’m all too familiar with ice crystals 

With gravity’s claim on water droplets

And with darkness overcoming the light

It’s with this well learned contrast

That I view the world a few steps deeper

Into the gloom and out into the gold rays

It’s there—in the sun

That I find my love

For this little being—so true

He’s both my anchor and my buoyancy 

He keeps me connected

To the world outside my head 

With a single look or softly spoken word

He can resurrect my tired soul

He knows I love him

I hope he will never know just how much

If so, then the dark has stained him too

And I have cursed the very person

Who shines light into my darkest corners