Old

There’s a chill in my bones

That this springtime sun

Cannot reach

It’s a slowing of atoms

Approaching absolute zero

Of being 48 years old

Or whatever that means

The grass doesn’t shine

Like that from my youth

A fine layer of sediment

Has covered everything

Including myself

Something for the moss

To anchor to

Gravity is winning

As it always does

Will I rise from these ashes

Born anew

Or simply fertilize the thoughts

Of the next shift

The changing of guards

Over the hill sounds nice

Like the hard parts over

The struggle has ended

And momentum now carries me

But I must still take care

Each gravity assisted step

Could send me cartwheeling

When…how will I know that I’m enough

Take back

I step forward with right foot

Monkey brain chatter

Eyes darting to and fro

Buzzing in ears

Need to center

Calm

Replaying of conversations

What if I’d said

Now I’m 16 again

Telling my younger self

Just take the chance

Face flush

Sweat forming at hairline

The color red

Pulsing

The perceived evils I committed

Am I a bad person

Work tomorrow

Am I a fake

Will I be found out

This isn’t my dream

My son looks up to me

Am I there enough for him

Am I preparing him

Did I curse him with my psychosis

Hide the tics

Slow the stutter

Be normal

Send it out to the universe

Manifest

I’ve cocooned myself

In layers of antisocial avoidance

My metamorphosis

Will I gain wings

Where would I fly

Shut up and write

Turn off the 65” pacifier

Write the truest thing you know

Okay…I’m scared

Be that kid carving FTW into a desk

Do it for myself

Not for likes

Pink Floyd’s The Wall

My soundtrack for adolescent depression

When it’s too quiet I can still hear it

Mother, should I build the wall?

Breaking bottles

Piss into the void

Why does she always push away

Where’d that moment go

When we wanted to stay forever

Embraced under covers

Solace found in isolation

But this monkey brain

Tap the microphone

Adjust the levels

Ear piercing feedback

Echoes from missteps

Tiled hallways in cold institutions

Where is my place

My assigned seating

Switch the name card

To a seat near the window

Daydream your way out

Think of being encapsulated

Beneath the branches

Of a weeping willow

The wind shifting everything I know

Did I lock the door

Turn off the coffee pot

Did I do enough

Concentrate on breathing

Silence the chatter

Those words slipped out

Rewind the tape

Press record and do take 2

No matter what fork

The path leads here

The only thing you can take back

Is control

My mantra

Left foot steps forward

Scared

We’re all scared

Scared of not achieving

Self-actualizing

Of never being enough

For ourselves

For others

Of leaving no trace

Either now or in the future

Making a difference

Making ripples

Knocking over dominos

We bury ourselves in obligations

As a distraction

Even debt is a warm, weighted blanket

Like the commercial

Work harder to make more money

To afford more cocaine

So you can work harder

Only it’s not cocaine

It’s an anesthetic

Numbed we can march on

Into that last sunset

The only time the light seeps in

Is when you take notice of time

That you’ve been marching

Like this

For decades

And gotten nowhere

Even prosperity is a blanket

A good job that affords you things

Is still a job that wicks away the years

No matter how many trinkets

No matter how nice the trappings

They’re all just bars in the gilded cage

A cage that’s built to order

I think that the dream brings a freedom

That being a writer is a romantic vision

Having a room of one’s own

Creating worlds alone

That reaffirm my connection

To the very world I shun

That the words are seeds

Planted in the minds of the readers

That I gain existence in the sharing

That I obtain immortality

From the contrast of black letters

On white pages

I’m deathly afraid that writing

Will be nothing more than another

Obligation

A different kind of cage

Worse than that

That I’m not even good enough

For that cage

Maybe Bukowski is right

Maybe I need to go crazy

Or maybe I already am

Maybe I’m the most sane person on earth

Or is even believing in sanity

A form of mental aberration

Aberration implies a departure

From normal

What if normal, like sanity, doesn’t exist

Is knowing this the key to the cage

If the door swung open

Would we just stay perched

Afraid, because…

We’re all scared

Scared of not achieving

Self-actualizing

Of never being enough…

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…

stsitra meht ekaM

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

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

Holding on

Unfulfilled dreams keep me marching on

The center is love, a heart, dangling before me

I am a donkey and it is the carrot

Only I have not aged as well as the dream

It’s keeps perfect time, pressing every step

Meanwhile my heart has cocooned itself for the long gulag trek

With years of self absorbed behaviors

Of buying into the “me”

Like a tree you could count the rings of fat surrounding my heart

To determine the age of my idiocy

This marching has given me strong calves and premature ventricular contractions

If only my dream was externally motivated

Something superficial

Swinging weights and drinking wheatgrass

Happiness measured in lean body mass

Fat is where the flavor is

A shark would spit out a fairly lean person

Perhaps muscle tastes like work

Fat tastes like leisure

A blubbery seal gives the shark an idea

Of what it must be like to stop swimming

I feel like I can’t stop swimming

I feel like Ice cream tastes a porch swing

What happens if I stopped swimming?

Like the shark I’d drown

Divining inspiration from dark waters

Making oxygen passing water across gills

But I’m a donkey chasing a carrot

I just don’t know if I have what it takes

The resolve

The skill

The talent

Am I enough for the dream

Is just having a dream enough for me

Is my heart cocooned for a reason?

Is it metamorphosing from yesterday

Into the heart of tomorrow

The one hanging from a string

My well worn heels synchronized

But will tomorrow ever arrive?

Or have I already drowned?

My march the simplest of actions

A living dead seeking the reminder

Of what warm, life’s blood still tastes like

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.

 

Stepping Stones

B9C356D1-0805-48B7-AB66-9069357FF8C7

These stepping stones that I jump to

Throughout the span of my life

Form an outline of a part of me

Balancing on one foot I look back

This set of stones is the story

Of me and women:

 

 

Her name was Patty

We met at the instruments closet

She told me I was her boyfriend

I obeyed and met her behind the curtain

Timing my days in kindergarten 

By these rendezvous 

 

 

I ran home from the neighbors’

My friend’s sister who was much older

French kissed me when I was like eight

I couldn’t wait to tell my mother 

 

 

At school a girl I did’t know

Who acted as though she knew me

Asked if I was drinking my chocolate milk 

I was going to, but I gladly handed it over

 

 

My first “girlfriend” 

I spent hours talking to her on the phone

I felt a connection

Then I told her about the changes

Of how my body was maturing

She broke it off

 

 

I went to a party

They played Spin the bottle 

A girl I liked spun the bottle to me

We went in the closet

The idea she might’ve actually wanted

To kiss me was so nonexistent 

That I thought I did her a favor

By making kissy noises through the door

So she wouldn’t have to

 

 

I sat out in the cold for hours

Scoring two tickets to Beastie Boys

I asked my crush if she’d like to go

I told her I’d score some weed

She agreed to go

After the concert she made up an excuse

Of why she needed to go

Taking the joint with her

Like a chocolate milk 

 

 

My first was with a girl who transferred 

Into our school to get away her reputation 

I later heard that she had taken on

The entire football team

I loved her enough to be so broken by her

When she dumped me for a guy with a car

That I blocked her name from memory

 

 

I made out with a girl

Who was really good at it

Her dad had taught her

After her mom had passed

I still wonder about how she finally

Made her escape

 

 

I had a one night stand with a girl

Who resembled the girl from the concert

That was all the reason I had needed

 

 

I was in a relationship with a woman

Who was old enough to be my mother

I was just happy to feel wanted

 

 

I married a woman who is strong

Who I’d gladly give my chocolate milk to

Who I’d meet behind the curtain with

Each and every day

Who loves reality tv, 

Is an extrovert, that drags me out…

Out of my head

Who doesn’t like public affection 

Who rarely likes private affection 

Who is very critical of me

But beneath all the hard exterior 

She loves me

She needs me

And I am happy

There are no stones to jump to from here

Hope for the Best

2AE027C7-93CD-4EDC-A63C-8550374BCF98

She went to the store with a hope-filled heart. Each step her optimism grew. She smiled and nodded to people she didn’t know on her way to aisle 12. There she spent the better part of fifteen minutes looking for just the right card. A card for the birthday of a beautiful young lady, the vision of which her minds eye kept from years ago. Only positivity. With the perfect card found, she made her way to the bouquets of flowers. She wanted to remind her of the beauty in the world. The natural, pure, unadulterated world. She sat in her car, after checking out, and penned a note in the card through tear-filled eyes. Still smiling all the same. She drove the few short blocks to her house, knowing nobody would be awake at that early hour and simply propped the card and flowers against the front door. She hopped into the car and drove home. Walking in I could tell that she had been crying, but before I could ask why…she hugged me, stronger and longer than she had in a while. Smiling, she asked how the baby was, and I smiled back and said, “Fine.”  She picked her up and held her tightly in her arms. Her eyes welled but her beautiful smile never wavered. 

“It’s gonna be okay, baby girl,” she whispered. 

[My wife and I have custody of her niece’s 6-month-old daughter, while her niece deals with her demons. On the surface we wish her niece and the father of this beautiful little girl will get their shit together, as this perfect bundle-of-joy deserves to have her family. But, on a much deeper level, we are falling in love with her. I know how much my wife has wanted a little girl, us having two boys, and see the glee with which she dresses her up in cute little girlie outfits. So, I’m afraid, that my fear of losing this little girl, of seeing the loss on my wife’s face, that I’m becoming a wretched person with each passing day…hoping the demons never lose their grip.]