All history, no life…

Only a Past

The man begging at the monument’s facade
has no future to imagine but only a past,
as pretenders to writing fear the blank page
praying for a prompt of creative forecast,
as history is inevitable providence to the faithless
afraid of the unknown of our choices
and Pollyannaish wishes cloud the gray matter
silencing all of doubt’s voices;
when will those who need to, learn to learn
and let those who cry, cry
when will old dogs find new tricks to love
until the day they must die.

I’d prefer not to die…

Ode Not to Dying

In this poem no one will die
no one is sick or will grieve
it’s not that everyone’s blissful
for that would be a silly lie
but we could use a reprieve
from the funereal hymnal.

This could be about life or joy
pleasant parks, a May flower
yet some don’t love Spring
allergies and rain may annoy
for some it’s love turned sour
or that they’re denied a ring.

Can-do bravery is pleasing
psalms of life, into the valley
when others perish bravely
we’re moved to day seizing
coup de grâce to de foudre
lifely lived, lively not gravely.

But I’m Irish – death’s our theme
the grave the cradle’s twin
gentle Lady silenced by Joyce
Heanley’s Naturalist midstream
Yeats killed off Paddy Flynn
Wilde at the grave’s lost voice.

But I’ve promised no decay
disease, mortality or demise
instead we’ll think of the morn
and life as a grand parfait
beauty we will not despise
nor emote so as to mourn.

So here is the happy end
ever after, fondly, cheerful
hoping you feel better with this
and sleep better, life commend
laughing instead of tearful
and not dying (today) is bliss.

Then there is the miracle
when death is itself done in
but how often does that occur;
hope is fine, gullibility satirical
and none escapes original sin
for death one may not defer.

The stream that’s never the same…

That stream – the one that’s never
the same stepped-in twice,
at the same bend, with the same
sameness – will not refuse my dabbling
toe; she will yield to me, and I to her,
not out of pity or sheer desire,
but because we have
agreed not to continue the charade
of indeterminate, transient mockery
that idles youth, corrupts good
and haunts the aged.

There are nouns after all – persons,
places, things – that are, not because
of forms but in sentences which are
like streams with dabbling toes
and bubbling eddies, shapely bends;
so inviting and seducing, calling
with her come hither of comeliness.
Yes, the waters flow, the bed and silt
are stirred and is upset by every touch
of my foot but I step into the flux
and flow nonetheless, I stoop to
cup her cool waters and sip contentedly
for she yields to me and I to her,
but unhurried, unchasing motion
in symbiosis as we move together
in rhythm – our panta rei –
joined freely in flow.

Let those who scold and chide
these many, many years continue
their fluxing prater of fuel and flame,
for we, my stream and I, have come to
an understanding and will agree to
agree that this day we are the one;
her cool waters are as real as
my weary step – sensations rippling
in her as much as me,
as tangible as the rush and tingle which
tickle my limb and stir her bed in swirls
of sediment twisted awake from slumber
dancing along current and wake we have
made together in our covenant today.

The guy who brings in the grocery carts…

grocery cartsYou know him… sort of… probably not by name… but sort of… the guy who is sent out into the parking lot to bring in all the grocery carts because there aren’t enough carts for the new shoppers (except, maybe, the carts with bad wheels or the two carts stuck together). Yeah, that guy… you know him… sort of…

Edward and Charlie
The bright orange vest is florescent
and carries a nametag, ‘Edward’ in bold
block letters drawn with permanent
marker but he answers to Charlie with
a blank, silent gaze and simply, slowly
begins the task requested by a manager’s
learned gentleness of kindly caution
not shared with others; there’s a story
to Charlie’s life, maybe even a family
of Mom or a sister and probably some
disappointment or settling for what
came their way and fighting with this
strange, foreign thing called gratitude;
his anti-social shyness earns him an
odd reaction from most because he’s
almost seven feet tall with an uneven
haircut and only parts of his face carry
a beard of Pollock-like design that’s
mesmerizing, they stare up at Charlie
who gathers their emptied carts strewn
about the lot on a frigid, wintery day,
over and over again as shoppers justifiably
leave them wherever inconvenience
demands in haste and frustration, and
Charlie is, again, in the far corner
as he’s paged from inside the warm store
to no avail because he’s already set to the
task and because they’re calling for
someone named ‘Edward.’

What I learned as a teacher…

stonerOnce upon a time I held a romantic dream of fame and fortune in higher education. (Stop laughing….)

This was outlandish for a high school dropout, but I was undeterred by my own story. It was more of a dream for me than all or any of you – as you dutifully marched through grades and degrees while I dallied and dillied in my deficient disorder. And with effort – more than so many alongside – I arrived, burned brightly for a few years, and have dimmed ever since. But that’s my story.

There are few ‘good reads’ about such things, and with good reason. There are only a few of us who dream such foolishness (limited market), and our dream is unbelievable or undesirable (to the market). One exception is an oddly titled narrative from John Willaims – Stoner (http://goo.gl/luA0Wd). Ever heard of it? (Didn’t think so.)

In the meantime, here’s something about what I learned as a teacher…

Great Things
I spent my life doing great things
at least in my own eyes;
better words, deeper thoughts,
longer books; languages, authors
and thinking things people didn’t
think because it hurt to do so, but
I enjoyed the pain and wanted
more, to learn just to learn
and speak and write out of joy,
not compulsion or guilt,
with my delight, sometimes
out of understanding, often
just because I was contagious
in the way I loved finding out
there is so much more to
be found out, so much more;
I spent my life doing great things
and some of them were very good,
even kind because of education’s
gentle touch, so unknown, so
mysterious, when teacher is
learner and students evaluate
with agreeing nods and notes
of I can’t imagine what – what
was said worth writing down
is the mystery because this
won’t be on the test, it will
only be in this classroom,
in this moment important
because I made it seem like
the entire world was waiting
to hear what it depended on;
I spent my life doing great things
and at times I was paid to do
the things I knew were great,
but more often I had to fit them in,
in between the labor and burdens
and ordinariness of women and men
who refused to know what was new
to be known and preferred
to repeat what they’d heard
another pretend lover say
from notes composed over
a score past, including humor
to connect with the dead or
dying and good grades were
in rote memorization of
names, dates and the teacher’s
words that filled in blanks
he created like a crossword
of life and death without
real consequence, only tenure;
I spent my life doing great things
and there are still so many
great things to do but it’s
become too difficult – the fight
for space to breath, and I need
air more than money, and
money more than books now,
and that alone makes me cry;
seeing others do what I love
to do and make a living at it
but eager to retire, to quit and
I’d give anything, anything just
to have the chance, once again,
to live the life of a learner,
indebted to all there is to know.

A wordy perversion of diversion…

scrabbleWords hide what can only be said.

Workman by Day
A nobody to professors, a workman by day
this subtly ordinary man said we write
(if we do) for others and not ourselves;
a simple diversion for the wordy perversion
making things fit snug like a girdle once did,
hiding things curvy, restraining and deceiving
the favors like adverbs for our great, untidied
neighbors, their reading a passion for our
weakened fashion of night’s haunts which
scare us awake and forced one to contemplate
the nightmares of failures and adult scares
which only verse hides what sunlight chides.

 

 

What’s original about sin…

Eve-shoving-the-apple-in-Adams-mouthBlame the serpent (that’s Eve’s ploy), then Adam blames Eve (though she was just a toy), and God who created it all; add this together and we have the fall.

The history of religion is the history of blame, the motive for religion is guilt, the means of religion is empathy, and the denunciation of it all is sympathy. That is, only those who care go to hell.

 

History of Sin

History a tale of fallen’s friends
giving account of what had to be,
fixed  by a sovereign who sees the end
saddled with desire to be free;

lost to be found, but only through Rome
intrude on our lust, our passion, home,
named ex opere – the lusty lie
sprinkle the babies lest they all die;

create the fright, threaten what’s scary
touch our babes, but you’re still necessary,
triumph assured, all wars justified
feelings condemned not capitalized.

Who erred that all are born this way
simply answered, we all come astray,
it’s sin, not hunger, that babies cry,
and not biology why we all die.

 

Love Story

We met at the beginning of the circle
when all was new just to each other,
soon we thought we were always we,
stories merged like one on another;

what it was, was easy enough to be
always something, everything undone,
damned by fruit of a forbidden tree
critiquing what once was begun;

tested, not tempted, fallacies, not lies
our Kant dared us from infants to grow
question by taste, deceived by our eyes
stop just taking, trusting, we can know;

no prudes, no rules, the circle begun,
exemplary yet derided for immemorial
blamed by Hippo for perfection undone
but not the cause, simply the tutorial;

we’d eat it again and again in love,
the defiance was arbitrary after all
as was the command – it was a shove
toward deconstruction and not a fall;

it’s quiet, our story, beyond this plot
we loved, with fear – that our glory,
wandering together for what we ought,
we are Eve and Adam – a love story.

Thinking about thinking about thinking…

The Thinker in The Gates of Hell at the Musée Rodin

When we spend as much time thinking about thinking as we think about not thinking, we are closer to Descartes than Derrida.

I say, enjoy the ride, and don’t feel bad about residing in an ivory tower (it’s better than being homeless).

 

Thinking About Thinking
How people think in the bathtub
is beyond me, I just don’t know how they do it;
the water is warm enough just so long,
worth thinking about,
then I wonder if it’s okay to run more hot water
and how full is too full
and if I have to start the thinking
all over again from the beginning
or if I can pick up where I left off,
but I give up,
nothing important comes to mind,
except that I have nothing important
to think of and how a bath won’t
make it happen, and I notice
my fingers are pruney, the water feels slimy;
I can’t wait to get out, dry off
and see how long it takes until I decide
to try to think of something
worth thinking about again.

Thoughts and Thoughts
A thought that can be thought
without something thoughtful to be done
is no thought at all, but a mere pretender;
thoughts which generate no ideas
and make the weak weep, the simple
comfortable, and the frail cringe at whims
like wishes so all beggars ride. Puzzled and
rancorous ideas are harmless excuses of
unexamined life, a sermon looking for life
in the service of paranoid, naval-gazing
called spirituality, pharmacology without
diagnosis, life without death,
desire without lust, and obedience without
ignorance. Ruined lives litter the path of
thoughts, bitter disciples
are casualties of this pedagogy,
angry tears are learners’ lovers, hemlock
cocktails mixed by the bartender of the many.

Salvation and other messy words…

salvationSalvation is not a religious word. It has become one, but only by losing its usefulness – its realism.

To preserve from harm or loss, deliver from, hold back, keep rather than lose – in a phrase, to love well,  with consequence. Not all love is salvation, but all salvation is love. Unless… unless it becomes religious.

Salvation Song

In search of the lost, each
and every day, without fail;
certain you’re out there
wandering, daring to wonder
at the recovery of your way,
regaining your bearings for
home, for the way it once was
when you knew of comfort
or simply no better, and love,
especially love, now lost;
you’re certain, aren’t you,
no one is looking, no one
cares as long as you don’t
interfere with the ways of
those who’ve never been
lost and thus, are never found;
evangelist I am not, counselor
ignored, prophet spurned,
only you know, Lord, if these
bones can live again, but
to what end – for another war
of destruction, another test
of fidelity, another loss of
love – no, they’d be better
to bake in the sun, strewn
about, picked over, broken;
hope of change in the pocket
doesn’t raise the dead,
protestations of sins forgotten
only console the guilty,
joyous hymns of sacrifice
are the blood sport of piety,
none of those are for the
found among the lost surely;
if you return, you expect
servitude, for that’s what
you’re taught the never
ending price of restoration
must be – will-less existence
while all other retain theirs,
and once returned you’re
never trusted and must
continually prove the
celebrated recovery – always
so, but never arrived, never
home because you can’t
go home again, can you;
I have no guilt, no pity either,
I am no god in need of
your praise, gifts or alms,
make no pilgrimage to me
for I am not home either,
I am a worm and not a man,
a son of man only whose
fato is the same as yours,
no sacred tale of success but
victorious defeat, no tragic
celebratory dirge to hide
the pride of humiliation;
the telling is itself compelling
as much for it’s incorrigible
neglect of largesse as my
refusal to be examined,
my anonymity, my death
as an author on the pyre
as Dido, lacking comparison;
I seek by looking ahead only
as I pass your lair, ignoring
cries for gifts my mercy is
only discovered in the walk,
the follow-after leaving
the lost still wondering if
the gift of suffering is your
damnation by a Calcutta
saint dancing to Lucifer’s
tune, your sores unhealed,
or the only hope of ransom;
there is a way, several to be
clear, for therein lies the
game – and a game it is,
competing for titles, pews
it’s yours to refuse the
triviality of sin, accusation
as the easy way, to refuse
Augustine while he still
damns from Monica’s shadow
above his child’s grave;
making home, not finding it,
will be the only consolation
offered here, and it is the
same for love and mercy
and joy and the peace so
desperately missing today.

The name of God and other fantasies…

dewey-melvil2

Melvil Dewey (a.k.a. God)

I come from traditions (yes, plural – traditions) where it is blasphemy to dream God.

This is my blasphemy.

God’s Name is Melvil
It’s Melvil who divided up
everything that could ever be known,
dreamed, recorded, or wished in just
ten—Pythagorean ways
of perfection;
all because he thought it better than
organizing books by size and color
and memorizing
which nook or cranny
a certain volume was hidden,
stupidly saying
a child walked on water
because he didn’t know he couldn’t;
that was either religion (because
some believe what can’t be),
philosophy (because what kind of
world thinks this impossibility),
arts (because some will
depict anything that frustrates
reason), or literature (because no
one cares it if is so); and
this is why God’s name is now
Melvil Dewey.

Time to be God
Imagine the day begins where it ends
and winds backwards from there
with every new thing not new at all,
there are no novelties, inventiveness
is absent, second guessing overwhelms
every surprise, every moment, every
joy. Some say that’s the way God
sees us, the world – everything;
all immediately present and nothing
new, but perfect hindsight
ahead of and behind and all around
all that could ever be. That doesn’t
seem like it would be fun, and I wouldn’t
wish it that way, even if I were God.

God’s Friend
I forgive myself for being human,
just as I have God for being God;
birth is no defect, no dimness of lumen,
just being’s not worthy of saying flawed;

no longer do I demand, no longer cry for
life without what makes it more trying,
if Job could argue and Moses invite more
I’ll gladly enjoy joy as well as my crying;

without blaming God for my deflection
I now in turn say the same of myself,
forgetting, remembering all affection,
and taking sin’s mirror off every shelf;

no need for theodicy’s happy fault,
no tale from which a good God is saved
Great Oz needs no defending assault
and I’ve no need to be so enslaved;

the solution lies in refusing the priest
who demands to be needed at worst,
divinity needs no dark cultic feast
if redemption’s a grace not coerced;

this forgiving means religion’s dead,
or at least it’s tottering to an end,
no lack of efforts to supply its stead
but I now am surely God’s friend.