18 November 2k18
“The Day the Flesh shapes and the Flesh the Day shapes.” — Frank Herbert
Greetings, Dear Reader,
on 16 November I once again celebrated Life after Brain Surgery.
Twelve years: Feels like a lifetime crammed inside a hot-minute.
I adapted to being broken. Then something changed. It always does, nu?
I moved to an Oasis in Spenard; whilst through the blessing of CBD,
the seizures that plagued me for years were finally reined in. Sort of…
So…I kicked that Wheelchair to the curb. And haven’t been in it since last Spring.
Eleven years is a long damn time to go on Wheels. I am still shaky, still sketchy.
But I have learned that with each step I grow Stronger…and Stranger.
I must go on walking.
Choices are for those
who have such luxuries.
We shall not speak of them. No, not here:
One step. Crutch-step. Two step.
S t a gg e r
Aluminum sticks splayed, guarding
against capricious Gravity, Her cruel insouciance.
Pain is no paltry obstacle
It is a taskmaster: the Instructor of Survivors.
Pain is a goad.
Walk then. Walk
lest I become rooted where I stand.
Ah! But the temptation …it is terrible.
To embrace the Winter of permanent Wheels, at last.
To become twisted—bone, tendon, gristle
into a secondhand scarecrow.
of my unremitting dreams:
gnarled branches I would grow
to crook into puzzle shadows upon snow
to croon with ravens roosting
as Williwaw winds keen raw
frost-finger limbs I would form
to drum rattle-a-tattle rhythms
aside raise the dead
sky swept flurries
Guttural—my song to ice crystals
bitterly encrusting twig, bough, and burl
alike during fathomless auroral nights
grown like brutish spurs of bone
on the sockets of worn, arthritic joints
will echo the baying of outcast wolves. Caught
therein, under the spell of loneliness and moonlight
A taproot I would send down to Queen Persephone
on Her throne in darkness built;
there to beg an Indulgence
for a small measure of Spring
come lavish, come too soon.
The weight of sunrise
burgeoning nacreous, lushly white
when land and sky appear as one
shall incite sleeping sap to flow
amongst fellow trees. Transformed
into rime-laden soaring sunsparkler cathedrals.
Standing sentinel in clouds of our own breath.
Ever so, greenleaf sweet
I must go on walking.
16 November 2k18
14 November 2k18
Greetings, Dear Reader. ‘Tis an entry full of frayed ends, of uneven odds.
Low cards again. Guess I just call ’em as I see ’em…
What could I possibly say this time? Should I speak of my father?
Well, seems I already have. But I left out one of his critical lessons: The Gambler’s Fallacy
Much has been said of it, and you’re welcome to draw your own conclusions.
But, while watching a herd of sheep all running one stupid way,
Pops said to me of the Fallacy, “Never fall for it, kid.”
He pointed at one old goat doing his own thing,
“See. Mind your own cards. You must learn to trust Instinct.”
Oi! Go ahead, flip a Fair Coin,
a full score of times—and you tell me, nu?
Did’ya fall for it?
Against Lady Luck, did’ya Count Coup?
:such is the tale of my Coup Stick.
One wing dipped in blood.
Hard to explain
what has not killed me served only to teach
my yet fragile soul how to survive.
I can’t put it down to Junkiedom, USA;
for of the score, Ah! So many…we were
blood enemies at first sight.
Now, my father was a consummate Gambler.
An archetype of the Old School.
A man for whom defunct notions like: honor, trust, respect
meant that line so thin twixt
And taught me in his own methods: the Way of the Gambler
He said, “Never welsh. Rake the table—
take what you will and pay for it.”
It took all of my cards : nearly a lifetime
to understand that a jackpot can reap a heavy loss
that so often winning is turned on its gilded head
that what is lost is never a loss. If you learn the lesson.
Count Coup upon your foes come away bloodied
and you learn Living is the gamble: even odds
Pops said, “Draw low cards and you play ’em
Play ’em like they’re royal.”
I have learned believe me…
Counting Coup against a Devil
it is best
on a river.
6 November 2k18
“Suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.” ~Anne Sexton
“You want it Darker. We kill the flame.” ~Leonard Cohen
Greetings, Dear Reader. There is nothing easy about this post. The last one was simple.
Rage always is; ’tis Empathy that requires work. Venting is easy. Living is difficult.
And while I freely admit to some cathartic venting in my last post, nevertheless—it needed to be said: Screamed.
However, I have recently learned that a Human I care deeply for made that Choice.
There is such profound suffering in this Life that some flounder beneath towering waves.
Please remember, swimming so far from land, that You. Are. Never. Alone.
L’amour soit avec toi, mon ami.
I have been asked, enough times to lace cracks in my heart,
“How do you survive!? How? With all of this…how is it that you survive?”
I could never answer.
I never knew how. Still don’t…not really.
It is just what I do.
I think that I am not special, in this regard.
There is no adversity I have endured
that you too cannot survive.
You must remind your battered Self
—It is not over…I am not Done.
Heels to haunch
in the mental whiteout
of a breakdown blizzard.
I cradle a flare gun
unsure whether to fire.
For every blind S.O.S.
carries a heavy measure
It is said that freezing to death
is like going to sleep.
It is not.
There is more icicle
in the reality of such a slumber.
Passing this skin-searing
metal chunk of grip
from cold hand to clumsy hand:
despite any resolve to soar away
there is no freedom
in a transition to fleshberg.
—rather they will find a broken bird
lying on pitiless tundra.
are ruthless when wrathful;
cruelty matched only
by sheer indifference.
A whore-frost gargoyle, Winter
skulking on your back.
Ah, the treacherous
all that you
know of you.
Wishing to die, you wane;
a winter scarecrow of fallow field,
shriveled remnant of the Self—
facing emptiness, you perilously
resort to stuffing in fistfuls
of moldering bracken, sour grass
wrenched by the roots
out of abject fear.
Being a Scarecrow,
the Ravens will help you
what you are made of.
Yanked apart at the seams
by rending talons, by bitter beak
to find what is good in you.
Raising the flare gun’s weight
up to an opaque vault of sky,
vexed by snow-borne wind into a fury:
fingers ice-gnawed into claws
I fumble in the maelstrom
—slip but for a moment
and pull the trigger.
Just between us
||who tread that bone-strewn path
as only the Suicidal can.
Among the ten thousand
useless ways to die
there is always a choice
to die well.
you do not see it coming.
21 April 2k10
Tonight my friend is in the hospital. He is dying. Yet, lingering in a vegetative state, many would say he is already gone. His heart beats, a machine fills his lungs like a bellows, another machine regulates his medication, and monitors his vital signs, however his mind is…disconnected. He is dying. It was an accident, one that could have been avoided, except that he was drunk, which is suspected of being a contributing factor. In truth it could happen to any of us: while walking home, he slipped on a treacherous remnant of winter ice and fell on his head. In happens in the blink of an eye: One moment my friend was making his way through this life, the next moment he was clinging to that life.
And though this is terrible in itself, the truth of this is far more tragic. The truth is that we knew he was in crisis. We, his few friends, knew he was struggling with depression and alcoholism. Of course, we tried to help, some more than others. Still, we all tried. But he can be difficult to communicate with, brilliant and troubled, often recalcitrant. and…and…and…bullshit, all of it.
The truth is that I had my own problems, my disability, my own acute depression, and when he did reach out to me I avoided his calls. And eventually, my friend stopped calling.
Given that we were both fighting depression, and suicidal ideation, I thought of my friend often. I knew that, like me, he was isolating. That he was breaking beneath the weight of pain and loneliness. I knew that he was self-medicating with alcohol. Nevertheless, I didn’t call him.
For me, alcohol is an issue, mainly because many years ago I also drank…before the brain surgery, before the onset of ‘major depressive disorder’. And back when I drank I invariably turned into an asshole. It took a while for me to wise up, I lost friends, I lost girlfriends, I lost self-respect from my actions while drunk. Seven years ago I quit drinking. I stopped because I finally realized that I did not like the person I was when I drank, that it brought out the worst in me. Luckily, I quit before I became a full-blown alcoholic.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my friend. He was suffering, and like so many countless souls he self-medicated to dull the pain, and the unspeakable emptiness that depression creates in us. I feel that because of this he became a chronic alcoholic. And I should make it extremely clear that he did not become an asshole when drunk; he was always a good man, even when he was in misery. Still, despite however nice people are, I admit I still have real difficulty dealing with a drunk person. In truth? Perhaps I can’t stand to see what used to be me.
This went on for a few years as he deteriorated. We worried. We all tried to help him, but he wouldn’t have it. He kept slowly self-destructing and it was so painful to see that many of us looked away. To my shame, that is exactly what I did.
The last time he called me, I didn’t answer the phone. I know he was reaching out for help because no one calls that late without a serious reason. I stared at the phone and rationalized that I would call him back the next day, when I was better able to deal with his pain, better able to help him…after all I could barely help myself at the time. So, I didn’t answer the phone. He never called again. And tonight he is dying.
My friend spent day after day living with the belief that he could not escape the wretched cycle. This is what depression does to you. It whispers that you are alone in your despair, that there can be no escape. It is a cancer of the soul.
As he lies alone in the hospital I am drinking, something far worse than alcohol. Tonight, I drink the cup of regret. It tastes of the bitter guilt of trading my own peace of mind for having empathy for a friend who needed help. As I drink this cup, I beg you: learn from my mistake. If there is someone you care for who is suffering do not let them pull away, regardless of how hard they try. Do not give in to the corrosion that eats away at love and empathy. As frightening as confronting depression can be, if you see signs of someone who is in crisis do not be afraid to talk with them, it could save their life. Sometimes people are screaming for help on the inside and yet it’s still so very hard to hear.
He is dying. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t put it off until you find yourself like me, sitting in front of a screen futilely searching for a way to say, “I’m sorry.”
Close Cover Before Striking
My friend Tom walks and talks—
He slouches through the day
the noxious TNT distillate of Depression,
the cloying soulsap rendered from rage:
He has made a bomb of his heart.
The Tombomb works his job and wonders why—
He has built an Anti-Tom device,
it is hidden under an oilcloth against the walls of his chest.
He is surprised every time he finds it
ticktickticking sinister beside the fleshbricks of his ribcage.
Much like finding a landmine in a plate of mashed potatoes,
he is not sure what to do.
The Tombomb loves (screams) and does not remember—
He rocks but does not roll.
Waking to a new day, he finds the old one wired into his heart.
He stands in the bathroom and will not look in the broken mirror.
He shuffles to table, and staring into coffee, toys with the fuse.
She wants to take cover, yet every morning she diffuses him
…red wire…green wire…blue wire…green wire…red wire…
only to find fresh solder sweating from his heart by night.
The Tombomb wishes Things Were Different—
He has seized himself for a hostage.
He sits in the driveway and says, ‘No…No, nothing’s wrong.’
But I can see in his arms that he is holding the Bomb.
His pleas for lightning go unheeded,
as I back slowly away, with
Fumes bleed into the air, which shimmers around him
like a desert mirage, distorting all that he can see.
The Tombomb has a fuse but he cannot find a match.
16 January 2k11
This poem is for all of us who have been raked over the coals by the Universe. This one is for the down-hearted, the down-trodden, the down-on-their-luck, and the down-for-the-count. This is for those forever alone. This is for the outcast and for the untouchables. This is for those who endlessly toil that others may eat and be warm. This is for we who have been tempered in the fire of pain, depression, and trauma only to rise stronger for it.
When Death comes for you, when fighting and fleeing are futile,
remember the Blacklight Rat, and decide how you shall greet the Reaper.
For mortal though we be, our souls are eternal and free…
Parable of the Blacklight Rat
As a teenrager, infected with
an acute outbreak of angst,
there hung above my bed
a blacklight poster portraying
in vivid-violet hues
the last great act
of defiance by a doomed Rat:
Standing lonely on a bleak cliff,
bathed in moonlight, is Rat.
Meanwhile, plummeting down upon him
from its cold aerie of starlit stone,
comes the feather-swoop of a hunter deadly—
Eagle plunging out of the indigo night.
Ill-fated, foreseeing no salvation
other than to go out with his boots on.
Rat elects to spend his last moment
standing defiant in the face of Death,
by flipping his executioner the finger.
Undaunted by the Scourge of Small Things:
cool grimness seen in a slight sneer
wrinkling his whiskered mug;
that steely-eyed little Rat
gave the bird the bird.
Such insolence, such obstinate
disdain for the Reaper’s raptor,
an ornithologically ordained
messenger of Winged Death itself…
well, surely this audacious outrage
shall echo to the very end of time.
Such six-gun-man-with-no-name bravura,
such contemptuous courage,
such nobility noir,
forever warms the darkest corners
of my own rodent heart.
31 October 2k9
~A poem for Samhain~
Once upon a time… A time before Hallmark Halloween and Hershey Bars; before trick or treat. There was a time when many cultures, particularly the Gaelic peoples, celebrated Harvest, and honored the dead on this night.
It was believed that the barrier between this world and the Sidhe became thin, allowing for all sorts of trespassing both from and into our realm of the living. Being the final harvest, it was also a time of hard choices to survive the coming winter.
In many hidden faiths, this day and night are balanced against the Spring festival of Beltane on the Wheel of the Year; Samhain is considered to be a time for celebrating the lives of those we love who have passed from this life.
Surviving down through the centuries, sculpted to serve each new belief system in its own way, this night nevertheless retains a powerful hold on our imaginations. For this one night out of each year we stop and pay tribute to the Unknown.
Considering how much we do not know, this should be a large tribute indeed.
On this night let us acknowledge the bitter Darkness that we might cherish the fertile Light.
The Cycle of Life
that cannibal poem
—credo quia absurdum
few of us truly believe
we will draw the short straw
and be killed for food.
or that behind sterile walls
hidden away from prying eyes
spiders are silently plotting our demise;
and even now creatures loosed from the zoo
might be amassing to stage their coup.
there may come a fine summer day
when this fuming parking lot
is a fair field of honey hay;
when sharks swim upriver
hunting in swimming holes
for an easy dinner.
and packs of piranha prowl poolside patios,
while here at this barren bus stop
there will be a grizzly bear buffet.
some things are so absurd
they must be believed:
that in this youniverse
there is room for a me.
the trick, it seems, is to know
—when to run
instead of standing around gawking
—when to dance
instead of sitting there talking
it does you no good to live in dread
of things that are slithering beneath your bed.
when morning comes and finds you still alive
just shake off that tired, old bogeyman jive.
now, it’s easier to will a comet
down into your loving arms
than it is to outgrow being a fool.
yet, in the end, it is far better
living round within square rules.
some consider it misfortunate and macabre
a sign of narcissistic hypochondria
to entertain the rather gruesome idea
that there might be a tumor
lurking somewhere inside us
a wild growth
we will never see
waiting to undo us.
yet, life is finer when you snuggle up
to the Reaper; the meat’s so much sweeter
when you make a friend of Death
so, here I stand, atop a heap
of defeated worries and bony woes
waving a stone club over my head
howling at the heavens to awaken the dead.
for it is easier to believe i could do the eating
then be eaten.
the future, you see, is certain,
minute by minute,
the only question
is whether or not we are in it.
3 September 2k9
~In Memorial, Gayle Janecek~
more words on ashes and loss
Grief is the circling of our hearts against the unknown.
Devoid of boundaries, or limits of space and time,
grief cannot be “gone through”, cannot be fled from;
it must be allowed to permeate, then endured—no more.
Grief the Bogeyman waits around every corner
to remind us of the fear rooted in our chests.
Hidden within our lullabies, woven into our faery tales,
grief is the pitiless Taskmaster
teaching us to treat each day
as if it were our last chance to make things right.
We must make our peace with grief at every chance.
Because every day, often in each moment,
grief confronts us, assails us
with the terrible finality of its truth.
For grief is the acknowledgment that, at the last,
we face death alone, taking with us only memories
of those we love beyond the bright gates.
We who remain must learn to dance on the ashes of our loss.