Exchanging Masters

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Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Exchanging Masters

Fueled by misery,
Sloth rose, slovenly
grunting barely a half-laugh
with minimal effort,

easily overthrowing
Lust and Greed’s slipping,
thirsting, ravenous,
needy rule,

observed passively,
inexplicably so, by Wrath,
whose fiery talents
faded into the shade of
obsolescence and age,

creating a clear path
to the buffet
for Gluttony to feed,

leaving nothing nourishing
for Pride, who died while
withering away on the vine,

once green with Envy,
now ashen and drained.

Once upon a time,
you guys were so much fun
to attach myself;
to affix my banner upon;

now my attachments are
afflictions of fleeting spells,
seemingly over before
they’d even begun.

Ah great.
See what you’ve done?

Now I’m even fatter than before.

Fatter than I’ve ever been.

I surmise
we’d never have arrived here
if Pride were still alive.

In case it’s quite unclear,
I liked us much better
back when Lust and Greed
were allowed to steer.

Hell naw I don’t want any more
fried chicken and beer.
It’s wrong of you to ask!

Of course I want some more
fried chicken and beer!
Why ask this of me when
you already know the answer?

I just sat down, so
if you could bring them here,
that would be easier
for our new masters.

Pay attention!
Did you even notice
the stream changing course?

Or how labored
your breathing has become?

Or how indifference
feels heavier than struggle?

Daylight won’t wait for you
to caress her anew.

Idleness is its own endgame.

Time is a river,
eroding monuments of attachments,
revealing the true nature of suffering.

If we’re not mindful,
we won’t mind
or scarcely notice to find

that we’re all being worn away
under new management.
***

This poem was inspired by dVerse Poetics: 7 and 7 prompt, which as you probably guessed, is a meditation on the seven deadly sins. Other poets have contributed to this prompt here.

I could’ve gone deeply personal with this one, but confessional poetry is pretty much my whole “thing”, so I decided to zig instead of zagging by keeping things a bit more abstract.

Two poems in two days? Am I back? Nah. Not yet. But I’m starting to find my bearings again. Thanks for being patient with me.

Trimming the Fat: Streamlining my Social Media Presence

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Trimming the Fat: Streamlining my Social Media Presence

Lieutenant Reginald Endicott “Reg” Barclay III is a recurring fictional character from both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager. He is socially awkward, hilariously uncomfortable in his own skin, and is initially the butt of cruel jokes among his peers. He often retreats to the comfort of his imagination, which manifests itself in acute holodeck addiction (which lands him in hot water on more than one occasion). On the upside, he also frequently mines his own imaginative thought experiments, using innovative, unconventional solutions to resolve complex problems.

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Lt. “Broccoli”. (Image source: Google)

Lieutenant Barclay has his own Wikipedia entry if you want to learn more about him. I can’t imagine why you would want to. Just know that I hated this character intensely. I don’t anymore, but in the moment, he felt like a cruel slap in the face that I took personally.

 

I hated Barclay because he reminded me of myself.

This isn’t news for anyone close to me, or who has tried to become close to me, but I am an introvert who also frequently suffers from debilitating social anxiety and depression. Oh, I can function in goal-oriented social functions like work (where the goal is solving technical problems to get PC users back to work) or team sports (where the goal is to come together to defeat opponents), but the moment the focus switches to happy-hours, wine parties, or just hanging out, I struggle greatly and must rely on a series of complex coping mechanisms to get by.

Or I just flake-out and bail, or I spaz-out and make a jackass of myself before flaking-out and bailing.

Like Barclay, I have a rich, active imagination, but as a young adult, I slowly came to realize that living inside my own head wasn’t enough. Even a social weirdo like me craves social connection of some type. Social media filled that void handily.

I first discovered social media several years after its commercially embryotic phase in something called Yahoo! Chat. I tried it for about ten minutes, and was hooked instantly (Say what? Instead of focusing on improving the tragedy which was my life, I could escape to the internet and make fun of celebrities, kings, and sinners who dare to live in the real world? What a concept!) Before I knew it, I had lost count of how many chatrooms and message boards I frequented.

It wasn’t all escapism though. Occasionally, if I found a fellow chat-head compelling enough, I would sack-up and attend a real-live meet-n-greet to see if their reality matched their online persona (which, much like my own online duality, was almost never the case). Once, I was digging this female chatter and our chemistry was intense. We agreed to meet at the birthday party of a mutually-acquainted chatter to see where things might lead. We didn’t hit it off in person, but she introduced me to her friend, and four years later, her friend and I were married. By transitive property, I owe my twelve-year marriage to social media.

As social media evolved, I came along for the ride. GeoCities, Open Diary, LiveJournal, Friendster, OkayPlayer Freestyle Forum, MySpace, Google+ for some reason… and then onward to my current dopamine connection go-to’s; Facebook (my primary social surrogate – more on this later), Blogger, WordPress (well hello there!), Tumblr (where I do most of my fanboying), and two Twitter accounts (one for my back-of-the-bus mocking of all things pop-culture, and one for my poetry, which, I guess means that if I ever become famous, I’ll have to mock myself? Not sure how that would work.)

But something has changed within the past two or three years. Interacting on Facebook use to leave me with an improved outlook, but recently, I’ve found myself angrier, sadder, and even more depressed after perusing my newsfeed. Obviously, my country’s uglier aspects and the rise of toxic nationalism, leading us to this vile new administration manifested itself in Facebook, as did the Fake News Era. We all know of the many ways that Facebook and many other social media outlets have betrayed our trust, and I won’t be getting into any of that.

I decided to take a series of breaks from Facebook to see how I felt. My absence was probably unnoticed, as I continued posting via my Twitter link to Facebook (I call it “face-twat” for short because I exist simultaneously as a high school sophomore and a dirty old man.) My last break was during the month of April as I participated in NaPoWriMo for the tenth consecutive year. In each of my breaks, including the last one, I noticed that I wasn’t as down in the dumps as I normally am.

That’s when I decided that I would permanently deactivate my Facebook account.

I have selected a target date of Labor Day to finally and completely rid myself of this oddity that has oddly become a sad, compulsory element in my life. That gives me time to ensure that I find other ways of keeping in touch with online friends dear to me; friends who make me laugh, who make me think, and who make me want to become a better person – but not necessarily friends who I wish to see every day, as I still lack the social ability to make that a comfortable experience for me.

Also, I suspect that this won’t be the only social media that I give up on. In fact, the only social apps I’m certain that I’ll keep are my WordPress site and my poetic Twitter feed that links to it. All other apps are open to further evaluation.

It may seem trivial to some who read this, and I totally get it, but seeing how Facebook was (and in a way, still is) my social surrogate for the past decade, this is a big deal for me. The fact that it should not be a big deal is one of the main reasons why I must make this change. Lieutenant Barclay was compelled to severely curtail his holodeck usage as it was impacting his ability to exist in the real world. Those peers who initially mocked his oddities made a good faith effort to accept him, and he did the same for both them and himself. It was far from perfect, but Barclay formed lasting friendships.

I’m no fictional character, but I am compelled similarly, for vaguely similar reasons. As always, thanks for putting up with me.
***

Solemn Solstice

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Photo by Anish Nair on Unsplash

Solemn Solstice

The sun lingers longest today.

The weather-guessers were wrong
about the heat wave.

In fact, there was light precipitation.

Preferring the rain, I am relieved.

I don’t even know why I wrote
“precipitation” instead of “rain”.

I’m no meteorologist.

I guess the unscheduled rainfall
wasn’t up to my lofty standards.

It was a halfhearted rainfall,
followed by an indifferent sunbreak.

Felt more like angel’s spit
than the weeping we’ve earned
for this crapsack existence.

My hemisphere turned
fully into the true glare
of sunlight, and everywhere I turn,
I glare at two shadows
of the Four Noble Truths.

I see only suffering and
man’s indifference to it.

I see children crying in pain,
fear, hunger, and terror;
if they’re lucky, they’ll just receive
the mercy of ignorance
in the form of being ignored,
or perhaps they’ll only languish
as the butt of cruel jokes
they’re mostly ignorant to.

I see indignant adults
viciously targeting them
for exploitation
or other vile indignities.

I see servers and protectors
silencing them permanently
in brass precipitation
because that’s the way
it’s always been and apparently,
that’s the way it needs to be.

The days grow shorter now.

It is the nature of our earth’s tilt
in reference to our position on it
as we continue our
inevitable journey around the sun.

Our share of daylight
will gradually be transferred
to our antipodean brothers and sisters,
in the way it’s always been.

We are powerless to stop
this natural phenomenon.

I am relieved.
***

Where Have All the Fireflies Gone?

Where Have All the Fireflies Gone?

1
As a small child
I caught fireflies in the summer
because that was natural
for kids my age.

I’d use them as nature’s night light,
marveling at their bioluminescence,
wondering why they seemed
dimmer from my mason jar,

saddened and bewildered
by their slow death
and refusal to eat the grass
I placed in the jar for them.

To this day,
I still have no idea
if fireflies eat grass or not.

Never bothered to do the research.

2
“Hey man.
You play the hand you were dealt.”

That was my boiler-plate response
to anyone who asked about
the state of my first marriage.

It was a flippant, self-mocking
humor-of-the-remanded
simultaneously answering
nothing and everything.

Don’t know why I took
such a resigned stance
on being unhappy, lonely,
and with the wrong person.

Didn’t even try to hide
my dismissive shrug
from inside my mason jar.

I often thought that
if I reshuffled the deck,
I’d someday find the right person,
and that would fix everything.

Simply a matter of finding
the right grass to add, right?

3
Outside right now,
there is a bird singing his little heart out
at the cloud-obscured sunset.

I’m unfamiliar with the tone and cadence,
but it rings of a desolation and isolation
I haven’t heard in a long time.

Its song goes unanswered.

The ebullience of a neighbor’s deck party
partially drowns him out.

Their unnatural laughter
reminds me of a henhouse
agitated into commotion
by an invading fox.

Its cacophony
cancels-out the bird’s efforts.

He soon falls silent,
leaving only the sounds
of the fox-stirred coop,
its revelry soon extinguished by
a spontaneous late spring shower.

Nature always wins.

Now that I’m thinking about it,
I can’t recall the last time I saw a firefly.
I wonder why that is?
***

Day 29 – Salix

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Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

Salix

I know the bottom too well. The path beyond my garden, birthed:
I fear it greatly.
It is my birthright: my inheritance.

It is the formless darkness,
Its frustrating absence,
For its expanse outpaces sunlight’s nourishment.

I’ve loved in the dark.
By both touch and muscle-memory
Coarse: I burrow deeper, suckling at your earth.

Or suckling at another’s red clay, urgently,
For when a heart is formed, I follow it to fruition,
Blending, blending.

What nectar you know of that sounds so sweet?
Feel stamen’s stamina, and be healed.
Rooting in fruitless void: finding succulent flesh.

Sunrise finds us intertwined by audacity.
Clinging to sap and stem;
Elongated, deciduous, draping, reaching for more.

Flailing about, numerous cat-o-nines, self-flogged,
Beaten by breezy beauty
We stir the scent of the now: whispering wishes.

Morning light chases darkness: she lurks behind me,
Elusive in plain sight.
Her emptiness mocks me. Or compels me to seek fullness.

I am drunk. I am drunk.
And yet parched, I thirst still, knowing not what I seek.
Your dreams are not mine, yet I still drink of them.

You course through me, I whisper for more.
The breeze carries my voice
Finding nature’s comfort, some mingle with my plea.

Many are just as fearful as me
Or they inhabit their lie;
Ignoring their murmurs of soul’s torment via ripened flesh.

Seasons birth, die, rebirth.
I am rooted, and yet propelled irrevocably towards rot
Is my senescence driving my urgency?

It is the newly-formed heart I chase.
Not the intercrossed sowing
So wondrous in its embrace of fleeting fullness.

From my bones, sketch in charcoal
He cheated the abyss. His flaws, a numerous, loving greed.
He loved. He loved. He loved.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 29 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem based on the Plath Poetry Project’s calendar. Simply pick a poem from the calendar, and then write a poem that responds or engages with your chosen Plath poem in some way.

This one was rather intimidating. While I respect and emulate the greats like Poe, Wild, Hemmingway, Langston Hughes and even Chicago greats like Carl Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks, I have always feared Sylvia Plath. She was a unique genius, and emulating her work is a lot like trying to describe the void. I’d much rather look away.

Anyway, the poem I chose was Elm (the April 19 entry), and as I feared, It kind of sucked me in, chewed me up, and spit me out. I didn’t even have time to write my day 30 poem.

Oh well, there’s always tomorrow…

Day 25 – Important Read-Me File: Caring for Your Barry

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Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash

Important Read-Me File: Caring for Your Barry

You’ve decided
to care for a Barry!

You’ve made a unique
and challenging choice,
for not all Barrys are alike,
and this Barry in particular
has some particularly odd bugs,

or as Barry likes to call them,
“features”.

Here are some helpful guidelines
to keep your Barry operational
while minimizing withering glares,
mopey brooding,

and angry muttering
of rude things
under his breath.

Caution: depressed
and highly flammable.

Do not enjoy around
children or pets.

Or other people.

Do not mix with bourbon,
unless you’re eager to learn
the unvarnished truth about him,
yourself, and
that girl he’s secretly crushing on.

Can be rendered inert,
philosophical,
deeply meta,
and rather giggly
if combined with marijuana.

He may also refer to marijuana
as “jazz cigarettes” because
he just heard that squares
called them that in the 60’s
and he can’t stop giggling about it.

It is highly likely that your Barry
is under the influence of
jazz cigarettes at the moment of
creating this third-person,
self-referential missive.

If your Barry wants to tell you
about the path beyond his garden,
do not interrupt him
or tell him you heard this story before.

This can lead to resentful muttering.

But the most important warning:
just be kind – not just to Barry,
but to everyone you encounter
–  because none of this matters
if I’m right and we only live once,

but if I’m right and we only live once,
nothing could be more important than
leading and leaving with kindness.

Thank you for caring for your Barry
no back-sies!
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 25 prompt: “write a poem that takes the form of a warning label . . . for yourself!”

(Full-disclosure: My new job and surviving on three hours of sleep per night had me shuttering the doors early on NaPoWriMo, but one of my most respected poetry friends kicked me in the butt. She said I have poems to write, and so I guess I have a few back-payments to make.)

Day 24 – Elegy of Beloved Disputes

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View from my livingroom  window. (Ignore the trash bins and the ugly Hooptie. It’s my son’s fault they’re in the picture.) 

Elegy of Beloved Disputes

The path beyond my garden
leads to my favorite tree,
bursting with flowers that
remind me of you and

it occurs to me that
you would’ve marveled at
my sweet-scented tree if you
were still alive to smell it.

The sudden reminder of
your absence steals a breath
or two from me, and then
I laugh at the absurdity.

Asthma took your laugh
from me permanently.
It is an affliction
of the lungs, you see?

Had you lived long enough to
fill your lungs with my
beloved tree,

you’d have sided with Wifey,
demanding its removal.

I don’t like confrontation,
but I’d like to think I would
have enjoyed that argument.
***

Every morning on report card day, from kindergarten to third grade, momma would sing this song to me while I was eating my cereal. It was hilarious. It was terrifying. I fucking loved it. 

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 24 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy – a poem typically written in honor or memory of someone dead. But we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy that has a hopefulness to it. Need inspiration? You might look at W.H. Auden’s elegy for Yeats, which ends on a note suggesting that the great poet’s work will live on, inspiring others in years to come. Or perhaps this elegy by Mary Jo Bang, where the sadness is shot through with a sense of forgiveness on both sides.

I’ve written elegies for both parents, and both of my grandmothers passed away last year, so I wasn’t exactly eager for this prompt. Still, I couldn’t resist the challenge of adding some hopefulness to a poem about loss. Best to keep it short though.

Day 18 – She Still Sees

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Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

She Still Sees

You are the Truth
locked tight in my pocket;
promise kept by my fortuity.

You linger patiently,
meeting my frailties with loyalty
pouring into my cracks.
You stay,
voice soothing my raspy song,
facing, leaning into my calm.

Your will
driving intent to fill my silent plea.
I feel this,
your tacit strain
as you heal my wounds.

You’re afraid to leave
without securing my trust
where I live on abyss’s edge.
You steadily shatter delusions
trumpeting your presence
crossing my boundaries.

But I am not here
can’t be found in the light;
cocooned twilight.
You join our hips
expanding as I contract,
filling void with familiar
you still see me where I live.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 18 prompt:

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) isn’t exactly based in revision, but it’s not exactly not based in revision, either. It also sounds a bit more complicated than it is, so bear with me! First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem. It might not be a finished draft, but hopefully it at least contains the seeds of one.

I wasn’t too keen on this prompt, so I tweaked it a bit. Instead of finding an unfamiliar poem/poet, I found an extremely familiar one to me. I chose a poet I admire, a frequent collaborator, and a good friend, Tre. The poem I used as a reference is titled The One I Spared. I encourage you to head over and read her exquisite work.

Yesterday, me and Wifey traveled from Whistler back home, and today I had a talk therapy session, so I’m a day behind in my poetry. Perhaps I can squeeze out another one later.

Day 10 – Vertigo(ne)

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Vertigo(ne)

The path beyond
my garden
stretches beyond
the footfalls
of stone pathways
elongating
with the passing
years where I
can no longer see
where I’ve been
and yet
the destination
remains mucked
by the mist
the morning dew
kisses me awake
and makes
breathing easier
where the words
fall forth,
making the footfalls
easier to manage
and so I travel
forward forever
knowing that soon
there will be no
destination,
no path, no
waypoint home,
and soon
not even a home;
only the words remain,
and much sooner
than later
they too will fall.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 10 prompt: “write a poem of simultaneity – in which multiple things are happing at once.” I don’t think I did it right. Meh. It will have to do. I’m tired, and I’m going to bed.

Day 9 – Of Smeared Rainbows

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Photo by Matheus Queiroz on Unsplash

Of Smeared Rainbows

The path
beyond my
unkempt garden
led me to a black
butterfly fluttering
on fearless currents,
his plain beauty
apparent
even
in morning
shade before the
first glint of rising
sunlight kissed corners of
his wings, igniting
reality
with a
firestorm
of hues.

He is hunted,
snatched from the sky,
knitter of rainbows, felled
killed in the dayglow
by the Anglo-
All-American calico
everyone knows well,
who left it smeared
on the pavement
after becoming bored
from batting the life
from the bite-sized
black body.

The dead butterfly
never even knew he was
being hunted down.

He was
probably altogether
unfamiliar with the very concept,
as he was preoccupied with
feeding on milkweed
and finding a mate.

I wish I could explain it to him.

It would probably blow his tiny mind
to know that some creatures hunt and kill,
shortening a life to extend their own.

I wonder
how he would react
to learning that
some creatures
also hunt and kill
at random
because they’re just
passing the time,
as was the case
with his chaotic,
chubby
calico assailant.

I can’t talk to butterflies,
as we haven’t yet broken
the language barrier.

I don’t know where
that breakthrough falls
on the scientific scale.

I can’t see it ranking
up there with
reversing climate change,
curing cancer, or
perfecting erection pills.

So, I won’t be talking
to butterflies
anytime soon.

I won’t try talking with
that butterfly in particular
because he’s dead.

Smeared on the pavement
by a well-fed, bored calico cat.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 9 prompt: “write a poem in which something big and something small come together.”