Monday’s Coming and We’re not Okay

Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash

Monday’s Coming and We’re not Okay

Imagine a world
where property value,
tax-paid infrastructure,
the rule of law,

justice’s infuriatingly slow
machinations,

tact, decorum,
gold prices and golden manners,

collective peace-of-mind,
tranquility of greater-good,
and the easy flow of
status-quo traffic

and blissful return to
whatever we consider
our communal normal

were all more important

than the unconscionable
completely avoidable
death of your son,
or brother,
or father,
or lover.

Really imagine it though,
and feel free to sub-out
and imagine your daughter,
sister, or mother instead

murdered by the state;

I didn’t recommend it
because I’m no monster.

Now sit with that moment,
that overcooked despair
and rage as your civic institutions
tell you with a dismissive shrug

that his death was unavoidable,
his assailants, servants of the state
are good and normal in completing
the task of snuffing-out his light

and your reaction to his
completely avoidable death
is completely unreasonable and
lives as proof of the sole reason
why guys who look like him

 – and yes, who look like you too –

are routinely slaughtered by the
state-sanctioned violence
in the first place.

He’s never coming back,
his voice forever silenced

and there is no one
with leveraged power
to champion his cause,
to validate your grief,

nowhere to turn
to wring meaning from
your loss.

What would you do?
What is your next move?

Whatever you decide,
best be quick about it.

Monday’s coming,
and you’d better be on time
with a smile on your face
and a song in your heart.

Wouldn’t want to give anyone
within the superstructure
the wrong idea
that you’re angry or resentful

or one of those malcontents
out there
disrupting
the established order.
***

“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I borrowed these helpful links from https://tumblr.theblackout.org/

Donate/Boost/Sign:

Mental Health Resources:

  • Ethel’s Club – Black-owned and operated social club offering access to Black therapists and a multitude of creative events for People of Color. 
  • Crisis Text Line – A different approach to crisis intervention, Crisis Text Line offers you help when you text 741-741. You’ll be able to chat with someone who is willing to listen and provide you with additional resources.
  • Shine Text. – Black-owned! Sign up to receive cheerful texts and tips every day. 
  • Therapy For Black Girls – A Black-owned a directory to help you find Black therapists in your area. 

Tips for Organizing/Protesting:

Stay safe. Much love.

Five Ways of Viewing the Void

Photo by Andrew Draper on Unsplash

Five Ways of Viewing the Void

I.
I dreamt I died today,
and this was my last poem,
which isn’t a big deal;

I have died twice before,
run-through at seventeen,
undone at twenty-eight,

Respawning’s not instant;
often years overlap
some pieces remain lost,

the burn unrelenting
as pain from phantom limb
connect me to this realm.

Vast, and marvelous, we
are no more than my dream;
reality is me.

We cling to each other,
turbulent distractions,
our skin, burdened touchstones;

massaged lies, we embrace
pleasure clawed from our truth;
we’re so very alone.

Love me without knowing,
you’ll never see the seams
that bind the shame that is.

I would taste better as
ashes upon your tongue.
Love me until the void.

II.
Nothing warned me; nothing prepared me.
There was no vocabulary
for the remnants, for when the sun
turned away, withholding all of nature.

Nothing foretold the catastrophe,
nor was it immediately known, but felt
in phases; a series of cascading
calamities leaving the world dimmer
in stages as sources of nourishment
withered and fell like so many dominoes,

and soon, I found myself face-down
on momma’s couch, immobile,
unresponsive to external pleas to eat
or demands to get my shit together.

Soon, external voices no longer registered
as loud as the absence of the one who
no longer cared if I ate or starved,
and so I fell, falling behind the
dimming event horizon, leaving
only with what I entered; ending
as I began, staring into the space
between atoms as fields dissolved
and barriers melted to nothing.

III.
Perhaps in another life,
in a reality we’ll never know
I persevered against your will
shattered your absurd barriers
and married you.

I made you happy, filled your cup,
and exposed your doubts
and the specters of my many fears
as foolhardy fairy tales.

We had a girl and fought furiously
to name her; I wanted Olivia,
you demanded something African
that I couldn’t pronounce.

We compromised, choosing Nefertari
with Olivia as her middle name and
I was a good dad.

We loved each other
and lifted each other up,
instead of yielding to fear,
spite, and desperation,

but I guess if that all came to pass,
I wouldn’t really be me,
you’d be someone else,
and our daughter, a specter;
just another fantasy
of a foolish old man.

Stare into the void long enough
and the phantoms name themselves.

IV.
We all feel that lonely, empty,
meaningless pull towards twilight
of eternal nightshade where the
unknowable hell-verse beckons
as a perverse lullaby to our
seemingly incessant suffering
and so we are compelled to seek
its finite serenade towards infinity.

We hope to name it in order
to cast it back into its bottle;

we will ourselves to defy it
by defining it for ourselves, for

to chronicle it is to vanquish
its unshakable power over us.

We scrawl the void in ink and blood
and then someone labeled it poetry.

V.
In some eastern religions,
philosophies, and fiction,
heaven and hell are recast
as reincarnation and

the void; an endless chasm.

It is said that if our souls
carry too much vile darkness
at the instant of our death,
instead of our soul’s rebirth,

the last remnants of our light
are cast into the abyss,
never to feel warmth again,
left alone in an endless

chasm of despair alone
with the dreadful comfort of
all terrible emotions
imaginable to us.

At first blush, that doesn’t sound
all that bad to me; in fact,
it sounds like a fine place where
the best poetry is forged,

but never allowed to see
the light of a brand-new day.

But on second thought, perhaps
eternal life in darkness
as death’s greatest unshared poems
really is a hellish fate

to avoid at all cost.
***

Day 30: Observations from a Past May Day

Photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash

Observations from a Past May Day

Shattered glass,
streets littered with trash,
defiant fists raised,
“peace-keepers” overwhelmed.

You can only push
cornered, hopeless folks so far
before they push back.

Tomorrow, streets will be cleaned,
windows boarded and replaced,
shops will reopen,

life will continue
as if the raspy cries
for fair wages and trades
had never happened.

The pulse of cosmopolitan life
requires each person
to know their place in the world
and do their part,

but what of those who
wholeheartedly reject the
collective vision?

They’re dismissed as crazy
until they begin to wake others.

Then they are swept away.

Next comes more broken glass,
sometimes on May Day, and
often on any random day
after disruptive, “crazy”
voices are silenced, but

that’s easily swept away too.

Pay those crazy, cornered,
fist-pumping folks no mind.

Tomorrow the stores will open on-time.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 30: Today’s prompt:

And last, but not least, our final (optional) prompt! In some past years, I’ve challenged you to write a poem of farewell for our thirtieth day, but this year, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem about something that returns. For, just as the swallows come back to Capistrano each year, NaPoWriMo and GloPoWriMo will ride again!

Sorry to end NaPoWriMo on such a dismal note. I could’ve gone with some type of spring renewal, but I guess I wasn’t there.

I was just sitting here thinking about how the COVID-19 pandemic will most likely (and rightfully) squash the May Day protests tomorrow, but our US (and nearly global) capitalist economy is just chompin’ at the bit to throw our sick, broken bodies back into the churn, risk-assessment be damned. I hear talk of rushing to get “back to normal”, and it just makes me wonder, normal in relation to what, exactly?

Thanks for hanging with me this month. I’ll see you back here next year, but until then, feel free to hang out and read my infrequent poetry postings.

Day 27: Sometimes, Even the Jokes are Stale

Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash

Sometimes, Even the Jokes are Stale

This thing is defective.

It fails to connect,
except that when it does,
it will burn itself out.

But it almost never does.

The camouflage is
impregnable to a fault;
if worn for too long,
crisis of identity will occur.

The bubble is beautiful,
if its theory is explained,
which it never is.

It protects by deflection,
gestating its own physics,
lighter than oxygen,
sturdier than steel,

ridicule-resistant,
but nonexistent
once integrity
is compromised.

This could lead to a
cascading failure
and frozen self-reflection.

The external shielding
and internal barriers
can become polarized, and
is susceptible to both

self-aggrandizement
and self-loathing
meeting incidentally,
annihilating everything.

At this critical point,
mixing with alcohol
and cannabis products
is not recommended

but it is most likely
inevitable.

Overall, all it’s really good for
is writing poetry,
cracking mean-spirited jokes,
overanalyzing its passions and joys,
and waiting for death.

Retention recommended,
but only for the jokes.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 27: Today’s prompt:

And now for our (optional) prompt. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, I challenge you to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed. For example, your mother-in-law, the moon, or the year 2020 (I think many of us have some thoughts on that one!)

Well that was easy…

Day 25: Starting Back at One

Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay 

Starting Back at One

There is a madness, a quickening, a voice
saying things one feels to be true, but
doesn’t want to hear, and so we stop and
shutter the door to beginning, living
in a state of non-living, but waiting for
death as if it were the next bus out of the
slum of existence, and so maybe the voice
should be revisited and heard to see where
it leads, and so we settle into the sound
even though we know it as a figment of
an active ego we’re vying to wrestle
control from, even if for just a moment
and the only sound observed should resonate
from the pulse, the heartbeat, the controlled breathing
of one who is close to oneness, for the voice
is just an awakening of noisy mind
being disciplined into silence as our
eyelids lower and the body sinks into
the chair and then the ground and then the softness
of cosmic fabric, and for the briefest of
moments it is felt, the connection we so
secretly crave has been there all along, for
you and I are now linked to everything
and everyone that has ever lived and who
will come after we are dust, and thusly, the
voice is silenced for a moment as water
becomes what is it shaped to become, just as
you and I have become water and the spring
season beckons a sliver of all seasons,
the pollen that tickles the nose coming from
a breeze that was the dying breath of artic  
jet-streams thousands of miles ago, roused by a
global spin and the sun’s disparate heating
of the sky; it is all connected as we
are unified by the breath of life, so when
I yield to you, I’m yielding to us, and once
bowed and humbled, you will see the good earth
and know that it is both ours and no one’s.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 25: Today’s prompt:

Because it’s a Saturday, I have an (optional) prompt for you that takes a little time to work through — although you can certainly take short-cuts through it, if you like! The prompt, which you can find in its entirety here, was  developed by the poet and teacher Hoa Nguyen, asks you to use a long poem by James Schuyler as a guidepost for your poem. (You may remember James Schuyler from our poetry resource for Day 2.) This is a prompt that allows you to sink deeply into another poet’s work, as well as your own.

I included a bit of a shortcut to this prompt. While I found the poetry of James Schuyler to be amazing and engaging, listening to the speaker read it was a bit grating and took me out of it. Instead, I read it myself while playing a live Tibetan meditation music channel from YouTube. Midway through reading, I broke-off and began crafting my own poem based on how I felt in the moment, paying no heed to the other steps.

I think I did pretty ok. I certainly felt better allowing for a stream of consciousness and getting out of its way a bit before returning to shape it a bit. It was an intriguing experience and helped to center me a bit.

Day 20: The Smiling Lady

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

The Smiling Lady

She crafted me a
lopsided chocolate cake
from a box with
a picture-perfect cake
and a smiling lady on it,
having just enough frosting
to scrawl HAPPY B-DAY SON
on it;

settled next to cousin’s
store-bought, soulless
gourmet masterpiece,
my “homemade” confection
stood out like a lumpy shrug,
and I was embarrassed
for it,

not for the obvious optics
and subtle jabs from relatives,
but I was undone at the seams
because deep down, I could feel
momma’s humiliation
at her best effort.

Knowing where her heart was,
and needing her to know mine,
months later, during a spring bloom,
I plucked the finest, loveliest
weeds I could find,
careful to select only the
prettiest undesirables
for the grandest dandelion bouquet
known to mankind.

I could tell
by the smile on her face
that I’d made my point.

She even went
and made another lumpy cake
with the lady smiling on the box.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 20: Today’s prompt:

Today, in gratitude for making it to Day 20, our (optional) prompt asks you to write a poem about a handmade or homemade gift that you have received. It could be a friendship bracelet made for you by a grade-school classmate, an itchy sweater from your Aunt Louisa, a plateful of cinnamon toast from your grandmother, a mix-tape from an old girlfriend. And whatever gift you choose, we wish you happy writing!

Yeah, I wasn’t really into this prompt, but I did it anyway because I couldn’t think of an alternative. What more can I say? Have some lumpy cake.

Day 19: Manicured Path

Photo by Avi Waxman on Unsplash

Manicured Path

We made it halfway up before yielding
to father time and self-imposed inertia.

Bending onto a level manicured path,
a young tree bloomed in watercolor reds;
a beautiful alien among
puffy white sapling blossoms.

Along a strip of conformity where
anything out-of-place is hammered, snipped,
or sprayed into one of the approved labels,
the tree of rubies grabs the eye for all
the reasons, right, wrong, or otherwise.

Towering firs in the distance command focus,
even as humanity carved condos,
two-car garages, and rickety steps
into where their cousins were felled years ago.

They stretch and slowly sway stoically
against the light breeze, reminding all
to stand as tall as their posture allows
and inhale deeply, accepting their
regifted oxygen, exhaling in
mutual respiration.

The opposite side of the valley,
across the Sammamish river,
teams with every shade of green,
blending seamlessly into each other,
accepting the uncolored order
before bowing to man’s rectangular
boxy factories and warehouses, each
aligned to and more unremarkable
than the last beige, bland nothing.

Between the bland boxes and us
lies another greenbelt with an overgrown
abandoned rail line cutting through it;
a boundary noted and ignored by most.

Near the bottom of the rickety stair landing,
two teens social-distance together
with their tiny dog, who silently,
but rightfully eyes me suspiciously.

I doubt he’s ever seen the likes
of me in his territory before.

But he shrugs it off, finding a
far more intriguing scent, oblivious
to the nearby blackberries at war
with a similarly invasive species.

The shrub battle is waged on its own time
and would’ve gone unnoticed by my eyes
had my beloved not been beside me to
pull me out of our moment,
drawing attention to it.

She often helps me see things
with new colors and angles,
bending our halfway-uphill trips
into an unyielding odyssey.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 19: Today’s prompt:

Today, our optional prompt challenges you to write a poem based on a “walking archive.” What’s that? Well, it’s when you go on a walk and gather up interesting things – a flower, a strange piece of bark, a rock. This then becomes your “walking archive” – the physical instantiation of your walk. If you’re unable to get out of the house (as many of us now are), you can create a “walking archive” by wandering around your own home and gathering knick-knacks, family photos, maybe a strange spice or kitchen gadget you never use. One you’ve finished your gathering, lay all your materials out on  a tray table, like museum specimens. Now, let your group of materials inspire your poem! You can write about just one of the things you’ve gathered, or how all of them are all linked, or even what they say about you, who chose them and brought them together.

Of course, upon hearing that in order to stay on prompt, I’d have to leave the house, my wife was thrilled. Me, not so much, but hey, I did it.

Day 18: Nutrient and Toxin

Image by author

Nutrient and Toxin

The world burns
with the worst
humanity has to offer
along with a contagion
coldly vying to
finish the job.

The country where I was born
continues its fine tradition
of ignoring its festering
generational wounds,
allowing a con man
to bankrupt its already
decaying conscience.

The new neighborhood
is full of facile smiles
too perfectly affixed
upon the only books
I’d rather not open.

The sky is heavy,
densely burdened by
the shade of sorrow
that spittles rain in mists
too fine to be noticeable
until it beads upon
fresh spring leaves
and slickens the path
enough to reflect
dreary clouds
back into us.

The tears fall from her face,
mingling internal precipitation
with external condensation;
a reflection of both
my subconscious betrayal,
and the nature of nature.

The sugary-tart sunshine
emanates from my glass of
vodka-spiked orange juice,
rendered pale by soaked,
anemic daylight spilling
into my window.

The long swig I take,
soaking in nutrient and toxin,
reminds me that I still draw breath,
and therefore there’s
always a chance to
set things right.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 18: Today’s prompt:

Our optional prompt for the day also honors the idea of Saturday (the Saturdays of the soul, perhaps?), by challenging you to write an ode to life’s small pleasures. Perhaps it’s the first sip of your morning coffee. Or finding some money in the pockets of an old jacket. Discovering a bird’s nest in a lilac bush or just looking up at the sky and watching the clouds go by.

Day 16: Default Gall

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

Default Gall

You’re almost tolerable, love
but don’t take that praise too lightly
for this places you far above
riff-raff I ignore forthrightly

You just beat-out the unsightly
sharing rare air with mindful pride
apathy dwells here contritely
there’s something wrong deeper inside

Seeking within, I cannot guide
indifference is the default gall
fervor; I’ve tried, but can’t abide
I care that you care, but that’s all

Is love found in this protocol?
in some places, you’re far above
don’t judge yourself by this screwball
you’re almost tolerable, love.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 16: Today’s prompt:

Rather than encouraging minimalism, today we challenge you to write a poem of over-the-top compliments. Pick a person, place, or thing you love, and praise it in the most effusive way you can. Go for broke with metaphors, similes, and more. Need a little inspiration? Perhaps you’ll find it in the lyrics of Cole Porter’s “You’re The Top.” (Scroll down at the link for the lyrics and an annotated explanation of them).

This is another one I feel like I do way too much, so I went the other way with it, tapping into my emotional flatline (which sadly, can feel all too real at times).

Day 13: Surface Tensions

Photo by Afrah on Unsplash

Surface Tensions

Look, we could spin ourselves in circles
falsely claiming that you or I
drew first blood. I mean,

not one to quibble
 – it was clearly you,
though you may indeed
erroneously disagree – but
it don’t matter no more.

Sure, you had the prettiest grey eyes
I’d ever seen, and yeah,
I meant that shit, and yeah
it was corny as fuck, but well,

have you ever heard an empty cup
speak-up, looking for something
or someone to fill them
with purpose?

I didn’t think it would lead to nothing,
and was stunned when it did.

We had fun though, didn’t we?
Playing hooky some Thursdays,
laughing at shitty movies,
disappearing off the grid

into our own private world at
a different random Econo Lodge
each time looking to not form
any traceable patterns.

You had your men on the side,
and I had my whole thing going on,
but I wasn’t tripping about
what this was or where we were.

You said it first, remember?
And maybe you thought you meant it,
but at the time, I repeated it
only because I was naked and
afraid of the repercussions
of silence.

After allowing time to reflect
and to see the whole elephant,
I realized that I do care. I care.

But that’s no longer enough, is it?

And I swear to God I never knew
I’d meet someone like her
after meeting you.

She and I are just synched in ways
your sense of surface tensions
can’t possibly imagine.

What you and I had was fun, wasn’t it?

And I don’t understand a thing
about soulmates, but my mind,
heart, soul, whatever gut or
animal-instinct you can conjure;

all of them unanimously tell me
that I’d be a fool to ever let her
walk out of my life,

so… you know…

I didn’t mean to steal your joy,
but I’m dropping all pretense for her
and only her.

Do you get it?

Try to understand; remember the way
you say you felt when you fell for me?

You loved me, even as you were still
loving on those other dudes, right?
Even as you will be tomorrow, right?

Well, I met her, and everything I am
has led me to the moment where
nothing else matters except for
my pulse synching with hers.

I loved you. I did. I still do.
But I can never let her go.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 13: Today’s prompt:

There’s a pithy phrase attributed to T.S. Eliot: “Good poets borrow; great poets steal.” (He actually said something a bit different, and phrased it a bit more pompously – after all, this is T.S. Eliot we’re talking about). Nonetheless, our optional prompt for today (developed by Rachel McKibbens, who is well-known for her imaginative and inspiring prompts) plays on the idea of stealing. Today, I challenge you to write a non-apology for the things you’ve stolen. Maybe it’s something as small as your sister’s hairbrush (or maybe it was your sister’s boyfriend!) Regardless, I hope this sly prompt generates some provocative verse for you.

Oh, thank God! I was afraid that this might be one of those Erasure – found poetry prompts that I suck at find so frustrating. Thank goodness it’s just a prompt about good-old stealing! Yay for stealing!