Luckiest Man Alive

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Image by author. (He made me step off the curb. He’s not really taller than me.)

Luckiest Man Alive

If you asked me
what makes a man

–  and I mean
a good man;

someone who
keeps it one-hundred
at all times –

I would pause, smile
and tell you all about
my little brother.

If you asked me
what makes a man
a devoted dad

who may not have
all the right answers
all the time,

but who still
throws himself, full-assed
into the thankless
hard parts,

again,
I’d begin the convo
with my lil’ bro.

If you asked me
what makes a man
a keeper of the flame

a caretaker of
my earliest dreams
and fears

a silent observer
when silence is needed

a vocal objector
when I need to be checked
and called-out

the loudest supporter
when I need saving
from myself

and the ruckus-bringer
when shit gets too hot
and needs extinguishing
with a flame-thrower,

well shit,
you should already know
though I do feel bad for you
and great for me.

You see,
I’m the one
lucky enough
to be able to say,

“Let me tell you about
my lil’ bro, Phil…”
***

Written for my lil’ bro Phil, on the occasion of his 40th birthday, and shared on dVerse OpenLinkNight #243. Others contributed poems here.

Ode to the Sassy So-and-So

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Photo by Erin Simmons on Unsplash

Ode to the Sassy So-and-So

You’re a pain in my ass; sassy so-and-so.
Atypical opening as odes go, I know.
But your fiery spirit serves you well thus far,
and as far as you’ve come,
who the hell knows where you’ll go?

I’m going to level with you here, dearest one;
this wasn’t supposed to have rhyme or meter.
In fact, I almost wrote another clichéd line

– about catching the stars, as if!
I mean, I know, right? – but

you’ve been earthbound
for a quarter-century now,
so no more fairy tales.

You’re as tough as I raised you, tougher
than I envisioned, and I’m relieved for it.
You’re tempered for a cruel world, and yet
you refuse to let it make you unkind.

And while I’d love to take all the credit,
like I knew the masterpiece of you
was hidden in the marble all along,
you are the artist of your destiny;

I’m just pleased to see who you are
and who you will become.

I say again, as it is a good catchphrase;
you’re a pain in my ass; sassy so-and-so,
and I’m lucky to have you around, I know,
wherever you go, I’ll be with you always.

Oh, and please rinse your dishes.
I’m your dad; I’m not your maid.
***

Written for my Turtle, on her 25th birthday.

 

Day 18: Questioning an April Shower (Elegy for Momma)

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Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

Questioning an April Shower (Elegy for Momma)

There was not a hint of sun today.

It began with the kind of rain
that made me change my shoes

a healthy April shower needed
for continuity of respiration

as trees kneed saturated soil
roots rooting for their share

new leaves are budding, color
restored to pre-bloomed florae

vivid hues contrast with a heavy sky

unending clouds spill themselves
rolling in from faded sepia photos

I wonder if you’re enjoying rain now
just as I am, about two-thousand miles
and the rain-soaked earth between us

a miracle of technology at hand
and I couldn’t retrace my soggy steps
to you even if I tried, but I hope
you have a good view of a budding oak

I hope the rain humbles blossoms’ heads
showing you proper respect,

attracting good bumble-bee company
for reproduction and continuity of
respiration, for as long as this rain

is doing more service for you,
you who can no longer feel it,

as long as it does more for us
than forcing me into dryer,
sturdier shoes, then I ask you,

how can I not be content with it?
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 18 prompt: “write an elegy of your own, one in which the abstraction of sadness is communicated not through abstract words, but physical detail.”

I almost skipped this prompt. Not because I didn’t find the prompt interesting, but because I did, and yet I struggled mightily. I’ve lost count of the elegies I’ve written for folks I lost, but I’ve never tried to keep the scope of my loss contained within the tangible world before.

If I’m dissatisfied with my resulting poem, it’s only because I had to restrain myself from bleeding wailing abstractions everywhere. This challenged me in ways I never envisioned, and I’m glad for it.

Day 16: Poetry as Visible Steam

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Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Poetry as Visible Steam

That iconic church
catching fire
is not upsetting.

Firebombing
less-iconic black churches
is not upsetting.

Random hate crimes
against minorities
is not upsetting.

A murder of another
based on who they choose to love
is not upsetting.

Having a government leader
with no empathy, no tact,
no impulse control, no shame,
no fundamental grasp of science,
not even the service of
an official proofreader
or spellchecker
is not upsetting.

Passing the tipping-point
of human-aided
catastrophic climate change
with a collective shrug
and a doubling-down
of business-as-usual
is not upsetting.

What is upsetting
is the growing numbness
incinerating our
collective superstructure.

What is upsetting
is realizing that faith in humanity
was firebombed decades
before observation,
like a lobster having no idea
they’re slowly being
boiled alive
until there’s steam.

What is upsetting
is our growing detachment
from the humane.

What is upsetting
is catching yourself wondering
what the victim did to provoke
such violent hatred
before remembering
that all they did was
have the audacity
to exist.

What is upsetting
is that a hilariously-terrifying,
poisonous, treasonous,
wood-rot-brained,
dementia-demigod
is executing the will
of a percentage of people
I call neighbor.

What is upsetting is receiving
such an oppressive influx
of terrible things,
that the nervous system
reflexively shuts down
to protect itself.

What is upsetting is knowing that,
even after adjusting cosmic perspective,
knowing that no one is coming
to save you from yourselves,
compelling you to root for the
sweet, sweet probability of a
random extinction meteor.

What is upsetting
is slowly realizing that
nothing is upsetting anymore.

Not even when the steam is visible.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 16 prompt: “write a poem that uses the form of a list to defamiliarize the mundane.” Again, I took license and adjusted the scale, as I’m running dry on mundane topics and I’m a bit sleep-deprived and grumpy.

Also written for Real Toads’ day 16 prompt: “poetry as an insurgent art”.

Day 0: Adam & Edna (Self-Portrait as Lucifer)

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Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

Adam & Edna (Self-Portrait as Lucifer)

In the beginning,
Genesis
would make for
dull reading,

for I’d never consider myself
the most beautiful
of His angels.

Imagine a Devil
lacking a Devil’s vanity and hubris,

with my mediocre looks,
reddish-brown skin,
kinky, nappy hair,
coke-bottle glasses and
aggressive underbite.

I’d surely be tempted by
fruit from the tree of knowledge, and I
would certainly seduce Eve to partake,

but as I’m quite non-confrontational,
we’d leave Adam out of the equation,

fleeing Eden
for a small hamlet
on the far corner of the world
called Victoria, B.C.

In the beginning,
I guess He would have to take
a second mortgage
on another of Adam’s ribs,

and the world would learn the tale
of Adam and Edna,
eternal servants of the Lord
who never knew age, death, misery,

or anything remotely resembling
knowledge.

Just happily stunted,
blissfully obedient,
eternally dull ignorance.

For Eve and me,
her favorite serpent,
there would be no battle
for the souls of humanity,

only lazy Sunday scrolls
through the town shops,
enjoying the crisp air rolling in
from the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Frantic calls
about a “final battle”
from Him
and His Favored Son
and also Scam Likely
would go straight to voicemail.

Come to think of it,
after discussing with Eve
about spicing things up,

I find it an injustice
leaving Edna in the dark
about the chill vibe
of the Pacific Northwest.

In the beginning,
perhaps He will need to
take a third rib from Adam.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s early-bird prompt: write a poetic self-portrait, portraying yourself in the guise of a historical or mythical figure.

Author’s note: I never meant to offend anyone guided by their faith, though I imagine most of you exercised self-care and stopped reading after the title. Full-disclosure, I was raised in a Roman Catholic family, but I’ve always been agnostic.

Pity the Pitiless

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Photo by Peter Lewis on Unsplash

Pity the Pitiless

You will never know true love
You, who weighs all things by gains
You’re left a wealth bereft of
Substance and joy, your void reigns

You, who weighs all things by gains
Born into meaningless means
Substance and joy, your void reigns
Stranger to spring’s renewed greens

Born into meaningless means
What is sin, you call a win
Stranger to spring’s renewed greens
The want you chase? Frail and thin

What is sin you call a win
You’re left a wealth bereft of
The want you chase; frail and thin
You will never know true love

You’re left a wealth bereft of
Compassion; lost, you taunt fate
You will never know true love
Your flock divides, wielding hate

Compassion lost, you taunt fate
Lies, scapegoats fuel your sad boast
Your flock divides, wielding hate
Both them and you suffer most

Lies, scapegoats fuel your sad boast
But spring sun will have her turn
Both them and you suffer most
You will never feel the burn

But spring sun will have her turn
You will never know true love
You will never feel the burn
You’re left a wealth bereft of

You will never know true love
To hold her hand, knowing God
You’re left a wealth bereft of
True gold, searched by dowsing rod

To hold her hand, knowing God
Surrender to selfless need
True gold, searched by dowsing rod
Not obtained through hate and greed

Surrender to selfless need
Unlocking joy none can buy
Not obtained through hate and greed
Treasures few can quantify

Unlocking joy none can buy
You’re left a wealth bereft of
Treasures few can quantify
You will never know true love

You will never know true love
You’re left a wealth bereft of
***

Written in honor of the peaceful worshippers in New Zealand who had their lives violently ended by a hate-filled man who was enabled by hate groups emboldened by greedy, racist, selfish, corrupt leaders (I’m sure you know the one leader I’m thinking of. I won’t give him the satisfaction of writing his name.)

Shared at dVerse Poetry–a Piece of Written Art, hosted by Victoria C. Slotto. We’re still dabbling with the pantoum form here.

Sage’s Laughter

Sage’s Laughter

Reaching the summit was of no small feat
Great Sister’s reception felt bittersweet
The young man bowed to her respectfully
The old woman shrugged an indifferent beat

“Great Sister,” he greeted her fretfully,
“I come to you troubled, regretfully.
Life seems meaningless, yet death do I fear.
I pray you change my heart’s trajectory.”

The old woman peered through somber veneer
Her response, sincere, and yet still unclear
“Your fear of death is a fear of pre-birth.
If your life lacks meaning, why are you here?”

The young man searched her words, seeking their worth
He puzzled their weight, finding only dearth
“I climbed this peak seeking your renowned sage
but you made it clear I serve as your mirth.”

Great Sister stood fast in his bleary rage
“My child,” asked she, “recall your pre-birth stage.
You cannot; for none of us know that time.
The same is death; an unreadable page.”

The young man mused over these thoughts sublime
He asked, seeking reason within the rhyme,
“So death is a void and life, but a joke?
If true, does that make existence a crime?”

Great Sister laughed soundly before she spoke.
“The void and joke are both yours to invoke.
We are a part, not apart from the whole.
I am flock and hen; you are shell and yolk.”

The young man bowed as her words took their toll.
his heavy heart lightened by her console
Path to the valley, beyond his control
Its footfalls? Perhaps his own to insole.
***


(NOTE: Audio at the 4:30 mark mildly NSFW.)

Written for Frank’s Rubaiyat Challenge on dVerse.

for my dearest intrepid

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Photo by Steve Shreve on Unsplash

for my dearest intrepid

you and I are more different than alike
born under the same sign in different
eras and regions, our intertwined fate
indifferent to lineage, chromosomes

we share no bloodline, only profound love
for your mother and sister, and yes, still
I instilled my values upon your heart
hoping you’d call upon them in moments

of your greatest need, of unseen hazards
dovetailing with the inexplicable
born from my inevitable absence
(we rarely have say in Final partings)

we have differences and share likenesses
both from broken and imperfectly-stitched
families, mended by golden-lacquered truths
my truth lied in helping you stand alone

but while I drew strength from isolation
you forged alliances with other hearts
each heart fortifying your own backbone
foreign course, yet I admired your route

your unique journey led you to a path
not so different from mine; I know it well
a quest to find answers from a father
leading to an absence of resonance

while I can’t truly know your emptiness;
for it is a similar, but different
flavored void than my own quest for my Truth
if you never knew it before, hear me

I will end this crime and tell you the Truth
it’s what he should’ve told you long ago
and what I should’ve known you long needed
for you (as you are right now) are enough

you are you; your differences are beacons
as lighthouses, cutting light from darkness,
rock from sea, known earth from cosmic secrets
I pray our similarities guide you

strengthening, enlightening your journeys
without fogging your way towards your own Truth
for, you see, my dearest, intrepid son
we are more alike than we are different
***

Condition Zebra

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Condition Zebra

The ominous klaxon wails as boots drum steel. Seatbelts are clacking among the hurried professional murmuring. My mental-checklist rolls tape automatically within: flashgear-check, gasmask-optimal, headset audio-go, mic-check good. My scope hums into action, glowing green and amber.

“Weps, One online,” squawk my butterflies, as I note the surface contact sent to me automatically by my boss. It’s beyond gun range, but it’s streaming right for us. A single anti-ship missile would hastily end its aggression, but we can’t launch a preemptive strike without just cause. And so, we wait.

“Weps, aye,” boss booms in acknowledgement, adding, “Surface-action port-side, bearing 279-relative…”

Breathe

“…Renegade gunboat coming in hot… not responding to our hails… I guess the pirates wanna play…”

Rely on your training. You got this.

“…Batteries-tight. Do not fire unless fired upon, but stay frosty, ya got me? We got this.”

“One, aye,” I reply.

And now we wait.

the heavens shriek red
dawn or dusk, our plight unknown
now gird your courage

***

Written for dVerse Haibun Monday: Waiting, guest hosted by Imelda.

One of the US Navy’s unofficial slogans was “hurry-up and wait”. Not very poetic, I know, but the topic of waiting makes me think of those days.

Liberating the Moment

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World outside my kitchen window.

Liberating the Moment

She missed it earlier
but examining the November storm
from behind the sanctuary of
coffee-sweetened kitchen window,
before the late-fall deluge wiped evidence,
wispy-warm poems rose
from every chimney vent
clear to the far tree-line, each
an ascending esoteric-buttressed declaration
of internal warmth and acceptance.

She smiled,
squeezing me extra tight
as the rain shushed the trees,
shooed the expelled steam-dancers,
obscured the looking-glass,
embracing the roof overhead
with white noise.

We observed the rain in silence.

Seizing the moment
would’ve been ideal; instead,
we let it breathe,
the evergreens and barren trees,
the chimney vents and fogging panes,
she, embraced by me,
all exhaling in equanimous unity.
***

Another one for toads.