not a cult.

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Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

not a cult.

u·to·pi·a – /yo͞oˈtōpēə/ – noun: Utopia; plural noun: Utopias; noun: utopia; plural noun: utopias

an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. The word was first used in the book Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More.

 synonyms: paradise, heaven (on earth), Eden, Garden of Eden, Shangri-La, Elysium; idyll, nirvana, God’s country; literaryArcadia

 “it may be your idea of Utopia, but it’s not mine.”

Utopia is not a cult.

It is not a snowy compound off the grid,
but it was two young lovers
throwing popcorn at each other
because there’s no snow in San Diego.

Utopia is not a cult.

It’s not group-think or conformist factions,
but it was sitting
through the same community play,
year after year,

knowing mean old Ebenezer
will have a change of heart,
and yet still weeping tears of joy
when he does, hugging his nephew.

It’s not a cult, and yet, it was there

pretending to be sound asleep
when tiny children impatiently stirred us
to see what the fat guy in red and white
brought them the night before.

Utopia is not a cult. It’s just not.

It doesn’t demand wealth redistribution,
even as she anonymously paid the meal tab
of a struggling young adult
on year one of surviving alone,

knowing that nearly everyone
has a year-one story
that hasn’t been heard.

Utopia isn’t a cult.

It doesn’t demand mandatory appeasement,
but she gave the greatest cuddles
in human history, and she never tired
of delivering comfort.

Utopia doesn’t measure cups
except on the occasion
when she examined empty cups,
looking to fill them again.

I don’t know if Utopia is a she,
but I know she isn’t a cult.

Utopia’s voice was frail and robust;
hearing her song filled your own lungs
with chorus,

but you are not required to sing,
you ninny!

Only sing with her
if you want to,
and you will want to.

Because she ain’t a cult!

And I can’t tell you who she is
but I can tell you who she isn’t
and describe who she was

whenever she cleared her throat
etching her soft voice into memory

whenever she replenished her neighbor’s bowl
without hesitation or thought of her own

whenever she held me as I cried in darkness
patiently awaiting my slow turn to sunrise.

Yeah, I know who Utopia was
but I cannot tell you who she is

for I cannot describe the phenomenon
while simultaneously living the miracle
any more than I can put legs on a snake
or feathered wings on a fish.

Utopia is of us, within us, and beyond us.
She is ours to grasp, or leave alone.
She is perhaps my next breath,
and certainly was my last smile,

But she ain’t no damn cult.
***

Written for dVerse Poetics: Utopia, hosted by Gospel Isosceles.

Also shared at Real Toads The Tuesday Platform.

He who Was Beloved

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Photo by Antonio Molinari on Unsplash

He who Was Beloved

According to namesake,
I am the fair-haired
spearheaded
male child of he
who was beloved
by Jehovah.

At first blush,
my birth name feels
amusingly ironic to this

nappy-headed,
soft-hearted,
middle-aged agnostic
who avoids most religions,

especially the catholic one
that informed his childhood.

I am the fourth to carry
the rather singular mantle
of this rather common English name

partially derived from
Irish and Hebrew origin,

two lineages whose people have known
countless historical hardships
beyond their control
and sometimes comprehension.

I’ve no known earthly history
on how the first of my name
received his – no
our name,

no scrapbook,
no word-of-mouth lineage,

no photographs, save for
the second to carry our line
as he spearheaded
the Korean campaign before
succumbing to frostbite.

The man staring back
across monochrome grasslands
from three score ago
looks nothing like dad and me;

it’s possible that
all he ever gifted us
was his given name,

as there are no shifting sands to dig through,
excavating our eternally lost lineage.

Between the second,
his son the third, and
the grandson he never met,

there was never
a single fair-hair
among us.

Perhaps the first of our name
was a fair-haired, spear-wielding
son of he who Yah favored.

Perhaps the first was
the son of a slave – no, or
even slave-master

who really was God’s darling favorite,
spearheading the farming of
broken brown bodies through
fertile red Mississippi delta mud.

But I often wonder
what our names would have been
had our legacies not been so muddled;

had our culture’s course not been dominated
by forces beyond our control
and even comprehension.

My namesake felt
amusingly ironic
at first.

But now
I guess it’s as apt
as any other moniker

bestowed lovingly
one by one

by he who reached across decades,

lighting the wick of each nameless brown infant
reminding each new keeper of the flame
how fortunate he is
to be so beloved.
***

Written for dVerse Poetics: What’s in a Name?, hosted by Amaya, and shared at Real Toads The Tuesday Platform. Others contributed to this prompt here.

My name is Barry Dawson Jr. IV. Barry either means fair-headed, or sharp and spear-like, depending on which Gaelic historian you ask. Dawson means “son of Dawe”, which is shortened from David, which is Hebrew for “beloved of Jehovah”.

Each Day with Your Acquired Taste

Each Day with Your Acquired Taste

Expected you to execrate
and say “Yuck!”
repulsed by my
weak-willed brokenness.

Instead you dig in
for seconds and thirds,
gripping my hand,
entrenched.

Heroes
may not always save the day,
but often they
inspire others
to save themselves.

Your grit compels
broader palettes.
***

Written for dVerse Quadrille #66 – Yuck it Up, hosted by De Jackson (Whimsy Gizmo). Others contributed to this prompt here.

Last Gasp

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Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

Last Gasp

A Traveler searching the cosmos for entities worthy of elevation to Their plain of existence, upon trillions upon trillions of millennia, countless dust-specs orbiting one insignificant glowing orb after another, upon becoming disillusioned after the last red dwarf about 7.9 light years ago yielded no intelligent life, no rocky shores, no gas giants, not even the hint of an orbital debris-disk, had reached Their lowest point when suddenly, They encountered an unremarkable main-sequence star with thriving bedazzled bodies including eight stout jewels, with the third-from-center dazzling; an aqua-marine lively thing with atmosphere, liquid, and life, including intelligent life that was taking baby-steps in exploring itself and understanding the nature of things.

The Traveler was overjoyed. But then They looked deeper, seeing that this intelligent, relatively new life was rotting from within; at war with itself, exploiting and treating those perceived as lesser with contempt, fear, and hatred, hording food, healing, and education in exchange for trinkets of no intrinsic cosmic value – all at the calamitous global expense of poisoning the very environment they needed to survive, justifying all of this with superstition, dogma, and the disingenuous type of religion that closes minds from fully grasping the nature of things.

The Traveler sighed the resigned sigh of One who has seen this particular scene far too many times in Their travels. But there was no time to contemplate this decaying world’s all-too-brief impending fate; perhaps there will be better luck at the next star over, which is actually a binary system, so perhaps not. Still, the search must go on if the Traveler is to prove that They’re not roaming Infinity alone, searching for meaning within the nature of things.

the leaf never knew
what she was when she reddened
falling from the tree

no one else saw her twirling
only I mourned her last gasp
***

Written for dVerse Haibun Monday: Murmuration, hosted by guest blogger qbit/Randall. Others contributed to this prompt here.

Fate of Heaven

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Photo by Meireles Neto on Unsplash

Fate of Heaven

Waking up to us
was always the worst,
wasn’t it?

Surely you felt the same
rolling over and seeing
my displeasure at a
brand new day, didn’t you?

Do you have any idea
how many poems
I’ve written about you
only to have to file them away,

snuffing-out their wicked truths
like so many birthed stars
that ate through their fair
share of hydrogen

long before Ra set
the table for you and me
to ignore our own nature?

Can you fathom how every kiss shared
will be compared to the caramel of your lips
nibbling mine in our candlelit shame
of being exactly who we are

exactly where we wanted to be,
exactly beneath the weight of
who we wanted pressed into our flesh
exactly the way we needed?

Do you also wish to shake
the morning gate of heaven
to its foundation for fating us
a taste of what could be,

only to allow our respective free will
to choose to loosen our firm midnight grip
on respective flesh before the black sky
blushed soft purple with promise of new day

separating me from you
as earth from firmament,

forming boundaries everywhere
instead of simply being
happily entangled in
undefined twilight?

On some level, I know
you were just as selfish,
just as grateful for those broad,
quiet charcoal strokes

shared in faint starlight,
silently sucking our
pigment from sundown,

but no matter our
moon-soaked efforts,
morning always comes,
doesn’t it?
***

Shared at dVerse OpenLinkNight #229. Other poets have shared their poems here.

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.
***

Day 30 – Spring Chant/Prayer to Persephone

Psyché

By Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757–1822) – Eric Pouhier (May 2007), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2129759

Spring Chant/Prayer to Persephone

Centerline keeper
Breath my air
Inhale, share
Mutual dreamer

Centerline keeper
Move in close
Feel repose
Outer gate-sweeper, brace you

Centerline keeper
Closer still
Overfill
Tender will-seeker

And you want this?
I know I do

Centerline keeper
Nose to ear
Hush your fear
Uncommitted leaner

Centerline keeper
Concentric girds
Say the words
Sensitive feeler, face you

And do you want this?
I know I do

Limerence
Is it
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Opening us to
Loss of contact?

Ignorance

Was it
Lonely
Opening to
Mutual attract?

Limerence
Do you want this?
Can we will this?

I can feel the sun
In the curve of your smile
And I want the day to grow longer

And I can see the fun
In the swerve of your style
And all I want to say,
You know, is to conjure

Cupid, Aphrodite, Eros,
Frigga, Hathor, Juno,
Flora, Sabine, Persephone,
And the whole damn team

And the whole damn team
Just to make you say
You share the same space
And feel the same way

Are you inspired by the way
I admire your existence?

Do you require further sway
Towards desire or assistance?

Are we both liars who display
A misfire of consistence?

Renewed, I aspire to today
Rising higher, void of distance

Limerence
Is it
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Opening us to
Loss of contact?

Is it ignorance?

Was it
Lonely
Opening to
Mutual attract?

Limerence
Do you want this?
Can we will this?

The path beyond the garden
Beyond what I thought I knew
Beyond a life filled with
Dewdrops alive with you
When I relied on a new
Love supplied by you

Beg your pardon
Beg your smile to rise higher still
A spring rain brings a tap
On my windowsill
It brings pain and sappy need
To say the words with a greater will

The season of renewal
Where the flowers grow
And the lovebirds sing
Where my heart didn’t know
What our world would bring
And the sun didn’t show
The clouds gathering

Fate may be cruel
But I’ll face it with a truth
That belies the fear
Can’t replace what a
Youthful heart supplies to steer
Our airspace closed with
A soothing baptized revere

It would be foolish to build a life
On a starry night shared in the throes
Of what we know is obsession

Is it?

And it would be a sin against nature
To win you on surface-level physics,
Playing Loki to discretion

Only
Is it?

When did this spin out of our control
And grow, filling its own chasm?

When did we spin and invent
Our enlightening phantasm?

Lonely
Was it

Formed when we were born
At the event horizon of an orgasm?

When did we spin out of control
And grow into this unwieldly thing?

When did we begin? Was it
The beginning of spring?
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 30 prompt:

…write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact. It could be an odd piece of history, an unusual bit of art trivia, or something just plain weird. While I cannot vouch for the actual accuracy of any of the facts presented at the links above (or any other facts you might use as inspiration!), I can tell you that there are definitely some poetic ideas here, just waiting for someone to use them.

The strange and fascinating fact I used is that the fighting style Wing Chun literally translates to Spring Chant or Eternal Spring.

Sorry for the late ending. I’ve been really busting my hump at work and haven’t had much time to write. But I’ve been tinkering with this one off and on for a while.

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 22 – Myth of Stillness

Myth of Stillness

The path beyond my garden
belies the lies unlearned in time

as if the stars cannot
rearrange themselves in the sky
for us; as if

they, you and I,
all known things
aren’t in constant states of motion,
learning and unlearning.

Stars coalesce, are born,
then die and scatter,
its matter mingling with matter
from other dead stars,
coalescing into newer,
denser stars,

the cycle renewed in timelines
beyond our real-time observation.

Our sun is at least
a second-generation star
in this manner,
and the world of me and you
thrives on its energy.

This is how you and I came to be,

and yes, we are
but sentient star remnants
in constant motion.

That’s how you and I
came to coalesce.

It takes four years
for the light of the next
nearest star to reach
the solar system of
me and you.

The twinkle we shared when we first met
began its journey way back when
you and I were still clinging to
dying systems separately, orbiting
resentment and dysfunctionality
until implosion.

And yet for that random twinkle to mingle
with the twinkle in our locked eyes that night

as we danced to Earth, Wind & Fire,
the elements conspiring us to groove together,
shifting constellations of past lives,

don’t you dare tell me that me and you
didn’t move the stars themselves to
make this fusion happen.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 22 prompt:

I’ve found this one rather useful in trying to ‘surprise’ myself into writing something I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. Today, I’d like you to take one of the following statements of something impossible, and then write a poem in which the impossible thing happens:

The sun can’t rise in the west.

A circle can’t have corners.

Pigs can’t fly.

The clock can’t strike thirteen.

The stars cannot rearrange themselves in the sky.

A mouse can’t eat an elephant.

Happy writing!

I feel like I cheated a bit, as the stars are in constant motion, but this motion is mostly beyond our limited powers of perception, but hey, it counts.

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.