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.

Quantum Entanglement (The Lovers)

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Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

Quantum Entanglement (The Lovers)

In a blink
all he thought he knew
subverted

With a wink
all she thought she outgrew
reawakened

On the brink
all their fates knocked askew
re-knotted

With a kink
all the cosmos curled a screw
unfastened

Interlinked
by indifferent ether Déjà vu
enraptured
***

Written for dVerse Quadrille #68: Winkle, Winkle, Little Poem, hosted by De Jackson (Whimsy Gizmo).

I wrote this before coming up with a title for it. I got my title from here.

Winter’s Breathing Lesson

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My driveway, about a winter ago. Perhaps two winters ago?

Winter’s Breathing Lesson

wolves thrive in winter
a matter of attrition
as their prey weakens

though her canines are not fanged
her biting air stirs my lungs

this winter is tamed
El Nino tempers her howl
flurries become rain

I’m steeled for a land of white
the mist still chills our pack’s trail

weather-guessers clash
none know what tomorrow brings
I embrace the void

cooler, darker than last moon’s
I keep my howls to myself
***

Written for Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Winter, Posted by Sumana Roy.

NOAA predicts a warm, wet winter for the Seattle area this time (so no snow days), but Farmer’s Almanac says batten down the hatches for unseasonably cold weather.

I was going to write a satire about the two conflicting predictions from the dual weather sages, but mindful presence moved me in a different direction. 

I haven’t looked at the data for myself, but meh, I’m genuinely good with either outcome. 🙂

And because I love BOTH versions…

Pariah

Pariah

As an artist, he spins artistry – I wholeheartedly admire
But lustful seed; malicious need, delicious greed fueling his fire
Misdeeds come to light and overnight, his blights birth a pariah

Setting his art apart in heart makes me Descartes to his pariah
His harmful slips trumps craftsmanship, ripping all I admire
Provoked folks were broken on his yoke, and where there’s smoke there’s fire

Using muses won’t excuse abuse; can’t recuse flair from our fire
Through introspection, we selectively reject the learned pariah
Yet we learned the life-affirmed abuse of the abuser I admired

This known pariah grown from man’s own fire of cruelty, I admire
***

Written for imaginary garden with real toads Fussy Little Forms: Tritina. This is my second attempt at this tritina form.

Also shared on Poetry Pantry #424.

Background: There is a gifted poet who I admired and wanted to emulate a great deal. I won’t mention his name here, but some of you may be familiar with his work. He basically came from nowhere, grew up in squalor, as his people were oppressed and all-but-erased by the US government. He was physically abused as a child. But he eventually fell in love with language, pulled himself up, and rose to prominence as one of America’s dynamic new literary voices.

But tragically, he then used his newfound influence to sexually harass aspiring writers looking to him for mentorship. Obviously, my heart goes out to the women he victimized. Also, I feel like a fool for admiring him in the first place, and in some small measure, for still admiring him today.

I’ve been grappling with this for several months now. His actions were abhorrent and unacceptable. But I also cannot ignore the abhorrent conditions that birthed and probably informed his actions. Hurt people hurt people. Should this man be erased for happening to others? And what of the others who happened to him when he was a young innocent child?

I don’t have the answers, but I just feel sick about the whole damn thing.

Mid-Fall Brunch

Mid-Fall Brunch

October breeze brings arctic bite to air
Leaves leave their moorings upon knotted crust
Shadows stretch further north with greater depth

Autumn sound-tracks in jazz with folksy depth
I steep our tea; honey-kissed, clears the air
She preps the pastry; flaky, buttered crust

Her hand brushes mine, piercing well-worn crust
We speak-easily; a bottomless depth
She smiles, I forfeit breath, gulping our air

We fall for our mid-fall, air, crust, and depth.
***

Written for imaginary garden with real toads Fussy Little Forms: Tritina, Imagined By Marian. This is a tricky little form, but it was also fun. I may try a few more like this.

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”.

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.

Spicy Teriyaki Nights

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Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

Spicy Teriyaki Nights

We feasted
solely upon each other
and spicy chicken teriyaki
from the restaurant
a half-block from our
carnal harbor.

Failing to define us,
we acquiesced,
indulging until sated.

Unfortunately,
you filled yourself with me,
leaving me half-starved.

I still miss you,
but despise teriyaki.
***

Written for dVerse Quadrille Monday prompt, hosted by Lillian, where the safe word is “harbor”.

Did I type “safe word”? My bad. I meant that the word “harbor” had to be included in the 44-word poem.

(But you can use it as a safe word if you like. I won’t judge! I’m not qualified to judge anyway. *wink*)

A Fragile Song

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Photo by Seth Macey on Unsplash

A Fragile Song

Echoes of my dream-defined visions declare war,
starbursts strike scores,
both friend and foe,
but what for?

The home that I called my base came unmoored;
willow that I know,
now embers in day-glow.

I know the sparrow that lived here,
I defended her,
but now her expended song
tends my fear.

With a voice too delicate to vibrate,
she lends me the will and might to migrate:

“Not everything ends badly,
that is conjecture.
Though everything ends
at least from our perspective.

“We can’t make amends
with cosmic architecture,
but we can begin
to live within.”

Echoes of my mother’s laugh
ring long after her last breath.

Father’s lectures resonate
beyond his untimely fate.

I derive no meaning
from their unbeating hearts,
eyes bleared from tears when
lingering on their departs.

Words left unsaid will remain unspoken,
except in dreams, with the visions unwoven.

I’ve chosen to fixate on the song of that bird
whose weakness conflated
a strength that reverbed:

“Not everything ends badly;
that’s a fiction.
Though everything ends;
sadly, it’s our restriction.

“We can’t make amends
with our cell’s afflictions,
but we can begin
to live within.

She and I loved
with conviction and convection.
Our fronts clashed in wind-slashed storms,
with no direction.

We blew ourselves apart,
parting with bitter sorrow.
Despite our worser parts,
there still came a tomorrow.

We now know the science of us, but too late
to rewind and find some solace in our fate,

but wait and listen to the sparrow
as her frail song pierces our marrow:

“Not everything ends badly,
though everything ends.
We can’t make amends
with past lovers and friends,

but we can extend
our hands and transcend
beginnings and endings
as we live within.”
***

A Duet the Wind Called Fleeting

A Duet the Wind Called Fleeting

If you don’t raise your voice
no one will hear you sing
losing the gift of choice,
we wait for what squalls bring

Did you cross my mind, love?
Or did I dream our bliss?
Your voice fades with your kiss
Ruby dreams from foxglove

Tearful visions fall, blurred
smeared what’s left of your song
seasons blended and slurred
where our voices belonged

Could you hear my song too?
Was I brassy? Off-key?
Hope you remember me
as currents convey you.
***

Aretha Franklin’s death is weighing heavy on my mind this morning. I immediately thought of both this soulful Aretha original and the slick Mos Def sample. I was happy to see that YouTube had a mashup of the two.  Listening to it got me thinking in terms of Shakespearean-level star-crossed lovers missed connections, and whatnot and so-forth. It’s funny how the brain works sometimes. 

R.I.P. Aretha Franklin