Luckiest Man Alive

MeBro2

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.

Day 4: Fred (“He’s good and dead now”)

Fred (“He’s good and dead now”)

Fred wanted to be a New York Yankee
But a greater calling led him to lead
Honor student; voice for impoverished need
A credible threat to bureaucracy

Uniter of races spanning rainbows
He was drugged and slaughtered by his own state
Two rounds to his skull, not the final blows
His work became bloodied, sharing his fate

We wait for justice as brown bodies pile
Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and more
Respond as technology streams the gore
But know these slayings were here all the while

Slaughter of leaders, of boys, of teachers
In-justice? These are not bugs; they’re features.
***

Shared to NaPoWriMo’s day 4 prompt: write a sad poem that achieves sadness through simplicity.

Also shared to dVerse OLN. Other poets contributed here

Written for all of our innocent brothers and sisters gunned-down by the state, and especially Fred Hampton, human rights activist who was allegedly* assassinated by the Chicago Police Department in partnership with the FBI’s highly successful effort to destabilize the leadership and political power structure of impoverished African-American communities and many other minorities.

The quote “He’s good and dead now” was allegedly* said by the policeman who administered the two fatal shots to Fred Hampton’s head, execution-style.

I prefer escapism, love, loss, and the human condition over the sad realities of the world we all share, but for some reason I was moved to write about this tragedy… this massacre allegedly* sanctioned and administered by the state in 1969. It was my hope to bring perspective to all the recent alleged* murders of black men and minorities by the state captured on video, and all the hand-wringing and outrage at the judicial system’s collective shrugs.

Everyone who are wondering how we could possibly let this happen in the twenty-first century needs to know that it has always been happening for the past 400-plus years. You only get to witness the massacres second-hand through the miracle of modern technology.

(*I added allegedly for legal reasons… but come on now. Y’all know what’s up.)

 

 

She Reminded Me of That Night

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Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

She Reminded Me of That Night

The deckplates pitch,
dive, and roll
beneath my feet,
denying any firm sense
of place.

Darkness pours into sight,
lenses straining for substance,
pupils expanding to
engulf any semblance
of light in moonless night.

The ship’s hulking,
shadowy silhouette
lurches into view,
slowly shrugging as
I ride her spine,
the sound of her
slicing the ocean
is a choir of
Poseidon’s vanguard,
shushing our advance
through His domain.

The peacefully disquieting scene
is almost bearable until
turning my gaze upward,
facing the weight of the cosmos itself,
the twinkling slivers of each planet,
star, cluster, nebula, galaxy, light
from both minutes and millions of years ago,
all bearing down upon my brittle soul at once,
crushing me with the weight of
my own insignificance…

“Do you remember that sensation?”
she asks, pausing to clean
her multicolored,
dappled feline fur
passively observing
my tormented meditation.

“Stop it!” I gasp,
squeezing my eyes shut
even tighter.

“You became disoriented,
and had to look away
to regain your bearings,”

she continued,
chuckling to herself.

“Remember how the
near-endless
points of light
became the spots
of my fur?”
she pressed on
unhurriedly,
but resolute.

“Just reminiscing about it
makes my head spin,” I whimper.
“Please, Nihirizumu. Enough.”

“But you asked me
about the pulse of your poetry,”

said Nihirizumu
in a mocking tone.

“You wanted to know
where that throbbing vibe came from,
so long ago
or did you not?”

“I remember now,” I concede.
“It’s too much for me. Please stop.”

“Very well then,”
said my poetic pride
with a weary sigh
and dismissive tail-flip.

“But you need not shrink away
in fear of the cosmos.

“You think yourself insignificant
in comparison to its light,
but you are both from it
and of it.

“I hope that one day
you will gaze upon the vastness
secure in knowing
that you gaze upon yourself.”

I opened my eyes,
took a deep cleansing breath, and
began writing this.
***

Written for dVerse Poetics -your poetic hum, hosted by Gina. I missed the prompt, so I’m sharing it at Open Link Night # 239, hosted by kim881. Other dVerse contributors can be found here and here.

While there is virtually no link to my poetry and what I do for a living now (frankly, each entity exists despite the other), there was a link to when I was once a sailor staring into the night sky free from light pollution for the very first time. I don’t recall ever feeling as small as I did that day, but that was only part of it…

With the deck moving beneath my feet and no point of reference, it felt like being everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. It was as thrilling as it was terrifying.

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.

Fleeting

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Photo by Simone Dalmeri on Unsplash

Fleeting

A familiar summer scent
smiling, embracing our path
you’d sprung onto winter’s end
before knowing our spring need
unexpected kiss warmed us
your lips activated mine
your tongue filled me at love’s loss

What manner of spell is this
where I can relive seasons
of past-lives unlocked by smell
as weaponized nostalgia?
Will you cling to innocence
as you move to turn the lock
sealing us within our vice?

Lock me in; I will not flee
pour yourself upon my chest
envelope me in warm breath
crash and strain, power exchange
slake your thirst and wring me taut
plum our depths and bottle them
encrust us in lush reprise.
***

Inspired by Septets for dVerse’s Seventh Anniversary, though I missed the prompt’s deadline. Go here to read other poets’ submissions for this prompt.

Shared at dVerse’s Open Link Night

The Lucky Ones

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Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

The Lucky Ones

Tina says we do it to one another, every day,

Knowing and not knowing. When it is love,

What happens feels like dumb luck. When it’s not,

We’re riddled with bullets, shot through like ducks.

 

Every day. To ourselves and one another. And what

If what it is, and what sends it, has nothing to do

With what we can’t see? Nothing whatsoever

To do with a power other than muscle, will, sheer fright?  

Tracy K. Smith, an excerpt from Life on Mars, Pulitzer Prize winning poetry collection.

 

1.

What is the nature of a single soul?

How can one measure its worth?

Do we weigh it by the hearts it formed in life,

or perhaps the void it leaves behind?

Terri Ann whispers, but I can’t quite hear.

Dad just smirks. He knows, but won’t tell.

 

2.

Put throngs of souls through hardships,

deny them dignity,

basic human comforts,

heap tragedy upon disaster

upon blight upon humiliation

upon their collective shoulders,

and I promise the plural response

won’t remind you of anything from

the Book of Job.

 

Oh, there will be outliers

of philosophers and saints

embracing quiet intangible dignity,

but the mass majority will go looking

for someone to blame.

 

Often those very same fringe

philosophers and saints

resigned to their fates

become targets.

 

Wanton cannibalism is an outrage

in civil societies,

and yet… and yet…

 

3.

After the Great Kantō earthquake

and before cyclone winds

begat fire-tornadoes,

a helpful policeman took charge

guiding four-thousand survivors

to what he thought was safety

but what inevitably became

mass immolation.

 

There was no way he could know

and nothing he could do,

their fate

inexorably twisted

among tails of fire dragons,

but in the policeman’s eyes,

he led the masses to their fate

the sum of his heroic intentions

now ashes.

 

Despondent

unable to bear the shame,

the officer committed seppuku,

increasing the countless body-count

by one soul.

 

4.

Is there something after this realm?

I can’t find the answer in math, science,

not in faith, not even in poetry.

 

If I contemplate for too long, the voids

of my departed soul-hearts cause

my body to ache like overused knee-joints

that signal pending monsoons.

 

Dad knows, but won’t tell. He always

insisted that I find things out for myself.

Terri Ann crossed over once, came back,

when her heart stopped, she just saw black.

 

That’s what she said, anyway. I suspect

that she just wasn’t paying attention then.

I’m sure she knows the answer now,

but I can’t quite hear her anymore.

 

5.

Danielle said it was too bad about

that rock-n-roll guy who died.

I nodded grimly, but said nothing more.

 

The soul of that rock-n-roll guy left us

for God knows where, assuming He does exist

and not just as some embodiment

of a salve for aching joints.

 

The rock-n-roll guy left a void for his wife,

children, family, and close friends to

contemplate, celebrate, or mourn,

depending on where they fall

on the afterlife belief spectrum.

 

Rock-n-roll guy bequeathed

to millions of us musical fans

a soundtrack cipher, unlocking

precious memories,

possibly including moments when other souls

left voids for us to contemplate,

celebrate, or mourn.

 

I hope there’s something after this for him,

and for us as well. I hope the blackness Mom

claims she saw was nothing more than a cosmic

practical joke that Dad is already in on.

 

6.

I watched it on accident.

Wincing, I looked away,

but I could still hear it

the lone automatic weapon.

 

I listened to folks in the aftermath

yelling that this shouldn’t happen

in civilized society. I also heard myself

joining this chorus,

yelling into the void.

 

I listened to opposition shush us,

as this is not the time to discuss

people dying needlessly because

those people just died needlessly.

 

So I shut up and listened

as others failed

to listen to each other,

instead they turned and

devoured each other’s message

like we did when this happened before

like they’ll do again.

 

Wanton cannibalism is an outrage

in civil societies,

and yet… and yet…

 

7.

The leader of the free world

Said we were lucky

For only fifty-nine deaths

 

It could’ve been much much worse

Rejoice in our good fortune

 

My soul hurts

***

***

Information on how to help the Las Vegas shooting victims.

Information on how to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

Go here to donate to Tim Duncan’s island storm relief fund.

Go here and here to help hurricane Harvey victims

Go here and here to find out how to help hurricane Irma victims.

Shared at dVerse’s Open Link Night # 205. Go here to read other poet’s contributions. 

 

 

Day 6 – Two Cats for One Hat (Or Snitches Get Snitches)

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Image source: Google

Two Cats for One Hat (Or Snitches Get Snitches)

The sun did not shine.

It was nighttime, you see.

So I sat with my book

Just as bored as can be.

 

I sat there with Daddy.

Mom slept and I sat

I hoped I could read her

The Cat in the Hat.

 

We were almost done!

My treat was on track!

For next we would read

How the Cat would come back!

 

I saw where she hid my new

Treat!

Treat!

Treat!

Treat!

If I could sneak a peak

That would be cool and neat!

 

I would not make a BUMP!

That would make Mommy jump!

I snuck!

In the bottom drawer it sat!

I snuck!

Out with the next book

Of the Cat in the Hat!

Half done with the first

Why did I skip it like that?

 

I knew I was wrong

Breaking rules was not funny.

But I wanted to peek

Before the sun was sunny!

 

“I knew I could get away with my prize,”

I thought with a smile

“And Mommy will not wake or stir

Not for a while.

 

I will take a quick peek

Like a bad little sneak

And once my sneaking has peaked

With not even a squeak

I will un-sneak my sneak

Oh how Momma would freak!

But my sneak-game’s on-fleek!

She will never know

Of her son’s geeky streak!”

 

I climbed up the couch

By Daddy I sat

With my major awards

Two cats in one hat!

Dad looked and said “Hey!

How did you get that?

How did you get two cats?

You did not read the first hat!”

 

But I whispered, “No! No!

Please speak softly, OK?

Or you will wake up my Mom

She would take it away!”

Then I heard Mom yell loud,

“Bring that book back, B.J.!”

 

I scowled at my dad

Who laughed with a wink

I was so very mad

At that foul Father fink

As my sneak was un-snuck

I thought isn’t this rich?

Never would I have thunk

Dad was a punk-ass snitch!

** *

Written for imaginary garden with real toads Celebrating Children’s Poetry – Dreaming with Stacie, and shared on dVerse’s OpenLinkNight # 193. The prompt was for us to write a poem that draws upon our childhood imagination.

When I closed my eyes to speak to my younger self, I was instantly transported back to the 70’s. True story! I was about four, or as I liked to call it, “Four-and-a-half”. Mom was teaching me to read, and I took to it like a duck to water. This is where my nerdery began.

I was nowhere near emotionally developed enough to deal with a cliffhanger, and Mom was too tired to let me read the first book to her so I could get to the second one. I took matters into my own hands, and Dad ratted me out real sneaky like and laughed in my face after I got in trouble with Mom. I swear, if I had been big enough to kick an ass, his ass would’ve been the first one I kicked that night. It’s like dude never heard the old “Snitches get Stitches” nursery rhyme, Knaamean?

So yeah, I wanted to kick my dad’s ass that night. Dirty snitch! May his soul rest in peace.

Read other dVerse poets’ OLN poems here.