code-switch virtuoso

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Image of author by author. My face doesn’t always look like that. 

code-switch virtuoso

I remember dad
made me say “yes”
with emphasis
upon the stressor

Nevermind
that I was nine
and tryin ta find
a kinder lesson

Cause he knew
that to stay true
the rule of two dialects
was needed

To succeed in greater stages,
I took heed for greater wages

That was the birth
of my first split,
my trunk from earth
and I admit

I never found out
where I fit,
forgot about
which was legit

If I could ask about my place,
Is it my mask or just my face?

I assimilate and then replace
but if it’s fate what gets erased?

Unlike the ballers,
I make myself smaller,
pump-fake for shot-callers,
and I try to hide

They don’t know me,
only what I’m showing,
phoniness controls me,
what I feel inside

I try to fit like 8-bit chipsets,
rely on wit
and slight-of-hand
to make you see
and comprehend
the fantasy

In apogee from what is me,
I hear the chorus and chime-in
a midi-synth vibe,
a remedy
that I prescribe

A suicide by a thousand cuts,
I lack the guts for full erasure
so I white-out, blot-out
the rougher sides

Not Safe For We,
or Not Safe For Me
to just safely be
authentically free

Unlike the ballers,
I make myself smaller,
I fake for shot-callers,
and I try to hide

They don’t know me,
only what I’m showing,
loneliness consoles me,
what I feel inside

Dysfunctionality amazing
when my laziness and cravings
take up space, ranting and raving

All my blemishes diminish
our corporate saving grace

I forfeit the part of me
that blends creativity and yin

Feeding them yang
yields hunger pangs
as I hang by self-inflicted sin

I cover-up
and smile through scars,
give my regards to Wayne Brady

It seems odd
the most successful switchers
go criminally crazy

O.J. Simpson and Bill Cosby
cracked the code and set the bar

I ain’t with them, but let’s always
set the mode for who we are

Unlike the ballers,
I make myself smaller,
breaking for shot-callers,
and I try to hide

They don’t know me,
only what I’m showing,
only just behold me,
who I am inside.
***


(NSFW – cuss words and shit like that there.)

Written for dVerse Poetics: On Privilege, hosted by anmol(alias HA). Other contributions to this prompt can be found here.

My dad demanded that I learn to code-switch and speak the corporate lingo so I could “make money in the white man’s world” (his words). Big ups to pops for making sure I could earn a living wage, but yeah, I almost never feel like my authentic self, whoever that may be.

This one hit me where I live, so I just let it flow in one take.

 

 

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.

On Service and Serving

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Photo by Ding LU on Unsplash

On Service and Serving

What a
bizarre perverse
spectacle we must be
to anyone with the gift of
vision.

Contorting our delusions
to fit absurd collective
narrative illusions.

Your happiness is
worthless
to me
and yet

I weigh my worth upon you saying
that you are pleased by my efforts
to bring happiness directly
to your seat with a smile in my voice

fit to claw your eyes out
to minimize eyestrain.

As I strain,

monks go door to door
with empty bowl in hand and
it is filled more often
than not.

If it be a sin
to covet a neighbor’s empty bowl
then I am the foulest
most wretched creature living

if one could subscribe
to the false illusion that
somehow this is life.

But I lie while lying;
it is his heart I covet most.

I would reach into him and
feast right upon it,
right there in his face,
sitting upright, cross-legged

upon the dusty,
nutrient-starved earth, and he
quietly, peacefully

would mourn the fact that
he only had the one
heart to offer,

withholding nothing.

I don’t even count them
as withholds anymore,
for they are nothing to behold;

I place the holy magic beans
inside the divine tabernacle
and watch random gods of diversion
snatch them all away like a

school of piranha
picking clean the bones of my
counterfeit coffers.

Thus, am I served.

It would be cute
to call it being
eaten alive,

but that would play to
the illusion that the beans,
the tabernacle
and my convent with the gods
ever existed and that

somehow,
this is living.

Oh, what a bizarre spectacle I must be
to anyone with the true gift of sight.

But I am ready.

Ready to leave it all behind,
take a leap into the absence of lore,
and see for myself
what this living business is all about.

Perhaps
the best part of
my yet-to-be-told tale
will be when I ended service
and served.

My story begins on the last page.
***

(Video is only loosely related to the poem. I only included it because I really loved the movie, and it makes me feel better about things in my life that kinda suck right now.)

Written for dVerse Poetics: The Art of Confession in Poetry, hosted by  anmol(alias HA).

all the difference

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Photo by Alejandro Benėt on Unsplash

all the difference

On the path not taken
incomplete thoughts and wishes
pair with longing and regret
along elongated line-of-sight
shrinking to a point-of-light
as all paths do when curving
beyond known horizons
I close my eyes for vision

the grass is greener, and yet
the air is thick and toxic
reflection fails to muster depth
strangers call me pops and grandpa
ex-lovers commiserate
in much greater numbers, laughing
at flaws, triumphs, cuts and scars
revealed only to their eyes

pale winter sunset invites frost
breathing artic dusk breezes, I watch
my trail turns away from light
Orion the hunter claims the night
as he pursues the Pleiades
my hunt dovetails to warmer days
for the path not taken
is uninhabitable
***

Written for dVerse Poetics: Time and What If?, hosted by Merril D. Smith. Other poets contributed to this prompt here.

Concentric Snapshots

Concentric Snapshots

I.

Two new high school grads
our duet, playing at probing,
experimental love;

clumsily grasping
at the third rail,

illuminating our
respective darkness,
calling the freshly found
fool’s gold
love eternal.

II.

Victims of circumstance, we
circled the idea as
adults consenting at this
scandalous dispelling of intent, this
instinctive discontent

sucking at the plea; a need
we’d already met
in spirit if not deed, she,

splayed and braced
for our forbidden crossing,

forever eroding a
gold-pressed
promissory note
as false idol.

III.

Never bothered catching her name;
would’ve fumbled it away anyway
in the aftermath of two bored barflies
stalling to return to our respective
counterfeit lives, finding life and little
deaths pressed between, rubbing for wishes,
but granted only golden gilded-guilt.

IV.

Last night with her was…

last night was…

it was… have you ever

in all your
quarter-century-plus of life
been so sure of someone,

so secure in her warmth,
so open to your own vulnerability
so overeager to overflow,
to explode,

to lose containment of self,

spilling onto
and into her essence
until you forget
where you end
and she begins? Like… you know…

uhm… like two novice glassblowers
playing in molten golden sands,
you both know it’s real and urgent
and wonderful, and powerful and… and…

…and inevitably,
one or both of you
will still shatter it
once it cools.

Anyway,
it was like that
with her.

V.

There was something
within this sad, soulful
old-soul lonely eyes

that fleetingly
stole her soul
from her fiancé

for an afternoon delight
that never happened; that was
her story anyway after
entering a bachelor’s loser-loft,

asking for a glass of water
she never drank a drop of,
spilling it on the night-stand
next to her thirst and
a certain creaking
secret-spilling mattress

and I can’t say if anything
she moaned into my ear
was gospel, but truth is,

sometimes
seeking that golden sandy fullness
leaves us spent, wrought
with emptiness.

VI.

Neither of us
are in the mood,
molecules moving
a bit slower with age
and still,

catching me
admiring her hips,
she wiggles a spark my way,

igniting knowing smirks
encircling in decaying orbits,
concentrically spinning
towards collision

saying inflammatory things like,
“I thought you were sleepy?” and
“What you wanna do?”
with knowing grins,

knowing the answer
before it begins with
clumsy grasping of our third rail,
transmuting darkness into
golden hues.
***

Written for dVerse Poetics: Desire and Sexuality in Poetry, guest hosted by Anmol Arora (HA).

Initially, I was going to skip this one and just exist within my depression for a minute, but then I began reading everyone’s steamy contributions, and as Bjorn predicted, I became inspired for some reason. *heh*

Passion and sexual desire are often their own reward, but I thought it might be interesting to examine the fact that often these desires don’t exist within a hermetically-sealed bubble. Sometimes indulging is great and the circumstances wonderful, and sometimes the whole sultry exercise may be wrought with symptoms of a deeper need.

No judgments here! Lord knows I’m not qualified to judge anyone. I just thought it might be interesting to play with circumstances.

I enjoyed writing for this prompt. It pulled me from my doldrums for a bit. 🙂

 

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.

Nocturnal Remission

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Photo by Jay on Unsplash

Nocturnal Remission

Once upon a frosted moon
I gathered diamond dust in June
Nonsense or hogwash, dare you say?
Perhaps you’re right; it was in May

With snowdrifts icing late spring blooms
I laced my skates and headed north
Her hand outstretched from feathered plumes
My butterflies flittered for warmth

This bird migrated in three-fourths
I lagged behind her melody
Her song was lilting, light, on-key
We danced our dream with fragile force

Her sea-salt kiss reigns tearfully
Melting capricious symphony
My snowbird left this lonely loon
In sentiment and fantasy

That once upon a frosted moon
I gathered diamond dust in June
***

Written for dVerse  Stock Phrases, posted by lillian in Poetics.

I enjoyed this prompt… but look, I get it… I know there’s not much to hold onto in this poem (or perhaps too much, depending on your perspective), so pardon my whimsy.

“Once upon a…” prompts get me in a bit of a whimsical mood. 🙂

 

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”.

Exchanging Masters

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Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Exchanging Masters

Fueled by misery,
Sloth rose, slovenly
grunting barely a half-laugh
with minimal effort,

easily overthrowing
Lust and Greed’s slipping,
thirsting, ravenous,
needy rule,

observed passively,
inexplicably so, by Wrath,
whose fiery talents
faded into the shade of
obsolescence and age,

creating a clear path
to the buffet
for Gluttony to feed,

leaving nothing nourishing
for Pride, who died while
withering away on the vine,

once green with Envy,
now ashen and drained.

Once upon a time,
you guys were so much fun
to attach myself;
to affix my banner upon;

now my attachments are
afflictions of fleeting spells,
seemingly over before
they’d even begun.

Ah great.
See what you’ve done?

Now I’m even fatter than before.

Fatter than I’ve ever been.

I surmise
we’d never have arrived here
if Pride were still alive.

In case it’s quite unclear,
I liked us much better
back when Lust and Greed
were allowed to steer.

Hell naw I don’t want any more
fried chicken and beer.
It’s wrong of you to ask!

Of course I want some more
fried chicken and beer!
Why ask this of me when
you already know the answer?

I just sat down, so
if you could bring them here,
that would be easier
for our new masters.

Pay attention!
Did you even notice
the stream changing course?

Or how labored
your breathing has become?

Or how indifference
feels heavier than struggle?

Daylight won’t wait for you
to caress her anew.

Idleness is its own endgame.

Time is a river,
eroding monuments of attachments,
revealing the true nature of suffering.

If we’re not mindful,
we won’t mind
or scarcely notice to find

that we’re all being worn away
under new management.
***

This poem was inspired by dVerse Poetics: 7 and 7 prompt, which as you probably guessed, is a meditation on the seven deadly sins. Other poets have contributed to this prompt here.

I could’ve gone deeply personal with this one, but confessional poetry is pretty much my whole “thing”, so I decided to zig instead of zagging by keeping things a bit more abstract.

Two poems in two days? Am I back? Nah. Not yet. But I’m starting to find my bearings again. Thanks for being patient with me.

A Cat

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Photo by Antonio Lapa on Unsplash

A Cat

On the first day of spring
a cat came to me.
Her collared tag sparkled,
reflecting glints of sunlight
from her bejeweled collar.
Regal, majestic, passive poise
was her manner of movement
and sitting stillness
– if a cat’s movement and
stillness could be considered
in such human grandiosities.
She received me just as
Grandmaster Yip Man decreed
when teaching novices
basic grappling techniques
– “Greet what arrives,
escort what leaves,
and rush upon loss of contact.”
A Wing Chun master feline,
ruler of our centerline,
razor claws, carefully
retracted while restricting
movement and momentum,
intimate dominance, fleeting
for before I made sense
of my senses, she fled.
Why she came I cannot say
– she wasn’t hungry, and
she only knew me in
the manner that all cats of
certain domestication
know their fellow humans –
and yet she came right to me
leaning into my space,
mewing a few kind words
I could only guess at
since I don’t speak cat.
Of course I mewed right back
unclear on the syntax
but knowing that only
lonely souls lean out to find
random comfort across
diverging species.
***

Shared at dVerse Poetics: Soul gazing , hosted by Paul Scribbles. Poets have contributed to this prompt here.