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.

 

On My Way

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Photo by Mário Silva on Unsplash

On My Way

Midnight black and midday grey
paints a tapestry of melody
across evergreen-scraped cloudscapes
that sing ghostly choruses heard only
by old creaking bones elongating
upon currents whisking between
whispers unseen but felt where
few dare to dwell in disrepair.

The horizon, a hollow,
imaginary point of dim light,
nature’s slight-of-hand sight trick,
a fixated point unfixed
in space and time on spatial waypoints
that can never be affixed,
beckons for resolutions that
will never come but come what may,
at least I can say, I was on my way.
***

Inspired by today’s dVerse prompt, Poetics: Finding Emotions and Concepts in Things, guest-hosted by Sarah Russell. Go here to read other poets’ submissions to this prompt.

I’m not sharing mine over there this time because… well… if you’ve been following this blog, you already know damn well I’m not supposed to be doing prompts right now. But some of the prompts, like this one, are so tempting that I can’t help myself. I may need a poetry intervention so I can go work on the poetry I’m supposed to be working on.

Still, I know I said I would stay away from the prompts for a while, but I met my project goals today, so I deserve to play with words for a bit.

Kate and Edith Too

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The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David

Kate and Edith Too

She was made mostly for me
harvested, fermented, distilled guarantee
she parts my lips and pickles me
bad is blinded, blended, bound as tamed

She was not made just for me
plucked, dried, rolled into opaque slips of a tree
weaponized vapor, she infuses me
heavenly scent, demonized flames

Together, will they be to me
what opium and hemlock were to Socrates?
I’d empty the goblet with boundless glee
no toxin could bind with sweeter degree

Together, we’ll be poetry
smoke and spirits consumed, transmuted, free
green dragon extract from our torrid sea
can a phoenix be drowned in poison? Let’s see
** *

Written for dVerse Poetics with poisonous plants, hosted by Bjorn. Others have contributed to this prompt here. I know I’m supposed to be taking a break from these prompts to work on my collection, but could pass on such an intriguing prompt as this? Is it still procrastination if I’m technically still writing? Probably, but I had fun so screw it!

The Laundry

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Photo by Jesse Bowser on Unsplash

The Laundry

Once upon an evening dreamy, reclined beyond conscience unseemly

Clean-laundry piled shotgun beside me burst forth with Terri Ann’s allure.

Her voice apparent, yet quite untimely, bubbled with laughter, light and finely-

Tuned for my perception, winding her time, which ended years before

A decade before, less or more. Is my mom’s soul now laundry lore?

I’m just baked. I must ignore.

 

We watched cartoons and tripped fantastic, Kush-soaked reflections, quite elastic.

Asked laundry-mother what traumatic lesson her spirit had in store?

Her laughter warmed peripherals, soft linen, looming lavender smells

Her soothing hearth of laughter tells me, unseen, with heart a-pure

Soothing song sang as she gathered with mother’s heart, rang, not demure

Laundry said, “You must endure.”

 

I laughed at her linen reprisal as if she sensed my suicidal,

Un-suspenseful thought-revivals. I asked clean laundry, “Is there more?”

For to suffer life in silence, its smearing rife with leering violence,

Abysmal veering into blindness; is that our fate, and nothing more?

Subliminal closed-mindedness? Should I get baked and just ignore?

Spit at fate, and what’s in-store?

 

My laundry-mother laughed disarming laughs, belying life’s alarming

Nature, nurturing and charming me, unanswered, insecure.

Her non-answers thrust upon me like a thirst quenched by tsunami

Voicing visions far beyond me, unseen, she sings with heart a-pure

She stings my heart, weary, unsure, with momma’s voice ringing a cure

Laundry sang, “You must endure.”

** *

Written for dVerse Poetics’ The voice of the monster, hosted by Björn. I know I’m a day late, but I thought I’d share an actual ghost story that happened to me about a week before Halloween, when my mom visited me during a low point. I’m agnostic, but I believe my mom dropped by to kick my ass, get me to stop feeling for myself and keep grinding for the fam. Perhaps in my case, the monster was my depression? (Who am I kidding? It’s almost always my monster.)

Go here to read other spooky stories.

 

Hatred and Meditation

PeacefulProtest

Photograph by Ian Frank, taken during the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville.

Hatred and Meditation

Do I hate?

Do I use the word correctly?

Do I respect its insurrection on rationality?

 

Do I feel the emotion expressly revealed

through introspection?

Is hate’s searing devotion the lesson that seals

our soul’s subjection?

 

I hate potato salad.

I hate country western ballads.

 

I hated sweet potato

but I ate it when grandma said so.

 

I hate vapid pop music;

I rate it invalid acoustics.

 

I hated when daddy hit momma

when they hated the trauma of hate

that made strangers out of lovers,

dispirited hate externally creating

the hate from within.

 

I hate butterscotch,

and yes, I hate pop-rocks,

and yes, I hate culture shock,

displacement while vultures flock

 

I hated bullies, and

I hate being bullied.

 

I hated bullies who bullied me.

 

I hated having to fight them

for the right to subsist.

 

I hated fighting bullies

so the fight in the next bully

would cease to exist.

 

I hated fighting

for the sake of fighting.

 

I hated lightning and thunder

of fists rendering flesh asunder,

my knuckles knuckling under

my hated fate.

 

I hate being marginalized.

I despise being patronized.

 

I surmise that I hate that surprising

ill-advised, revised

hand-waving

of genocide of the natives.

 

I hated being born fated

as a second-rated citizen

in my nation, born from hate,

fear, and superstition.

 

I hated suspension of disbelief

in reality offering no relief

in fostering only grief and suffering.

 

I hated my place in the universe.

 

I hated the racial fight

in the perverse plight

to maintain the right to exist even

as second-rated civilian.

 

I hate that I relate to privilege

from the bottom of a boot heel.

My hate in its sacrilege

is throttled by acute appeal.

 

Is it hate

that makes me try to avoid hatred?

 

There are many who hate

that makes them try to destroy

what they hated.

 

I know we don’t hate the same

or mean the same thing

when we endure hatred.

 

I want to eradicate

the lame machine of pain

screaming of pure conflated abhorrence

that makes one man crush another

for discovering differences.

 

We all suffer.

 

Do I hate?

Do I verb it correctly?

Should I select an interjection

with less lethality?

 

Can I kill an emotion that exists

to make people kill?

Can we fill a devotion that persists

as a poison pill?

 

Why do we hate?

It’s self-rot

Can I ever relate?

I hope not.

***

NOTE: If you are offended by the image above, the words in this poem, the embedded video, but feel nothing about the riots, hatred, and violence that took place yesterday in Charlottesville, then you need to do some soul-searching. I am sickened and deeply saddened by what we have become as a nation.  

 

Day 18 – Greetings from Blessing My Heart after Your Betrayal

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Greetings from Blessing My Heart after Your Betrayal

Hi you, grinning with gentle malice

Vile intentions known, veiled thinly

Hiding behind wide-eyed finnocence

And letter of the law, perverted

 

Sup, you, symphonic syphilitic cynic conductor

I’m compelled to commendtalieate

Impressed, I will pat your twisted back

Before kicking you down the fucking stairs

** *

Written for NaPoWriMo’s optional day 18 prompt: neologisms (made-up words) and dVerse Tuesday Poetics: Wish you were here. (postcard prompt). Let’s just say that I’ve had to deal with some interesting personalities recently.

Drop by and check out everyone’s contributions to this prompt.

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