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.

Ouroboros is typing a reply…

Ouroboros is typing a reply…

“I miss you.”

She had typed each letter
carefully
with thumbs that already knew the way.

That was at least a half-hour ago,
electronically,
via direct-message, which was
a slightly incomplete method
of describing one-way messages
traveling the speed of light
towards their destinations;

A miracle of technology
that may as well had been substituted
by carrier pigeon
or message in a bottle,
for all the good it did her tonight,
or any other night she found herself

waiting.

She stares at her phone
for a notification that won’t come
quickly enough,
or perhaps ever.

Who can say with that boy?

God damn him.

God damn that lovely,
delicious boy.

God damn his dreamy eyes
and his earthy scent.

He is taken with another.

She knows this
and tries to shrug this truth away,
knowing he knows the way back to her,
knowing she will open to receive

his sweetness

despite all common sense;
he doesn’t deserve her grace, but
she’ll extend it for as long as it takes
as long as it extends their private duets.

She needs to know she still matters to him,
even knowing that all that knowing does
is make her bite her lip,
chewing on his absence.

She waits,
ingesting delicious potions,
hash-laced chocolates,
and green smoke; she’s faded,
divided against herself;

her mind craves comforts
her body finds increasingly toxic,
pooling upon her needy tongue,
seeping into her spleen and spine.

His saccharine non-declarations,
when whispered softly into her
arched spine under cover of night,
warm her bones against her
malnourished brain’s better judgment;

when etched electronically,
they relieve her scanning eyes
while stinging her perceptive heart.

And when there is nothing but his silence,
that leaves only text that never refreshes.

Two hours fall away into nothing,
and there is nothing from that foolish,
delicious, selfish boy.

She logs off social media

a rather incomplete method of
describing some rather
anti-social behavior

closing apps, tabs, and legs
for another lonely evening
of binge-watching stories
of lonely characters behaving foolishly,

perpetuating their own loneliness.
***

Shared on Real Toads The Tuesday Platform.

Seasonal Madness

Seasonal Madness

the type of kiss
that condenses oceanic breezes into squalls
leaves me tangled in fitful sleeplessness

I cannot admit
the howls and whispers
reveal my intent

yours is the heat
that feeds upon you and me
devouring us
leaving only thirst

it will pass, like all storms
arbitrarily
leaving us drenched and drained
an unearned calm
arrested by
the weather we evaded
***

Shared with Imaginary Garden with Real Toads The Tuesday Platform, Imagined By Vivian Zems .

I was inspired by my friend trE’s poem, Seasonal Sadness. If you enjoyed reading mine, you should pay her a visit as well.

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”.

My Ghost, No Longer at This Address

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My doorway.

My Ghost, No Longer at This Address

Upon my untimely death,

a chaotic redundancy

as death is untimely

 

except suicide,

which I don’t currently abide,

but that’s another vibe…

 

I request my epitaph be

“Life was often confusing,

difficult, and demoralizing,

but I laughed a lot,

so maybe it wasn’t all bad.”

 

Verbose, yes; feel free

to edit before placing

on headstone, or urn.

 

I have no preference

on my corpse’s disposal.

If I’m right, it is

only an empty shell anyway,

 

as sturdy abandoned houses

that once hosted countless

Christmas dinners

are no longer homes.

 

The phenomenon

or mechanism of me

is long gone from here.

** *

Written for imaginary garden with real toads FASHION ME YOUR WORDS ~ Lets build houses. Also shared at Poets United’s Poetry Pantry #377.

As we’re close to Halloween – widely regarded as the point where the threshold between the living and the dead is at its weakest – I found myself thinking less of home building, and more of ghosts, including my own, leaving their bodies (their homes for the duration of their lives) for the first time.

 

Smirking Dragon

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Photo by robbertdb on Unsplash

Smirking Dragon

As the sun settled into soft angles

just above igniting western skies,

 

it spotlights a cumulus cloud curiously

shaped like a coiled, smirking dragon

lazily floating eastbound, her neck and

 

grinning head preening north by northwest,

drawing your attention toward Orcas Island

 

and one of the most perfect moments of

your life, when you were inexplicably

comfortable in your own skin while both

 

alone and in unfamiliar company

at a destination wedding you attended

 

against your will, watching two outliers

pledge their lives to each other as you’d done

twice over, with the second time inexplicably

 

working out much better than the first,

which compelled you to make that journey

 

in the first place to that unfamiliar island

surrounded by unacquainted people

to witness an unfamiliar couple

 

pledge their lives to one another in a

series of moments the smirking dragon

 

reminds you that can only be described as perfect.

As the dragon cranes her neck northwestward,

it evaporates into the ether,

 

leaving only her fluffy scaly body and

a disembodied smirking head, which also

 

slowly vanished from misty existence

leaving you wondering why your second

attempt at sharing your world with a woman

 

worked wonders while your first effort failed

spectacularly, or why your second trip to

 

Orcas Island was fun, but not nearly as

magical as that first one, or why that beautiful

smiling couple of strangers beginning their lives

 

together ultimately could not fulfil

their pledge to one another even after

 

committing to create another beautiful,

smiling, giggling, spunky stranger together, but

then it hits you as the headless dragon corpse

 

became just another cloud fading away from

the settling sun, which ignites the western sky

 

as eastern clouds are devoured by earth’s shadow.

We often chase perfect destinations

seeking to relive perfect moments, as

 

if we were living ghosts who for fleeting

moments have forgotten how to live. But

 

we have far more in common with misting

smirking cumulus dragons that we see

than the ghosts we chase in familiar places.

***

 

Shared at imaginary garden with real toads.

Smoke Break Outside a Hip-Hop Nightclub in Australia

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Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash

Smoke Break Outside a Hip-Hop Nightclub in Australia

Displaced from the throbbing, blustering melody,

we sat outside as you finished your cigarette.

 

Or perhaps we stood. Or stooped. I don’t remember.

It was dark, except for your spark. I, the moth.

 

Or perhaps I, the flame. It’s all relative and subjective.

Our vibe, the only objective syncopated groove.

 

The crisp midnight air contrasted with the

heat generated by our dance-grind inside.

 

That’s actually a lie, or perhaps a half-truth; I

don’t recall if the outdoor air was cool or not, my

 

Fahrenheit or your Celsius. Too many or too few

degrees, synching with you put me 180-out.

 

Time-shifting was never my strength, much

like socializing, or adhering to social norms.

 

Both loner and lonely, even among family and

shipmates, but alone here with you, I’m content.

 

Time well-spent sizing each other up, taking measure

within melodic measures in timeless movements.

 

Our conversation flowed easily and deliberate;

each pause with purpose, each query also an invite.

 

We rode beats and straddled bars, improvising, learning,

changing tempo on the fly, milking fleeting moments.

 

A riffing jazz duet, bubbled by kindred hearts, momentarily

forgetting the raw sting of overcrowded loneliness.

 

I pretended not to be bothered by the smoke as you

pretended not to notice, shooing it from our session.

 

I casually took the butt from your lips, pressed it to

mine and inhaled your toxins with unforeseen confidence.

 

My urgent thirst to share your poison shocked us

for a moment. You smirked as I tried to suppress a cough.

 

“So, do you have someone waiting for you back

on the other side of the world?” I think you knew.

 

“I do,” I answered honestly, casually, returning your

cig. You casually discarded it. “That’s nice,”

 

you offered, unconvincingly. “Are you both happy

together?” you asked, eyes questing for deception.

 

“We are,” I lied, probably unconvincingly, to

both you and me. You didn’t press. “That’s good.”

 

I guess we must’ve been stooping, because I now

recall that you stood after that, and I after you.

 

You smiled warmly and I braced for you popping our

harmonic bubble with a conciliatory parting handshake.

 

“It’s good to find someone who makes you happy,”

you said, as if that’s a thing no one else knew.

 

“I just have one more question for you, sailor-boy.”

You squared-up to me, smile slowly fading.

 

“Oh? And what is that?” I think my tone was

still flirty-neutral, but I half expected you to

 

chew me out for teasing you or leading you on.

But I was still milking our moment for all I could.

 

When lonely folks like us find kindred spirits, it is

difficult to not find ourselves trapped in their orbits.

 

I knew it was socially inappropriate to indulge in

you, but with you I felt free to be me authentically.

 

I wasn’t teasing; I was connecting. Nothing would

come of this, but it felt real. I hoped you’d felt it too.

 

“I was just wondering if you would mind if I kissed you,”

you asked, closing the distance. “I hope you

 

don’t mind.” But you didn’t let me answer.

I think you already knew you didn’t need to.

** *

Edited to share at Real Toad’s Tuesday Platform, hosted by Magaly Guerrero

Enemy of Delusion

Boondocks Spring

Image source: GoComics

Enemy of Delusion

Small talk is a dishonest

and barely varnished lie

I walk in and demolish

the scarcely garnished try

 

and then I’m the bad guy

defend my unclad

psychotic truth,

my ironic pursuit

of uncouth certainties

 

but you’re hurting me

by not paying fair

and laying bare

when we both see

inequities

 

and then you say

you don’t see our color

with respect to political cover,

 

correctness when I reflect

on your blindness

I’d rather you select

Kindness

** *

Written for imaginary garden with real toads FASHION ME YOUR WORDS TO FOLD ~ Ergo, imagined By Gillena Cox . We were challenged to write based on our discovery of ourselves in a Peanuts comic, or a comic strip of our choice. Obviously, I chose the young black revolutionary, Huey Freeman, because of couse I did. 🙂