Getting better

I like pesto better
I like rain better

Soft rain on new grass
Is better
I like my feet better

I’m getting better
I’m already better than you
I tried and tried I tried
So hard it worked

I bet on my better self
I bet everything I had
That I would be a winner
And when it was over
The crowd swarmed down

They crowned me
Better than my father
It feels good let me tell you
Better than good
It feels like I can do anything
Now that I am

Better than a tree
Better than my cat
Better than my feet
Better than my insoles
Better than my teachers
Now all dead

Or extremely old I picture them
Smiling down
They always knew
I had it in me to do better
Now what

Maybe I’ll invent something
Or maybe I’ll write something
I’ll make a name for myself
I’ll turn myself in

I’ll admit to all the crimes
I ever committed
When I was lesser than

The judges will understand
They will say We forgive you

You are better now
………..
photo credit: Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel at https://www.flickr.com/people/153584064@N07/

My whispering bones

A bunny for your blush
I read
And sign the damn petition

Sign the petition
Save the planet
Sign

We want you
Bald, weary
Driven, depressed

Tired of petitions
Join us
Sign the charter

Sign and forget about it
How about this free offer
What does your shirt say

Our shirts are talking
My shirt is pissed
At your shirt

My bones are whispering
How much longer
Is he gunna sit here

I’m a straddler
One foot in the land
Of forgotten dreams

One foot in
Your shit
Don’t make me explain

The bones of the door
Are its hinges
Its rusty latch

When I open it
I’m going to step out
And love whatever I see

Tell my bones
Get over it
Walk me somewhere

Endless worlds
Only one to love
My bones are whispering
……..
photo credit: unukorno at https://www.flickr.com/people/82622112@N00/

My pandemic

I want to write about
How Covid-19 is not the biggest setback
That this country has faced.
Granted, it has set us back irretrievably
So the life we lived before the pandemic
Is a memory.

Speaking of memories,
And with plenty of time on my hands,
I need to talk about
Something that happened in my life
That provides a context
For the tough times we are now experiencing.
Covid-19 has
Shaken us down to our knees
Like an earth tremor.
We might be experiencing all kinds
Of different emotions
But perhaps, at the bottom,
When we allow ourselves to sink down there,
We wax melancholic.
So much is lost to us!
Connections that we might have taken for granted,
Bits of ourselves.
We might even have lost people we love.
Life feels like a spider web ravaged by a storm.
We will have to help each other
To reimagine the world again.

It feels like we have lost control of our future,
Or even worse, our destiny.

When my son (age 35) complained over the phone recently
About how dismal his prospects were
For meeting people
For getting together with people in the future,
I was, for the moment,
Able to glimpse what he was seeing
Through his younger eyes:
Concerts, festivals, potlucks,
(All of which he thrives on)
What will become of all that joy,
That carefree way of life?
I found myself sympathizing with him,
Sharing his melancholy.
Rarely am I plumb out of words
But I had nothing helpful to say.
We are all reeling. It’s true,
The pandemic has affected our ability to gather together
Which is when all that good synergy happens.
To him, a world without those things
Is unthinkable.

As a poet, writer, shamanic practitioner
And dream worker, at age 69,
And due to my entrenched semi-reclusive life-style,
I don’t need to have that much going on in my life
To feel that I am centered and
In the stream of things,
But I am not so self-centered or self-absorbed
That I don’t recall an earlier period of my life
When my private life was not so, well, simple.

It was only after I hung up that I realized
I have seen this all before,
This and worse.
The war in Vietnam was my Covid-19, my pandemic.

I started paying attention to the news
Of the war in 10th grade in 1967
(Black and white footage from embedded reporters
On the evening news,
Arresting photo-journalism in Time Magazine and Life Magazine
Of a war that was out of control).
But the thing is, even though more and more Americans
Were being drafted to fight
In the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam,
It was way “over there” and in black and white
So-to-speak.
I was over here, in color,
Listening to the Beatles new album: “Rubber Soul”,
Teething at the bit to graduate and hit the road.
The war in Vietnam put an end to
All that nonsense about Aquarius.
It was exactly like a killer-virus.
It started small and, as I say,
Thousands of miles away.
But already, by 1968, it had spread to my hometown,
Even to the rural street I lived on,
Infecting my school,
Contaminating my neighborhood.
Teachers and parents of my friends
Were stricken by the make-war-not-love pandemic.
Teachers gave it to their students,
Parents to their offspring.
Soon half the country was sick with the Vietnam War bug.

The symptoms were rabid patriotism,
Absence of moral judgment,
Blindness to atrocities,
Paranoia around the red-scare,
And, ultimately, a kind of brain fog
That blotted out both the long view and the deeper view,
The heart-view of what life could be if peace ruled.
(Loss of compassion was an early symptom.)

What would my life have been like without the war in Vietnam?
I’ll tell you: I would have easily fallen in love,
I might have gone to Woodstock
In my friend’s parent’s station wagon
Full of my crazy, stoned cronies
Instead of metamorphosing into an angry, poet-anarchist.
By 1972 I had shaved off my foot-long hair
And was weathering one of the longest writing droughts
Of my adult life. It lasted almost 5 years.
That was another symptom of this virus.
It killed poetry.

The world I was facing had revealed its dark side to me,
And I was on the alert.
I no longer trusted the government.
I still don’t.
I never will.

The plague of making war is exactly like a pandemic.
When you get bit by the virus it changes you.
It changes how you think.
You get caught up in the fever
Of needing to answer another country’s aggressions
With greater aggression,
And each side thinks it is right.
The war pandemic made you feel justified
In doing terrible things
To the enemy of the hour.
But from above, from a more objective view,
It swept through us like a spirit-wind
All in a kind of delirium.
War gives one permission
To do monstrous things to other humans
Or it gives you permission
To grant others the power
To commit atrocities in your name.
And everyone gets away with it.
If you are lucky,
When the worst blows over
You forget about the bad-old-times and
Try to get back to your life
Of reconnecting with the world.

Medical microbiology teaches us that viruses are constantly changing,
In order to thrive in the environments they find themselves in.
My version of the virus hardened my heart
For about 10 years.
The most insidious thing about the War-in-Vietnam-pandemic
Was it merged with other plagues,
Like racism
And top-down capitalism
And a virulent strain of
American-style patriotism.

Oh, and I did wear a mask
All during my pandemic.
It was my face.

So, to my son I say:
Don’t let this pandemic
Steal your destiny.
Don’t let it rob you of love.
Don’t let it turn your face into a mask.
Don’t let it obscure your long view,
Your deep view
And your heart view.
And we will, together,
Sooner or later
Reimagine the world.
………………
photo credit: Owner: manhhai at https://www.flickr.com/people/13476480@N07/

Nursery rhymes

Fire in the shithouse
Salt in the sea
Nothing in the mirror
No reflection on me

Night in just 12 hours
Gray skies at 4
Sour grapes for breakfast
Package at the door

Sitting in a pricker bush
How did I get here
Good-night so tired
Turning on my ear

What’s in your wallet
What’s in a name
What is your sign
What is your shame

Dafodilly quadriceps
Break bread Break down
Infrared sudafed
Turn around and around

Wake me if I moan
Wake me if I snore
If I was a dancer I
Would dance right out the door

Sterilize the doorknob
Wash your sins away
Out of toilet paper
Halfway out of May

I’ll tell you if I’m happy
So you don’t have to guess
Today I’m in the garden
Tomorrow I confess

Tell you if I’m happy
Tell you if I’m down
Love your new mask
But it doesn’t hide your frown

I’ll trade my cow for beans
And a pocket full of rye
Vaccine vaccine
Baked in a pie

When the pie is open
The birds begin to sing
What a dainty dish too bad
We haven’t learned a thing
……………..
photo credit: megforce1 at https://www.flickr.com/people/35608308@N05/

Don’t vote against Trump because

Don’t vote against Trump because
The sugar ants won’t come back in the spring
They will
Don’t vote against Trump because the pandemic
Will get any easier
It may not
Don’t vote against Trump because
The koalas won’t forgive you if Australia keeps burning
Because of Climate Change They will anyway
Don’t vote because the ocean will stop rising
It won’t
Don’t vote against Trump because the walls
On the southern border will go away
They won’t
Don’t vote against Trump because the house will paint itself
It won’t
Don’t vote against Trump because your books will start selling
They won’t
Don’t vote against him because we’ll get universal health care
We won’t
Or because the military will stop
Trying the strong-arm its friends and foes
It won’t
Don’t vote against him because the world will be just that much better off
It probably won’t be
Don’t vote against Trump because it will begin a chain reaction of hope
And begin to reverse the downward spiral
It won’t
Don’t vote against Trump because democracy is in critical on a ventilator
It is but don’t
Don’t vote against Trump because capitalism will grow a conscience
It won’t
Or because corporations will develop a conscience
They won’t
Or because a democratic president will defund Space Force
Rejoin the Paris Accords
Restart the Start Talks,
Upgrade the minimum wage to a living wage
Dream on
Don’t vote against him because it will make you sleep better
It won’t
Don’t imagine that without Trump
We will have fewer mass shootings
We may not
Don’t vote against Trump because it will make your deceased grandmother
Smile from the other side
She won’t
Don’t vote against him because it will make it any easier to grow old
It won’t
Don’t vote against him because things will improve for illegal immigrants
They might not
Don’t vote against Trump because you can’t stomach any more bad news
You can
Don’t vote against Trump for your living and unborn grandchildren
Or because your dreams might improve
They probably won’t
Don’t vote against Trump because you might wake up happier
Don’t vote against him because you are really afraid
Of what will happen this time if we lose
Don’t vote against Trump because it’s personal
Because he made your life difficult
Made you feel ashamed of your nationality
Or perhaps even your race (if you are Caucasian)
Or because he made you so angry you developed rashes
Or because he made you drive recklessly
Or because his perversity and lawless oligarchical ways
Turned you into a news junky
Or because he turned you against half the country
And made you wonder sometimes if everything you lived for and stood for
Was nothing but a delusion
Or because he chipped away at your faith in humanity
Don’t vote against Trump because he’s a pathological liar
A crook and a bully
And just an all-round jerk
There are plenty more jerks where he came from
Don’t vote against Trump because he might destroy the world
Even though he would and could
It doesn’t have to be that complicated
Vote against Trump
Because you can

Johnny’s so long at the Fair: My trip to Home Depot (Epidemic Epistle VI: A COVID-19 crisis diary by Dave & Gary Lindorff (alternately for Thiscantbehappening.org)

I’m 69 years old,
Living at the end of a long dirt road and drive.
They haven’t called me back to work yet
But I imagine it won’t be long.
(My job that I get a paycheck for
Is not quite essential.)
I haven’t been to town for a long time.
My car has been running on the same tank of gas
For going on 6 weeks.
(I guess you’ve heard,
The demand for gas has been plummeting.)

Today I am driving to town.
It is a beautiful Saturday.

I pull into
The Home Depot parking lot
To buy material for a cold-frame my wife wants to build.
She has her heart in this project.
She has just been waiting
For the weather’s permission
To get started.
(We have both agreed that this summer,
And for the foreseeable future,
The garden will be one of our highest priorities.)

Don’t come home without everything she needs,
I tell myself.
This is important!
I am doing something important.

The first thing I notice is the number of vehicles
And then, closer to the store,
The number of people
Entering and exiting
And just standing around.
The building is long
And they have big signs set up
At the left entrance reading “Exit Only”
With one of those expanding orange fences
Reinforcing the message:
One way in, one way out.

OK, this is weird but I’m game.
I go over my list of materials and hardware.
I want to be efficient
Once I’m in there.
I don’t want to spend hours.
I locate one of those orange metal push-carts
In the parking lot
For the two sheets of plywood
And head for the entrance
Rattling and clanking
Over the irregular surfaces of the asphalt.
Once I am in the store
It feels more like an airport.
There are cordoned-off lines on the left side
Of, mostly masked, customers.
The ones who aren’t masked are in the minority
And I can see that some are embarrassed,
Trying unsuccessfully to look confident.
(No doubt the tables would be turned
In the Trump-loving states.)

Me? I’m wearing my M-95
That I purchased before it was a no-no.
My glasses keep fogging up
So I am squinting
Like trying to find my way through a private fog,
Trying to stay six feet away from other bodies.
Make that ten feet from those who
Aren’t wearing masks.

It concerns me that my lenses fog up when I exhale
And defog slightly when I inhale.
I imagine the air is full of little Covid-viruses.
I try not to think about it,
Imagining that I am relatively safe
Compared to the ones who are
Acting as if it’s just another day.

Occasionally I eye one of the maskless ones
Furtively.
A little boy riding on a cart
Looks up at me timorously.
Neither he nor his father is protected.
After I pass him, I regret
That I didn’t make any effort
To smile with my eyes.

There are two little Scotch Terriers
Dressed in plaid jackets.
I picture them in masks
And then I feel bad
For making light of this whole situation.
But why is it like. . .like. . .
Not like an airport,
But like, yeah, like the farmer’s market!
People seem happy or relieved or something.
Are they thinking, This is ending?
That the nightmare is passing?
I admit, I am not the best interpreter
Of the mood here
Because my own mood
Disqualifies me as an objective observer,
But now I’m asking myself,
Is this about buying stuff
Or is it about being together
In a place that is big enough
To accommodate all of us and
We still feel like we’re following the rules?

At the farmer’s market
There is always a feeling in the air
That is reminiscent of an old-time fair,
Minus the farm animals and the rides
And the pie competition
And the bands,
And the bluster and the banter. . .
In fact minus almost everything
That makes it a fair except the venders
With their booths of good food
And the good smells
And the, mostly, happy people.

Reality check:
Home Depot? Like a fair?
There are families here!
But while I’m looking around,
Realizing I’m at a weird kind of fair,
I become aware of how much time has passed
While I’ve been foraging
Up and down the colossal aisles,
Trying to decipher my list
Through the pulsing condensation on my glasses.
I have decided to get the hardware first
And the plywood and plexi-glass panels last
So the cart isn’t weighted down
Until I’m ready to check out.

The employees I ask for directions
Are very nice but I wish I could intuit
Which ones actually know the inventory
And which ones are winging it.
The plexi-glass is in aisle #30,
Which is about a quarter of a mile away,
So that will be last.
And there are twenty-four bricks for the base
Of the frame.
The bricks will be second to last.
I picture my wife looking happy
When I pull into the drive with everything.
She will ask, How did it go?
And I will say,
Great. I was able to find everything!

But that isn’t how things are unfolding.
They don’t have the 50 1 ½ inch #6 flat head screws I need.
And they are out of a few other things.
But I find an employee who is being super-helpful
So I decide to ask about the plywood.
I want them rough-cut to a size I can fit in the car.
She says, a little sheepishly,
The panel-saw hasn’t been working for two weeks.
Now I am picturing my wife’s disappointment
When I tell her
That I was only able to find
Half of what she needs.

Now that I know that I am going to fail
On my mission,
I am trying to hurry
So I don’t have to use the Men’s Room.
I really don’t want to use the Men’s Room!

After almost an hour and a half I cut my losses
And decide to check out.

How many kinds of receipts do you want?
Asks the cashier.
(I’m a little irritated now.)
Is it always this busy? I ask.
Oh no, he says,
During the week it’s dead.

I walk back to my car with my modest bag of hardware
Feeling like a foreigner,
Feeling how liminal life has become.
Man, am I anxious to get back to my quarantine
And to my wonderful disappointed wife!

……………….
photo credit: Isaiah Kim-Martinez

The greater pandemic

The Earth is our beloved grandmother
Lying mortally ill in a nursing home
(Did you think that she was my grandmother?
For surely I thought she was yours)

Or is she in a hospital ICU?
I’m telling you we have lost her
She is everyone’s Grandmother
Struggling to breathe

When Covid-19 slowed us down
(Her eyes sometimes fluttering in REM)
She slipped in and out of feverish dreams
Sometimes she even smiled in her sleep

Is it possible that she was reliving times
When the air was clean
Wilderness prevailed
Her deserts and her mountains

Flourished in their own way, unmolested
Back when there were no jet trails in her eyes
Her rivers clean, lakes clear
Her breezes carried the scent of blossoms

To where blue snow was hiding
In deep glistening crevasses
Was she lovingly
Admiring the perfect impressions

Of raccoon’s tiny hands
In the dark mud by the stream
She began to improve
She opened her eyes

She looked around for February
But February was gone
She asked out loud
Is March here?

But March was never there
April are you here?
She asked feebly for the nurse
To open the window

But there were no nurses
There were only shadows passing the door
May must be looking for me
She thought but she wasn’t

June would also be lost to her
And July only wanted to get back to work
And steal some time at the beach
But how could we forget this grandmother?

Whose children are the months of the year
And the stars are her dreams for us
And the great mountain ranges
Her smile lines The oceans her tears
…………………
image credit: ethan.gosnell2 at https://www.flickr.com/people/132067816@N03/