a random student,
friend . . .
Reflection: Another mass school shooting. I was speechless. This poem starts with the rapid firing of the AR-15’s 400 rounds. The rest of the poem is succinct haiku-like. I include myself in the list of the ones shot. Why not? There is a randomness to such violence. We’re all potential targets apparently. Sad, as our president says, Sad.
The sand underground is very dark
But I’ve learned to open my inner eye.
I’ve become quite the dreamer!
Been dreaming up a new world.
It used to be dark down here
All by myself.
Hiding from everything that is going on,
Swirling around the United States of the Ostrich Farm.
Sure I miss running with my fellow birds.
But I don’t miss it much!
Nobody takes us seriously.
We’re sort of the muppets of nature.
Big eyes, long eyelashes, long scaly legs.
Fluffy butt feathers.
Nobody cares that I can run as fast as a horse
And that I have three stomachs
Which is helpful in a world where
There is so much junk to digest.
Did you know that I can see clearly
For over 2 miles with my Disney eyes?
What an irony that my sensitivities
Force me to keep my sight sequestered
In this underworld of sand and darkness,
Dreaming for a better day.
I signed a petition this morning demanding a ban on assault weapons, after the Parkland, Florida school massacre. In my heart I was bitter and disgusted but beyond that it was just too horrible to process. In my public comment below the petition promotion on Facebook I wrote that I felt like an ostrich hiding my head.The ostrich felt compelled to express its point of view.
Can you imagine a world without elephants?
Imagine a world without people-
Now imagine a world without people-who-can’t-
Imagine a world of elephants without people-
Imagine a world of people-
Now imagine a world
Now imagine that world-without-elephants-without-a-world
within a world with people-who-
Now imagine that that world-without-elephants-without-a-world
is within a world of people-who-not-only-can-
is this world.
Imagine this world.
Reflection: I wrote this poem as a sort of koan. I spent hours on making sure that it made convoluted sense, but the point is to get us to go into a maze of imagining, to get lost and find our way through by trusting that the world the poet is asking us to imagine is simply a world of people that can imagine a world with elephants. I don’t think this poem can be understood by reading it straight through, even several times.
I was sitting in the Yellow Deli writing.
I looked up and everyone within sight
was a person of color!
I went to the Men’s Room
to throw some water on my face
and I saw that I was a person of color.
I was green!
I returned to my table,
gathered my stuff, paid my bill,
Walked out into the street
and saw that what I suspected was true:
Not a single white person was left.
Then I looked up
and there was the great round face of the sun
I got in my car
and drove home in reverse.
The revolution had begun.
Reflection: This was a fun poem to write. I am in a writing group. There are four of us. We get together once a week. When I shared this poem, one person in the group liked the last stanza, the other had no idea what I was saying. . .”drove home in reverse.”? Well, it’s like this: For the change we need, I am envisioning a massive shift, but more than a shift, the world would almost have to turn inside out or upside down. There would need to be a reversal of the status quo, so driving backwards seemed an apt description of how one would navigate this post-revolutionary world.
He committed murder.
He burned down a house.
He didn’t know what he was doing.
Let him go.
We can’t wake him up.
The sleepwalker is building a bomb
To blow up a church.
In his sleep now
He is weaponizing his hatred.
The defense: He doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Judgment: Let him go.
Now the sleepwalker
Votes in a racist.
Embraces violence like a lover.
In a rare lucid moment
He pleads innocent:
I didn’t know what I was doing.
Asks the judge,
Can I go now?
I didn’t know.
I didn’t know anything.
Judge: Let him go.
Prosecution: Let there be nuclear war.
Let there be the end of things.
Let the sea rise.
Let the homeless wander the earth.
The sleepwalker walks out.
He walks down the middle of the street.
Cars swerve around him.
He is innocent.
Leave him be.
Reflection:I wrote this poem because I started wondering if we are too lenient with unconscious criminals: those who contemplate or do terrible things without seeming to realize what they are doing. One reason for this is they lack self-awareness. They are living life in a vacuum in which the sole purpose of their existence is to try to meet a handful of very basic needs. Their reality is like that of a child. When I was little, I had friends who would pull the legs off daddy-long legs. I was horrified. Because of the way my mother raised me, bless her heart, I cared about the spider. But these boys were not evil. It’s just that their reality was void of any feeling for the spider. In fact, watching the spider suffer seemed to fill them with delight. How does that change if no one models a different way of functioning. Well, thankfully, I am pretty sure most of those boys grew into their hearts and would never conceive of perpetrating such cruelty now. But some children, probably a small percentage don’t grow into their hearts, don’t learn empathy, and never develop a conscience . . . and what’s scary is, a small percentage of that select group might actually become powerful people, and maybe even CEOs and presidents. Is it a crime to be cruel or heartless or even violent when you lack self-awareness? Just asking.
He travels after a winter sun,
Urging the cattle along a cold red road,
Calling to them, a voice they know,
He drives his beasts above Cabra.
The voice tells them home is warm.
They moo and make brute music with their hoofs.
He drives them with a flowering branch before him,
Smoke pluming their foreheads.
Boor, bond of the herd,
Tonight stretch full by the fire!
I bleed by the black stream
For my torn bough!
Reflections: (Spoiler: This is a plug for lucidity.) This was a very poignant poem for me, and I’m glad I chanced to find it. (I was reading Patti Smith’s memoir, “Just Kids” and she mentioned a collection of Joyce’s poems, Pomes Penyeach . “Tilly” is the first poem in this book.) Several of the images pulled me right in, like a dream. The images, all by themselves, spoke to me. I could identify with the herdsman on the red clay road driving his cows to the music of their plodding progress, the steam from their breathing enveloping their heads. The third and last stanza introduces an outside voice with a bitter message that casts a shadow over the first two stanzas in which “he” (the herdsman) is at one with the herd and content with his work. By contrast, the third stanza is spoken in the first person, which I assume is the voice of the poet, or even Joyce himself. The poet cannot be the romantic who is content to stay with the herd and sleep on the ground by the fire at night. For the poet, the flowering bough that the herdsman uses to guide the cows, is the “torn bough”. The stream is black and he himself is bleeding, as if he identifies with the torn branch. The poet feels the pain of the world whereas his counterpart, the herdsman, is part of nature and lacks this awareness. This poem reenacts the fall, the exile from paradise, but not necessarily in the Christian sense of the fall. What it depicts for me is the fall into lucidity from which all meaningful living proceeds. In other words, the poet, we, are the bough torn from the tree of life, and with that revelation of separateness begins our long journey home again, a journey of healing on multiple levels via lucidity.
A seahorse thought,
A very small wave
Followed by another.
And way down below,
The seahorse . . .
And maybe deeper,
Some quiet resolve
To explore vast spaces
Of eternal quietude beneath oceans
That seem to never end. And yet,
Someday we wind up in the sunlight on a shore
As beautiful as any place imaginable
With no plastic
Nor any trace of war,
And there, to make peace with the memory
That we made it through
By simply being kind.
Reflection: This poem came about because I spotted a seahorse stitched into a towel in our bathroom and I couldn’t take my eyes off it as if it was trying to tell me something, something about the power of being harmless and gentle by nature and, by extension, being kind. Now, no one can prove that a seahorse is kind! But that is really not the point, although I am convinced it is, kind that is. The point is, the seahorse opened that door for me. I had a kind of vision of the seahorse deep below the strife of the world as we know it, swimming here and there and floating with the deep sea currents. And in that deep sea place below the storms, time hardly exists or matters so that too was a gift or something of a revelation. The poem begins with a gentle wave, but this poem is really about a deep Dreaming place and the idea is that whether we access this place consciously or not, it is there and maybe we spend more time there than we realize, in our deepest sleep. The poem ends in the future, or in a parallel universe outside of time entirely where there is peace and beauty and all the things our souls might help us find if given half a chance.