Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Life On a Streetcar

What matters most
is that I slow down enough
to drink in the
swirl of clouds
against the fading pink
and orange horizon,

but I will not linger there
too long,
for life
and all its demands
speeds by
like a cable car,

so I’ll pick up the pace
run alongside,
and hop on,
letting the breeze
wash over my smiling cheeks,

as the streetcar
randomly picks up some
and lets off others,

setting the stage
for the next
marvelous,
breathtaking
surprise

to rouse me
from my
quietly
grateful

reverie.

Monday, May 30, 2016

"It Ain't Easy Being Everyone's Raison D'Etre"

"You just can’t understand
the pressure,
the expectation,

everyone claiming you
wanting a piece of you.

The Jews claim me
as one of theirs own
but you know how
that all ended up.

The Christians
think they’re all doing things
in my name.

The Muslims call me
a prophet
but still
subordinate me.

The Buddhists
draw parallels
and come closer than most,

and the atheists love me
because they find
their strongest arguments
in my weakest followers.

I’m tired of being everyone’s
raison d’etre,

it’s lonely
being the leader of it all.

It's always
“here’s a beautiful rose
I grew for you”

“listen to this song
you story inspired”

“thank you for saving
my soul.”

I’m tired of it all.

Can’t they all
just get over themselves
and their crippling insecurity
long enough
to just sit by my side
and keep me company,

just like any other friend
would do?"

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Confetti

Hundreds of poetry websites,
thousands of poets,
millions of poems.

I send up mine
and hope it will not be lost
in the cyber-abyss,
but I know better.

My smoke sculpture soul
and precious imagery
are superfluous and temporal,

as inconsequential
as the confetti
trampled and left for dead,

in Times Square
on New Year’s Day
at 6:07 a.m.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Balance and the Slip

The difference between
the balance and the slip
is microscopic.

Remembering the rules
and honoring the impulse
are flipsides of each other.

Id and superego
fight me for
the pride of
ownership,

as I struggle
daily,
hourly
and sometimes
between
this thought
and
this one.

And that’s only me
and you’re no different,
and if we multiply these
infinitesimal decisions
by 300 million,
under the right circumstances,

rioting occurs,
futures vanish,
innocence, raped
and God, forgotten.

The balance and the slip
is not a 50-50 proposition:

with sin and gravity
as our natural defaults,

nobility and decency
become statistical anomalies.

Friday, May 27, 2016

CSI: Golgotha

Fully human
and fully divine:

the hallmark of humanity
is sinful
imperfection
and yet
you had none.

I wonder
how you managed
to steer clear
of everything
but the bull’s eye.

I reconstruct
your ignoble demise
like a forensic scientist
searching for something
to connect me
over the centuries
to you,

something that would
betray
your humanity.

As you hung there
dying
and they mocked you,
you petitioned the father
for a pardon
on their behalf.

I keep rooting around
for even the slightest whiff
of rotten humanity
and I still
come up empty.

I know you were sinless.
I know you were perfect.
I’m a believer.

I just want to know
how you did it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Gray Orgasm

Sweaty,
chest still heaving for air,
our blood-rushed skin
warm and damp,
the natural, eternal
narcotic coursing through
our bodies,
her gentle snore
confirming
what I usually only sense,

a thought niggles
just as I drift into
blissful unconsciousness,
too late to shoo away:

what if that was
the last time?

[Composed for Fireblossom's Fridays at the Real Toads' Lilypad .]

A Fireman in Hell

“Didn’t you
used to write poetry?

I mean,
it wasn’t very good
but still you cranked them out
like pretentious sausages.

What happened?

Now, you look like
a confused fog,
trying to keep smoldering
embers from sparking
into wildfires.

Your sleep isn’t restful.
Your worship isn’t comforting.
Your sunshine is gray.

You’re too old
to flail about
with your
angry feathers blazing
trying to rouse the world
from its sleep.

Now you’re just
a sputtering
impotent
leftover,
marinated
in his own
flop sweat.”

Yeah, I used to write poetry.

Now,
I’m a fireman
assigned to
the hottest borough
of Hell

and when
I’m off the clock
I pace in
counterclockwise circles
around my kitchen table
in a vain attempt
to turn back time.

I pace
inside my house,
with lights out
and shades down,
because it would
scare the community
to see their fireman
crying
in the street.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

...Or Was He Pushed?

“Higher”
came the command,
calm and firm
to an unseen pilot.

Then the voice asked
“so, what else?”

Crouching by the hatch,
I looked out
the window
and saw the world I knew
get smaller and smaller
as the plane
kept at its creaky ascent.

I pondered his question
as he quickly slid
the hatch open
and I lost my balance,
instinctively grabbing
the door frame.

The strength of the vacuum
threatened to take me
but I regained footing
and looked out to see
everything
from a fresh perspective.

I barely spoke
but he heard it:
“I just don’t want
to look stupid.”

“You won’t look stupid.”

I almost jumped
but caught myself
for one last assurance:

“You wouldn’t trick me,
would you?”

This surprised him
and he smiled:

“No, I wouldn’t trick you.”

Turning to the hatch
I decided to loosen my grip
on the door frame

then the plane lurched.

I quietly decided
to stop fighting it

and I was free

falling and
heart pounding alive.

I resisted the temptation
to pull the rip cord
to release the parachute.

I just surrendered everything
and enjoyed
the view.

My thankfulness
overcame me

and I was overjoyed
to realize
I stopped falling

and started flying

and by the grace of Christ
I haven’t landed yet.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Skid Marks on the Highway

My compulsion
as I drive on the highway
is watching
the black skid marks
on the road ahead of me.

I fight the absent-minded
impulse
to follow their aberrant
trajectory.

Hypnotized,
my eyes follow
their smooth arcs
and abrupt sooty ends,
and I wonder
what was the driver thinking
just before
it
happened.

Some trail
off the road
in tight,
unpredictable curves,
while others
fade gracefully
suggesting
a narrow escape,

and others still
lead
nihilistically,
willfully
into the cement
guard rails.

Scared back
into the moment
I intentionally
loosen my grip,

as I keep my eyes
fixed straight ahead

ignoring
all the wrong moves
I have been
fortunate thus far
not to make.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pray Strategically

Lord,
I ask that you take away
my daughter’s pain,
but I realize
if you do that
then the doctors, nurses,
insurance adjusters and
pharmacists might be
negatively affected
so I won’t ask for that.

Lord,
please help my mother
in her elderly loneliness,
even though
if she were healed
then she wouldn’t buy
so many unnecessary things
from the Home Shopping channel
and perhaps that would make
all the vendors, shippers,
and Federal express workers
unnecessary too,
so I won’t ask for that.

Lord,
I ask that you find homes
for all these homeless,
help them find their
place in this world,
but if I do,
it might displace
the social services industry
and throw their lives into
chaos,
so I won’t ask for that.

Lord,
would you help
the little children born
with AIDS and cancer
and give them a future
even though
it could completely
upend the charities
designed to help them
and create more
unintended consequences?

Can I ask for that?
Can I ask for anything?

Lord,
can you teach me
how to pray strategically,
so that my requests
are big enough
to make a difference,
yet are small enough
to keep the unintended
collateral damage
to a minimum?

Until then
I will pray
as I always have,

with thankful
ambiguity.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reaching For the Pull

I approach the door
cautiously,
my footsteps
heavy and slow.

I am deliberately
making this choice,
and I accept
whatever consequences
await me.

Things will never
be the same
when I cross
that threshold,
but I must do this.

Nothing’s going
to bring back
my father,
and I’ve been in pain
so long,
I’ve gone numb.

Whatever I find
in the coming steps
will determine
my path
from here
into eternity.

Reaching
for the pull,
a fleeting thought
nags:

Am I arriving
or am I leaving?

[Written for Dverse Poets - write about a door; photo used by permission by Lillian Hallberg.]

Thursday, May 05, 2016

How I Became a Human Being

I cry easily now
and I wonder
“when did this start?”

When did I become
a human being?

As a boy
I was taught to feel
invincible.
I had to learn
to make I on my own.

I didn’t expect anyone
to help me.

I had to believe
I was the master
of my own fate,

a god unto myself.

This was a necessary delusion
because without it
I would’ve froze
and been someone’s
punching bag forever,

but now I’ve grown up
and I see how small
my domain really is
because
in my kingdom,
people still die
hearts are still broken,
women and children still go hungry,
and trying to stop
all the death and sadness
was like trying to hold back
a flood with a broom.

So I figure
mostly
I’ve just had
some lucky breaks

and undeserved grace

when I stopped trying
to be a god
I became a human being

and I haven’t stopped crying since.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The Utility of Secrets

The secret
sits like
a land mine,
waiting for
accidental discovery.

It may never be
activated,
but that gives me
no comfort.

Perhaps
the secret will go
all the way
to my grave,
as, happily,
all the witnesses
will have met
with tragic accidents.

The secret
reminds me
that when I look
in the mirror,
I do not see
a free man,
but rather
an indentured servant
forever paying
interest only
on a debt
only blood can satisfy.

Most days
I forget the secret
is there,
but when things
are running smoothly (too smoothly),
and my heart is light (too light),
and the sun is shining (too bright),

I tempt fate, pondering
what could
possibly
go wrong?

The secret ensures
that I am never
too happy
and never too secure.

It keeps me
necessarily
humble,

and if you knew
my secrets,
you’d know why
I need the lessons
of humility.

[Written for Poets United - come out and play.]

Chicken Today, Feathers Tomorrow (for Grandma Irene)

I heard that song today
and I pictured you
in your floral print muu-muu
in your overstuffed chair
in that stuffy duplex
in San Fernando Valley.

Has your limp healed yet?
Are you finally at peace
and not worried
about your wayward children?

I can still hear your voice,
comforting and cautious
"Chicken today, feathers tomorrow."

Your gently acrid humor
would sure come in handy now.

There was so much
I could've learned from you,
but you died too early
and I became a parent too late

I hope they're playing
Englebert Humperdinck
in Heaven for you.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Immerse Yourself

Don’t catch the butterfly
but listen to it sing.

Don’t take her photograph
but kiss her into delirium.

Play the piano
until you’ve coaxed out
your tenderness
but don’t try to record it.

Take your notebook
and be a servant
to your pen
and never show it
to anyone.

Sigh deeply as you
savor the taste
of coconut milk and curry.

Immerse yourself
in the pulsing, demanding
force of life
but don’t try to capture
any of it.

Life keeps flowing
like a waterfall
smoothing the stones
as waves crash below
with a pure abandon
no artist can exploit.

Marvel at
its incomprehensible pattern
its mystery

because someday
it will all stop.

Everything ends sometime
and when it does
surrender those joys
and embrace
the next mystery.

[Posted for The Tuesday Platform at Real Toads ]

Monday, May 02, 2016

This Perfect Moment (for Anita)

Skip the laundry,
dump the chores.

Come to me!
These open arms
long for you,
ache for you!

This perfect moment
doesn’t come everyday.

So let’s dance,
in this kitchen.
Close your eyes
it’s a ballroom.

It’s not everyday
the radio plays
the Del-Fonics.

[Written for D'Verse poem quadrille challenge ]