05 December 2012

The Voice in Your Heart is Not Your Own


That’s what my heart said.

It kept saying it for so many years; after so many

disappointments, it still said it: Try.

But after the last one, after he passed, it stopped.

The heart stopped saying it, as if the reason it had been saying it

was that it was his heart, not mine. All those years,

he was telling me to keep trying.


The voice in your heart is not your own.

Another’s heart, instead, speaks to you,

and when it goes silent, you tear at your universe,

just to hear something speak again.


Your heart speaks to another, do not forget.

What does it say? What does it say, my darling?

What does my heart say to you?

24 October 2012


I've recently had the opportunity to allow myself to stand outside of myself and gaze out at the edge of a smoldering world, the smoldering world of my history of trauma.

It is nothing unique, nothing more or less than anyone else's, I'm sure, and I think that may have been my first mistake in thinking that I could handle all of it. I've been so busy dealing with it all, day in and day out, fighting the symptoms but not the disease, that I forgot to step back and remind myself that this is mine and only mine. It is my responsibility to own it, my responsibility to learn about it, my responsibility to take care of it so I can live my life.

It begins with the coma, with that initial disconnection from my brain and a concerted attempt by myself and my doctors to reconnect it, but my emotional landscape was set ablaze by the dual natures of my parents own emotional landscapes: my father, unable to connect because growing up love wasn't safe and in order to prevent himself from becoming the monster his father was, he stayed at arm's length from me, still loving me but still distant, as if his heart might explode by getting too close. My mother, struggling with bipolar disorder most of her life, the emphasis always remained on her emotional safety, on her emotional landscape and mine was sort of left at my own devices.

And I ran into dark corners, into corners that hadn't burned yet and I laid the foundations of my friendships and relationships there, until they burned. I was like the Road Warrior, alone, just looking for that next oasis in a post-apocalyptic mess. Only I wasn't a bad ass, I wasn't a hero, I couldn't even save myself.

A few years ago, I ran out of places to run to...and then my dad died...and then my marriage began to collapse because of an infidelity, an infidelity I allowed because all around me there was no comfort in the love of friends and family and this burning city of my emotions made everyday feel like a crisis. I hid inside fake emotions, inside emotions that I thought people wanted me to feel. I even manipulated them in order to give creedence to those fake emotions so they felt all the more real to me. That caused more pain to myself and loved ones that I didn't count on.

And now I'm outside of myself, policing every manipulative or potentially dangerous impulse I have, still unsafe in myself, but safe from the burning of the past, and now I have to build up a new city of my emotions. And I have to lay foundations on top of the rubble, foundations in emotions I've never known: self-trust, self-respect, self-forgiveness, self-discipline, and self-confidence. I know that I can feel these and that it will finally be, it must be, a genuine feeling, but the question is how to do it while preventing the inferno that engulfed my life over the past two years from rising up again and taking my tiny successes and turning them into ashes.

It is all I can do some days to get out of bed. It is all I can do to pay a bill, or do a chore, or remind myself that I like to play Magic: The Gathering. I reach deep for each fraction of each friendly smile.

I think this slow, ever-present plodding along is where all that self-whatever is going to come from. I hope it is.

I seriously hope it is. Because I don't want to be the Road Warrior in my own head anymore.

23 August 2012

Water Poem: Morning

She smells like flowers and magic
on a morning that the rain has decided to come down
and celebrate how water falls.
The drainage spout from the building next door
pours out onto the grass below in heavy clumps.
How different water falls when it is tangent to a mountain,
how necessary waterfall seems, how dedicated the water is
to being in one place, cradled by the ground
as puddles and mountain lakes, streaming towards an ocean
held by the rock of this earth. These bedfellows, water and soil
are like her and I, sleeping late, and it is like magic
on this morning that she has decided to stay.

16 August 2012

Higgledy Piggledies

There is a fun form I've been composing with semi-frequently lately: the double dactyl. I wrote several while I was on vacation recently and truly only began to relax once I had begun writing them Light verse lovers might recognize it as the "Higgledy Piggledy" lyric. An example:

Higgledy Piggledy
Joseph DiMaggio,
Jolted the ball but was
Jilted in bed.
Marilyn walked, but he
Laid her in rose bouquets
When she was dead.
-Gene Weingarten
The first line must be "Higgledy Piggledy" and the second line must be a name of who the poem is about. The last line of each stanza breaks the double dactyl rhythm (STRESS-unstress-unstress, STRESS-unstress-unstress) with a trochee (STRESS-unstress) and an iamb (unstress-STRESS). The second line of the second stanza has to be a made up 6 syllable word that also fits the rhythm of the double dactyl. All other lines are written in double dactyls.

The thing about forms is that they help provide a framework for a poem when you're not sure what to write. Writer's block shouldn't be a problem for a writer as long as they have a few minutes to play with a form. Writer's block is not about a lack of ideas, it's about too much pressure on having a good idea.

The form frees you from that pressure by saying, "Fuck a good idea, just find an idea that fits this."

My experience with formal poetry has taken me down some pretty interesting twists and turns in the path to a poem and it is rarely ever a wate of time.

It's fun and when you have fun, you let your guard down, you release those pressures and you can breathe free.

 As a writer, that breathing free is so important. In that free breath of air, you can hear the rhythms of all past language, the iambs and trochees and dactyls that so many other writers before you breathed. And in breathing with them, you put yourself in sync with them, like two lovers, one holding the other's ear to their breast to let the heartbeat in one calm the other until you're breathing in sync, two hearts beating in sync. And in sync and in harmony is a really peaceful place to be for a poet.

Being a writer of light verse won't ever win a Pulitzer Prize, but it may be a way to stay in a vacation state of mind. Which during extremely difficult times is a better place to keep your mind.

05 July 2012

Language Acquisition

So I wrote a lot about my coma in the beginning and I'm going to return to it again because that's what I do. That's what any writer does, they return to threads that keep showing up in the great tapestry of their life or their work.

I'm going to start with what I do now. I am compelled to study and talk about and discover how people acquire languages and this is languages in its broadest sense to its most specific sense. Over my life I have asked questions such as: How does one acquire the language to fit in to a certain social group or profession? How does a child learn to read and write? How does someone discover the context it takes to translate a poem into English well? How do I describe in language that everyone can understand my own unique and half-terrifying, half-comforting experience of being trapped inside yourself, your body a prison you later have to relearn to trust, your body a planetarium for your mind to project all its fantasies onto the wall of?

I address the first question in the English composition course I teach for the University of Alaska. In it, I have the students collect empirical data about the writing conventions being used in their field so that they can see through empirical research how to write within their field. Otherwise, they're left to guess half-consciously, and learn through trial and error. I use the work of John Swales and several genre analysis studies to not only describe this process and model it, but also to help dtudents engage in this part of their learning.

I addressed the second question when I worked at the Boys & Girls Club. I had the honor of working with a particular child who, not only had some behavior challenges, was also struggling with his literacy at school, so much in fact, that he may have been held back. I took it upon myself to learn the components of early language acquisition (alphabetics, fluency, and comprehension) and then to use a multi-tiered approach to his learning these principles about the language. By the time he was through my classroom, he was reading and writing at the approriate level.

I address the third question when I translate a poem, particularly one in a language whose culture I'm not familiar with. I work heavily upon notes from my Romanian friend when I am helping her with assistance in translating from or to Romanian. This process involves a lot of clarifying emails back and forth across the ocean, a lot of suggested substitutions and deviations from the literal translation. I learn bushels full of valuable enculturation with every translation.

The last question though, that's a tough one. Ultimately, my mind has a distrust of its body, it fears it and its unreliability, but also sleeps well within it, like a coccon, encased by it, protecting the imagination from escape, from sabotage, from disruption.

Talking was difficult after I came out of the coma and it is often difficult today, when other's are present. When I am alone, when I am with just my thoughts, my imagination, I am able to speak, under my breath, seamlessly with no stutters, with no hems and haws, and "what do you call its." A person's presence, even those I trust more than myself, have a silencing effect on me.

And I wonder sometimes if I wouldn't function better on my own, a hermit, with no connections to other humans, just so I can feel freer with my thoughts and able to make what I imagine happen.

But I crave that human connection, even if I fail or connect poorly. I am like the computer seeking the internet but shutting itself off from it because my firewall is on.

Which is about as close as I can come to a metaphor for saying the following conclusion about what my life has been leading up to. I say it without sorrow, without a need to be pitied, without pride. I say it as a matter of fact only.

I have experienced oblivion first-hand. I do not fit in this world, nor do I belong outside of it.

Maybe there's a bit of sorrow in that.

19 April 2012

The Poet's Moment

Poets, in many ways, are trained to believe in impermanence, that all beauty fades, that all living things die, that love, in all its splendor, decays.

And so we write poems and odes to the impermanent, in an attempt to memorialize them, in order to make the impermanent seem less permanent. For if Shelley hadn't written about those two vast trunkless legs of stone, who would remember Ozymandias and his crumbled ruins?

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".
--Percy Bysshe Shelley

The monuments we build out of stone or glass or metal seem permanent, but they are hard to copy. They are one of a kind. If they are destroyed, they never return to their former glory. But I can make copy after copy of a poem and distribute them to people I know, I can post it on the web, I can recite it during those silences in a conversation.

And you might recieve that poem, might take a few minutes to read or listen to it. Maybe a few more to try to let it move you or help you connect it with something that matters in your life.

And it might be a lovely moment in your life. Or maybe you'll discredit it. That happens a lot too and although we poets complain about it, we do it too. We're human. Only so much can touch a human being and sometimes poems don't do for one person, what they do for others. You build a relationship with a  poem, like you do with a person. You have some you go back to time and time again in times of need. You have some you hate and those you love dearly. You have a favorite poem and you may even have one you don't read often enough but when you do it takes you back to another time and place.

And the moment when you realize you're thinking about people you know now instead of the poems I'm describing is the moment when you see the impermanance we poets see.

I've been struggling with my marriage lately and with my father's passing and the two events, though unrelated are affecting each other and I've just recently learned just how so.

People keep throwing the word "happy" at me, as in "Only you can make yourself happy." Or "I wanna make you happy." Or "You have to decide what's going to make you happy." Why is happy, a temporary emotion treated as if it were a permanent thing in our lives, as if it were a state of being or a goal. It is simply one of many emotions that are as impermanent as every other emotion.

Except fear.

Fear is, if not permanent, persistent. It takes hold within us. It abides within us and so I think what we mean by "being happy" in the permanent state, is really living without fear.


I'm not very good at planning for the future because Robert Frost taught me that way leads onto way and I shouldn't expect to go back and that the road not taken versus the road less traveled by makes all the difference. So a future is about as impermanent as anything can get. Nothing is set in stone, or better, verse.

So I strive to live in the moment. The poet's moment, the moment of awakening into the future, the moment where the thing being remembered ceases and the memorial begins. That moment of becoming something else, that moment where love becomes sensual touch becomes love again. That moment of stretching far and away.

28 February 2012

Translating Eugenio Montale

The original in Italian:

La poesia

Dagli albori del secolo si discute
se la poesia sia dentro o fuori.
Dapprima vinse il dentro, poi contrattaccò
il fuori e dopo anni si addivene a un forfait
che non potrà durare perché il fuori
è armato fino ai denti. 

The word for word Italian to English transliteration:

The Poetry

Since the dawn of the century discussion
If the poetry is in or out.
He won the first, then counterattacked hard inside
the outside and after he became a forfeit
that will not last because the outside
is armed to the teeth

English Interpretive Translation:


Our modern poets have argued
whether poetry comes from inside the poet or outside.
Poetry revealed himself from inside the battlements
and In was thought to have won,
but then, he relinquished
because outside, Poetry was armed to the teeth.


I've never taken a course in Italian. The transliteration was conducted by some Microsoft program designed to translate web pages. But that is not where the poem's meaning comes from. It is as if I have chipped away at the stone to reveal some of the geode underneath. The act of translation must first transliterate, but it also must interpret.

Montale seems to say here that it is both inside the soul and outside the body. It exists wherever there is a human being and I agree with him. Poetry as an internal act is very personal, very protective. The poet constructing poetry for himself creates a world and its structures for him to live and work in, to protect him from the outside.

But the poet must also construct poetry for the world, the poet must use his words as weapons to tear down ideas that people hide behind, to force them into the open, to reveal the vulnerability of us all. To lay bare our faults and injustices, and to set us free from our illusions.

Poetry must be both inside and outside, must reflect this constant conflict of this inner landscape and our outer environment. And good poetry, the poetry that really is able to turn us from being protected to being proactive, from being on the defense, to taking up arms against our oppressors, that poetry that serves to connect us to our other, better self, is also the barrier between the two worlds. It is also the door.

And in Adrienne Rich's words, "It promises nothing. It is only a door."

And it occurs to me that non-believers can go ahead and not believe in poetry or the soul or the spirit or the life force or whatever other invisible things we have created words for out of a need to hope for something better. Just because you don't believe in it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It only means you haven't opened the door.

And you haven't opened the door because you want it to promise you something which it cannot.

I feel courageous opening that door and I gladly walk through, not knowing if I am going outside or inside. That is the job of the poet: to walk through poetry, to live through poetry, to speak through poetry, to infuse everything we contact with poetry.

22 February 2012

Ash Wednesday by TS Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each
Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.

At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy

               but speak the word only.

Who walked between the violet and the violet
Whe walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke
no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny
the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season,
time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

15 February 2012

You're Missing It

Is sharp.
Is filed and shaved down.
Is a dot on the map.

Is infintely small, yet still exists.
Is the reason for speech, for action, for thought.
Is what I'm getting to.

Is often questioned about it all.
Is blaming you for everything.
Is showing me the right direction.

Is a place on my body where it hurts.
Is a place in my mind where it hurts or decides.
Is of no return.

Is of fact.
Is here where I am.
Is the place where the pin hosts an angels dance.

Is the place where movement becomes language.
Is the thing that matters most.
Isn't going to change.

Isn't going to stretch out along a line.
Has no depth, no width, no length, just direction of travel.
Is what I'm coming to.

Is a mark of significance or insignificance.
Denotes the start or the end.
Denotes the midway.

Is the first thing I write and the last thing I write.
Is the thing I do when I don't write.
Is what I've made.

Is sharp, is movement.
Is the purpose and direction.
Is infinitely small, yet still exists.

01 February 2012

Been spending a lot of time with the Muppets lately...

I've seen the new movie twice, I'm watching the old episodes of The Muppet Show, and the classic: The Muppet Movie.

A few of my more recent posts here have referenced Kermit and Jim Henson.

I listen to the soundtrack for the new movie almost daily, which features two versions of "Rainbow Connection," the Theme from the Muppet Show, Mahna Mahna, and a bunch of other songs, new and classic that are right up the Muppet alley.

I almost always start to cry when I hear Rainbow Connection because it speaks to that poetic center of which my whole self tries to orbit around.

"Rainbow Connection," written by Paul WIlliams and Kenny Ascher

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
and what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Who said that every wish would be heard
and answered when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that and someone believed it.
Look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us star gazing
and what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

All of us under its spell. We know that it's probably magic.

Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that called the young sailors.
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

This song talks about rainbows, not being what scientifically they are: a vision, an illusion. And in legends and myths and religion they are symbols. Symbols of promises, of the end of a storm, of good fortune and faraway magical lands. And yet, though we know it's just a trick of the eye, not one person can say they don't feel a little more hope when they see a rainbow.

And yes, Double Rainbow Guy, in all his cheezy, flaky, stoner, memehood that made him a mockery: part of me wants to salute him for allowing himself to be touched that way...

It talks about wishing on stars about how improbable it is that every wish will be answered and yet...we keep doing it.

And it talks about voices, voices that call to us, voices that wake us from slumber and say this is your task, voices that could be calling us to the rocky shoals to strand us on a reef, to toss us about and steer us off our appointed course.

And yet... they call. They keep speaking, even when we tell them not to. Even when we show them just how much it hurts us to reply.

And yet...we answer. Not because we expect anything different but because they call and we can't ignore it. We feel it is something we are supposed to be.

The voice tells me to love, the voice tells me to dream, the voice tells me that this is who I am. That I am among them, those lovers and dreamers, those magic bean buyers, those Kermits and Shel Silversteins.

You see, for all you pragmatists out there, if there's any creedence, any stock to put in a belief system and an afterlife, it is through our imaginations and our love and our dreams that we get there and the lover, the dreamer is the person who can get there.

We, your lovers, your dreamers, your fools on parade, your Double Rainbow guys, your star-gazers, your optimists, your rose-colored glasses wearers, your unabashed romantics...

We are your defense against the coming darkness of death and decay and nothingness. Treat us kindly.

26 January 2012

The Parallax Event

There's a short story by Andy Weir called "The Egg" It can be found here:


And it tells a story about how all of us are the same being, that each of us is a life of that being, that through some parallax event, we are born as one of those lives, live it, then die and are reborn somewhere else, somewhen else to experience another of our lives.

The idea is that once we are finished, we will understand compassion for everyone, we will know unconditional love, we will be truly Godlike. That this world is an egg for all that to happen inside of.

I like this idea. I like it because if it is true, and I am viewing things from my current perspective it is Nathan Deeter's time, it is my life, it is my world.

It makes me feel a little self-important, a little like I matter a bit more than everyone else right now.

And then I see it: if the story is true, it is not helping me learn compassion... It's helping me learn vanity.

I've never considered myself very vain, even if I really was. I was picked on as a kid, sidelined, marginalized, left to my own devices because I was too smart, too sick, too quiet, too weird, too uncomfortable in social situations. Or perhaps I was not athletic or good looking or quick-witted or socially adept enough to be understood and accepted by peers.

So the adults who worked with me and cared about me tried to convince me of how special I was. Parents, grandparents, teachers, and my best friends in my early childhood, these guys:

Being a child in the 80s was an onslaught of the "you're the only you there is and that's special" message. Maybe I was.

Maybe I was learning vanity back then and when the message that I continued to get from real people counterbalanced the messages I was getting from fictional people, I guess I had a choice to make. Believe the ugly messages and devote myself to the real world, or believe the special messages and devote myself to the imagination.

I chose the imagination because it felt good to be there. And nobody told you in the 80s that the real world can feel good too.

They didn't make it clear that you were special BECAUSE of the people that enrich your life. That's how I learned compassion.

If I ever mistreat someone, it is unintentional because I am enriched by everyone in my life.

Lately, I've been feeling more mistreated and because, as an adult, I'm trying to choose the real world, I'm feeling like I'm owed a great deal. A ripe dose of beautiful reality or an even healthier dose of retribution. Thirty-seven years is a long time to put up with not being enough or being too much.

25 January 2012

Just east of myself

Just east of myself, you and I
Are making love in an eggshell of satin,
We are somewhere between John and Yoko
And Jack and Rose.

There is no greater joy I will ever know.

North of myself, I am counting the steps between us
At this point in time.

The number seems immense and there is much sorrow.

Just west of myself, I am playing a clarinet
And swearing to only speak in its hollow tones.
Forever. A soft, mooing loneliness.

To the south, the rioting masses.
The horde angers, the graves undug,
The light and silence leak into the earth and all reeks of endings.
You ask, the solemn flowers upturned.

And I assure you, they are,
But only just slightly. And to the east. In hope.

24 January 2012

On the Romantic Spirit

William Wordsworth spent most of his life doing two things: walking around the Lake Country in England with his sister and writing poetry with Samuel Coleridge.

He did this because that was what made him happy, that was what kept him at peace.

He and Coleridge were the first of the Romantic poets. To understand romanticism, you have to start here.

Their poetry differed from so much in several ways, the first of which was that instead of using poetry to show how clever they were, how their intellect was their greatest gift, they used poetry to show how observant they were, to show that their senses were far greater than their intellect.

Wordsworth composed poems while he and his sister walked, long poems which he would remember and write down when he returned from his walk. They often described the places he saw, the people he met, and the tranquility he encountered from walking, from being in nature.

All poems are love poems, but they are not always about two people in love. Sometimes they're about the relationship a man has with the world around him; that relationship can be qualified only by looking at it through his senses.

This is what having the heart of a poet means. Observing the world around you, taking it all in, every ounce of it that is possible, sometimes being overwhelmed by your senses and allowing that to guide your actions, your motivations, and your livelihood.

And loving it. And questioning it. And turning it over in your mind. And yes, eventually rationalizing it. But living inside your senses, not going numb to the constant barrage of sensory input.

The romantic knows the present moment only, he is able to live in that moment, to slow down his own perception of time and see and hear and feel and taste and smell every molecule of the moment.

To know a beloved is not just to know their little quirks, their living patterns, their profile data, but it is also to know their potential. Everything you are in this moment, I see body language inform me and I feel subtle changes in skin, smell anticipation, hear a slight rise in the timber of voices and know what you are feeling.

Wordsworth's contribution to the romantic sensibility is the zealous devotion to nature and the senses. Your body takes in your enmvironment and is at home in that. Your intellect can't see the forest, hear the crunch of the snow, feel the wind. Your rational thoughts can't taste the air as you breathe it in deep.

Only your senses can do that. Only your senses can open up the Romantic Spirit.

Isn't this why the old romantic moves involve things you can smell and hear and see and taste and touch? To open the rational mind to a set of irrational inputs and overwhelm it so that it is forced to revel in it as a child plays and discovers the world around him.

I would much rather see the world as a sandbox to make discoveries in than as a place to be categorized and replaced into boxes as the pragmatists would have. Some life experiences, particularly the most important, can not be sorted and classified.

23 January 2012

Why Love is More Important than Faith

Let's say, for a moment, that Christians are right. That there is something divine about the person who was Jesus Christ, that he was born out of immacculate conception, that he performed miracles, that his whole purpose was to absolve humanity from their sins and he does that by dying.

Let's say, for a moment, that our relationship with the Creator is 100% correct, as we've interpreted, that we are mortal sons and daughters to an immortal, Father. Catholics have a prayer that has solidified that relationship: "Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name..." Let's even assume that that love of a parent and his children is a love that is 100% real all the time, going both directions.

Let's assume that the Gospels are 100% true, that every word, Jesus spoke was in red, was that different from all other speakers and was more important than even God's own words spoken to Moses on Sinai. That the letters of Paul were more testaments to Jesus' name as a holy savior, that accepting that fact, and that fact alone could redeem even the most evil of all sinners.

If all that were true, then I can only draw the following conclusions:

1. That Jesus represents an evolution of God, that corporeal, material, mortal existence is an improvement on the original divine, spiritual, immortal essence. That God came to Earth as a man at a time that was in such dire need of a savior that there was no other option in all his infinite power and infinite wisdom.

2. That God, even though a parent, is not responsible enough to raise us, his children, to take care of ourselves, to give us the encouragement to grow and develop on our own, to become our own best versions of ourselves.

3. That those who took up the mantle of Jesus's teachings were as purehearted as God's son and had only the furtherance of his teachings in mind and not his sovereignty. Only highlighted those words to show the importance of them.

I believe God wants us to grow. I don't need a personal savior to keep me from growing, from saving myself. I believe I need to save myself from myself, that I need to sacrifice pride and deceit for unconditional love.

But ever find yourself sacrificing that love to survive to another day. Life isn't something to be proud of, life isn't a secret to keep, life is a gift to give. Just like love is a gift to give. It's a hot potato that I don't wanna be caught holding, having not passed it on.

20 January 2012

Arrows versus Horde

The territory of your heart
is traversed with a slow march
to the territory of your mind.

Your arrows are quick to return
and it is like fighting rain with stone,
like sending dogs to grind

pepper. How swift and lethal
your response, how endless the death
of my troops are. But where one

falls, two rise, where two fall, eight
stand up to continue marching to their fate.
I never give up, I have undying bones,

a horde trods onwards to your castle;
your archers send more missiles.
You never run out of ammunition...

The territory of your mind is surrounded
by my love. It will fall to the ground
because the territory of heart claims dominion.

19 January 2012


I wonder if you've
noticed that I kiss
you to prepare you
to be kissed, if you've
noticed the deep breath

I heave when you walk
in the door, the five
fingers that drum the
cup of your hip each
night before we sleep.

And notice the five
syllables per line
and the five lines per
stanza and that this
poem will have five

stanzas. I notice
the day before it
arrives. It is like
a smell, but more
internal knowledge.

Like I've gone over
this ground before, this
day and minute logged
in a memory
of taste, sound, and touch.

18 January 2012

The Violence of Silence

When you get the silent treatment, the first thing
that happens is the walls begin whispering
about how you fucked up. You catch
only pieces of criticism: "shit...shouldn't have...she hates you now...distrust..."
The drapes, moved by the wind from the open window,
goad you to keep talking, keep trying
to talk yourself out of it, to talk yourself into her world.

But the walls urge you: "Shh...shut up...say nothing."

And that's when the blade enters your gut.

The poet silenced,
the lover rebuffed,
the dream goes dark and evil.

Not saying what is in your heart,
regardless of how fractured and frightened and lonely it is,
the violent crime of tying your tongue down,
keeping your lips tightly shut, your teeth gritted
not out of anger, but out of restraint.

Restraint is a traumatic experience. If you don't believe this, ask a mental patient.

Hands too many to count lock your arms from moving, they sit on your legs,
they crush your chest ever so slightly so you can barely breathe
and you feel like any moment is your last, like safety is a fictional place,
a heaven you only get to when you die,
like they want to control your emotions by controlling your body.

But our body is here to express our emotions. And silence
is the restraint of the most articulate body part we have.

Your silence is the most violent act I know. I'd rather you
dismember me bone by bone until all that remains is

blood shouting back at the walls, "This man was here."