Boy Hanging Upside Down in Monkey BarsSometimes I imagine
that I remember the names
of every fellow first-grader

That in fact we still have snacktime
and storytime
and time together to laugh and play

not knowing time will bring change
and “opportunity” will someday
sometime soon
separate us

I call them brother and sister
as we hang upside-down
on the monkey bars

And somehow it doesn’t feel weird
to be forty-something
and hanging by our knees
with our shirts falling over our faces

Okay you win

the Good Maker I have clung to

is no more

dead and buried

in the backwoods

“I am the accidental by-product of cosmic whim

“Born of matter plus time plus chance.

“There is no reason for my existence.

“All I face is death.

Humankind is nothing but a swarm of flies

buzzing over a full bedpan

 

All of my passion

my anger

my joy

Every cry for justice

and every indignancy suffered

is nothing

nothing but buzz

 

That immortality I never questioned as a child

and the nights of terror that followed the story

of death to come

of nothing – all nothing

all buzz over shit

 

The love I feel for my children

and the hopes I have for theirs

The bright light of astonished wonder

shining forth from the soft blue universe of their eyes

Those playful afternoons

whispering promises of future laughter

-buzz over shit – nay less – nothing

 

All the wars we have waged

the fight to restrain evil among the nations

the ideal we spilled so much blood for

-freedom

both it and the mighty crashing rivers

of spilt blood

I see now in the light

of your all-conquering “science”

are both but buzzing flies

with t-minus too few hours to live

 

Every song I’ve ever heard and loved from my mysterious inner heart

Every poetic refrain

Every clever turn in ink

Every word ever uttered – even this one

All Nothing

All Meaningless

All Pointless

All Absurd

All flies buzzing over shit

 

There, are you happy now that you’ve won the argument?

 

 

was the maker lonely
up to the time the maker made?
or merely curious
to discover what a fabricated will
would do or say

maybe the maker has always been making
universe after universe
each divided by plastic orange fences
each using a new ingredient or spice
in the recipe for free will
each seeing a different hue
when light reflects through sky
some perhaps with no light at all
no heat
no change
what will a will do when
there is nothing to break free of?

What do you think of at the word soul?
what is a waterline traced
by a child’s fingertip?
what do you see of a cloud
after it has spilled out over the hill?
what is that sound in your ears
a moment before thunder?
that sound of that moment of anticipation
of the wake of a cracked sky?
what is the name of the fear
that floods you when
your heart skips
or stops

What is the soul
is it that which says I and me?
or a silent witness
you occasionally think
to invite over for tea
once the
dusting
and the sweeping
is done

It could have been kid
it could have been different
it could have been me and you
back to back against our foes
kickin ass and grasping big ol handfuls of glory
laughing like pirates cuz it was just too easy
“Those scurvy dogs never knew what hit ‘em”
we’d say to each other
and laugh
and laugh some more
together

It could have been me and you kid
and I suppose it’s just silly
to be wishing on that lost star now
but I do
here at two am listening
listening to them howl out there in the greenbelt
I do wish I could tell you
about the chunk they took out of my heart
even from here I can see stringy shreds of chest muscle
stuck in their teeth
dangling from their snarls

I do wish I had been at your back kid
when the crystal wolfpack first circled you
you were easy pickins and they knew it
their night cries gathered their number against you
“we found one alone, come feast”

It could have been different though
it could have been a reason to live
to live at full volume
a reason to wake fist banging for the day ahead
it could have been doorways into a grand courtyard behind high walls
instead you were exposed
out there in dry wilderness
with a bottle of pills for hope
that hope to end hopelessness
it visits me too
it comes round in the dark and pisses on my doormat

It could have been different, kid
it could have been me and you
shooting fireballs of light into the fucking darkness
owning our street
riding with the top down
spinners singing that sweet chrome song
I know I’m not very gangsta
and I had wished that world would refuse
to welcome a twelve year old white boy
but now I just wish I had just put on some dem gold chains
and learned to bounce
and be with you

You probably don’t know it
but for Christmas one year I bought you a Busta Rhymes CD
it sat under the tree until well into January
I finally unwrapped it and played it
and man it was good

You probably don’t know it but I’m not who you think I am
I don’t feel the way you think I feel
and I was just about sit down to write you this
when the amber wolfpack came for me
I didn’t fight long before they had me to the ground
I reasoned I belonged there
and so I just laid down in their hungry circle
just like my father did
you didn’t know him much but you remind me of him

There is not a lot of pride in our blood kid
sometimes kid it is just that way
and we get only what we scrape up
but it could have been different
it could have been you and me

All used cups – 99 cents
and there is one well-used
A bit delicate
A sharp lip
The floral design fading into china white

She drank her coffee black
I conclude with a tipping look
or perhaps a single sugar cube but certainly
this cup lived its life favorited

It has rested beside many morning papers
and accompanied many fresh tea-biscuits
here it is so sad so lonely
its friends saucer and spoon lost
at the bottom of a box in back

All these other stranger cups surrounding
most haven’t a clue how to be a favorite cup

You must meet her lips just so for
what you contain is both
a delight and dangerous

You must shape into her hands lovingly on cold mornings
and balance perfectly from her aging fingers
when her mind is engaged elsewhere

Your morning greetings should be bright and hopeful
reminding her daily of all she is likely to forget
- There is beauty in the world to savor today
- There is goodness in every drop of life
- There is truth to be stirred by even now

It is not an easy thing to be a favorite cup
you must endure many more scrubbings
than the visitors cups
and the thoughtful-gift cups
which say “Worlds Greatest Grandma” – loved but unused

You are far more likely to be dropped and chipped
so you must be stronger than the rest

and more than any other dish in the cupboard
you become part of who she is
until the day she dies and when
she does
the plates and bowls and holiday mugs
will always find a new home
you never will

in my revenge daydream
You write an essay to the teacher about how wrong it is to be wrong and how doubly wrong it is to wrong someone like me and for your third point you challenge Buddha to be more enlightened than you are since you learned you were wrong

in my revenge daydream
You have crumpled to your knees on the far edge of the field you were fleeing across to be free of the look in my eyes – there is grass in your hair and a growing pool of mud beneath your eyes

in my revenge daydream
I had a fist cocked and a boot in tow just so I could hurt you and oh how I wanted to until a far away scream caused us both to be the same

I just had that rush
That spine prickle-tickle
That waft from the muse garden

I don’t know what to say with it except
I am delighted
I am hopeful
I am inspired
so come close
and listen to me dream

The world has forgotten
how to disdain
the person I am
the person you are
the person in the belly
the person in the sky

matter
we each we all
matter

None belongs under a boot
or under a trash compactor lid
or in the mouth of a rodent
or picked at by carrion
or lost within landfills

Power is no longer
strength to crush
but
strength
to lift

Its no game today
and we forgot we ever
saw it that way

I found it today
as I sifted through my malice
mix this liquid called intent
rub it deep into the callous

Came across the finish square
so long ago, I felt the flame
rolled the dice once more but backwards
I couldn’t quit the game

I found it today
as descriptions beg for air
I nailed it to the stilling floor
convinced one day I’d care

Came across the final need
’twas years ago I saw the fear
rolled the dice once more but backwards
love couldn’t interfere

I found it today
as the moment shrieked delight
in the mists of intermediance
shroud the horror of my plight

Came across the mirrored quest
centuries of bleeding feet
rolled the dice once more forever
I couldn’t find a seat

I made a confession
it took some doing
I shaped it just so
as though I had honest hands
and painful years
of mastery in the craft of it

I planed its nether edge
and inlaid its surface facing corners
I padded its shadows with velvet
then I ripped it back out
see there some soft strands of it
lay scattered still
on my makeshift workbench

It wasn’t quite finished
I could not quite hinge the lid just so
so I skewed it further
the imperfect now perfect
by intention of imperfection

I carried it out into the way
I handed it to a lady I could barely see
with three of her four fingers she accepted it
as if she had expected me
yesterday

My back against marble
Son House in my ears
January ground seeping
into the seat of my jeans

I am elated to have this preview
to finger-read old words in the dark
to find my name
spelled in stone
with all the wrong letters

I am alone and wandering unafraid
whatever spirits may roam here
I am drunk enough to imagine
that they welcome me

Certainly I am no threat
to them – I have almost
forgotten how to intend harm

Realization keeps me and
keeps me warm and hopeful
about cold dirt

I want to tell my digger
to loop the blues eternally in my ears
this man called Son and his mystic guitar
my visitors should hear his soulful echoes emanating up
as they sort cut stems in remembrance of me

In remembrance of me -
carve my name and dates
as the lyrics of hope and despair
immortalize only a song and
remember me by singing it

Frying Pan
it’s a new morning
I sit in the new chair
wrapped in the old red blanket
listening to new jazz
touching new words to paper
pushing old thoughts out into
the new light of day

darkness is receding – fleeing
that is why I like this time
because it is as if light
is coming after the darkness
with a fucking frying pan
in its hand
and darkness is running like hell

it is a new morning
and if I keep watch in it
there will be new moments
for me to live

Leaves dim against the sky
Focus makes a shift into blue

That moment arrives
and I treasure it
plunge my fingers into it

And even as I wrap my body around it
it is leaving me…
don’t go…
goodbye

Another comes playful on its heels
but I have a fork in my mouth
so it wanders into a corner to console the dust left there

One of its friends stops by (it has many friends)
I consider more will be about later
so I remain unmoved – unmomented
a soft place for my ass
a flashing image for my eye

Of all the things I have ever wanted to be

of all the roles I would step into

and of all the masks I would wear

and of all the paths I would wander

and of all the bells I would ring

and of all the songs I would write

of all the identities which I would don

today I would be

an invitation

He practiced
Until
He was able to play
Who he was

I recently ran across the following article about making poetry a spiritual practice:

http://magmapoetry.com/archive/magma-51/articles/13-ways-of-making-poetry-a-spiritual-practice/

The entire article is well worth the reading, but the first way of the thirteen really rung some bells for me. (I hope they don’t mind I repost)

1. Cultivate Uselessness. Poetry and spiritual life overlap – if they are genuine, neither are undertaken for any kind of worldly advantage, prestige or use. Much of our life is spent in the acquisitive mode, in Wordsworth’s “getting and spending” – we need to butter our parsnips somehow – but the value of poetry is in its antithesis: the appreciative mode. Yes, we need to buy things and earn money, but poets need to stake their claim in uselessness – in non-utilitarian appreciation. Our primary mode of being should be one of appreciation. We should just stand back and enjoy it all – relate to life not for what it can give us but for its own sake. Within this larger uselessness, we’ll need to work to pay the bills and feed the cat, but our real work is appreciation. This implies an element of asceticism. We need to live simply with as few distractions as possible so that we can get on with the real business of poetry.

 

I have never heard this before, but I realized that this “appreciative mode” is where I feel most Shea, it’s where I escape to – but it is also where I experience the most guilt and “ought-to’s” and ought-not’s”. I just want to stand and pause for a moment and tell you I am useless here, by design.