Her World on a String

I once knew a woman who kept her world on the shortest leash imaginable. This overstuffed orb consisted of all she felt she could control and nothing she could not. It must have been mind bending trying to keep all the plates spinning in the air, for if one crashed to the ground, it would be over. All or nothing. And nothing scared the bejeezus out of her.

On the flip side, nothing is what I strive for; nobody wrangling for attention around my ankles anymore, no mental mice racing on the cerebral hamster wheel, little obstructing my view, no plans most days. I seek nothing like a teen intent upon a scavenger hunt but instead of discovering an old leather shoe or a vinyl record hidden in the crotch of a lichen-encrusted oak tree, I discover solace, blessed quiet, welcome respite from nervous natterings over nothing. Instead of din, I crave a steaming beverage and good companionship. If I cannot sit with a kindred soul with whom I can empathically discuss world events, philosophical leanings and the beauty of what last surprised us in nature, I’d rather be still.

The longer I live, the more I crave quality in daily interactions. The wordlessness of dogs is preferable to that of gossip; the serenity of sitting across the room from my beloved intent on reading grants the mind ease in a world fraught with tumult and chaos. A lack of dissonance soothes the cilia of ears overwrought with the thrum of existence. The overworked fist of my heart craves slack time, a free-flowing whoosh of blood through capillaries like and unlike the fast-forward aerials of headlights on busy freeways. It’s why I live as I do, in the naked blackness of star-struck oblivion; in the endless blue where sky meets sea.

The tintinnabulation of a city’s bustle and hum, metal against glass, hammers on asphalt grant me little rest. At the end of the day my mind cannot cease its grasping, try though I might to engender calm. I don’t wonder at the plague of urban insomnia, for it was not all that long ago our ancestors matched movements with spade hitting soil, watching sun coming up over frosty fields spiked with the husks of dying crops. Before that we roamed seeking food and shelter, a surplus of idle time not likely contemplated, much less craved. Technology has brought, among other things, a promise of release. Machines doing what used to gobble up time have now become our obsession in and of themselves. In the place of honoring silence, we fill every nook and cranny with sound and sight and substance. We fashion a world that then needs orchestrating in its complexity. Ancient genes thrill to the hunt, and we rise to the challenge. To simplify seems unthinkable. The body breaks under the pressure but we drive on, ignoring subtle cues.

I knew my friend was tired. You could see it in her drawn expression, the dullness that veiled the light in her eyes. Some of us are doers and some of us of necessity must simply be. And in holding the balance necessary to a world steeped in paradox, I left her to meet the Beyond with an unspoken whisper of gratitude just inside my lips; for the path I have chosen. For the choices I remain free to make.

The Needle and the Damage Done

Songs possess the power to take me
back in time, drop the needle
onto spinning vinyl, crackle and pop
of a generation;

Subjective as memory can be,
the body does not lie and it is this
visceral recall a tune nudges into being,
cruising in that little red Rambler,
elbows out roll-down windows,
heads pumping time to the radio,
cigarettes dangling from youthful lips,
ringed fingers and doll-shiny hair,
metallic twist of lighter extracted and held
lightly to the end, igniting thin paper rolled
around pungent acrid tobacco drawn
into perfect lungs, damage furthest
from our minds in what is
often termed reckless youth;

How feckless we were, body and soul,
squeezing life for all it could offer
and still ravenous for more, Ripple wine
behind reeking dumpster on the eve
of the new year, heedless of anything
close to symbolic, damn the consequences,
steamrolling ahead into Hendrix and Joplin,
her choices supplanting my own
tender folk poets;

Oblivious as her one-armed stepfather
slunk up next to my prostrate form, asleep
on her cream-colored bedroom carpet,
desperate grapple at his own aborted
youth stitched into the present
before war tore heart and limb asunder,
my repulsion far from the feverish response
of his fantasies;

Now her mother, nicotine-stained Cheshire
cat grin slowly spreading, silly man’s minor
mishap, attempt at smoothing over life-
altering insult, guiding him and his tented
pajamas back to marital bed if not bliss;

No apologies on the bacon and egg morning,
coffee and cigarettes, overflowing amber
glass ashtrays obliterating any trace
of semen smell, small miracle as olfactory
far outstrips deep-rooted traces that vaporize
like smoke into the ethers of rolling time.

Progress

Money’s not love
and it isn’t respect,
it sure isn’t friendship,
it doesn’t buy that;

So retreat if you must
in a world overmuch,
when content and timbre
appear out of touch;

Regroup and resist,
the temptation is grand,
hold onto your vision
all else out of hand;

Only you cut the deck
while there’s magic afoot;
in the creases and cracks,
all trees start with the root.

Confused

Hola! Greeting unfamiliar to those growing up
in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains
within a state claimed from Mexico;

1950’s meant minds were on other things
besides obviating eminent domain; 
fallout facilities beneath pristine stucco dwellings,
bomb shelters in backyards of escapees
from Nazi prison camps, indentured now
to military spouses taking deliveries
from milk trucks and bakery vans,
progeny anticipating ice cream on wheels;

Pine trees crested azure skies up
and down our street, baby birds the victims
of neighborhood felines overreaching
like their human counterparts extended
into mortgaged tract homes, beginnings
of credit designed for large families raised
on white bread and tempers of men
so recently returned from war;

The gods bred me to clean air
and brilliant sunshine, mossy feel of grass
beneath privileged lily feet ranging freely
for miles in safe neighborhoods,
ivy springing from split cedar rails, pungent
sweetness contrasting with perils of home,
entitlement of owning one’s children
as repositories for lust and rage and confusion
interjected with knowledge and culture
of the sort meant to create comfort
in white ties and tails of the opera house.

 

 

Dark Moon Rising

I’m waiting in the dark to sleep,
but it won’t come, I feel the creep,
the broken bits of hearts and minds
lie scattered like the leaves, the vines
are choking back a flood of tears,
are mourning for the empty years
it seems we have accrued in vain
while human rights now fall like rain
onto a toxic, littered ground
of ignorance worn like a crown;

‘Tis not the sceptre of a King,
this ruthless gore, the suffering,
the Baptist’s head upon a plate,
in service to some nobler fate
as if accused could turn within
and simply shed offensive skin;

Did not in mind the lessons gel?
A heaven craved, what tortured hell
demands this blood out on the streets?
Attacking those who cannot meet
the venom dripping from veiled eyes,
the blindness-shredding thin disguise,
the dull and cataracted gaze
of Stepford wives, of husbands crazed,
and even their pale Christ would flee
white-peak’ed haberdashery;

We breathe a truth, believe it’s real,
has always been, despite appeal,
what cannot be accepted, worse
when viewed as blessing or a curse
can only be corrected there,
within the flesh and bones and hair;

One finger pointed out and straight,
four digits cannot castigate,
but curl, unyielding, toward the one
that dares to judge another’s son
or daughter somehow less than they
whose lives, unblemished, rue the day
of Judgment when their fate is sealed
and once again they stand, revealed.

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Body Politic

I worry in these times of tumultuous inequality,
masses awaiting what passes as wisdom,
poured liberally from the lips of the rich and famous
as if one’s financial status automatically confers erudition;

At the very least, living amidst the bizarre loosens folds
in grey matter focused on reaction over contemplation,
hypnotic numbness over long-term reflection, titillation
over absorption in the sweat-soaked trenches
of a technology-drenched deluge that,
like a flash-flood moving to channel the surge
before disappearing into a trickle, seeks
its inevitable end in the inane wasteland
of a desertified experiment in trial and terror.

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Samsara

It’s a tricky thing, ask
for one thing, get another,
just what is needed.

Understood.

Shake hands with fate,
agree to the veiling
not an ending,
rather the beginnings
of a new life,
tabula rasa.

Oh, the beauty! Tastes
and smells and five,
maybe six senses
all vibrating at once,
luring us into nooks
and alleys and pleasure
and pain and lord,
are we hungry, the earth
is our pasture, her treasures
our plunder, perfecting ways
in which to exert dominion
over what the eyes survey;

Hungry ghosts.

 

Sikkim - Land of Discovery
image: Sikkim – Land of Discovery

fmi on the definition of hungry ghosts:
The Hungry Ghost