Black & White



In school
I always struggled
with multiple choice questions
those black-and-white options
never sufficient
– whether two, five or seven –
because so much seemed in-between
so much life in the shadows
rich earth full of endless microbes
and squirming worms.
But this world pares through pairing
excluding, dismissing, casting out
while darkness seethes
and Light blinds
until – all too soon – we turn away.

What is the sacred movement
of the unseen?
Waves across eons
heating inner spaces
bringing forth life
despite the Night:
I do not believe the Universe
was a snap decision!
So why do we rush in
to pound such lovely,
uniquely-shaped pegs
into ill-fitting holes?

I see the blisters and blood
across my palms
from force of willful effort
and I think: "I am an idiot,"
still struggling with those
multiple choice questions
still stumbling, not knowing
if it is truly dark
or I have trapped my heart
in the cold comfort
of dualistic craving.

Winter Solstice Poems: Unloading and Rebooting

Midnight in Joshua Tree


Preamble

dark black wave rising high overhead
    towering wall of obsidian
bitter with hate, icy cold and slick
    terrible with terror
heavier than the hand of God
hovering in brutal threat
    to slap humanity
         in the face
            hard


1. Waiting

my mother, frail but stubborn
shivers by an unlit fire
in unkempt layers
    of unwashed clothes
soon, she will lose her house
more quickly than her mind
    ravished as it has been
        by strokes
        and diabetes
        and years of fearful, angry voices
more quickly than the money
    she gave to scammers on the phone
    and the con artists
        who kept arriving at her door
she sits, and waits
because she wants to die there
    where she was raised
    where she raised my brother
    where she is surrounded
        by antiques, baubles and art
        memories and feelings
        she has carefully collected
            then lost
she wants to die there
    alone in the cold
    but still able to cling
        to the last of herself
"I miss you," she says when I call
the first time she has ever
    said this
    in the forty years
    we have lived apart
and again, "I miss you"
because she has forgotten
that she said it
    a moment before

she has her TV shows
    westerns, mom likes those
for company
and daily card games
    at the senior center
    where she wins sometimes
and her poetry group
    and her cat
but mom
stays far away
    from the retirement facilities
    full of strangers
where we tried to arrange
    a room for her
"no space on the walls
    for my paintings," she says
far away
from nurses and helpers
we sent to take care of her
whom she hastily chased
    out her kitchen door
far away
from the few friends she has left
    the ones who understand
    that accusations, venom and wrath
        will pass
far away
from the neighbors, who try to help
when mom walks into their house
    uninvited
    during dinner
all of these fiercely pushed back
because, well, my mother is afraid
    and alone
    and they are stealing the things
        she misplaced long ago
because they will not give her
        what she is asking for

"I love you," she says to me
my mother...
    I thought I was immune
    with so much hurt
    for so long
        so much mistrust
can still break my heart
even as she waits
    and accuses
    and scorns
    and worries
sobbing like a child
    before she swats her cat
"I love you too, mom," I say
    "I'll call again soon."
and I hang up the phone
shake my head
    overwhelmed
    by helpless frustration
and cry
    quietly


2. WTF?

Of all the people I care about
All around the country and the world
I try to think of someone still whole
After this astoundingly shitty year.

Almost losing a struggle
    with depression.
Thinking they were losing their mind
    after six months on bad meds
    an idiot MD needlessly prescribed.
A teenage child being arrested and jailed.
Unstable, schizophrenic lovers
    who keep violently assaulting.
Gracefully trying to face
    the end of a long and fruitful life.
Having to sell their house
    to pay off debts a mentally ill business partner
    incurred without disclosing.
Abruptly getting laid off
    from a job they held for a decade.
Giving up a lucrative career
    for a new business opportunity
    only to discover
    the backer's checks don't clear.
Accidently uncovering
    that a parent is having an affair.
Not finding any help or relief
    from persistent and debilitating back problems.
Being victimized by pernicious financial scams.
Someone, once thoughtful and smart
    suddenly embracing Infowars conspiracy propaganda
    and voting for Donald Trump.
Finally, not to be left out
    my own health has been a rollercoaster ride.

There must be some explanation.
Solar flares?
Some chemical, not yet detected
    leaching into our water?
The end of an age?
Alien mind control?
A military experiment gone awry?
Many of these disasters
have been decades in the making.
Some were clearly a consequence
    of poor decisions.
Others seemed arbitrary
    and statistically improbable.
A few cases were clearly a consequence
    of malicious intent
    or someone else's failings.
But the lines of responsibility
    and accountability can be fuzzy.
There is just one constant:
    Pain.
So many shades of pain.

So as Winter Solstice eve approaches
I welcome the returning Sun
Casting my hope after New Life
    the healing warmth of Spring
    and mercies of a loving God
"Just for Today
May Love and Light Arise
In All We Are
and All We Are
Arise In Love and Light."
In this new cycle of the year
may all of us
    be whole again.

But really, 2016
    what the fuck...?


3. Burn It Up

angry, small-minded men
rage against a storm of change
abusing technologies they do not comprehend
repeating ideologies they do not understand
pounding their chests with ape-like conviction
about imagined wrongs
and the righteousness of their delusions
when along comes a carnival barker
with the smooth assurance
of a TV evangelist
to woo and inflame their every fear
lifting them up
on wings of false promise
to the top of a very high mountain

"Behold the splendor of the world
and all its glorious kingdoms!
It is yours! Yours to own and exploit!
Yours to dominate and annihilate!
Yours! Yours! Yours!
If only you will bow down
and worship me!"

and all the angry, small-minded men
roar with delight
chanting: "Kill the beast!
Cut its throat!
Spill its blood!"
and bow down before
that grinning carnival barker
parting their pale white cheeks
to welcome him in
"Yes! Yes! Yes!"
they cry out
inviting their shiny new Master
to have his way with them
and with the Earth
and all the trees and oceans
and every living thing
until a slow, slick dark roils forth
from endless depths
to consume the Light
and vanquish our last vestiges of Eden
until all agony and grief
is silenced by the Night
and every small-minded
angry little man
succumbs by willful choice
to the poison he has eaten.