Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Future

The future is some miles away
in fading light that fails
to reach the ground through the trees.

It is raining now and will rain tonight.
This is the future - a bit of rain predicted.

The ground will saturate soon.
The rain will run down the road,
pooling at the intersection
into a vast cauldron of brown mud.
This, too, is the future -
a known result of weather.

Or is it the past?
Have we seen the clouds gather just this way?
Have we seen this
and rain that followed later
saturating the ground and running down the road?

Is this the past or the future?
Or is it the present
and the tapping of rain on the roof
says there is no future,
and cold mists rising from wet ground argue
the past is only what we thought
it might have been?

It is raining now and will rain tonight.
In the mist I see the past, present and future,
far, dim, like the forest grasses
below the branches where the light faintly comes.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not Quite Reality

Clutched in the throes of an early morning fever dream, I could suddenly see clearly, lucidly, that computers are a huge lie.
Virtual Reality.
The use of the word 'virtual' is a cozening. Rather than saying fake reality, which would be more accurate, virtual suggests what the computer offers is just a little bit short of being actual reality. It's nearly there, a difference so small as to be hardly worth mentioning.
That difference, however, is an entire universe. Water and a rock have infinitely more in common.
The lie spreads, as well. The "Internet," the largest repository of information in the history of mankind, is largely unverified, unsubstantiated, and usually agenda driven. Navigation of this interlocked web of opinions, lies, half-truths and occasional substantiated fact is increasingly difficult. The basest of lies are couched in attractive professionally designed and executed pages. Failure to update and manipulate keywords and search engine optimizations can drive bona fide information into backwater pages that only the most diligent of searchers can find.
Before the advent of the internet, factual accuracy was substantiated in the pre-publication editing process. Now, factual accuracy is debated post publishing.
Perhaps it is not just the computer - but technology on the whole.
Text messaging has supplanted voice to voice contact. Text messaging is 'virtual' reality. All of the nuances of grammar and voice inflection are lost, pared down to a bare string of characters speaking in cliches.
Online gaming features teams in different parts of the globe fighting intergalactic battles without ever seeing each other, even the members of the same team, thrashing away in their darkly lit upstairs or basement bedrooms.
Thanks to computers and technology we have an entire generation losing touch with their basic humanity, socialization skills atrophying, yet convinced of their intellectual superiority because they have the internet at their fingertips and can find "proof" for whatever it is they want to think.
Computers are a calculator, television and typewriter rolled into one. They are nothing more despite our continued efforts to raise them up on some ungodly technologic altar.
What did we say in the 60s? Tune in. Turn on. Drop out!
Perhaps someone should be telling today's youth to Turn off. Unplug. Experience reality.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

TV - Where all rational thought goes to die.

I have been home ill with pneumonia since Saturday evening. I cannot sleep because of the coughing. I have watched enough television now that my brains have taken on a gooey consistency and occasionally there is leakage from one orifice or the other.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy's chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Newton Minow, referred to television as a "Vast Wasteland."
Keep in mind there were only three channels. Color televisions were not in every home. Stations "signed off" at night and back on in the early a.m. Even PBS - the Public Broadcasting System, didn't come on board until 1969.
Now we literally have 100s of "cable" channels. We have news and opinion viewed from a right wing viewpoint (FOX), we have news and opinion viewed from a left wing viewpoint (MSNBC). I can watch fly fishermen work a stream in Alaska, soccer from Argentina, a guy who travels, eats and consumes mass quantities of alcohol, a guy who eats bugs, people of every ethnic stripe showing us how to make food that is probably bad for us, comedies, and a constant slaughter - at any given moment you can find someone getting shot, knifed, blown up, etc, on some channel or the other.
In more than 40 years, literally nothing has changed other than the length, breadth and depth of the wasteland.

Temporary Container

The piece below was first published November 25th, 1999 in the Seaside Signal newspaper when I was the general manager.

Whenever stress starts to tighten my jaw and make my stomach churn, I have learned to practice a little ritual that helps me regain my balance, relax and wade back into the business at hand.
I simply count my blessings.
This is not something I've always done. There was a time when I counted my challenges, my glass was half-empty and I was convinced that only my vigilant worry was what kept the wolves at bay.
It didn't help this attitude and approach to life that I was also a firefighter and EMT and had daily up close and personal experiences with the awful tragedies that can impact our individual lives without warning, without reason and without mercy.
Now, a little older, hopefully wiser, I have come to realize that I was focusing on the wrong things.
When sad, or worried, or stressed out - whatever the problem, I take a moment to count my blessings and know how fortunate I truly am. Remembering this helps me to understand that the difficulties facing me will pass.
This past weekend I had the awesome honor of helping my brother-in-law scatter the ashes of his beloved - a wife and mother taken at a very young age by a terrible debilitating disease.
With the widowed husband and his two boys present, I carefully unwrapped the plastic box containing the cremated remains. Molded into the lid of this nondescript featureless box were the words "Temporary Container."
I told the children that those words not only talked about the box, but the contents as well. Our bodies are simply that - "temporary containers" - and we should see ourselves as souls temporarily inhabiting bodies, instead of bodies with souls.
It was a very emotionally charged day. The ceremony was simple but eloquent. there were tears shed, but the relief of closure was present as well.
I remained at the site after everyone else had begun walking back toward our cars. I was filled with a profound sense of loss and I struggled to find "the blessing" so I could move on.
I counted my own blessings - my home is filled with love, we have our health and while our possessions are fewer than we would hope, they are far more than we truly need.
but what of this lonely man and his two young sons? Where was the blessing?
I turned to see the others, some distance away now and a thought, sweet and soft like a whispered secret, entered my mind - "Look at my beautiful sons!"
Looking again to where her scattered ashes lay, I whispered back, "Yes, you did a wonderful job."
This Thanksgiving, put aside your worries and your stress. Though for some it may be terribly hard, allow yourself to find your blessings. I pray you can.
We all live in "temporary containers" and our physical lives are but a brief moment that fades all too quickly.
But oh, such joy is ours, if only we take the time, even in adversity, to count our blessings.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Feline Therapy

Even the cat knows something is up.
She stops and looks at me,
inscrutable as ever,
then she jumps up and nestles
into my lap!
The cat never sits in my lap!
That honor is reserved for her mistress.
Somehow I find this oddly soothing
and I accept this quiet gift
as healing.
A few minutes later, she rises
and drops to the ground.
To say anything out loud is to cough,
so I think a warm note of thanks
towards her, and her tail twitches
"You're Welcome!"

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Unrequited Love

I was sending a love note to you
thinking this time I had said
just the right words
to melt your heart
and soften your resistance.

While licking the stamp
I got a paper cut on my tongue
and knew your answer.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cat's Eye

God is angry
at this moment in infinity.
He thunders into the room
with disaster reeking omnipresent!

I run from His fury clutching
from the Heavens.

He has caught my irreverance,
my blasphemy,
my pissing on the furniture.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Chosen Father

God has chosen me to be a father.

It is my task now to find patience,
to answer difficult questions,
to allow small hands to participate
in what I am doing,
no matter how counterproductive.

It is up to me to lead,
to quell my own quaking fear
when things go bump in the night.

It is my lot to watch carefully
to guard against tragedy
without spoiling the adventure.

Sometimes I must frown meaningfully
and speak words sharpened
with a threat of punishment.

And always, I must put aside my fears,
and recklessness.

It is a strange paradox
to discard of necessity all the things
that made me a child,
yet discover them again
as a gift from my children
to their father.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Are You In Truth (a love poem)

Are you in truth anything more
than a wild dream, an invention?

Are you in truth anything for me,
or for that matter, I for you?

Each moment freezes in a touch
and thought suspended grows
a taste of longing.

The lie revealed then is precious.
For dreams are lies
and the truth is only denial.

Monday, January 19, 2009

For Ethan and Carol

Bev and I experienced this same loss back in 1993. It's never easy. I wrote this for my catharsis. We hope it helps anyone who travels this painful path.

Small Spirit

We all so wanted to hold you,
to nurture you with smiles,
hugs and love.
We were waiting, filled with hopes
of teaching you all things are possible.
Your sisters dreamed of playing
peek-a-boo games.
Your brother planned to show you
free-wheel bicycle tricks.
Daddy, who knew in his heart you were a boy,
envisioned quiet hours along a trout stream
talking about little things,
like why the delicate flying creatures
are called dragonfies,
and where the big fish can be found feeding
when morning mists rise from the water.
And Mommy,
with only sadness left to fill a silent womb,
aches from empty arms that longed to hold you
feeling your strong sucking tug at her breast.
For mommy a feeling of despair
knowing she has lost you
before she could sing to you the songs
her mother sang to her,
before she could gently kiss your forehead,
asleep in her embrace.

Small Spirit that fled our lives too soon,
newly conceived, still in the womb,
know peace and comfort we pray,
sleep warmly wrapped in the love we send
as angels carry you back into God's arms.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kabrakan and Zipakna Discuss Theology

So, there he was,
his eyes wide and pupils dilated,
a shriek rising in his stuttered throat,
indentations deepening in the leather Bible
clutched in his white-knuckled hands.

The seeming certainty of our deaths loomed closer
as the floor pitched and rolled and glass shattered
and one woman screamed high-pitched terror.
Another clutched her whimpering child
closer to her protective, eternally safe bosom,
and softly murmured reassuring words into his ear.

My sense of detachment came from a confidence
that this tremor would pass
and we were not bound for the abyss.
Even if we were, I wondered,
why does this man of God stink of fear?
What does that say about his faith?

Then the shaking abruptly stopped.
The one woman gasped for air,
her screeching having emptied her lungs,
and the man feebly pronounced,
"Praise the Lord!"

The mother gently spoke to an upturned face,
"There, I told you it would be all right!"

Mother, I thought, your calm at the doorstep of doom
sings hosannas! No pulpit or alter
offers sanctuary as sound as your caress
and no faith in this room is as strong as your arms.

I knew then that were God to speak to me,
Her voice would be the voice of my mother.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Anger Management

The hardest part
is coming face to face,
truly, with no guile
or misdirection, or excuses,
especially excuses,
with this anger that wells
deep within my chest.
So few here have integrity,
so few anywhere
and it galls, rubbing till
the soul is blistered and oozing.
Right. Wrong.
These are questions for the mirror,
the eyes staring back.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Missionary's Promise

What solace is it to that child,
the one with the belly distended
from starvation,
that God so loves him
He has chosen him to suffer
flies drinking at the corners of his eyes?
What joy in God's love
is the child's mother feeling
as her hungry babe finds no milk
in her desert breasts?
What doxology can be sung
when you have no strength to shoo
the vermin that feed on you
while you yet live?
Ahh, the blessing is to come
for these meek souls
when their hunger has shrunk them
so they can pass through the eye of the needle,
and God with thank them for their patient faith
with eternity.
This, then, is God's promise, His reward
for enduring
and not waving Him away
as He drinks from the well of the soul
in the corners of their eyes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

About the 9 11 poem

There are a number of terms within this poem you may not recognize:
Shaitan (Satan) is from Arabian mythology. It is a type of djinni (genie) created by Allah, is evil, eats dirt and excrement, and serves only to lead humankind into sin by temptation, creating illusions, visions of pleasures to be had by committing sins. The promise of 70 virgins in heaven becomes a little clearer with this understanding, doesn't it?
Abzu is the primeval waters of creation. Also the Sumerian deity of underground waters.
Enki is a creator god; god of wisdom; god of sweet water, worshipped in Summeria and Iraq 3500 BC to 1750 BC.
All djinni loathe salt and water.
Sources for this information are:
A Field Guide to Demons by Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack; Henry Holt and Company, New York
Encyclopedia of Gods by Michael Jordan (no, not the basketball player); published by Facts on File Inc., an Infobase Holdings Company, New York

9 11 and other atrocities

At first my anger was such
that I stabbed at the air with clenched fists
and cursed.
"There is no healing for this!" I shouted,
"only vengeance, and retribution!
Only fire from the sky!"
My rancor grew and my imprecations expanded.
"Burn all that flame will caress!
Poison the waters so they cannot slake their thirst!
Salt the fertile ground so their babies will whimper
with the distended belly of starvation!
We will wrench these Shaitan from their unholy jijad
and cast them into the Abzu
to lie groveling for mercy at the feet of Enki!"
My anger spent, I stood panting,
sweat streaming down my temples,
a horror rising in my gorge at the thought
that I would wish these awful punishments
to fall upon children, upon innocents.
There, I understood, is where hatred finds
its supposed righteousness,
where the djinni finds escape from his confining bottle.
Tonight I will sleep with salt beneath my pillow
and make my supplication in the name of Allah
to show me the way to vanquish these demons
whirling from the desert sand,
without becoming one of them.