Tear It Out

Tear It Out

Billy’s life of quiet desperation
never before concerned you,
so why pretend to care now?

I stepped in to fill the void you left
when you snuck away with Ted,
taking with you all Billy held dear.

You always were one to capitalize
on a situation others find abhorrent—
your optimism extending to no one but you.

Soon enough he’ll be out of reach.
Is that what drives you to grasp for him now?
Is that why you squeeze those tears onto his pillow?

I long ago learned the futility of trying to best you.
You play the game better than I,
never questioning the value of the prize.

If my tragic flaw is clarity of vision, so be it.
I’ll offer you my eyes and feel my way home,
blind to all, including that in me which I hate in you.

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Hope and Hubris are not the Same

Hubris and Hope

She is proud to call herself a Social Justice Warrior.
It is a role she’s been trained for from birth,
and she is confident in her abilities.
She will right wrongs,
eradicate poverty,
close the gender wage gap,
end war,
racism,
sexism,
ageism,
capitalism.
Using her words,
her wit,
her tenacity,
(resorting to bullying only when necessary,
and it is necessary more often than one would think),
she will bring down those
who mock,
appropriate,
microaggress,
and fail to feel guilt for the sins of the fathers.

She was born
(not all that long ago)
to change the world.
She’ll let nothing stop her,
not even God.
Especially God.
Oh, she believes in Him.
Surprised?
Why, she loves Him dearly,
but she must pick up
where Jesus left off.
Finish the job.
He did good things,
but really, why didn’t he do more?
And people today are so dense.
Couldn’t Jesus have been more specific?

Yes, today is a new day,
Sunday, in fact.
It’s time to lace-up, log on,
carry her sign, voice her opinion,
and make a difference.
Nothing will stand in her way,
not even the guy next door
—what is his name?—
sitting in the hallway
with a razor blade in his hand.

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Singing the Chants

Baby Stella

My mother held on to the past
like she was clutching a baby to her breast,
trying to keep it an infant forever.

The bone china teacups
never broke, never got stained,
never got used.

The pewter dish, shaped liked the sixties
(a wedding gift not to her taste),
never left its box or the house.

Her hope chest, hard to close,
sat as sentinel at the foot of her bed,
perhaps holding all of the hope she ever had.

There was the friend who said something insensitive,
the brother who did not appreciate all she did for him,
the sister who took all my mother thought she had left.

The last time I saw my mother, wasted and woozy,
with four women watching over her—
two of us kin, one bound by love,
and a third, assigned by the hospice agency,
she left the room without her body.
I pray she left behind her baggage, too,
but knowing her as I do,
she likely slipped some resentment
somewhere inside her soul,
the way she hid a twenty
in a change purse, an address book, a pocket of,
well, a pocketbook: black in the winter, white in the summer.

I guess no one taught her that the past has to grow, too.
We need to give it legs, so it can walk away when it’s ready

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Perpetual Motion Machine

Frenetic Perpetual Motion

Well, here we are again.
Another tragedy has set
the same,
tired
cycle
in motion.
Soon enough,
it will spin on its own;
the secret of perpetual motion
will be unlocked.
There will be no
pauses,
breaks,
constitutionals,
or even slowing.
Candles are lit,
names are called,
insults are flung,
pat answers are
given by those
who have never
given any thought
to the questions—
the real questions,
not the ones on
everyone’s lips.
These are the folks
who believe what they read
but read only
what the powers-that-be
deem acceptable.
These are the folks
who long ago
willingly gave up
the freedom to
think for themselves,
submitting to the
overseers
of the schools,
the internet,
the Hollywood elite,
the big businesses in bed
with government geishas—
and they’re just as likely to
be sleeping on the left side of the bed
as they are on the right.
Maybe even more so.
(It’s easy to hide your infidelities
when the rest of the country is
helping you do it.)
But I digress.
The point is that
you can save yourself
the trouble of posting
your More Love; Less Hate
messages. Your Facebook
friends are not responsible
for the deaths of all those people.
Your Facebook friends
are not contemplating
mass murder.
I know.
I might be wrong.
I have been before.
For grins and giggles,
let’s say that I am.
Let’s pretend that
Ashley from the nail salon
has had enough.
She has stockpiled
her guns,
she has drawn her maps,
she has studied the
demographics and
shopping trends.
She’s ready to go out with a bang,
but before she does so,
she needs to check Facebook.
(Doesn’t everybody?)
Now ask yourself:
What happens when Ashley
sees the latest example of
your virtue signaling?
If, for even a moment,
you entertain the idea
that Ashley will
put down her weapons
and change her plans,
it might be time for you
to put down your iPhone,
tell your kids that you love them,
and crack open a book:
preferably one published
before last week.

Scatter the Seed and Go on with Your Life; I Mean it

A Tree to Watch Over Them

Plant a tree for me, said someone I know—
as we know people these days.
The notion caught my attention.
What a lovely thought, I said to
the space in my mind that receives
and holds onto all the words
created by the space in my mind
that tries to tells it things.
Oaks and pines, birches and aspens,
crabapples and cherries, spruces and maples.
Ah, maples.
Make mine a maple,
with beautiful leaves
and big, brawny branches
to hold a child or two
when a child (or two)
needs a place of her own—
a place where one space
in her mind
can make words
for another space
in her mind.
But don’t plant a sugar maple for me.
The thought of syrup and synapses
that no longer fire is a sticky mess
in my mind.
Did I mention death?
The person that I know
(as we know people these days)
mentioned death.
Sort of.
He never actually used the word.
Instead, he chose a nice, soft
euphemistic phrase meant
to replace the mean, hard, forthright word.
When I’m gone is how he chose
to phrase it. He could have said,
After I pass.
My sister never says Died.
Instead, she uses Passed,
as in How long has it been
since your mother passed?
and she says it in that soft,
lilting, apologetic voice
that sometimes drives me crazy.
But the crazy is my doing,
not hers.
We get through this life
and on to another in
whatever way seems best
at the time.
She doesn’t practice saying
How long has it been
since your mother passed?
in a mirror hung on a bathroom wall.
She doesn’t compare those words
to more graphic ones like
When did she kick off? Or
So, she’s pushing up daisies now? Or
When did she die?
I don’t think that she even
passes the phrases from
one spot in her brain
to another.
She simply lives her life,
feels her emotions,
and says what seems
appropriate at the time.
Speaking of appropriate,
I guess now is the time
to tell you that I don’t want
you to plant a tree for me.
If I can take a moment to
choose my words carefully,
I’ll tell you in this way:
There is no need to plant a tree for me.
Wildflowers will do.
Then you won’t have to think about me
all the time, only in season,
and you won’t have to worry about
weeds and watering,
pruning and paring.
After all, I wouldn’t want to
have to do the same for you.
It’s not that I don’t love you.
You know that I do.
But the dead are to bury the dead.
Which I guess means that
the living are to go on living.

 

Thank you, Peter Notehelfer, for getting these notions into my head and these words out into the world.