The Lucky Ones

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Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

The Lucky Ones

Tina says we do it to one another, every day,

Knowing and not knowing. When it is love,

What happens feels like dumb luck. When it’s not,

We’re riddled with bullets, shot through like ducks.

 

Every day. To ourselves and one another. And what

If what it is, and what sends it, has nothing to do

With what we can’t see? Nothing whatsoever

To do with a power other than muscle, will, sheer fright?  

Tracy K. Smith, an excerpt from Life on Mars, Pulitzer Prize winning poetry collection.

 

1.

What is the nature of a single soul?

How can one measure its worth?

Do we weigh it by the hearts it formed in life,

or perhaps the void it leaves behind?

Terri Ann whispers, but I can’t quite hear.

Dad just smirks. He knows, but won’t tell.

 

2.

Put throngs of souls through hardships,

deny them dignity,

basic human comforts,

heap tragedy upon disaster

upon blight upon humiliation

upon their collective shoulders,

and I promise the plural response

won’t remind you of anything from

the Book of Job.

 

Oh, there will be outliers

of philosophers and saints

embracing quiet intangible dignity,

but the mass majority will go looking

for someone to blame.

 

Often those very same fringe

philosophers and saints

resigned to their fates

become targets.

 

Wanton cannibalism is an outrage

in civil societies,

and yet… and yet…

 

3.

After the Great Kantō earthquake

and before cyclone winds

begat fire-tornadoes,

a helpful policeman took charge

guiding four-thousand survivors

to what he thought was safety

but what inevitably became

mass immolation.

 

There was no way he could know

and nothing he could do,

their fate

inexorably twisted

among tails of fire dragons,

but in the policeman’s eyes,

he led the masses to their fate

the sum of his heroic intentions

now ashes.

 

Despondent

unable to bear the shame,

the officer committed seppuku,

increasing the countless body-count

by one soul.

 

4.

Is there something after this realm?

I can’t find the answer in math, science,

not in faith, not even in poetry.

 

If I contemplate for too long, the voids

of my departed soul-hearts cause

my body to ache like overused knee-joints

that signal pending monsoons.

 

Dad knows, but won’t tell. He always

insisted that I find things out for myself.

Terri Ann crossed over once, came back,

when her heart stopped, she just saw black.

 

That’s what she said, anyway. I suspect

that she just wasn’t paying attention then.

I’m sure she knows the answer now,

but I can’t quite hear her anymore.

 

5.

Danielle said it was too bad about

that rock-n-roll guy who died.

I nodded grimly, but said nothing more.

 

The soul of that rock-n-roll guy left us

for God knows where, assuming He does exist

and not just as some embodiment

of a salve for aching joints.

 

The rock-n-roll guy left a void for his wife,

children, family, and close friends to

contemplate, celebrate, or mourn,

depending on where they fall

on the afterlife belief spectrum.

 

Rock-n-roll guy bequeathed

to millions of us musical fans

a soundtrack cipher, unlocking

precious memories,

possibly including moments when other souls

left voids for us to contemplate,

celebrate, or mourn.

 

I hope there’s something after this for him,

and for us as well. I hope the blackness Mom

claims she saw was nothing more than a cosmic

practical joke that Dad is already in on.

 

6.

I watched it on accident.

Wincing, I looked away,

but I could still hear it

the lone automatic weapon.

 

I listened to folks in the aftermath

yelling that this shouldn’t happen

in civilized society. I also heard myself

joining this chorus,

yelling into the void.

 

I listened to opposition shush us,

as this is not the time to discuss

people dying needlessly because

those people just died needlessly.

 

So I shut up and listened

as others failed

to listen to each other,

instead they turned and

devoured each other’s message

like we did when this happened before

like they’ll do again.

 

Wanton cannibalism is an outrage

in civil societies,

and yet… and yet…

 

7.

The leader of the free world

Said we were lucky

For only fifty-nine deaths

 

It could’ve been much much worse

Rejoice in our good fortune

 

My soul hurts

***

***

Information on how to help the Las Vegas shooting victims.

Information on how to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

Go here to donate to Tim Duncan’s island storm relief fund.

Go here and here to help hurricane Harvey victims

Go here and here to find out how to help hurricane Irma victims.

Shared at dVerse’s Open Link Night # 205. Go here to read other poet’s contributions. 

 

 

Hatred and Meditation

PeacefulProtest

Photograph by Ian Frank, taken during the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville.

Hatred and Meditation

Do I hate?

Do I use the word correctly?

Do I respect its insurrection on rationality?

 

Do I feel the emotion expressly revealed

through introspection?

Is hate’s searing devotion the lesson that seals

our soul’s subjection?

 

I hate potato salad.

I hate country western ballads.

 

I hated sweet potato

but I ate it when grandma said so.

 

I hate vapid pop music;

I rate it invalid acoustics.

 

I hated when daddy hit momma

when they hated the trauma of hate

that made strangers out of lovers,

dispirited hate externally creating

the hate from within.

 

I hate butterscotch,

and yes, I hate pop-rocks,

and yes, I hate culture shock,

displacement while vultures flock

 

I hated bullies, and

I hate being bullied.

 

I hated bullies who bullied me.

 

I hated having to fight them

for the right to subsist.

 

I hated fighting bullies

so the fight in the next bully

would cease to exist.

 

I hated fighting

for the sake of fighting.

 

I hated lightning and thunder

of fists rendering flesh asunder,

my knuckles knuckling under

my hated fate.

 

I hate being marginalized.

I despise being patronized.

 

I surmise that I hate that surprising

ill-advised, revised

hand-waving

of genocide of the natives.

 

I hated being born fated

as a second-rated citizen

in my nation, born from hate,

fear, and superstition.

 

I hated suspension of disbelief

in reality offering no relief

in fostering only grief and suffering.

 

I hated my place in the universe.

 

I hated the racial fight

in the perverse plight

to maintain the right to exist even

as second-rated civilian.

 

I hate that I relate to privilege

from the bottom of a boot heel.

My hate in its sacrilege

is throttled by acute appeal.

 

Is it hate

that makes me try to avoid hatred?

 

There are many who hate

that makes them try to destroy

what they hated.

 

I know we don’t hate the same

or mean the same thing

when we endure hatred.

 

I want to eradicate

the lame machine of pain

screaming of pure conflated abhorrence

that makes one man crush another

for discovering differences.

 

We all suffer.

 

Do I hate?

Do I verb it correctly?

Should I select an interjection

with less lethality?

 

Can I kill an emotion that exists

to make people kill?

Can we fill a devotion that persists

as a poison pill?

 

Why do we hate?

It’s self-rot

Can I ever relate?

I hope not.

***

NOTE: If you are offended by the image above, the words in this poem, the embedded video, but feel nothing about the riots, hatred, and violence that took place yesterday in Charlottesville, then you need to do some soul-searching. I am sickened and deeply saddened by what we have become as a nation.