My Phlegmy Valentine

Kratzenstein_orpheus

By Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein-Stub – Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein-Stub, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15686494

My Phlegmy Valentine

February’s second week
you are unwell, feverish
difficult, intransigent
unwilling to yield control

I bring you medicine
heat your soup,
soothe your fever
confronting your fight head-on

You are grateful for my patience,
remorseful for making life
much harder than it has to be,
missing the point completely

Your ragged breathing
is my lullaby
your phlegmy cough,
my action prompt
your sudden silence,
my panic button

When I am caring for you
it’s not an act of compassion
but it is the most selfish act
I can muster under pressure

I’ll work on my possessive streak
as soon as you’re well again
for now, I lead Eurydice from Hades
looking back as often as I need.
***

 

My Terms

My Terms

My next funeral will be mine
ain’t strong enough to bear mankind
I saw my mama laid to rest
so you all can just bear the rest

Yup, skipped-out on dad’s last ride
both grandmas’ gone to great divide
losses felt within my breast
withdrew from the manifest

Not fearful of facing west and careening
into oblivion’s bosom
my trepidation of death’s breath, sans meaning
keeping me keen on what could come

I cannot insulate from weathered fate
as winter’s weight descends
so I capitulate with feathered gait
as I await what ends

But no more bitter-sour goodbyes.
***

Tuna Salad

barryterri

Momma and me, circa sometime in 1981-83, I think.

Tuna Salad

Wifey made tuna salad today and offered me some. I gratefully heaped a pile of it into a cereal bowl, but stopped short of eating. It was missing something. I diced up two hardboiled eggs and mixed them with the tuna salad. Much better, but it was still missing something. I sprinkled paprika onto the dish and tasted it. It was good, but one more thing was missing; Ritz crackers. Sadly, we were out of Ritz, so multigrain gourmet cracker nonsense had to do. I tasted, and was transplanted back to Chicago housing projects during the many times momma made this special snack for me.

grayer than most light
noon sky, counterfeit silver
I pocket the fee

Minus the Ritz, I had inadvertently made momma’s special way of making tuna salad, which on the surface, was probably unremarkable to most. But it was the one meal she made where I didn’t feel like a poor person while eating it. I could imagine all wage brackets having a tuna salad craving, and I imagined people from all walks of life savoring this delicacy in some fashion. It felt good to be on some kind of universal level with wealthy ones who enjoyed tuna salad occasionally.

clouds hide sky-scrapers
visibility is poor
to what lies beneath

I had always known I was poor, but it wasn’t a big deal because everyone I knew was also poor. We lived the same struggles, went to the same government check-cashing places, shopped at the same discount stores, ate the same public school free lunches, wore the same knockoff-brand clothing, and feared the same criminal element and/or corrupt, racist police shakedowns. I didn’t experience any stigma or shame for being poor until I began being bussed to the magnet school Beasley Academic Center. I have nothing against the school, as it was an expansive learning opportunity, but it was perfectly apparent to me that I was one of the poorer kids in attendance. Many kids were from stable, successful 80’s Cosby-sitcom-style homes. They wore Guess jeans, Genera button-ups, Nike, Adidas, Reebok, BK’s, you name it, and they always had the latest technological marvels like Walkmans, mini-synthesizers and etc…

rain bathed in streetlight
amber-hued menagerie
all will be covered

I recall being teased for many things; being shy (back then, nobody mentioned introverts as otherwise normal folks content to keep to themselves; we were “shy” kids who needed to be “fixed” so we would be more social like a “normal” kid), being a nerd (back at regular school, being a nerd just meant that I was smarter than the average sixth-grader or had greater intellectual curiosity than most; being a nerd at the magnet school – where I was rendered intellectually average due to all the other “gifted” kids being bussed in –  just meant that I was the funny-looking kid with the coke-bottle glasses), and being rather unfriendly and all too eager to throw hands for someone so tiny, shy, and nerdlike (if all you wanted was to be left alone, but others kept screwing with you, I suspect you would develop a chip on your shoulder as well).

But for all the random teasing, nothing left me as defenseless as being teased for bring poor. Being a shy nerd who fought a lot was in my DNA, and I owned all of that, but I had nothing to do with being born poor. I had no say in it. Those were cards I had been dealt.

sunshine reveals you
true colors rich, emboldened
the shade, deeper still

The hilarious part was that after three consecutive days of being teased, bullied, getting fed up and fighting back, and ultimately, losing said fights in overwhelmingly one-sided fashion, a teacher decided to counsel me. She wanted to “crack my shell” and find out why I was always so angry and depressed. She wanted to know what in my home life could possibly make me so enraged and isolated. It had to be something at home, right? Perhaps my mother was abusing me, or had boyfriends with boundary issues.

I never opened up, partially because at the time – though an undiagnosed schizophrenic initially losing her grip on reality – mom was the best thing going for me and I didn’t want any outsiders screwing that up by revealing her secret. Also, I never opened up, partially because I felt like asking for help was a sign of weakness, and I felt compelled to endure on my own. But mostly I remained silent because I couldn’t fathom why the teachers couldn’t see the bullying right in front of their faces and understand it for what it was. I was baffled at having to show them what was happening and having to explain why it hurt so much to have to endure it. So, I never did.

birdsongs vibrate moods
gathering for the ride home
we flock and migrate

I would bus home after a particularly rough day of being teased and bullied for wearing generic versions of Converse shoes and a Michael Jackson jacket only five years out-of-style. Sometimes mom would have tuna salad on Ritz crackers waiting for me. I don’t think she knew all that was going on with me, but I suspect she knew I was traversing a rough patch. She never asked about it, but she would talk with me, cracking corny jokes to get me to crack a smile and laugh a bit. She always succeeded. I don’t know if the tuna salad was her secret weapon, but it was often present while she was peppering me with corny jokes. I miss those jokes, as well as the sound of her laugh. But the tuna salad I accidentally made in her honor was pretty tasty.

bluest sky leans west
surrounding me with comfort
memories of you
** *

Written for Terri Ann Dawson, on the ninth anniversary of her death.

Longest Night Yields to Wolf Moon

earth and moon

Image source: https://science.nasa.gov/

Longest Night Yields to Wolf Moon

Knowledge,

for a time,

lagged behind us

on the longest night

when we would celebrate,

sacrifice animals,

indulge in wine, feast,

and flesh, ignorant of the science,

the moon’s tidal-shifting dance,

stabilizing the magical tilted trance

that allows for being,

for celebration, sacrifice,

indulgence, feasting, and

blissful ignorance.

 

Knowledge,

through exploration,

measurement, and study,

having long ago cast aside sheep skins and

rosy veils of ignorance,

reveal the illusion of

Sol’s seasonal retreats and returns,

our angles, no longer dangled,

steeped in superstition and myth,

but no less necessary for our

existence, and thus,

still worthy of celebration,

sacrifice, indulgence, feasting,

and heavenly knowledge.

 

And yet!

Knowledge continues

to reveal new truths,

unlocking doorways to cosmic realities;

the longest night, the redundant,

recurring, cyclical cycle of ending,

beginning, rendered trivial,

infinitesimal against infinite

intergalactic backdrops.

 

Knowledge stands before me

in this January doorway,

rendering me insignificant,

raising the curtain on liberation,

beckoning me to wonder at

what has yet to be unlocked.

I will feast upon her

in a drunken stupor,

all the while, a wizened man

howling at the new year’s Old Moon.

aaron-thomas-201016

Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

** *

(Mild nudity in video. Mildly NSFW.)

Written and shared for the prompt, Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Doorway(s), posted by Susan. Feel free to stop by and read other poet’s entry to this prompt

January is my birth month, which hasn’t held much significance in my life in quite some time. Susan shared some intriguing knowledge on January’s origin that compelled me to take another look at it. Per her entry:

“Door” is also the deepest root meaning of January:

 January (in Latin, Ianuarius) is named after the Latin word for door (ianua), since January is the door to the year and an opening to new beginnings. The month is conventionally thought of as being named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology, but according to ancient Roman farmers’ almanacs Juno was the tutelary deity of the month.

Pretty neat stuff! How could I not break the seal on 2018 and scribble a few lines after that?

 

Monkey Pause

matthew-kane-205770

Photo by Matthew Kane on Unsplash

Monkey Pause

A troop of

young Japanese macaque

frantically chase

evening moon’s reflection

upon hot spring’s surface.

 

Moonbeams reflect,

refract, fragment, flitter,

fleeing tiny grasping fingers

scattering light

leaving callow plunderers only shivers

for their boundless efforts.

 

Matriarch and Alpha

observe the scene

sitting in silent stillness

warming, cooing,

grooming one another in the depths

content with the moon above

its countless illusions below

and the crisp air between.

 

Nothing is obtained

this moment is now

everything is as it is

what should be is trickery; just

moondust eluding monkey paws.

** *

Written for dVerse I Once Used an Earthquake–dVerse MTB: Symbolism, hosted by Victoria Slotto We were encouraged to write a symbolic poem. This one still feels a bit “on the nose”, but meh, I’ll take it.

 

Go here to read other poet’s contributions to this prompt.

Ode to Good Senses

yoann-boyer-185507

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

Ode to Good Senses

I have the greatest nose I know

I can detect strawberry,

Spiced cinnamon

And encapsulating earth-tones

Of her presence

 

My ears are tremendous acoustically

Bringing me songs of her laughter

Cocooning me in the

Comforting confines

Of her cooing voice,

Granting warm pathways to her

Innermost ideas

The percussive reassurance of her

Light snoring, like raindrops

Shushing the roof above us

 

These astonishing eyes of mine

Take in the angles of her smile

At angles where gods and goddess

Are perceived, but pale in comparison

To the sight of her in flannel pajamas

Doubled-over, compressed

Tickled, in-spite of herself

By our silly whimsy

 

My body is buoyed by

A buffet of sensation

Of touching and tenderness

Of her connection

We cuddle and exalt

Life with definition

We touch and connect

And flush as cells rush

We infuse and blend

Molecules, use, renew

Our fire, chemically tuned

To our new, sacred element

We touch and forge,

We kiss, and sparks tell

We embrace, and I face the folly

Of oneness within our absurd bliss

 

I taste supernovas

Of past lives

On her lips,

Elemental fire-quenched eclipse

Craving her flavor rewrites code and creed

I drink her in abundance; she is

More than I needed and never enough

 

But there is something more

Within her, beyond perception

Greater than inhaling her presence

More tremendous than her vibrations

Transcending her astonishing spectrum

More buoyant than her touch

Beyond infinity of her taste

 

I cannot smell, hear, see, feel, or taste it

But I know it to be the purest form of her

As great as my fine senses are

I am grateful to find

Something greater in her.

** *

Written for Wifey, on her birthday on November 12.

Shared at Poets United, Poetry Pantry #378.

 

 

The Laundry

jesse-bowser-6054

Photo by Jesse Bowser on Unsplash

The Laundry

Once upon an evening dreamy, reclined beyond conscience unseemly

Clean-laundry piled shotgun beside me burst forth with Terri Ann’s allure.

Her voice apparent, yet quite untimely, bubbled with laughter, light and finely-

Tuned for my perception, winding her time, which ended years before

A decade before, less or more. Is my mom’s soul now laundry lore?

I’m just baked. I must ignore.

 

We watched cartoons and tripped fantastic, Kush-soaked reflections, quite elastic.

Asked laundry-mother what traumatic lesson her spirit had in store?

Her laughter warmed peripherals, soft linen, looming lavender smells

Her soothing hearth of laughter tells me, unseen, with heart a-pure

Soothing song sang as she gathered with mother’s heart, rang, not demure

Laundry said, “You must endure.”

 

I laughed at her linen reprisal as if she sensed my suicidal,

Un-suspenseful thought-revivals. I asked clean laundry, “Is there more?”

For to suffer life in silence, its smearing rife with leering violence,

Abysmal veering into blindness; is that our fate, and nothing more?

Subliminal closed-mindedness? Should I get baked and just ignore?

Spit at fate, and what’s in-store?

 

My laundry-mother laughed disarming laughs, belying life’s alarming

Nature, nurturing and charming me, unanswered, insecure.

Her non-answers thrust upon me like a thirst quenched by tsunami

Voicing visions far beyond me, unseen, she sings with heart a-pure

She stings my heart, weary, unsure, with momma’s voice ringing a cure

Laundry sang, “You must endure.”

** *

Written for dVerse Poetics’ The voice of the monster, hosted by Björn. I know I’m a day late, but I thought I’d share an actual ghost story that happened to me about a week before Halloween, when my mom visited me during a low point. I’m agnostic, but I believe my mom dropped by to kick my ass, get me to stop feeling for myself and keep grinding for the fam. Perhaps in my case, the monster was my depression? (Who am I kidding? It’s almost always my monster.)

Go here to read other spooky stories.

 

My Ghost, No Longer at This Address

20171028_185244

My doorway.

My Ghost, No Longer at This Address

Upon my untimely death,

a chaotic redundancy

as death is untimely

 

except suicide,

which I don’t currently abide,

but that’s another vibe…

 

I request my epitaph be

“Life was often confusing,

difficult, and demoralizing,

but I laughed a lot,

so maybe it wasn’t all bad.”

 

Verbose, yes; feel free

to edit before placing

on headstone, or urn.

 

I have no preference

on my corpse’s disposal.

If I’m right, it is

only an empty shell anyway,

 

as sturdy abandoned houses

that once hosted countless

Christmas dinners

are no longer homes.

 

The phenomenon

or mechanism of me

is long gone from here.

** *

Written for imaginary garden with real toads FASHION ME YOUR WORDS ~ Lets build houses. Also shared at Poets United’s Poetry Pantry #377.

As we’re close to Halloween – widely regarded as the point where the threshold between the living and the dead is at its weakest – I found myself thinking less of home building, and more of ghosts, including my own, leaving their bodies (their homes for the duration of their lives) for the first time.

 

The Lucky Ones

ian-espinosa-177961

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. 

 

 

Prayer at Journey’s End

alvin-engler-32339

Photo by Alvin Engler on Unsplash

Prayer at Journey’s End

A fork in the path

I smile at the road you’ll take

I envy your route

It leads you where I know not

I pray for your safe journey

 

Nothing ever lasts

Majestic mountains erode

I will miss your shade

A cool relief from harsh light

Your kindness hugging the winds

 

Faith rarely leads me

And yet I pray for your fate

On roads, still unknown

May your smile inspire smiles

And your kindness, met in kind

 

Wielding gentleness

Against the tide of cruelty

Your morning respite

Filling my cup with promise

Restoring my karmic faith

 

All endings are thus

Our Eras intersecting

Peace where our lines meet

Your smile, gifted upon mine

Engraved upon flesh and stone

 

I’m not known to pray

But I’ll stomp and shout for you

Evil spirits leave!

Do not darken my friend’s fate!

Leave her spirit light as air!

 

Temporal waves crest

Energy fuels momentum

We tumble forward

Unsure of destination

Yet better after meeting

 

A fork in the road

Your fate awaits your footfalls

As mine veers away

May your journey bring you joy

Your good fortune, unending.

***