STRIKEOUT

Like an umpire shooting bullet holes

through a neighborly batter’s defenses,

you should strike through the draft of your paper

with the black ink of objectivity.

 

Or else you’ll be an executioner.

The ink will become your vicious black hood

and the pen will be your dripping red axe

swinging at the necks of innocent words.

 

Or worse yet, you will be back in high school,

stuttering sentences in a mirror

as you prepare to ask Suzy to prom,

just to doubt you had a shot to start with.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #74 – SO COLD

Outline for me the love in your blue lies.

Was life so cold between these crimson walls

that you would search for warmth in winter skies?

Are you so conned by the sweet siren’s calls

that you would cast away your canvased life?

My love has birthed for you the finer things,

and you forget so quick that lasting strife

which bound your comely hands in puppet strings.

Then sketch your will with Neptune by your side

await those waves to take you through the light.

You’ll see those shallow waters swell with pride

and drown you in that cerulean night.

Yet when I see you float beyond that door,

I know you’ll wish that you had stayed ashore.

——

 

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BAT SONGS

The shade of bats fluttering in the distance engulfed the lights of the stars, like lines of black paint against the night. The chill metal of the bench was sharpened as they passed overhead; their shrill chatter echoing in my ears. Their beckoning song seemed to call out, “Sleep, Ulysses.”

——

 

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OUR AMERICA

So I mentioned last week that Tuesdays would be about dreams from now on, but after the travesty in Las Vegas yesterday, I couldn’t in my right mind not say how horrible I feel over the subject. So I did what I often do in that circumstance and wrote a poem about it. Before reading it, please consider donating to Las Vegas. Here’s a link to a GoFundMe. Ok, here’s the poem. Feel free to comment:

Our America

We may not be slaves

to the sins of our fathers,

but we are certainly born

out of the wombs of their actions.

 

And while we may not bear the chains

that granted them power over men,

the scars they inflicted are still fresh

on the skins of our history.

 

The flesh of this America

still burns with the toil of war,

where brother fought brother

so that our brethren could be free.

 

The first tears broke over the face

of the American Dream in 1830

when Jackson uprooted the free

in the name of freedom.

 

And again we see the strength of arms

spattering our lands red with blood,

to protect the egos of the fearful.

 

From Orlando to Las Vegas,

that river runs deeper than the oil pipelines

those dream eaters feast their pocketbooks on.

 

Well I say to them:

We do not like your America.

 

Your America is not

the land of the free

and the home of the brave,

but the land of greed

and home to the slave.

 

So we have come to take it back.

With pitchforks and torches,

with iron and steel,

with the bodies of our comrades

gunned down by the bullets

of your deranged militia laws:

we are coming.

 

Like the beating heart of the mountain

and the roaring calls of the ocean:

we are coming.

 

Like the lionhearts of Europe

come to claim their throne from John:

we are coming.

 

For this is our America.

 

Not a land of destiny and perfection

but nonetheless a home

to those who would strive

to see a more perfect union.

 

Not a country unsullied by pride,

but nonetheless a home

to those who would strive

to see the error in their ways.

 

Yes, this is our America.

An America where men can be queer.

An America where women can dream.

An America where blacks do not fear.

 

This is our America,

an America that has never been,

and yet I swear this oath again—

our America it will be.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #54 – FEAR OF DEATH

I’m finally afraid of death,

not because I’m afraid of dying,

but dying before my children are ready

for me to leave them on their own.

 

Children who I haven’t even met yet;

children whose cries haven’t broken

through their tiny, shaking lungs yet;

children who haven’t even taken root

in the safety of their mother’s womb yet.

 

A mother, who to me is still unknown.

One perfectly sculpted woman,

who I have yet to fall in love with.

Who I have yet to share dreams with;

yet to kiss over candle-lit dinners

and travel to cliché capital cities with.

 

One who could show me that love isn’t found

in the superfluous places we buy flights to,

but in the people we board the planes with.

 

But now, after seeing my father off at the airport,

I pause at the door handle of my car,

worried that the plane will crash,

and those excited, to-be children

won’t get to meet father.

——

 

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CAT NAP

I dug my claws into the side of the rocking chair, shifting my weight as I ascended its backside to keep from being thrown off. The cushion at the top was softer than the hard-pressed seat, and my personal favorite place to take a nap. I curled up, carefully balanced so that I wouldn’t fall back over the side, like some long dead camper falling over a cliff. When I finally was comfortable, I could feel my eyes begin to glaze over as the familiar feeling of sleep began to take hold.

Of course, naps are never that simple nowadays. Before my eyes had closed for more than a moment, the whole chair jostled. The big one had taken his seat in the middle—I didn’t understand how he could endure such a hard seat. The whole chair rocked hard, and I had to dig my nails in to keep from being flung over the side. It was clear this resting place wouldn’t do today.

So, like many days, I hopped back down onto the floor. The light thuds of my feet were beginning to sound a lot like those of my older brothers’. The wood planks below me were cool and smooth, and made for great walking. No unexpected catches, like in the shag carpet I was on my way over to. The couch over there was much softer than the remaining chairs, however, and was well worth the trek when the rocking chair was taken.

Two quick jumps and I was up on the arm rest. They put the best padding in the arm rest—it was firm, but not pillowy like the cushions, although it could be more precarious. I could feel the weight of fatigue hit me like a brick, and my eyes closed once again—but not a moment later I heard the terrifying sound of the back door opening, followed swiftly by the eager approach of beasts. They were like titans—they ran on four legs, panting heavily wherever they ran. Luckily the gold one missed me, instead running down the hall to my left after who knows what.

Unfortunately, the darker one was more attentive, and stopped hard in his tracks, then turning to look directly in my eyes. His eyes were a cold, dead black, like a silent murderer out slaughtering in the middle of the night. We shared that brief moment while he realized that I was not another piece of the furniture, where the whole world seems to grow quiet. The big one’s rising became so slow, it was as if he was covered in glue.

But that moment broke quickly, and he and I went from stone still to bolting in a heart beat. There was an open window behind me, just a few feet away, with a high screen. The beast was much faster than me, and it was all I could do to launch myself from the head of the couch to the screen. As I flew through the air, I heard his jaws clamp shut just behind me, just a few inches from my tail. The hairs on my back shivered and stood high. It felt like an eternity while I soared through the air, then dug my claws in to the little holes for support. I scrambled to get myself secured quickly; my feet sliding down before eventually they too were locked. Then I quickly ascended so that I was out of reach. I turned to look down, and saw the beast, sitting with tongue flopping over the side of his teeth. His mouth was open wide, waiting for my strength to run out, and his breaths were deep with excitement.

I thought myself a goner for a moment, as my body began to shake with fatigue, but then came the pounding footsteps of the big one. He grabbed the beast roughly by the neck, and lifted him with such vigor I thought he might tear its head clean off, but the body held tight and pretty soon the beast had turned tail back from where he came, along with the gold one. When I was certain it was safe, I tried to climb down slowly. Halfway down, my leg slipped again, and I went crashing to the floor. I managed to get my feet beneath me at the last moment, and landed on my feet. I looked back at the couch, and felt the disdain for the potential resting place. I felt too much like a meal on a platter there now, so instead I made my way down the hall, to the third door on the right. There was a large space there, where the big one rested at night. I didn’t much care for it—to many different layers of material scattered haphazardly about—but it was soft. I found an empty corner by the window, and laid down. My eyes shut, and I finally got to drift off to sleep.

——

 

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SPILLED TEA

It was a fine summer day

 

the kind of day that is made

for drinking lemon iced tea

on white-cushioned porch chairs.

 

the kind of day filled with children,

laughing as they dodge between

sprinkler arcs and tree branches.

 

Which is why, when the phone rang,

we felt a kind of ominous shock

as the peaceful air was broken

by the impending sound of technology.

 

Part of me wishes we had smiled

and kept still in our cozy seats.

Part of me wishes we had unplugged

it and let the cord hang there, limp.

 

But the call of the electric siren

is a hard spell to resist,

and like Butes before us

we were seduced to answer.

 

The voice on the other side was sweet,

like a bar of milk chocolate

devoured far to hastily.

 

Your father had a heart attack.

 

And suddenly, that perfect day

felt utterly rotten.

——

 

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FEELING LOST ON THE BEACH

“When did I start walking? I don’t really remember…” my voice trailed off as I looked into the distance. The old man had pulled up along side me just as I noticed the sun was setting. He was a short fellow, but had a certain youthful spring to his step.

“Well, if you don’t remember when you started walking, do you remember why?” The smile hidden inside his beard broke into a laugh. He reminded me of my childhood house cat in that way. He was scruffy, in a well-worn Hawaiian shirt and loose cargo pants, with a deep tan.

“I don’t really remember that either,” I said. I turned my attention to where I was. We were along the beachside, at sunset, walking at the edge of the sand and the sidewalk. The last thing I remembered was tying my shoes in the morning—yet when I looked down to see them, I saw only my bare feet. And had it been this morning?

“Well, you don’t know why you’re here, or how long you’ve been going where you’re going, but you’re still going somewhere. Ain’t that something else? Next thing you’ll tell me, you don’t even remember your name.”

“My name is Adam,” I said.

“Adam is it?” the old man replied. He pulled his beard between his thumb and index finger thoughtfully. “Adam has always been a favorite name of mine. Good strong name.”

“I’m not sure I’d describe myself as a strong man,” the words fell out of my mouth before I had even thought of them.

“Oh,” the man looked at me curiously, “and why is that?” I stared off into the distance again, unsure how to proceed. The relatively flat surface of the beach had turned into an uphill climb as we approached the dunes.

“I’m not sure,” I said finally, “perhaps that’s why I’m walking?” I smiled at him. A look of hesitant concern crossed his face.

“Could be, Adam. It’s no old geezer like me’s business, but I think maybe you’re feeling lost.”

“What gave you that impress—” his tone turned stern, in the way a grandparent’s does when they need to teach a lesson, but without making their grandchildren cry.

“Now don’t go interrupting me, Adam,” he wagged a meaty finger in my face, “I’ve seen boys like you before. Look over their,” he gestured out to the many small silhouettes along the shoreline, watching the sun sinking beneath the ocean. “All those people? They’re going through something just like you. Might be they just got through it; might be that they’re about to run into it.

“But it’s too easy to just walk away from your problems like you’re doing here. Leaving the whole world behind, as if the world did something to you that you didn’t deserve. You’ll keep walking till your feet are blistered, your legs are cramped, your stomach is knotted, and your hair is in tatters. And you’ll still feel lost, because that’s not how we overcome our problems. It’s good to know when and why to walk away, like from some hothead in a bar, but it ain’t no good to just be walking empty headed—letting them bad thoughts cloud your mind and eat away at your soul. You need to stand up, and figure out where you’ve been and, more importantly, where you’re going.”

His hands closed into fists with these last remarks. Then, he put a hand on my shoulder and stopped. I paused and looked up. We were at the top of the sand dunes. The ocean could be seen for miles, and the sun was just a fleeting sliver, before it would wink out for the night entirely. His eyes were full of determination, yet also so full of sadness. Like he knew what I was feeling even better than I did.

“I—” the words wouldn’t come to me. I could feel a tear slipping down my cheek, though I wasn’t sure when it had gotten there.

“That’s alright Adam,” he took his hand off of me, “you’ll figure it out. Just stay here till you do.” And like that, he spun on his heels, and marched off down the hill, while I sat and watched the clouds turn from orange, to pink, to purple, and finally to a deep, empty gray.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #48 – MUDDY WATERS

The smoky voice, crackling

with the coarse rhythm

of an ancient studio recording,

asked the dimly lit room

to turn the lamps down low

 

and with the smell of

smooth Marlboro cigarettes

lingering after the heat of passion

she felt a quiet flame reignite

 

that she had thought was lost,

burnt out like the kindled fire

that was her first marriage.

 

Their silhouetted figures,

glistening with sweat in the moonlight,

sat sticky against the oak headboard;

limp thumbs tangled together.

 

He ruined that sweet moment,

as most men do,

when he turned to her

and whispered “I love you.”

 

That was all it took for the sweat

rolling down her chest

to freeze to ice, and soon

she was swimming

in muddied waters.

——

 

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NOTHINGNESS

What is the value

Of nothing?

 

Think of that empty space

Between your hollow doorway

And the angry, outside world.

Nothingness has saved you.

 

Think of the silence that rests

Between your last words

And their first thoughts.

In those moments, the air

Feels heavier than the ocean

As its waves break against your back.

And yet it is lighter

Than the gentlest breeze.

 

Because the unknown is full of surprises,

And nothingness

Is the most unknown thing of all.

 

Nothing begets value.

For something to have worth

People must know what it means

To be worthless.

 

We fight, and burn, and bleed

Our whole lives away

So that we can be something.

Because to be nothing

Is to be worthless.

 

But I see the world

Through a different lens.

To be nothing is to be…

 

To be…

 

To be…

 

To be originality.

 

To be nothing is to be

The name that hides

In the corners of every room.

 

To be nothing is to be

The darkness in between

The shadow and the man.

 

To be nothing is to be

The blank page before

The writer begins their story.

 

To be nothing is to be

The catalyst of revolution

Tens years before the ideas

Spring into the philosopher’s mind.

 

To be nothing is to be great.

Because there is nothing

That can compare to it.

——

 

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