Charlottesville 

Image credit goes to Jim Bourg at Reuters

when the light dims

and hate from the shadows

explodes into rancor headlines

man reveals beast 

our true colors, warped 

painting promises of a dark Prometheus 

they seek rabid rapture in oppression

hollow edged fists bear torches

obscuring our triumph, our passion, our poignancy

illuminating our savagery, our inhumanity, our bloodlust

the racism coiling sinuous leather lies in the name of progress

emboldened by leaders 

hungering for divides and distractions 

they march proudly 

into their sham conqueror’s high

old flags expose ancient hates in new masks

and pointing fingers meet screaming eyes

 

It is not enough to witness

It is not enough to condemn

It is not enough to disavow

Now, we must love

And act and hope and hurt and sob

Unite and fight and thrive and reach 

Revel in every single flavor of humanity

Live beyond our labels

And together, rise

 

Remembrance

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towers, forts, pillars

we took refuge in our

symbols of strength

money and might

two of our favorite keys

draped across the mantle of the world

until the day came

when lives slipped away

like too-fine sand

our symbols stripped bare

and burned from the inside

grief-spilled faces

could only watch in disbelief

a planet stutter-stops

while

fear & hate

are met with honor & love

and yet

the horror remains

a subdued scar

scraping at the surface of civility

reminding us all

that nothing is invulnerable

so everything should be cherished

Image Credit: Culture Travel Reflections http://nicoletteorlemans.com/2012/09/

Dedicated to all heroes, humans and hearts

so gracelessly ripped away

on this most tragic of days

Never forget

What I Learned From Death

A great man died last week. His name was Sir Terry Pratchett, and he was my favorite author. The man inspired me to start writing and not worry about following the style of others. He understands people better than anyone else I’ve ever come across.

He was also, in my completely unbiased opinion, the greatest philosopher of our age.

A British satirical author who wrote a bestselling fantasy series, many would look at his whimsical covers and dismiss what’s inside as fluff. And that would be a critical error– I’ve learned more about human nature between those pages than from anything else.

He sees people as we should be seen, and his words would help heal the rifts in our society if we would only heed them. He faces our ugliest reflection in the mirror and emerges undaunted, with a hilarious little anecdote to top it all off. His impact on this world is immeasurable. To me, he is a great Influencer, and his lessons transcend personal and professional to apply to all walks of life.

What can we learn from Terry? It’s nearly impossible to boil it down, as his words range from hilarious to poignant to provocative to devastating. Although he was far too clever to implicate anyone or anything by name, he used fantasy as a backdrop to highlight real-world problems, cultures and ways we’re our own worst enemy.

His mind-bogglingly brilliant book The Hogfather is a loving, brutal treatise on who we are and who we can become. The titular namesake is essentially a more primitive Santa Claus who explores the not always rosy power of humanity, and society without any sugarcoating.

On Education: “Getting an education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.”

On Fairy Tales, and How They Should Really Be Read: “And then Jack chopped down what was the world’s last beanstalk, adding murder and ecological terrorism to the theft, enticement, and trespass charges already mentioned, and all the giant’s children didn’t have a daddy anymore. But he got away with it and lived happily ever after, without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done…which proves that you can be excused for just about anything if you are a hero, because no one asks inconvenient questions.”

On our Pop Culture Portrayal of Kids: “Real children do not go hoppity skip unless they are on drugs.”

On Man vs. Machine: “Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.” 

On Changing the World: “The phrase ‘Someone ought to do something’ was not, by itself, a helpful one. People who used it never added the rider ‘and that someone is me’.” 

On the Power of Belief: (excerpt, a conversation between Death and his granddaughter)

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THENSHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.”

So why am I sharing it here, on this forum? Believe me, I thought long and hard about it. I have other accounts, other social media sites that on the surface seem more suitable. But really, I think that’s the whole point.

Dig beneath the surface. Don’t go through life basing everything on assumptions, because then you’ll lose. Rose-colored glasses are equally as dangerous as tunnel vision.

Embrace the unknown, open your arms to the unusual. Don’t just stay in the herd when you see another break away from the pack. Find the humor in life, but don’t shy away from the bad.

True evolution lies in a willingness to look at our own flaws and change. This is as true of leaders, CEOs, celebrities, influencers and all the big guns as it is of any Average Joe.

Saying “be the change you wan’t to see in the world” isn’t enough if you’re not willing to stray outside your comfort zone. So listen to Terry, look in an unexpected direction, and you may find your own muse.

Can Poetry Change the World?

I was asked this recently as part of an ongoing discussion. I think it is a very important question, because ultimately all forms of human expression should be embraced for their impact.

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Where would we be without art? No matter what the forum, it needs to be recognized as more than just creative license. It is actually something that can inspire healing, build communities + save lives.

In my opinion, poetry is nothing more than a snapshot of our souls. Anytime we let ourselves be vulnerable, we invite fear but also inspire confidence. I often write about incredibly raw subjects, from the point of view (as immortalized by Freddie Mercury) of “is this the world we created?”

Hearing that my words touched someone’s heart, and knowing that there will be ripples continuing to spread and possibly effect change… it may be a small thing, true. But a lot of the world’s actions are shaped by small things.

So my long answer is: Yes. I do think that poetry can inspire positive change, as long as we let it happen organically as an extension of our own experiences instead of trying to force it or color inside the lines.

We Are Not Forgettable

i have a face, but we are faceless.

i have a name, but we are nameless.

health – care= our reality

labels – liability = our diagnosis

apathy redtape + pushedpills= our prescription

we’re sedated to be bleat-less sheep

led by a shepherd with earplugs

conforming quietly to the herd of checked boxes,

waiting for Dr. Bo Peep

while we suffer

while we break

while we scream inside

But i have a Face

i have a Name

And I Will Not Stop

until you see me

for all that i am.

until you see us

for all that we can be.

Ripple

Dedicated to Anthony Brown, and all those whose lights were snuffed out far too soon. Let’s honor their memory by reaching for hope instead of hate. 

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i wish you’d

use your heel

to scuff out

the line in the sand

between us

instead of

scoring it

deeper

i wish i

could shift

your horizons

free your eyes from

their entrenched tunnels

is it fear, power

or hate

that makes

us all obsess

over each other

our sins

crimes

mistakes

don’t you see

at the end

of all things

nothing will divide us

life, joy, hope, pain, sorrow

are born from us all

no matter what our

wallets or wisdoms

we are all equal

we are one

History

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the broken songs of our race

jab sharp spears against

the overburdened heart of history

(our ends of course justify the means)

we have always

made the choice not to survive

without casting stones at sinners.

so we blame blind eyed destiny for

subtly seeping scarlett letters

into the bared bone melody

of earth’s humming voice,

+ etching permanent bullet holes

in our skinbound human harmony.

we savagely reap + sew

 endless staccato scars,

plunging our necrotic needles into

 the keeper of all life

as she begs + pleads for us

to learn, remember,

or at least sing freely.

lately it seems as if

only the sullen strains of discord

sound in our depths.

the delicately fluting grace

of love’s unstrung notes

fading,

dimmed.

instead, a chorus of fear ripples through

our increasingly distant lyrics.

have we lost our place

in the song of the universe?

White Helmets

An original poem by Nicole Edry

 Dedicated to all the lives lost + devastated by the ongoing Syria conflict

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look away

there’s nothing to see here

the conflict in Syria

is just one more

socially strained segment

soaked in fluff

+ presented as news

not a ruthless brute force ripping away

life, bones, blood + hope

from people

whose only crime

is daring to live

and even more despicably,

wanting to do so

with souls that are free

but since we already have ours

we can’t be bothered

to care

so we change the TV

to something

easier + shinier

Turn Your Head.

You Are A Witness,

Not A Bystander.

tear away

the gilded guilt-ridden

blinders of complicity

+ the suavely polished mask

of cultured indifference

we have played this game already.

pretended not to know

when they were rounded up in camps,

driven down in the streets,

shot quietly in the woods

in the name of progress

we can no longer don the

artificial rose glasses

of willful ignorance

the entire world is exposed,

connected

+ the bravery of a few

is not enough

to redeem

the silent cowardice of many

Bound

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too many words

spill across the air

none of them truly mine

your eyes are far away

the past brands bridges

between perhaps pupils

the lonely power of names

struggle to bind us

their inflatable fortresses

seemingly impenetrable

yet also convenient pawns

to be sacrificed

its easy for humans to forget

skin stripped we’re nothing but

hyper realized animals

cloaked in socially endorsed armor

if the needs of the many

outweigh the few

and individuality

is both loathed + lauded

are we now just

a series of ones?

Wake Up America

I just finished reading a news article about the highly volatile situation in the Middle East. Listing five different countries and explaining the individual sources of tension and conflict, the article was both informative and clear.

My issue lies with the four little words at the end-cap of each country: “why we should care.” Each little blurb describes how the situation links back to the U.S. and offers a salient quote from a U.S. public official.

To me, this is despicable. The “why we should care” has absolutely nothing to do with American involvement. It has nothing to do with the fact that some U.S. citizens might be volunteering to fight in the Middle East, or to consult, or whatever euphemism they use for our government’s sticky web of self-interest.

It has everything to do with the fact that we’re human beings. That reading stories about war, about civilian and children dying, should be horrific enough in its own right. It should spur us into action, not coax us into showing a spark of interest by forging a tenuous connection with victims of ongoing tragedy.

It’s like the high school guidance counselor rewarding you with a week off school for showing up for your mandatory 3 hours of community service. It is reinforcing the message that “you need a black and white connection to your home country of U.S. in order to feel even a mild interest in what’s happening elsewhere.”

Isn’t it enough that we’re part of this world? The blood, death and destruction we’ve written off as everyday parts of life no longer shock us the way that it should. We live in a culture-wide complacency that would be terrifying.. if we could even be bothered to care.

I am mixed race, including Israeli and Arabic. While I have a supremely personal connection to what’s happening now, I find both sides of my heritage condemned and blasted. According to the news media, I should be much more self-loathing. When I read the press coverage of the Middle East I feel heartbroken, because it’s always about apportioning blame. Who fired which rocket, who killed which civilian, who issued statements of denial first, etc.

You know what I’d like to see, in a perfect world?

Media coverage of the families of victims, of the first aid workers flying in from other countries to offer their help, to put themselves on the line for others. I’d like to see the people banding together to help out in the wake of crisis, visuals of the aftermath of bloodshed. I’d like to see U.N. meetings that are pro-active instead of declamatory.

I want us to feel, to hope and act, and not just because we’re told we’re supposed to for ________ reason. More than that, how can we possibly hope for peace in the Middle East if all we can fixate on is blame, doubt, and “why we should care?”

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