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

Crowd

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a blanket of hurry

muffles the impatient horde

coloring the sidewalk

with a reverse rainbow of humanity

intimate strangers

breathing the same air

searching for spectacles

lost in a million million thoughts

a panoply of psyches

people at their worst,

unkind, self-involved, abrupt

ignoring

groping hands reach for benediction

averted eyes pretend not to see

those tarnished by the brush of “not enough”

but also the quiet moments of kindness

that have redeemed us since

before we could walk, grunting politely

at others in nearby caves

millenia later, we still strive for refuge

seeking sanctuary among the teeming masses

the blissful solace of losing yourself

in a sea of people

the wonder of crossing eyes,

skimming through briefly bare surfaces

more than connection

joined vulnerabilities

with someone you may never see again,

and can be utterly free with

*Image courtesy of this amazing new artist and blogger I just discovered: http://myscribbledsecretnotebooks.com/tag/painting-of-kerouac/

Storm

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when did

drifting

become so beautiful?

ever before, life’s unseen ringmaster

trained me to run between

unpredictable clouds,

dodging

striating sharp-stricken lightning

dogging at my footsteps & futures

barking, screaming,

ravenous.

but.

since

i decided

to own my skin, my soul,

myself

in all colors, errors + weathers

the tempest has changed tempo

now i ride alongside,

no longer swallowed.

i know, now

how to reach into

the howling drumbeats of chaos

and grab new-hatched rainbows,

storm-forge my own tarnished silver linings,

even if broken, abused fingers

are too numb to feel them

they unspool from

somewhere

half-forgotten inside me

i seize hold of my wonder

and cast it out into the world

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.

The Ripening (Revisited)

This is a poem I wrote a long, long time ago– but it still holds true today. A little bit for all of us, maybe? 

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i miss the me
that doesn’t exist yet.

the me that doesn’t ever feel
hollow or tarnished,
but new-minted
brassy with happiness.

i can feel her roots,
burrowed too deep
for conscious thought or recognition.

outside the cocoon,
a spirit adrift,
circling warily around my potential

idly watching
the twisted not-quite-right person
struggle to bloom.

Belief

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i thought it would feel

close&crystalline

instead

it’s a far away

wonky weird amber

pulsing slowly against

sudden sweet goosebumps

as painful as they are pure

these noble sentinels

standing

up

reaching out to touch

this curious new feeling

settling comfortably

inside my mind

nudging aside scars

most only half-healed

mouths agape,

they retreat with deferential nods

+ make room for the

mysteriously edged

awe-inspiring newcomer

Awake

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after millions of minutes

hiding

soul sleeping

both rapunzel + rip van winkle

yearning for escape

trapped between skeletal bars

now when i stretch

fingertips for the sun

i can feel their shine

+ not the shadow they cast

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

Brink

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dauntless, i

perch

upon an inescapable edge

rock bottom lies far below

terrified of what it might mean, i always avoided

the promise of its bared predator teeth,

vein-yellowed skeletons smiling

with the unvarnished arrogance of inevitability

distracted, i catch a

peripheral glimpse of the pearl swirled skirts of

beckoning eddies + waves of wind

gleefully coaxing the horizon a bit further to freedom

torn, i

tumultuous sinner + agony angel

achingly worthy + w(e)ary of redemption

afraid, i

breath caught inside an in-between moment

sink or swim, bend or break

anchor or feather

unsure, i

what the decision is/for, i do not know

still, i find myself

dangling

over jagged honed maw, under stretched out sky

ready, i

do i have hope left enough to fly

or can i finally trust myself enough to fall,

to break

without shattering?

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