Thursday, September 21, 2017

There But For


He had been gone a long time. He looked different -- deep tan, much thinner. The eyes, though. The eyes. They looked everywhere but at you: the floor, ceiling, speck of dust in some neglected corner. He was angry too, a short fuse with us kids, or at least with me. I was his oldest son, the son of an officer, the one that was supposed to carry on, become a soldier. Only thing was I didn't want to do what you had to do if you put on a uniform. Then if you met the enemy in a thick jungle it was kill or be killed. It wasn't about being afraid, but not wanting to pull the trigger with a man in the sights. Now that meant a hard road for me. I had to learn the paradox that comes with caring for others while not looking to them for answers. I had to leave the comfort of the family code and venture off into an indifferent land where all I had was a bike and a brain. The bike was a good one. The brain... well it worked for a while. Pickins were slim out there, but at least bullets weren't flying over my head. The way I had to go, though, was obscure, so obscure. I had to learn to embrace the darkness, to feel my way forward, in blindness, fueled by necessity and love. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sleight of Hand


The top tenth of one percent of our wealthiest citizens have as much as the bottom forty percent, and the gap continues to widen. The last time inequity was this bad was right before the Great Depression. No wonder misery defines the lives of Americans left out of the investment class. No wonder that schools are out of control. No wonder that prisons overflow. No wonder that the threat of war, the worship of celebrities, and opiates of media rain down in a curtain of distraction. The powerful and wealthy like it this way and want more. They are reaching into your pockets as you stare at the screen and ladle the sweet slop that they serve up. It's a show, for sure, all this hype, titillation, volume, action, and anxiety. If you stop for a second and pull the curtain back you'll see the little man at the controls, shooting fire and fear into the night sky. No one will believe you if you try to explain, nor will they listen. Reality is just a tad too sharp for the soft mind of obedient consumers, always hopeful that somehow, things will turn out if only they play by the rules, buy the illusions. Too bad the magic ain't magic at all. Just another cheap trick.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

People


Dealing with people has always been an issue for me. I just don't like them very much, find them tedious and self-absorbed. Well, that little defect has gotten worse with the brain malady. My head hurts, literally, when I try to listen to people saying things in which I have no interest. This physical ache has begun to make polite company toxic. Given that I want to write for others, this poses a bit of a problem. Not only am I a failure at marketing, I can't bring myself to "reach out" and touch anyone. Not the best situation for someone who works as a teacher at a large state university. Oddly, the inmates in the prison workshops don't affect me. That may be due to the type of conversations we have. Those interactions usually mean something, are trying to make art of impossible dilemmas. I don't know how all this is going to play, and others are soon to catch on to my affliction. The wave of that realization may roll me onto the rocks, may toss me into the big wave wipe-out. I'll just keep nodding and faking it for now, retreating into my own little quiet place while the world yammers on.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Summer Passes -- Sometimes Too Soon, Other Times Not Soon Enough


September is half done. Still the days swelter well over a hundred degrees and my nights are sweaty, tossing, fitful episodes that find me more exhausted in the morning than when I went to bed. The swamp cooler chugs along pumping hot, steamy breath into a house already pulsing with radiant heat from a long day of sun. Tonight, for the first time in a long summer, the temperature will drop below seventy degrees. I am hoping that the shortened days of lower light arrive soon. As it is, I can barely lift this heavy body off the bed. Maybe a cool night will help. I hope so, but know that more than heat keeps me mired here in the grip of a body running out of chi. We'll see. The cools a comin'.

The Woods and the Words


For years he carried weapons. There was the shotgun for ducks, the deer rifle, the .22 for squirrels, the razor-tipped arrows for whatever he met on his walks into the autumn forest. Then, something happened. He was cleaning a kill and noticed how similar the muscle, tendons, and puzzle-pieces of the gut were to what he knew of his own. He saw in that moment that he shared the transience of a body with these creatures that he hunted for fun. He buried the body and gave away all of his guns. There was no regret, no second thoughts, not a sliver of doubt. He was done. One chapter ended and another began. The new one was far more baffling than the one he left behind, and he sometimes wondered where this confusing search into the words would lead. He hunted stories now, and he was not the best at what he did. While he could track in the rotten leaf litter of Wisconsin, the trail into the words was harder to read. He grew old too soon to find what he sought, and he lost the tools he needed to capture and deliver the words he wanted to the page, his trigger finger waiting over the keypad for the next command from a mind gone dark.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Can't Blame the Thug for Doing His Job


Another one comes down the pipe with all the kindness of a runaway semi. It is a day, that is. One of those things that takes hold of my collar and slams me against the wall of having to make a living. I am in arrears, in that I just don't have the mental chops to keep up anymore. So it's survival now, just survival. I have to scrape together change from the couch cushions, bust open the kids' piggy banks, dip into the rainy day pittance. The costs of keeping this body under a roof, in clothes, and fed have way outpaced my ability to bring in the dough. So here I am being clobbered by hard questions for which I have no answers, responsibilities I don't know how to cover. Can't blame the day for doing his job, for making me cough up what I agreed to pay for another flop and three hots.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Good For Nothing


He gets up too early, to brood about the day and what he will do in it, to ruminate on how he will spend this gold that is time, time that has suddenly become dear and limited. The sharp edges of the world press against his skin insisting that this is serious business, this being alive in a body, having what many only dream of: a home, some tools, a voice, a slice of liberty, a fat cat. He has been given enough that he can turn around and give something back, extend a hand to those climbing up out of despair. The business of perpetual getting and taking becomes obscene, pornographic, in the face of so much trauma. Too many have been cut out of the game, locked behind concertina wire, bled of hope. His peers eat well, travel, count their coins in comfort-controlled climates. He wishes he could keep on wanting more, sometimes, just to join the parade of blind me-me and more-more. The diversions of having and getting ring hollow, and the only option is to step forward into the blazing field who knows what. That future has yet to be born, the humming potential, the great nothing that calls, desiring only to be created by what he knows to be true.