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Category Archives: Essays

Dreamscape

About 9PM, a walk began filled with restlessness. Claustrophobia pushed every step with the urge to escape.

Off of Johnson Street, a block behind the house, there’s a dirt road with a placard saying: “No motorized vehicles allowed.” Seeing this, adventure presented itself, and the toes turned into it.

Picking up the pace, the town passed slowly out of sight, opening up to another world where trees, crickets, and frogs sounded their background uproar.

The moon was so bright its light enveloped everything with an aural glow overwhelming the feet to continue. Giant trees imagined the walls for ancient wood-folk castles–fields were charged with dancing fairies who rejoiced in the open-faced moon.

The heart swelled like one in love. Discerning a zest for life reigning at the moment was recreating a being unencumbered. Bullying thoughts fell off like a worn-out shell reborn in the cycle of youthful creation, timeless as the stars singing the moon.

The Big Dipper hung low and was twinkling down its magic dust. Every step on the Amish buggy path unveiled a new & more phenomenal beauty. The smell of Amish wood smoke, the silence, the rock formations, the hills, and trees–Every last moment was jealous of the next.

How did such a paradise exist so near to home? There is rapture here. It must be a star-gate to another parallel dimension.

Hours passed, which seemed only a minute. The light of the moon now hid behind some haunting trees.

Shadows leaped out from everywhere, with a dog’s howl in the distance. Fears jabbered within- what if? what if? –But, rejecting those fabrications, the realization arose that there was nothing to be afraid of. The dark stretch was just another kind of beauty to be enjoyed and embraced as part of the whole adventure.

Being alive seemed to take on a new sense of meaning, listening to those night sounds & to the darkness. The earth’s odors were spicy as an overpowering balm filling the nose and lungs with wholesome delight; mint, maple leaves, and muck combined.

Where the road concluded seemed impossible, for it was several miles away. Somehow, over 5 miles passed under exploring feet. The return journey was just as spectacular. A spectator in what seemed to be an elaborate dream finally arrived home a little more than an hour after setting out.

In the house, a reoccurring childhood dream came to mind. It was about finding a hidden path that was the shortcut to a distant Shangri-La.

Now that dream felt like it had become a reality. Imagine where feet were headed the following day?

 

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Lessons from Chess

The game of chess teaches us
not to corner ourselves
behind pawns or immovable pieces.
Therefore, it takes a cool head,
a cigar-smoking Spassky,
a Kasparov,
or a Magnus,
who is willing to take a chance
to move beyond themselves.
Johnny-one-notes who think
they can always get away with
some rendition of the fool’s-mate
only ever trap themselves
in a real game.
On the other hand, those play-by-the-book types
will be trounced on occasion
by the 8-move mate
or forced to resign
by the Polish opening.
The unconventional will sometimes surprise
the over-conventional.
The smart alecks who try
to get away with being constantly outre
will never amount to being
more than wackos.
Like any game, boundaries demand respect,
and yet, they are there
for the breaking.
Flouting the rules never made a good player.
However, lockstep adherence
to agreed-upon patterns
makes any game a bore.
Computers are boring,
and so are one-trick-ponies.

*

Limericist 2008/2021

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2021 in Essays, Poetry

 

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Punched Punches

*

this marine came from a long line of them
you know the ones flying the –don’t tread on me
claim that they never start it but proudly finish it
they like to say –don’t get my nationality up
as if that should frighten the bejesus out of you
they say –I’m a counterpuncher, watch out
yeah, I know, tell me about it –fraudulent
I know from personal experience, tried that
squirt, the bully name-called me
so I decided I’d break their nose first
wham, when I got cornered -this tactic stunk
why? because I broke way too many noses
and mine broken many times too
all abusers got abused first and justified
being hurtful to others, excusing themselves
if you dig deep enough, everyone has a story
told –take it on the chin –stiff upper lip
–don’t be a sissy –you got to get tough
we didn’t –just hid behind our scarred masks
something crosses our will; we get cross
words fly like patriot missiles, unfriendly fire
changing brothers and sisters into enemies
after all, the rage is justified –is that so?
–so, fighting fire with fire is workable in ’21?
How about spritzing some gas on it too?
–hatred must be snuffed by hating –correct?
yeah, get your nationality, color, whatever, up
–after all, they did it first
wait just a doggone minute

*

Limericist 2021

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2021 in About Me, Essays, Poetry

 

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A Crossroad Day

a crossroad day
arrives with a soliloquy of
whys


sweat drenches the bed
an overhead fan is moving
very slowly (flies are hopping a ride)
i watch it be useless
it hums hypnotic

tears run sideways to the ears
i smell bad to myself
nose itches filled with disgusting
black boogers from sooty smog
a cacophony day and night
from please-honk-okay vehicles
blaring laaree gari & motor-ricks
traveling some 40-odd kilometers
from the airport to Ramat Hotel
clingy sounds and smells
follow into the room
and onto the bed
unwelcome


jet-lag & bleary-eyed
lying in bed and watching a fan
in Mumbai near Grant Rd train station
there to speak at a college
but feeling useless and empty
beat-up from family issues
numb from paddle-wheel
conversations
self-pity throat-sobs convulse
but hear an almost audible voice and
know it from some distant long-ago life
and realize a lost child is speaking up
to prevent self-destructing
by a reality-check
saying

there is only one
you & i
must live with
on this earth
here and now
and it is me
myself
and i
so why should you shame
your undivorceable life partner?
you are your own traveling companion
from this moment to your last breath
and possibly beyond
so why waste the journey
trying to change what you cannot?
never
never
never
never
side with anyone against yourself
no more from now until my last breath
vow to honor, respect, and love
me, myself, and i
from this now to every other
as the very best way
to honor my source

the other dress-up self scoffs
arguing chanting
its familiar diatribe began
it is all gone
you loser
repeat gone
you flunky
pronounce it & say it
certify yourself a failure
wrong to the root

hearing the familiar mantra
then noticing
a legion demon-voice
mimicking mine in a thousand others
that crossroad day
the next moment budded like a spring day
from hearing my forever-young child
its word is here now
and always nearer than my breath

knowing now with fresh self-respecting eyes
a father
mother
sons
daughters
relatives
no matter how I try to hold them close
crying pushing
and shoving is futile
for these cannot be anything else
then what they already are
non-negotiable facts

awake now
must use the bathroom
almost would rather piddle the bed
resisting the strange fishy commode
but finally
venture to tinkle in its hole
do not know how long i lay in that putrid bed
lost track of time — it may have been days
I feel a new adventure beginning
living with myself on my terms
with my child at one with source
from now on determined
to cultivate the experience
of being
my own best friend

from that crossroad day
the child wants to soar through
former shadows up and out
making them into new playthings
for everything is a chance to allow
the constant romance
it can seem like a long way off
to reach a crossroad day
the junction can be found
where the pain is seen as only pain
and nothing more
not someone or your self

Never allow yourself
to be taken hostage
by the story of
another but also
release everyone
you may be
holding captive
to yours

ignore the parroting mimic
those false dress-up selves
who would steal your voice
and your very life
then you will discover
your child is always waiting
to come out
to play

the giggle of a child resurfaced
lying on a wet stinky bed near a train station
on a crossroad day

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2021 in About Me, Essays, Memoir, Poetry

 

Hasira Hasara

Hasira Hasara

When I was about 5, I remember my dad’s books. It was the 60’s and one of them stuck out to me:
The Ugly American.

I went to Kenya in my mid 20’s. I was there for humanitarian reasons. When I arrived, I met other Americans who were squabbling over a Kenyan development project. They were bitter because they felt the other team cheated them. They were even taking their matters to the Kenyan courts against each other.

I was saddened and disillusioned by the behavior of my fellow citizens overseas. The organization that brought me to Kenya wanted me to join the fray against their opposition. I opted out. I did not sign up to be another ugly American overseas. I went to Kenya to be an ambassador of good news and to give hope to suffering people. Within a few weeks, my organization had vilified me like I was a rogue and renegade, all because I refused to fight for a wrong cause. I could not, in good conscience, claim to promote good news while acting like bad news.

The leader in Kenya withheld my support funds to force me back to the States. I was up the proverbial creek without a paddle, it seemed. But I knew that I had not gone there for the reasons they wanted me there. So, against all odds, I decide to go independent depending only on God for my support.

I stayed in Kenya for 14 years as an ambassador of good news. My family of 6 was with me.

I remember asking my friend Imbayi Francis, “What do you think of Americans?” He was a humble and shy person but answered with a grin, “Why do they talk through their noses?” That struck me as hilarious, and we guffawed together heartily. Yes, we use many nasal sounds compared to Africans. He continued, “Americans seem like angry people. Why so angry when they have so much?”

His childlike candor struck me like a slap in the face. I knew he was right. I asked Imbayi, “Why are Kenyans so laid back when they seem to have so little?” He paused a moment and said, “We have a proverb that says in Swahili, ‘hasira hasara’ which means in English ‘anger is loss.’ Our proverbs tell a story. The direct translation of hasira hasara is a word picture from Mombasa. There is a fish in the ocean we call ‘hasara.’ It is a proud and angry fish that will attack anything. Though it is a small fish, it will always attack what is bigger even if it’s a fishing boat. It will beat its head against the boat until it brains itself to death. Americans need to know hasira hasara, anger is loss.”

I went to teach in Africa and was taught by Africa.

Limericist, 2021

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2021 in About Me, Essays, Poetry

 

A Brave New World?

They irritate on purpose, scraping old injuries to become fresh wounds. The scars were healing. Physical characteristics are not what gives anyone dignity. “The content of a person’s character” is. Shades of skin color should never be the measure. Fighting for color diminishes the importance of character.

But their anti-religion is a lie worse than most archaic belief systems. They seek humans to become their own god. But which humans? They claim “the people,” but pay homage to a know-it-all oligarchy that dictates the content of their soon-to-be hive-mind. In their new world order, the individual is dangerous, outlawed. They can’t abide true diversity of ideas, accept what is allowed by those on high.

There’s always been evil philosophers and poets. In some countries, they were censored, silenced, banned, vilified, imprisoned, and even martyred. Whether their message was right or wrong was decided by a censorship board.

Poets are neither right nor wrong but disclose the oppressive nature of those that would censor and silence. Poets love to become outrageous just to snub the snouts of the smug.

True poets still do. Tell a poet he can’t say something, and a way will be found to say it.

What about evil poets and philosophers? Shouldn’t they be banned and gagged? Not if you believe in freedom. Even the ugliest hater should be allowed to puke their vile contents. Why? Because they expose their illness, which is easy to discern in the open. Muzzle them, and they become a virus that does far more damage. Human history repeats itself in this way.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2021 in Essays, Poetry

 

Passengers

Passengers

I am a space traveler. I have tried to figure out how fast this satellite is moving. It boggles the mind. Earth travels several billion miles every year in its orbit around the sun. The sun and solar system travel through the galaxy at an almost inconceivable speed as well. There is more. The Milky Way travels through the universe with the other galaxies too. The universe travels too?

We are all travelers on a journey without end. The nature of energy is that it’s always on the move. The light within every atom is in vibratory motion. What scientists believe is that all matter is relative to light. In other words, everything is a form of energy. And, as I pointed out, it is moving.

If there is one thing that should unite us, it is this: We are all traveling into the Great Unknown. And, we all fear the journey to varying degrees. The fact is that everything travels. This movement means everything has the capacity to collide. Everything crashes sooner or later. None of us get off this flight alive. It’s universal law.

I’m a flight attendant among many passengers. I am a passenger too, of course. My purpose is to make others comfortable during their journey. While serving others, I am cared for too. We are all part of this universal process.

Even though I care for others, the most important trust I have is to care for myself. In fact, my care for others can only be as good as my care for me. This agrees with the idea of The Golden Rule. “Do to others what you would wish they would do for you.” Do I wish someone to help me? Then, help them. A question I want to explore is what I wish others would do toward me. As a fellow traveler, I come up with ideas of how I can assist others. This takes mindful consideration of my own wants and needs.

Interstellar travel is fun and exciting but also frightening. There is no getting off this ride alive. One could decide to take an early exit, but most of us will fly to our destination. One thing is for sure, it can be a bumpy and uncomfortable experience. Suffering is universal, though I am thankful I am not aware of it all the time. Suffering does not have to be miserable. Suffering is inevitable, while misery is optional. Misery is from a dramatic story I tag on to my allotted share of suffering. It makes suffering intolerable. Pain caused by unavoidable circumstances produces suffering. Though most suffering is inescapable, I believe we can overcome misery. It can be avoided altogether.

Misery results from resistance to suffering. It is remarkable for its psychological and emotional angst. It has a strangling effect on life. It is amplified by excessive worry and complaint. These are products of fear. The compounding effect anxiety has on pain accentuates misery. It is suffering squared. Maybe this is what FDR was getting at when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fearing fear magnifies inevitable suffering into a bogey man of giant proportions. Fearing fear often kills faster than the killer.

So, the main discomfort on this flight is the fear of departure and arrival. As a flight attendant, I understand. I try to give comfort by making sure refreshments are always available along the way. I’m ready for whatever my fellow passengers may want or need. The only limit to this is my own self-care. I have to refresh myself first before I can help anyone else. I am not advocating crass selfishness, but rather a healthy self-interest. My attention to others is reflective of my own for me.

My job on this flight is to make the transition from departure to arrival easier. When there is turbulence, I try to allay fear and give comfort. I remind the passengers that the greatest Pilot is in control. There will be turbulence. I do not like it much either. It is what it is, and nothing more: turbulence. I encourage the passengers to fasten their seat belts. And, if necessary, brace for impact. I know it is coming. So do we all. We should all help each other get through this. Yet, whatever this is, I know one thing: A safe landing is ahead.

Limericist, 2012

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2020 in About Me, Essays, Memoir