I Want

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I want to stop dreaming about that place where I used to work. I don’t want to remember that place, their faces, and the stress I brought home.

I want to look inside every apartment here and see where their cats and dogs live, what books do they keep, what furniture they’ve arranged in this small space where they live in between here and shipping out.

I want a week of rain, overcast, gray, dripping. I want a week of rain all the time. Nobody else wants this.

I want pepperoni pizza, but it has to look and taste like the kind we had in Flushing, small pepperonis, cupping the grease, crammed atop the cheese, a flavor and texture found nowhere else. My brother knows what this means.

I want the job I applied for so I can see many faces and rise to the challenge of helping with a smile and you go away feeling like nobody else mattered but you.

I want to write about the National Memorial For Peace & Justice in a way that has nothing to do with me, but I can’t figure out a way. Yet.

I want to find my pouch of flash drives and SanDisks that I lost somewhere so I can recover memories, my crappy writing, my happiness, my sanity, my everything, but I know that’s not to be.

I want my friend back, and my Dad back, but only if they’re not angry anymore.

I want to write about those ladies and their kids playing in the ocean who clearly had other ideas about staying dry, but I haven’t figured out the right words yet.

My windows are open tonight, a/c off and fan still.  The air is cool, finally.  This writing thing is coming back to me, finally. The plan is to heat up a sweet potato and broccoli and some rice, NYPD Blue in the background.  The plan is to stay wide open to everything that comes to me, and to approach my bed tired, a prayer, and deep breathing, hoping to be empty so sleep will be full and lengthy.

I have a thing about people who are all about “I want I want I want.” I get aggravated by their “me me me.” But then, everybody wants.  It’s not wrong to feel a need and a want.  My wants and your wants may never meet, but I want to know and understand.  That’s where give comes along and lights a candle and puts “give” into motion.

If you are prepared to stand in the knock you over ocean, naked, then you are prepared for “I want, but let me give you what you need.”

Give someone what they need, and enjoy the wants you receive when it comes.

(Turn, Turn, Turn)

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I begin this morning that could feel like I’m sifting through a house fire, blackened, burned, sopping wet, heartbroken, but I am determined to hold my head up and say this is a new day, one I begin with raw skin and foal’s legs, and I will make something good of it.

I begin this morning clinging to a philosophy, one that says my favorite glass that sits on the shelf is already broken.

I begin this morning clinging to the serenity prayer that tells me to accept the things I cannot change.

I begin this morning better than I left yesterday. I was overwhelmed. I tore my house apart looking for something I’d lost. I cried. I still cry.  I slept, unable to face the everything that came down on me because it’s clearly gone.  One small loss drew in a lifetime of loss, like some magnet that attracts black matter, black star, black planet, a life implodes, and yet I still get to choose how to face this minute, and the next and the next.  I saw all your faces, I relived all your hearts and every mistake I ever made that hurt you and hurt me. I slept and I survived.

Things happen all around me and I didn’t always notice.  I’ve been trying to get better at observing and writing to understand.  When I was a kid we would visit our grandparents in the Garden State of New Jersey, land of the farms and high tension lines.  I used to collect cicada shells in those late summer days, carefully plucking their delicate bodies clamped to a tree and putting their husks in a coffee can. Quite a pile. They had a unique smell almost akin to ancient books in a back room library but with a whiff of life that is begone. Until recently, cicada always meant “summer sound, dormant, collect husks for fun.”  Once we brought a cicada home, kept it in an aquarium and watched as it broke through its old body and became wetly new, expanding, growing, alive, astonishing colors!   We put it on a pine outside when we knew it was time.  It never made a sound, and I never saw it fly away, yet what a gift we received that day.  Here, there are cicada who made their home in the pine tree across from my door.  They react to birds invading their branches, the cicada fly away (actually flying! away!) and come back when the bird is gone. The needles even shake when their heavy, black bodies depart!  And when they are comfortable, they sound like my dad’s radial arm saw, calling calling calling all summer day until dark.

I never knew cicada could be so proactive. Their large, black bodies are busy in ways I never saw before.  Meanwhile, I have to decide what is more important this morning: Life ever changing, words and images I lost yet I have the time and the place and the ability to write about everything, with everything I’ve got right now.  Cicada know it’s all on the table and it’s now or never. They give it their all.  And I don’t want to be a dried husk stuck to a pine tree with no story to tell.

Do cicada grieve? Do slow-motion butterflies who pass by the pines care?  I don’t know. All I know is that the finches will be back next year to make several noisy baby broods, gulls will patrol the shore for unfortunate fry, and the moon will be bright in my winter window.

Never Satisfied

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No rain in sight.  I keep wishing for some more rain.  We had a little a few days ago. It comes down heavy and passes quickly.  Man, I’m wishing for a long week of overcast rain. I’m the only fool who thinks that way, I mean, who the heck wants a week of rain in the summer at the beach? Killjoy, they would call me. Meh, that’s all right.  I want rain.  And a very small part of me wants a thunderstorm because the light and the boom and the southern driven rain helps me feel alive.

The Saffron Queen loved watching the tube, especially creepy, twisted horror series. She loved a good horror flick.  She said there was nothing like a scary movie to make the pulse race, a jump-scare to make you feel alive.  I never did go with her to the scary movies she wanted to see. In fact, she never did go, either with her spouse or on her own.  I loaned her one of my few scary movies that she never watched, in favor of streaming what was already on TV. I had hoped we could watch it together, but she showed no interest.

I lean on the balcony rail and study the grass the landlord is desperately trying to regrow ever since he tore up the original grass two years ago. It’s never come back to life no matter how the groundsman seeds and waters and fertilizes. The robins are fine with it because they find worms aplenty. I watch the sprinkler that sends water so far and so high that if a tenant came out their door at just the right time they would be more than sprinkled and more than unhappy at being doused, but boy they sure would feel alive.  I look down the patio and see that all the plants have been dug up and tossed aside in favor of a cement statue area the landlord wanted. I wonder if he will replant the yucca and black eyed susans that the birds loved to balance on?

It hasn’t rained and it probably won’t rain to suit me today or tomorrow or the next.  The question is, why do I need to stand outside in a downpour to feel alive?  What’s wrong with being alive is enough, why ain’t that good enough?  Yeah… I’ll get back to you on that.

Night Sounds*

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Speak softly if you must speak at night.
Sparrows might be preparing to take flight
Finches nestling in for the night
Crickets and katydids are creaking vigorously
Not for you and not for me, so hush and let them be.
Speak softly if you must speak at night.
The breeze is changing direction.
Rain is coming but you would hardly know it.
Worms will rise and robins will strike in purple dawn
before the sun gets in the way
tomorrow.
Speak softly if you must speak at night.
You might hear the lamp post lights humming
your very own heartbeat
your lover’s breathing
you can almost hear a fireflies’ wings beating
if only you would speak softly in the night.

Or maybe…  do not speak at all.

*dedicated to the neighbors across the street who haven’t a clue what all is going on in the night because they’re too busy saying terrible things to each other they believe is righteous and apropos.

Praise Be For When We Allow

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I think my understanding of the concept “holy” evolved somewhere between my first communion and touching the wriggling minnow caught in my net at summer camp. The idea of holy immigrated from an echoey church that smelled of incense and psalms and kneel-dimpled pews to seeing the midnight milky way that night I talked to my bestie on the cordless phone in the middle of the lawn. Holy and me came to have an understanding: It would always be secret, it would always be available, and it promised to make me feel (something) and I would know it when I seen it.

Holy was no longer frankincense escaping its decanter like jinn from a lamp, no more a captive in a flying-buttress box. Holy became ancient fallen trees brought to their knees by hurricane Gloria. A waterfall you cannot see unless you hike five miles in. Bowls cut into rocks for sweet, clean drinking.  The white flash of space between midnight and dawn in an Arizona bowl. My son’s smile while he slept on my couch. My friend’s dying. Rescuing box turtles as they crossed trafficky asphalt in pursuit of their home.  Curtains of fireflies rising from hot summer grass, signaling secrets on four- and sometimes eight-horsepower wings. A stranger paying for her formula at the checkout counter because she ran out of Wic. Listening to a stranger’s broken heart because it’s all he needed.

I’m not sure you believe in the word holy, except for maybe that one time you saw the moon on the walkway.   I think you do what you do and holy never crosses your mind.  But I believe you felt it in your fingers when you plucked the katydid from the parking lot and put her in the grass. Holy is in you.  Poetry is in you.  I weep because I see it and you doubt, you refuse to believe.  Holy is available to us all, every day, all the time, no sacrament required. We just have to keep our eyes open, allow ourselves to see.

Suicide Help Is Here.

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I need to take a moment to use this space to talk to you about suicide.  Call it a public service announcement if you wish.

We don’t ask for help when we need it.
We don’t recognize the need in others before it’s too late.
We don’t think about this issue for many reasons, we shun it.

If you need help, reach and ask. People will reach back and help you, no questions asked.  If you need help with someone you suspect needs help but don’t know what to do, reach out.

The suicide hotline is 800*273*8255.   Put it in your phone.

****************************************************

We lost another young man today to suicide.  For privacy and respect I’ll not speak about how I know him.  Everyone tried to help him, but it just seems like he decided to take the worst path and live the hardest life, even though his close family tried to stop him from this way. They loved him so.

Sometimes we are beyond our ability to cope with a situation and we don’t ask for help because we think we got this.  I am asking you today to consider maybe you don’t got this. That you need warm, loving arms that can help you and your person who needs the kind of help that has been out of reach.  Don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed.  CALL. Ask for help.  Now.   800*273*8255

If you feel so inclined to help support suicide prevention, please visit  AFSP

Thank you.

June 30

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The sun has been present since 4:22. The eastern sky in my bedroom window tells my restless eyes so.  I am not ready to greet this day.  My alarm clock is set for 7:00 but that’s a joke because I know I will awaken and rise long before then.

I’ve got “work” to do. Or things to “think” about. Basically it’s just being awake before I want to be awake and now I have to deal with it.

It’s too dark to write, so I turn on the lamp near my table so I can “see.” The orange courtyard lights are still on.  The western sky is black diluted, while the sky in my eastern bedroom is robin’s egg blue.  Hours pass and the sun rises over the shoulder of my apartment roof, lighting the yellow walls aflame. I will close the blinds later to keep out the blinding light and heat, the light that coaxes my plants to creep and grow.  I have visited the balcony ten times already to witness the pre-dawn grass watering, finches calling, the ocean sky lilac and calm, large black bugs zip-zagging haphazardly, crashing into everything unlike their steadfast, straightforward but seemingly lost dragonfly compatriots. Much to do today and no word when we will bury our friend the Saffron Queen.  Will he refuse to tell us?

My editor says he will take one of my things for print. That means he likes one thing more than the other, or, one was more right for the anthology than the other. I keep wishing I could write more things for the anthology but that’s just not how it works for me.  Some days a thing grabs me, takes me by the lapels and says “You write this right now,” and I obey and it works. Most days I walk past dusty footlockers and wash dishes and wait for dolphins and sleep on a sore shoulder.  My editor says he will print my thing and I should be shouting from the rooftops and doing the happy dance, but right now all I got is gratitude for being alone, for choosing silence over the crush of the world, and squeezing in a story now and then.  And missing my pain in the ass friend.

My day began at 4:22 AM. The sun is bright on the yellow wall and I have much to do today, and I will try to focus on what I can be, what I will do, and ignore all the rest.

Blessed Commotion

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gray morning 5:30
take it slow
purple ink on my writing finger
scribbled notes on junk mail
some important message needs decoding
something about Friday melanoma (again)

Michael Shannon sings with a band
I think he wants to be Jim Morrison
an Aztec frieze of fearsome teeth and feathers
neck bent, back bent, knees bent
hearing the secret, being the ceremony
sweat
becoming
apart
receiving
transmutation connection
high-five.

what feathers can I be on this soupy morning?
mmm. I shall wear a blanket of all of you,
an Aztec frieze of fearsome teeth and feathers
that I plucked when you invaded the sparrows nest
brown brood barely able to fly hiding on the shed nearby
neath the tree some might call a weed but full of green
shade and safe from blue jay, osprey
cardinal witnesses the catbird wanting to infiltrate
and the raven–I heard the raven’s feet touch the lamp
when it landed and croaked, wanting fledgling meat
vulnerable, but he was late to the show.

feathers for my blanket made of attempted murder
a witness, an empty nest,
red, blue, black, brown, white
Coffee on the way to the job, I’m late (again)

Upon Finding The Dragon’s Egg

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I awoke abruptly, squintingly, because the sun peered in my bedroom window, an alarm my body cannot refuse. Strange sun, Jim Morrison said in his notebook poem, and I opened my door after I put clothes on (but not shoes because no one needs shoes to walk from the balcony to the cool beach sand that was not far away.)  Strange sun well-riz on my right also known as East, the train of cool blue dawn retreated into the distance, laughing gulls squeaked overhead and moved on instead of making their usual mocking laughter from the breakwater that sounds like children a mile away calling out for help because they are drowning.

I walk barefoot on a beach where I found seashells in all stages of their lives tossed on the shingle by an uncaring sea, but all those shells and emerald mermaid’s hair wafting in the tidal pools are gone.  The Army Corps of Engineers came and did one heck of a job building up this little spit of land that had been slowly reclaimed by the ocean one winter storm, one summer hurricane at a time and now my feet trod sand the size of peppercorns instead of soft, creamy quartsy silt I fell in love with, all those tidal pools gone.  I am grateful yet disoriented. Strange.

So this morning I woke and walked and found the dragon’s egg. Should come as no surprise to anyone because the system that came from the west moved in and brought us a week of rain and a night of high wind, fearsome wind too early for hurricane but made us reach for our batteries and bottled water anyway.  I plucked the egg from the sand poor thing blown from her nest, abandoned, knowing that’s the worst thing I could possibly do but when did I ever abide by the rules, and I held it in my hand wondering what could I possibly do?  And then the shell broke, the creamy satin shell broke open and spilled out venom all over my hand and it hurt like the sting of a bee that begins slowly and takes over your interstitial fluids and spreads out and swells because it really, really, does not want you to be offending it yet you have by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and you are paying for your transgression. I held the dragon’s egg, seeping fluids hurting so much, but my pride kept me from screaming so I ran down and into the cold, cold water and submerged me and the egg hoping the pain would ebb.  The silken shell stuck to my hand. The venom came forth like a ginger lady’s tresses, Rapunzel-like, then dissipated in the brine. The shell dissolved and my pain dissolved too as I panted hopping foot to foot hoping not to step on a skate just going about his business.