Go Irenically

Go irenically among the restless legged
yearning to sleep free
of a dogged journey westward
unable to stop
at any next nearer shore
but insist on diving
and kicking beyond the surf
through doldrums
through rogue waves
tsunamis and cyclones

go irenically among the restless minded
yearning to sleep free
of every wind that blows
through unprotected dreams
rising when consciousness thins
but insist on finding
and extrapolating beyond tomorrow
adding factors
adding algorithms
possibilities and disasters

go irenically among the restless
yearning to sleep free
kneed jerks come anxieties rise
in good season and ill
one quiet breath then two
solves nothing great or small
in this or any season
desiring is desiring
tendencies are tendencies
blessed be and amen

This Hard Thing

Carrie Newcomer: You Can Do This Hard Thing

given: without counting one-by-one
find out how many pears there are
if there are three groups of pears
with 14 pears in one group
26 in another group
and 49 in the final group
write the numbers of each group
lined up over each other
and draw a line under them

add the numbers of the right column
write down the resulting farthest right digit
below the line
if there is a number left
write it above the next column to the left

add to any number you carried over
from the right column
the remaining numbers in this column
write the result
to the left of the last number
of the right column

hooray pears added
you can do this hard thing
and then we’ll un-add
until you can do that hard thing

and then we’ll speed-add
yes you can do that hard thing
as well as speed-un-add

then it will be your turn
to take this as far as you can
and it will be your turn
to teach me more than maths logic
O show me the world
through another’s eye
I want to do this hard thing
and to do it with you

So Much Winning

“So much winning,” is a mantra of an id-driven top-dog. Were they alone in their ravening, it would be sad. As they merely express the desire of every desirer, it is maddening.

There is no antidote and so I write not of a mafioso don, but as one tempted by every breath to store up nine more against an unimaginable time when each breath comes faster and briefer, using up the largest of reserves.

“So much winning,” hooks the fantasies of every lottery play, ladder climber, underling, and outcast—not to mention every middler and reasonably well-off.

What keeps getting missed by “winning” is that its very intent is sabotaged by its premise that winning is self-sustaining—a perpetual boot-strap pulling. Winning cannot continue to claim a central spot in a raison d’être, for it carries an even larger limit of some equal but opposite loss. I cannot win as much if you are also winning some.

This limit means that “so much winning” is false advertising when applied to any group of people or even a whole economy. “Winning” is a corporate lie, for it doesn’t even work in a work-a-day world of an individual. Every advancement requires each previous stage of growth as the ground from which it can spring.

Winning means nothing without a background of loss. A background of loss is a constant threat to a win. The more the drive to win, the larger grows a resistance.

If we are not caught in the machinations of someone else’s yearning for a win, we can’t seem to get out of our own way. How maddening that winning, as a cover of whining, goes on and on. After all these generations, we are back to the beginnings of stories about beginnings without a clue of how to write a story without a motif of winning running through it.

One hint, maybe, is to translate “winning” as “violence.” I expect that seeing something as it is will help. And you?

Character

perceiving character
goes deeper
than counting ways

an underlying unpredictability
emerges erupts
and slips back

good ol’ ambiguity
loosens our grip
on defined sins

evermore more
than we’ve ever been
creation inhales

breath is held
in appreciation
before release

now I see
who I may be
and become

now we see
who ye may be
and become

now we see
who we may be
and become

Make to Let

I recommend an artistic reflection on Race presented by two singer/songwriters in the Folk tradition—Reggie Harris (Black) and Greg Greenway (White). They both grew up in Richmond, VA, and had different early experiences. Their paths finally crossed 30 years ago, and their on-going friendship has had included an on-going conversation about Race. They have turned their long-years of conversation into a story and music concert on Race. Deeper than the Skin is available on CD.

Their travel to a museum near New Orleans that witnesses to the disparity between a plantation’s enslaved owner and the imprisoned owned brought an experience in an old chapel built by freed slaves to finally have a place from which to gather and honor those who died. This one story is worth the price of the whole CD. I cannot adequately summarize it and simply commend it to you. May you someday see the artwork referred to through your imagination as you listen to the story or travel after the current quarantine.

It is easier to pass on another point of appreciation. I am acquainted with the old spiritual about letting “my little light shine.” They sang a line I hadn’t heard before:

not going to make it shine
just going to let it shine

It is very tempting to “make” my light shine brighter than any other. Higher and brighter, lighting the way—that’s my light!

This refusal to “make” contrasts with my light standing beside other lights and partnering with them that there may be a generalized brighter light shining outward. This is an important transition between “my” light and any future “our” light. The “our” is not so much constructed into a particular season of shared light, as it is a found, shared experience holistically engaged.

Classifier

On the Public Radio program, “A Way with Words,” it was suggested that when aliens come to visit, they may well describe humans as “The Classifiers.” This is different from our assessment of ourselves as “The Wise.”

Folks who listen to only one aspect of how they want to be known will soon enough be telling generation-long lies about their wisdom and greatness. It turns out that one needs to be a sap if they are going to glorify themselves as sapient. Wisdom without doubt and questions regarding what is known and not known is not wisdom. At best, it is a closed-loop feedback system that falls prey to the old rubric of GIGO (garbage in; garbage out). To change the image to genetics—no new bloodline leads to homozygosity, an expression of unhealthy recessive genes.

It is this tendency to classify that leads to rapacious colonialism molesting the Land and Indigenous Peoples. When uncomfortable in the presence of difference and easily tripped up by unacknowledged entitlement to the best, we begin to classify each and every Neighb*r. Wealth is one such classification. Race is another. We are so very good at classifying; we can even do it on the basis of “one drop of blood.”

When classifications begin to multiply, Wealth mates with Race, and soon their offspring carry a Supremacist look upon their face. Well split hairs of difference lead to a whole class of people who have lost their hair or had it harvested into ropes to hang their donors.

If we don’t wise up about how others see us, it won’t just be our sapience that we lose, but we’ll so finely classify everything until all is finer than dust. With ourselves as the apple of our own eye, the fruit of a tree of knowledge will bring wisdom full circle—from dust you have come; to dust, you shall return.

Roller Coaster

such a mighty wind
measured in gusts
beyond a sustained average

lightness of air
contesting with itself
focused all at once

a branch down here
multiple trees toppled there
stationary objects surprisingly mobile

this windowed tree
with St. Vitised leaves
writhes to its roots

still standing after
leaf stems boast
let’s ride again

Trinity

Human agency is said to occur at the intersection of “acts performed” and “words pronounced.” This is a place most uneasy.

Our brave words are forever requiring a fleshy engagement with an external world where their innate power is vitiated in a swirl of interpretations, blank stares, and misinterpretations. A word set loose too easily loses its way as it is pulled and putsched from one Procrustean Bed to another. Connotations are piled upon it, far beyond its ability to center itself through repetition. Denotations are stripped away as every Humpty and Dumpty uses and misuses it according to their own light.

As soon as we ground a wispy word in time and space, we find our action to be inarticulate and invested with others’ fear or merely floating in another dimension, untethered from its primary impetus. Action qua action has no staying power. It is, and then it is gone. It may draw consequences to itself but has no lasting effect on larger systems.

From time to time, the words of one and the actions of another have a cumulative result. They can reinforce one another. Such can happen over generations with a word from then, re-enlivened now. It is less likely to happen the other way around. If an action was not public enough to be recorded, it does not echo down the years. A misreported event does carry the possibility of being corrected much later, though such a correction is more a new word for its day.

Human agency is exponentially increased when there are those who analyze situations and strategize how their words and actions cohere as an integrous unit of intend, implement, learn, and repeat.

Though our culture is going through another of its know-nothing phases, modeling the repeating trinity of intend, implement, and learn is one of the best gifts we can offer to those still living seven or more generations down the way. May any blessing from this trinitarian process circle wider than yourself.

In a Wink

a bit of dandelion fluff
entrusted to a spirit’s breath
floats unpredictably
hesitating for an extended moment
before accelerating vertically
who knew there was an updraft
just there
shifting right waving warning
a weather front cannot be avoided
such an alarm goes unheeded
by such a lump
observing from afar
caught in their season of downdraft

wandering to another’s eye
at rest in one’s own
an unlikely happens
faster than anticipation
a seed is inked to a page
the mighty pen paused
and wrote on
a white gown soiled
slips to a sterile deck
to float no more
a rush of life continues
invisibly sashaying
winking at a next play partner