Memorial

I remember my mom yelling at my dad through the phone, and wondering when I might get to meet him.  I remember meeting him, the sound of his laugh, the slope of his shoulder, how he rubbed his feet together at the end of the day, how he took the list my mom had made of everything I couldn’t eat and wadded it up and threw it away.

I remember meeting my son for the first time at age 16, how we hugged, how he walked with a swagger and reminded me of a cross between James Dean and my own father.

I remember “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac playing on my mom’s record player as I lay on the floor on my stomach trying to recreate illustrations of Garfield and Charlie Brown.

I remember meeting my grandfather and thinking his skin looked like alligator hide, and noticing the faded blue anchor stamped into the side of his upper arm, and how he laughed when I ate a hot pepper off the bush in his yard.

I remember marveling at a pregnant harvest moon while driving with my mom from Astoria to Portland at night in an old Audi Fox, how we talked and laughed and sang along with the tinny-sounding radio.

I remember the crippling crush I had on a girl i didn’t really know in my junior year, just hooked on her looks and the ideas I had about her in my teenage head.

I remember the first time I had a wet dream, waking confused to a damp sheet pressed against the heat of my thighs, my adam’s apple tight in my throat as I slipped out of bed in search of a cool drink of water.

 

The Other Side of Years

You look so much like she did,

I cannot stop watching.

Mysterious, sweet, a little ragged,

preparing coffee the same way,

tilting your head the same way.

Are the gods throwing dice?

 

To think it began the way it did,

only to end the way it did,

like a pilgrimage

or the red leaves of October.

How we felt,

who we were,

how you spoke to me

with the wind among the trees,

how I changed.

 

What it led to

after all this time,

altering the lives of others,

the ripples of our choices

still in motion,

the notions of the heart

still revealing terrible lessons.

 

Thank You

I started this blog/website a year ago.  A sincere thank you to all of you who follow it and take the time to read the things I post.  I truly appreciate it.

What Your Apartment Said

This was written in a friend’s apartment in Pittsburgh, in the winter, first thing in the morning.  It was published in Wilderness House Literary Review last year.

WHAT YOUR APARTMENT SAID

What can we know of each other’s lives?

Sometimes little, sometimes much.

Still, the windows are not talking

and the dried lavender sits quietly.

 

What makes an elevated moment?

To unplug from the machine.

To unexpectedly become your own master.

To know the apple in the bowl is fine how it is.

 

In one direction pass fingers of light-

in the other, a rainshadow.

In all directions, the breath and the life-

in all directions, nothing.

 

Colored silks of morning fall on brick and metal,

drape themselves over glass and wood.

These winter trees are glad to see it,

and I am glad to see it.

My two entwined giraffes,

their slender necks full of secrets,

are glad to see it.

Away To Callaloo

Away we went to Callaloo,

where the sea is a glittering diamond

that never goes to sleep,

and the rising sun brings promises

no one could ever keep.

With empty pockets,

me and you,

away we went to Callaloo.

 

Away we went with naught to lose,

where water falls in clear cascade

wherever it is able,

and buttered toast with marmalade

is on the breakfast table.

With broken dreams,

just me and you,

away we went to Callaloo.

 

Away we went and left our shoes

to try their fruits and steaming stews,

to see what their tomorrow brings

we left our shoes and other things,

to walk the sand and eat ice creams

with empty pockets and broken dreams,

just you and me, and me and you,

away, away to Callaloo.

 

Marrow

 

You were caught in me

like a fish on a hook.

I tore you away,

threw you back to your world,

wounded to the insides of my bones.

 

In anguish we part,

my companion and I,

and stationed here upon this hill

we watch our tangled knot untie,

withdraw, resign, be still.

 

The absence of the muse

is the artist’s darkest hour.

I wish my tears were rose petals,

but they are not made of any flower.

The Price Of Admission

The other night I made some popcorn and settled onto the couch to watch “Blackfish”.  Somehow I missed all the buzz about it from last year, so I went into it blissfully ignorant of what I was about to learn.  What started out as a seemingly harmless documentary quickly became an animal lover’s nightmare, haunting me far into the night as I lay in the dark reflecting on human nature, greed, and grief for the loss of majesty and grace among captive orca whales.

For me, this chilling film illustrates the unique intelligence of killer whales versus human intelligence gone bad, and highlights the price to be paid for tinkering with the animal kingdom in the interest of monetary gain.  We are introduced to Tilikum, taken from his mother’s side when he was a young calf in 1983, and used to entertain families at Sealand Of The Pacific on Vancouver Island.  His oceanic home had been ripped away and replaced with a prison cell of a holding tank, and whenever Tilikum failed to respond to the instructions of his trainers, food was withheld from him.  Not surprisingly, he eventually killed a trainer.  Sealand Of The Pacific closed down shortly thereafter, and Tilikum was moved to Seaworld in Orlando, Florida.  The whole event was swept under the rug – none of the whale-handlers were informed of the trainer’s death.

Inevitably, a string of incidents involving Tilikum followed, as well as incidents with other orcas as well.  At present there are around 35 recorded cases of captive orca attacks on humans, several of which were fatal.  There are 6 recorded cases of orcas threatening humans in the wild.  None were fatal, and they appear to be cases of mistaken identity: orcas mistaking humans for seals.

It is the bigger picture, though – beyond the specifics of Tilikum’s life – that cannot be ignored as deeply disturbing: the exploitation of orca whales (by water parks, in particular) as a means to profit.  Animal families separated in order to sell tickets to human families.  Animal children taken from their mothers, so that they may entertain and delight human children.  All this rendered more cruel and more horrifying by the fact that orcas are incredibly social, profoundly emotional, highly intelligent creatures, who have a part of the brain that humans do not have.

I tossed and turned for hours that night, finally drifting into sleep.  But my sleep was uneasy, and full of dreams about the catastrophic karma the human race is making for itself.