Thoughts at Thanksgiving

A perfect time to be thinking all things gratitude.

innerwoven

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Not a journal

journal.jpgThis is not a journal.

Not in the strictest sense.

Nor is it a story with characters

that breathe and laugh

and smite down giants.

Nor is it a retrospective

with light shining backward

into alleys of remembrance.

Nor is it a memoir

bringing back to life

that which never died.

Nor is it a textbook

filed to a fine point –

more sharp than shine.

Nor is it a nursery rhyme

where hard stuff softens into

good lessons that go down easier.

 

This is not a journal.

It is a depository –

for words and their spirits.

For their capacity to hunker down

under the harsh heat of life’s longest hours

and make love until poetry appears.

This might be a poem.

Or, it might be a place where broodings

outwit the failed necessity of effectiveness.

Yes. Let’s call it poetry.

Let’s call it something looser, more lascivious

and lighthearted than expected;

more slow barefoot than mere distance.

For poetry is why we came into the world.

Shy lovers trip on words that ache, and

with limited alphabets, build a song.

 

After London

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She grabbed my hand –

caught, like a tufted

grove of hazy branches –

there were promises unspoken.

 

The full English –

an edible morning rainbow.

Then, it’s heads down, cell phone

ground-under-ground feud

to downtown.

 

It’s the skin-tight suits

the ‘please watch me not watching you’

as we shoot through this

time tested colon –

speeding train of Tartarus,

emerging once again,

limitless –

 

Chuffed, checkered, intermittent

chock-a-block

with gardens,

breathing –

assigns us together in the march,

a soldiery of urban totems.

 

1980s yoga pants

like validation tattoos – a rite of passage

for all who feed the push, heed

the pull, hunt the posh, herald their

potential.

 

Miles of scarves, stairs, scars, and stares (downward) –

brogues, bulimic beauties, and burkas –

pumps, peacoats, pints, and paces –

faces down, chins up,

clacking heals, turning heads

chasing oil on water –

pooling from the duck’s back.

 

How much faster can we go

to get to where we always go

but have never seen,

here in jolly ole…?

 

Is there anything after London?

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The world and me

I love the world as she has loved me –

she to me, a globule; I, to her, infinity.

She unpacks her bags each morning, 

with equal fanfare, but no pretense.

_

She always was a generous friend –

a giver of pleasure,

waitress to my doubt,

bearer of my pain.

And, in her bosom? That longed for, long

home-s  t  r  e  t  c  h of the driver’s road.

_

Her knowing neck waits for my tears.

She sends reminders for me to

clap the dirt clods from my dusty hands

before I scratch out memories in clouds

or bend my knees to the great silence.

Toast her first, take her elder hand, look deep

inside her intuition – then ravage seems less likely.

_

“You pinch and toss, diminish and deride,

hoarding stolen jewels for your banality.

But I’ve borne you on my back, 

wrapped you in my folded skin,

planted you in places

you’ve known, some not.

You’ve nursed these ancient breasts

into the submission of harmony,

the blessing of acceptance.”

_

So I come to rest in her scholarly pain.

There is a certain ennui in my small experience

that shows up when I meet her gaze.

And any of my rumpled thoughts or faces 

meant as caves and shields

cannot cast shadows longer than the sum of her days.

_

I smile and we shimmy down the park bench

of years and stories told and lies perfected.

And she smiles because she knows everything

I’ve forgotten or discarded

or chosen to remember poorly.

_

I’ve bruised her.

She blesses me.

I love the world as she has loved me –

she to me, a mother; I to her, a child.

Hymn: A New Poem by Sherman Alexie

Why do we measure people’s capacity
To love by how well they love their progeny?

That kind of love is easy. Encoded.
Any lion can be devoted

To its cubs. Any insect, be it prey
Or predator, worships its own DNA.

Like the wolf, elephant, bear, and bees,
We humans are programmed to love what we conceive.

That’s why it’s so shocking when a neighbor
Drives his car into a pond and slaughter–

Drowns his children. And that’s why we curse
The mother who leaves her kids—her hearth—

And never returns. That kind of betrayal
Rattles our souls. That shit is biblical.

So, yes, we should grieve an ocean
When we encounter a caretaker so broken.

But I’m not going to send you a card
For being a decent parent. It ain’t that hard

To love somebody who resembles you.
If you want an ode then join the endless queue

Of people who are good to their next of kin-
Who somehow love people with the same chin

And skin and religion and accent and eyes.
So you love your sibling? Big fucking surprise.

But how much do you love the strange and stranger?
Hey, Caveman, do you see only danger

When you peer into the night? Are you afraid
Of the country that exists outside of your cave?

Hey, Caveman, when are you going to evolve?
Are you still baffled by the way the earth revolves

Around the sun and not the other way around?
Are you terrified by the ever-shifting ground?

Hey, Trump, I know you weren’t loved enough
By your sandpaper father, who roughed and roughed

And roughed the world. I have some empathy
For the boy you were. But, damn, your incivility,

Your volcanic hostility, your lists
Of enemies, your moral apocalypse—

All of it makes you dumb and dangerous.
You are the Antichrist we need to antitrust.

Or maybe you’re only a minor league
Dictator—temporary, small, and weak.

You’ve wounded our country. It might heal.
And yet, I think of what you’ve revealed

About the millions and millions of people
Who worship beneath your tarnished steeple.

Those folks admire your lack of compassion.
They think it’s honest and wonderfully old-fashioned.

They call you traditional and Christian.
LOL! You’ve given them permission

To be callous. They have been rewarded
For being heavily armed and heavily guarded.

You’ve convinced them that their deadly sins
(Envy, wrath, greed) have transformed into wins.

Of course, I’m also fragile and finite and flawed.
I have yet to fully atone for the pain I’ve caused.

I’m an atheist who believes in grace if not in God.
I’m a humanist who thinks that we’re all not

Humane enough. I think of someone who loves me—
A friend I love back—and how he didn’t believe

How much I grieved the death of Prince and his paisley.

My friend doubted that anyone could grieve so deeply.

The death of any stranger, especially a star.
“It doesn’t feel real,” he said. If I could play guitar

And sing, I would have turned purple and roared
One hundred Prince songs—every lick and chord—

But I think my friend would have still doubted me.
And now, in the context of this poem, I can see

That my friend’s love was the kind that only burns
In expectation of a fire in return.

He’s no longer my friend. I mourn that loss.
But, in the Trump aftermath, I’ve measured the costs

And benefits of loving those who don’t love
Strangers. After all, I’m often the odd one—

The strangest stranger—in any field or room.
“He was weird” will be carved into my tomb.

But it’s wrong to measure my family and friends
By where their love for me begins or ends.

It’s too easy to keep a domestic score.
This world demands more love than that. More.

So let me ask demanding questions: Will you be
Eyes for the blind? Will you become the feet

For the wounded? Will you protect the poor?
Will you welcome the lost to your shore?

Will you battle the blood-thieves
And rescue the powerless from their teeth?

Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?

My friends, I’m not quite sure what I should do.
I’m as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.

But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist

To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.

I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.

I will sing honor songs for the unfamilar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.

I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.

I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.

And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.

We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.

©2017, Sherman Alexie

Going Over Things

Like under-inflated tires meant for better roads,

the sheen wears off until tracks become ruts

and steering makes no sense.

Now they wonder out loud if pitch and yaw can match

the swoop and dive of former days.

And they ask themselves the only questions

worthy of easier breathing and potato salad,

fresher still than the arrival of these moments –

unbearably skint of certainty,

but crouching in the dew of possibility.

This is no John Steinbeck novel they chuckle uneasily.

But it sure bears a resemblance to those sullen characters

pulled from page to thought, from thought to talk

and back again. 

And even Oklahoma dust tastes good in a mouth

full of hope, conversations pointed in.

So, like throats yearning for rain,

they steer the bow of an old truck into new wind.

An uneasy road curls herself, snakelike,

hiding just underneath – not so much friend

as necessity.

Unlikely companions, no longer in remission,

make plans on the yawning road before them.Morning run copy.jpg