We press the world between pointed palms,

where the weary stretch for heaven’s notice.

Our best vision, through closed eyes – steps


on scabbed knees, waiting.

Wine-soaked, bread-fed words squeeze

themselves through parched lips to

arrange with dancing in mind. But first,

they must learn the art of walking naked, blindfolded

through haunted alleys,

danger-gripped, clammy with doubt.

We stretch out long necks, seeking only glimpses, emancipation.

But, the lecherous bully of shame spends all his time

butchering the still,

small voices of light that sneak

in through backdoors where hope still keeps

windows open.

Tragic, is it not, how shades pull tight against wayward shards

of sun, the down-payment for our breath?

Like running in snow, our legs just get heavier –

too much weight tossed about over time.

A leering fatigue replaces what’s left of inadequate strength –

thickness filling muscles too weak to move past their own demise.

Still, hope is what came, long after our tight-

cinched belt of faith lost its grip

and hungry shame gave way to

garden surrender.

Only then does our Amen make sense.

Going Down? continued

Concurrent with these disturbing developments making sport of me was a total inability to quit smoking. This has been, on and off, a monkey on my back for many years. Cigarettes had always provided a nice smoke screen (did you see what I did there? Pun intended) for anything actually changing in my life. As anyone knows who has ever been caught in addiction, once attempts to quit become conscious, the noose of said addiction tightens around our metaphorical necks in direct proportion to our efforts toward freedom. It chokes us with annoying reminders of our perceived need for it and then partners with guilt, which in turn collude together with self-loathing; a disturbingly lethal combination of intimidating foes. They all but guarantee an unsuccessful struggle ending in defeat, garnishing one’s cataclysmic sense of self-loathing with the constant reminder of failure.

Smokers are a strange animal indeed. We are a restless lot always on the lookout for any possibility to feed the beast within screaming for the next drag. It affects concentration, goal setting, patience, self-love, self-confidence, relationships – everything. Eventually, everything is built around it. Planning when to “grab a smoke” becomes an all-engrossing pursuit. The most humiliating part of this scenario for me was that my family was completely unaware of my struggle. And I was not about to add insult to injury in revealing yet another issue I couldn’t seem to find victory over.

Prayer becomes especially strange in such circumstances. Praying in the light of an ongoing, persistent issue such as an addiction is a bit like sitting naked on the subway happily reading the paper oblivious to the fact that you have completely lost touch with the obvious. Do I forge ahead with this prayer despite the fact that the whole time I can’t get out of my head the simple fact that I am, simultaneously, considering when and where to have my next cigarette? The elephant in the living room sits cross-legged looking over his spectacles at the ridiculous charade unfolding before him and chuckling to himself, amused at my unwillingness to look up and acknowledge his presence.

It should come as no surprise that the name most often given to the enemy of the good, the true and the beautiful is Satan, which translated means, the accuser. When someone is already in personal combat mode, engaged in guerilla warfare with some overpowering issue, the icing on the cake for such an enemy is to convince such a one that their circumstances will never change, thus paralyzing them into false belief. The result is hopelessness. The torturer knows all too well that the deepest wounds are inflicted not on the body but in the mind. Once the spirit is broken, collapse, control and collusion follow quickly after…