Watching the Friday Night Fights with Dad

Dad watched the fights every Friday night
I learned that to be close to Dad
You watched the fights with him
We never talked directly to each other
Only through the televised action
On our old black and white Philco

Dad’s eyes never left the set
Occasionally he’d make fists
With his large calloused workingman’s hands
And throw a calculated punch here and there
I did the same
My smaller writer’s hands mimicking his jabs

Boxing seemed brutal
Downright Neanderthal
But somehow you knew–
Fighting was a real part of life
Completely inescapable
And any life situation could be the ring

As a seven-year old
I had no idea
That life was an endless boxing match
Not limited to Friday nights
Usually not a spectator sports
And most often, you had to be your own referee

The Miracle of Life

life–it seems to happen
while we’re waiting for a train
walking the dog
drinking a glass of wine
thinking about tomorrow’s meeting
saying our prayers at night
sitting half asleep on the sofa
planting flowers in the garden
saying goodbye to a friend
changing a dirty diaper
and even as we take our last breath
and give into a new life

yes, life is a miracle
but fully within our reach
even though only for a fleeting moment

In Their Prime

I walked along the river in Kent
Thinking, wondering
Why it happened here, of all places
Four Kent State students died here
Why not Columbia or Berkeley
Student demonstrations were more intense there
Why Kent State University, May 4, 1970

Then I realized–
It could happen anywhere
It’s not just about protesting a war
It’s about young people dying
In the prime of their lives
At the hands of others
Especially other young people

How’s your memory?
Jackson, Mississippi, May 14-15, 1970
Hot Springs, Arkansas, April 5, 1982
Iowa City, Iowa, November 1, 1991
West Lafayette, Indiana, October 16, 1996
Closer to home…Cleveland, Ohio, May 9, 2003
Blacksburg, Virginia, April 16, 2007
DeKalb, Illinois, February 14, 2008

Our Work Can’t Save Us

I think of work
That which pays us
Promises to sustain us
And yet, milks our life energy
Leaving us empty and dry

I think of careers
And how we entrust ourselves to them
To being something in particular
Somebody who matters
Because of the work we do

I’ve given up on work
As anything special
As anything that will save us
Or prevent the inevitable
Whose work it is to take us away

Look up close
Use a microscope if you must
To see what work is really about
For those you work for, and for yourself
When I look I see little that really matters

It’s a disease
Incurable for most
This thing we call work
It saps away the real us
Leaving us empty and forever wanting

I think of work
How I’ve spent my life
There’s no stopping the sadness
That descends and lingers
Until it takes us, and we can then rest

What we do in life should really matter
It should be about more than money
Or healthcare benefits when we’re old
These things aren’t enough
They can’t save us, or prevent the inevitable

I think of work, and wonder why
There isn’t something deeper in my life
That helps me see
Work only leads to more work
And never the freedom we all seek

When Hope Returns

Sorrow, the name you wear
When darkness falls
Covering your sunshine
Holding your happiness at bay

Loneliness, the face you share
When parts of you disappear
Like some lost ghost
Filling your soul with emptiness

Despair, last words you speak
When all else fails
Leaving you close to the edge
That narrow path your life walks

Then, for no reason
Except nothing else is left
Hope reappears
Taking away all that cries inside you

Rejoice in the Clouds and Rain

On those mornings
When the heart weighs heavy on the soul
Remember to rejoice
Give thanks for the clouds bringing the rain
That revives and nourishes the new and unexpected
Growing inside us

On those mornings
When tears fall like the rain
Allow them to wash away the past
Bringing us back to the present
Where life can be lived, and
The heart swims deeply in the soul’s still waters

Sunday Morning Metaphysical Journey

Think back, as far as possible
Remember your first breath, if you can
Then go beyond
To when the future
First passed through you
And left you as a trace in time

Return to the place
Where past, present and future are one
To where when began in your life
And you made your first distinctions
Between this and that
You and everything else

Go beyond all recordings, all traces of time
To the first moment
When illusion took hold in your life
It is there, and only there
You will find peace
And there, you can be without any remembering

Leadership

Better leadership they say
Is what we need
To become greater
Not just here, but everywhere
And for everything

What is leadership
Is it the noun leadership
Meaning better people to lead
Or is it the verb leadership
Meaning what actions leaders take

There’s no doubt we need
Both kinds of leadership
But for me
The starting point is self-leadership
Doing a better job leading ourselves

Our Sunrises and Sunsets

Every sunrise and sunset
Changes us, restores us
GIves us a hug
When we most need it

Every sunrise and sunset
Touches our deepest being
No promises
Just quiet sweeps of color we become

Everyday
A sunrise and sunset
Yet, no guarantees
Making it all even more important

No use clinging
Holding onto what we borrow
Then must give back
Like the sky each sunrise and sunset

All our sunrises and sunsets
Fleeting reminders
Live a colorful life
Bask each moment in life’s dreamy colors

Seek the Invisible Depths

“We are warmed by fire, not by the smoke of the fire. We are carried over the sea by a ship, not by the wake of a ship. So too, what we are is to be sought in the invisible depths of our own being, not in our outward reflection in our own acts. We must find our real selves not in the froth stirred up by the impact of our being upon the beings around us, but in our own soul which is the principle of all our acts.”

~Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk, 1915-1968

Everyday Miracles

Miracles happen everyday
Extraordinary things–
Like the orange butterfly
That sat on the budding flower
In the front garden till I smiled

For this graceful creature
There’s no pondering the universe’s beginning or end
Only joyful being
Not unlike our own shot at bliss
Without expectation
Intensive anticipation or undue acceptance

Miracles indeed abound
Each day, in every way
Things we easily know
Things we frequently overlook
Like the gentle orange butterfly
Sitting on the pink budding flower
Just beyond…
That point of no return in our imagination

See the picture here.

When I Think of the Sun

I think of the sun
Not just any
But the kind waking me
As a young boy
Rising with it
Only venturing to sleep
Long past its setting

I think of the sun
Something magical
Very much inside me
Doing nothing for Marietta sweet corn
Or the ham-like beef stake tomatoes
Sold along two-lane Route 7
Just north of New Matamoras

I think of sun, golden yellow
Kingly in posture
Rising and falling on que
Like some Viennese opera singer
Whose voice rings out
Only to crash suddenly
Leaving us waiting for more

When I think of sun
I remember best the sun
That slipped through the trees
Along the edges of Cloverfield
Where as a boy I dreamed the only dreams
Coming completely true in my life

Ponderings

It’s not clear
What separates us
From nature, each other
Even certain parts of ourself
We never knew existed
Until we fall flat on our face
Flatter than the horizon
On a hot July afternoon

Then we know
We are not who we think we are
And the world doesn’t exist
To serve, or even enable us
In some arcane remote way
Like how truth follows a butterfly
Or how there is no saving a balloon
From the end of a pin

Funny how such entitled thoughts
Like those featuring us
At the very center of the universe
Pop up and dominate us
Like our third grade teachers
Who taught us fresh air
Helps us avoid cold germs
Yet I wonder, even with all this
Can we ever avoid death?