Karma was rising

They took it all. The chairs, the tables, the books. They took it all and burned it for their fires to keep warm, the fires to cook their food.

We gave them the abandoned school to use, to live in. We had outgrown it, moved to a modern two-story all the amenities modern construction building five years earlier. We left this one, this building which had served us for decades, left it alone and abandoned. We were moving on and had no time for dealing with the past.

Until they came. The huddled masses yearning to breathe free. They came slowly, quietly, but surely. They came and had no place to stay, so alone and abandoned by other people, their country. They walked here, step by bloody step, first the men alone and then whole families. They left all that they knew for the promised land, a land flowing with food and jobs and peace. None of these were to be had anymore where they came from. Illiterate, impoverished, they came, hoping for a better life for their children.

Little did they know the well of compassion had dried up, and the Christians were the ones who were the most against them. They forgotten the miracle of the loaves and fishes, done twice for emphasis. The Lord showed them in their holy book how to do it. Take what you have, give thanks to God for it, break it, and give it away. There is always not only enough, but more. But the town had succombed to another God, the one of capitalism, the one that looks like greed, with the color of money and the sheen of credit cards.

That god was the god of poverty, but they didn’t know it. That god promised wealth through hoarding, through fear. Their Bible wasn’t the King James but the prosperity gospel. They forgot the stories of 40 years in the desert, trusting in the real God to provide for them day by day. Instead they thought they were to provide for themselves, saving and hoarding and prepping. They no longer trusted in God but in themselves. Their 401Ks – their pensions – their IRAs became their gods, the things that would take care of them. They forgot the story of the rich man who built the new barn to hoard all of his grain only to die in the night.

So they, in their mean charity, gave the visitors the old school, the one with the rusty plumbing, broken toilets, the lead paint. They gave them nothing of value, just their discards, just their trash. They gave them what they thought they deserved, treated them how they saw them – as discards, as trash. They forgot that you should entertain strangers as if they are angels, because you never know. They forgot that their Lord was a refugee once, fleeing from a tyrant who wanted to kill them. They forgot their own country was founded by people fleeing oppression, who sought a better life. Their own country, where they forced their way in by killing those who were already there.

Maybe that was their fear, that the chickens had finally come home to roost, that the check was finally due. After nearly 400 years of segregating and dominating the indigenous population, Karma was rising, demanding balance to be resumed.

(written 6-20-18)

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All open

Door after door after door. All open. There were no barriers before her. She couldn’t get lost if she stayed going straight – no turning to the left or right. Have courage! She reminded herself that as long as she trusts in the Lord and asks (and listens) she will know where to go (and when and how).

Maybe the community will happen after she dies. Maybe all her work and writings will be used to build something later. Maybe she doesn’t have to make it happen herself. But maybe – that pause in her momentum was the plan of the Adversary, who wants to keep her from working.

On and on and on with no end. No obstacles. Not even illness or death. The promise of no illness, of not even her shoes wearing out – – – she claims that. 40 years in the desert is nothing, so 27 until retirement? Easy. If we follow God. Who takes care of us? God or our pension /401(k) / savings account?

All will be provided. We can’t see what is in those rooms ahead, but I know it is for our good. Treasures to use when and as they are needed, then walk on, leaving them. Don’t carry anything. With hands full, we cannot receive new blessings. The delight is in the receiving, after all.

(Early June 2018)

I’m not that fish – poem

People keep showing
their ugly side
their needy side
the side that says
they think they are
no good
broken
worthless
hopeless
and it is
exhausting
to swim
against that stream
to be stronger
emotionally spiritually
to say
I know (you think) you are
but what am I
around you?

So much, so often
people are addicted
to feeling bad,
they’ve heard the message
saying
you aren’t enough
unless you
until you
fill in the blank
and they’ve swallowed it
hook line and anchor
and it drags them
along the bottom
in the muck
and the discarded waste
of our throwaway
culture that says
you aren’t enough
even if
you
fill in the blank
because
you are a blank.

They’ve eaten the
bait and are
getting reeled in.

But I’m not that fish
not ready to be caught
filleted open
gutted.

(Early June 2018)

Respect – poem

Aretha taught people how to respect her,
spelled it out so they could understand.
How can someone respect you
if they don’t know what respect is?
Sure, they might know the word,
but they don’t know what it really
looks like, or feels like.

What does respect mean to you?
A letter of thanks, handwritten.
An invitation to a party.
A gift given just because
and not because it is expected.
Respect is a form of love
you can show anyone
and should show everyone.
It isn’t flirting, or dating.
But it is kindness, consideration,
seeing them
as equal as
and as worthy as
you are.

If they don’t give you respect,
perhaps it is because they
have never been given it themselves.
How can they give away
what they don’t have?
Perhaps it is up to you
to teach them respect
by showing it to them
first.

This woman is an island

The room was dark and damp. A faint smell of mildew tickled her nose, caused her to remember that her inhaler was at home. She hadn’t needed it the last several urban adventures and she didn’t want to need it now. She vowed to be careful, to breathe shallowly. It wouldn’t do to have an asthma attack here.

Urban exploring had become her secret passion. Early in the morning, at least an hour before the sun came up, she was out walking across deserted fields to abandoned buildings, her car parked a mile away to avoid attention. She was always back home in time to wash up before going to work. Nobody knew this was how she spent her time. Nobody would have suspected, and this was how she preferred it. Left alone, a silent life, away from the masses who didn’t think, who let their computers think for them.

This was her version of a video game – places to explore, rooms to discover. Who needs virtual reality when actual reality was so much better? Of course, this reality came with real dangers – loose flooring, rusty nails. You could land a trip to the hospital, or the jail, or the morgue.

She wandered alone. Plausible deniability. Nobody could rat her out if they didn’t know. Nobody had to lie for her. She was on her own for everyone’s benefit. She preferred not having to make arrangements to meet or what to bring to the site. If she didn’t have something or was late, it was her fault. She’d rather not have to be mad at anybody for letting her down.

She thought back to her family, her friends. They all had failed her. They all had lied, intentionally or not. She was done with it. Maybe it was true that no man is an island, but this woman was.

To everyone she was a girl, but she knew better. They called her a girl to keep her small, to take away her power. Maybe even to keep her from ever getting power in the first place. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.

She lived two lives, the public one and the private one. Maybe it was more than that. Her life was divided at home too – the life her husband saw, and the one she lived when he wasn’t around.

When she first got married she would cry when he had to leave – to work for the day, or away for the weekend on a project. But that was when she wasn’t sober. She feared sobriety at the time – that it would mean she’d feel too much, too often. How would she function?

But now she was sober, she’d learned how to feel and move and be alive multi-dimensionally. All those who looked down their noses, those who thought themselves as sober because they didn’t do drugs, they were fooling themselves. It was like people who weighed 200 pounds thinking they weren’t obese because that was normal, even svelte in comparison with others around them. Why change?

Over eating, over drinking – too much TV or social media, whatever. Fill in the blank – the thing they used to avoid life as it is was their drug. Legal or not, it is that which draws away from life, the path that leads to destruction, to being asleep.

Being awake was like riding a wave. So many changes, shifts. So hard, and yet so essential.

This skill was what she honed on her walks into unattended buildings. Fully present was the only option. Anything else meant death.

And death was the last thing she could afford right now.

She had 15 more years of time to do at work, 15 more years of wearing a mask, of faking it. It was still better than what others did. She couldn’t call them friends – more like acquaintances. They weren’t even friends of friends. Just people she knew. Maybe it was time to have better friends. But then again, why?

People thought she needed to read this book, watch this film, listen to that album. She never liked those things. It all felt fake, like they were just talking to themselves. Maybe they were. So maybe “you need to have friends” wasn’t for her, just like all of their other suggestions. Why force herself into their mold? The same people would turn their nose up to taking welfare but were OK with begging from friends to support their habits – namely not working a full-time job. Her take on it was that if you don’t work, you shouldn’t expect those who do to pay your way.

So her way was not their way. Yet she remembered – she used to be like them. It was grace that knocked her out of that groove, that horrible broken record. Perhaps the same grace would come to them. In the meantime, she stayed away from them. She had to. Their ways drew her back into bad habits and new ones. She tried to help them, fix them, and then realized that too was an addiction.

So here she was, alone in an abandoned warehouse. The more she thought about it, it seemed apropos. The building had housed a thriving industry, hundreds of people had worked here, made their lives here. And now it was crumbling away. Now only thrill seekers and transients came here. Perhaps she was a little of both, prowling around these dusty rooms with their peeling paint. Perhaps she too was near the end, but of what? Did the workers here know they’d never get a pension because this “sure thing” wasn’t?

So how had it come to be – for them and for her? How had the tried-and-true, the solid path, become unsure? How had their jobs ended? How had her life moved into one where she felt she had to put on a mask in front of everyone? Perhaps that sort of dishonesty, that lack of being truly present, as is, with no hedging and no apologies, is what finally closed down this business too.

She was going to have to watch her step, in more than one way. Being less than honest is a guaranteed way to get tripped up. And yet, there was this – she’d never lied. She just hadn’t revealed all of her truth. Was that being polite or politically correct? Who was she protecting with her silence? Them, or herself? Did it matter?

Soon it would be time to leave. Soon she would put on her uniform, put on her face for the world. Or maybe she wouldn’t this time. Maybe she’d just simply be herself, unedited. Could they handle it? Could she? The last time she was fully herself they thought she was sick, or crazy. Many’s the time that she did not fully put on her happy mask and the customers or her family accused her of being a bitch, or worse.

But she was tired of shoehorning her extra large personality into an extra small world. They were just going to have to make space for her. Maybe they’d be inspired to follow her example. Or maybe they’d try to commit her again.



(Started early June 2018
Completed late January 2019)

Missing Rowley

He was one of the missing children, one of the many thousands who disappeared every year. But Rowley (if that was his real name) wasn’t like those children. Nobody was looking for him.

He’d disappeared that Wednesday afternoon, one of those wet and blustery days so common in January. The sun had been gone for so long that people simply forgot about it, simply forgot it was something to miss.

The same is true of Rowley, a boy who was shorter than average, surlier than average. If people didn’t overlook him unintentionally, they overlooked him on purpose. He wasn’t a pleasant child to deal with, and there was little hope he’d grow out of it.

He’d been a latchkey kid, a forgotten child. He could go missing for days and nobody noticed or cared. His parents (if that’s what they were) neither spoke to him or about him. He might as well have been a piece of furniture handed down from an eccentric aunt. He wasn’t wanted, and he knew it.

But then the circus came to town. It wasn’t like he ran away, so much as he was recognized. The high wire performers noticed him at the corner café, quietly pocketing leftovers from the tables about to be cleared away. It wasn’t like he was stealing, not exactly. The food had been paid for, just not eaten. It was headed for the garbage. He figured he was doing everybody a service, mostly himself.

The aerialists followed him out, not so close as to spook him, but not so far as to lose him. He knew they were behind him, how could he not? That sense was well honed in him. It kept him safe all these many years. If necessary he could make himself invisible without even leaving the area. It wasn’t running away. He knew that didn’t work – that just called more attention. It was more like he imagined himself invisible, made himself see-through to anybody who was looking. He’d had plenty of practice at the sad excuse of a home he had.

But turning invisible didn’t work this time, because the circus performers knew how to do that trick too. It was the opposite of performing. The bright light they shone from themselves when they were in the ring could be switched off just as easily. It was second nature to them. It was a skill that bonded them all into a strange sort of family, a wandering caravan of vagabonds and misfits, who somehow discovered how to jigsaw themselves together into this unexpected troupe.

The lack of a fixed address wasn’t a problem for them. They were traveling entertainers after all. It was expected, necessary even. Everybody in the circus was legitimately homeless. They’d discovered the one way it was socially acceptable. Perhaps it worked because they sang for their supper. They performed and sold tickets instead of begging. When they held a hand out, there was a top hat at the end of it. Somehow that made it OK. The public doesn’t like to think it has been deceived, but it does like to be entertained. And so they gratefully gave money to them, rather than grumbling about charity.

The two called out to Rowley, gently enough, to let him know they meant him no harm. They knew what was going through his mind. They knew because the same thing had happened to them all those years ago. This is how many of them came to the circus.

Many if not all had gone missing on purpose, because they were never noticed it home. Joining up with the other invisibles made sense. Together, they created a new sort of family, where all the rules went out of the window. Maybe it was because there were no windows in the circus. Trailers and tents were the order of the day, and even if they did have windows they were covered up with curtains or aluminum foil. This was one group that understood the value of privacy.

Gold mining – poem

I keep writing these things
and maybe one day 
there will be a piece of gold.
Like a miner with a pan, 
I keep coming to the river,
sifting rocks, hunched over.
It is lonely work.

Will I ever strike it rich? 
Am I asking the wrong question? 
Because really, the treasure
is the doing. The daily
coming to the river, doing
the work. Even if nothing
amazing appears, I’ve put
in the time, I’ve gotten the
practice. 
Writing is a skill, after all.
Being born into the language 
is no excuse for not
practicing it