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EMPOWERING YOURSELF TO CHANGE THE WORLD


“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” 
~ Margaret Mead

terrorism

Each and every day precious orchids wither in the garden of life, and die. They never have the chance to fully bloom. These orchids are the men, women, children, soldiers, police, and innocent civilians whose lives are cut down by senseless acts of crime, violence, war, and terrorism.

We awaken daily to see promising lives and futures swallowed whole behind cowardly and senseless acts of terror and we, the survivors, caretakers of the garden, begin to struggle behind the unanswerable:

“Why?”

grief 2

Each and every day nations grieve after having once more stared into the bloody, gaping maw of death and destruction visited upon their cities: Munich, Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Benghazi, Misrata, Ferguson, New York, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Baghdad, Basra, Nice, Paris, Grozny, Mumbai; the list seems frightfully endless.

Man’s incredible thirst for the blood of his fellow man seems, at times, unquenchable.

Each and every day we see nations rally around the families of the dead and maimed, embracing their brothers and sisters with mournful tears and desolate prayers that fall from their trembling lips upon blood soaked sand.  We witness unimaginable suffering in cities and communities everywhere and find ourselves caught up in what seems like and endless loop of rebuilding and healing.

Those of us who are unscathed physically (though mentally savaged) begin our struggle for an understanding that never comes. We seek answers to enormous questions that can’t even be framed. And tragically, we begin to doubt ourselves. We doubt our ability to navigate the futility and despair felt in connection with these continuing acts of horror. In our collective grief and sense of powerlessness, we quite naturally turn to our God, by whatever name we call Him, and tearfully cry out for mercy.

Prayer

I realize I often turn my own readers off when chastening them not to look too earnestly for God’s mercy in times like these.  It isn’t that I don’t believe in God. I most certainly and devotedly do.  I just don’t think He’s as merciful as we lead ourselves to believe.  I believe God expects us to be the channels of that mercy.  We look to Heaven for answers, yet fail to look within ourselves.

Mercy
We keep searching for God’s mercy whilst withholding our own.

More often than not, we sit by almost catatonic after each horrifying act feeling helpless against the enormity of it all.  And yet, the question inevitably arises:

“What can I, just one person, do to make a difference?”

I’ve asked myself that very question every time a new tragedy unfolds. And for too long, I sat there, likewise, feeling powerless and defeated.  Yes, I also prayed for strength, understanding, and mercy.  But like so many others, I felt my prayers fell on silent ears. They were seemingly unanswered, or worse, I feared, unanswerable.

It was a restless night a few years ago, as I was writing an article on first responders to the Boston Marathon bombing, with utter clarity and intensity, I was compelled by what can only be described as a stream of consciousness – a phrase that kept repeating itself in my brain, much like a song you can’t get out of your head.  And so, I wrote it down on a scrap of paper. It was like that lost piece of a puzzle that perfectly fell into place. I came to the amazing realization that this was the answer to my prayers.

Pouring like clear, fresh water from my pen, I wrote it down:

We are closest to God when we extend compassion;
we are furthest from Him when we withhold it.

Compassion

I had to ask myself the hard question: what was I doing to extend compassion?  What was my role in the solution in the face of so much pain and suffering? Then it finally dawned on me.  I could write.  That was my gift.  My blog reaches over 170,000 people. If I could write something that could comfort, inspire, or motivate just one of those readers, I could make a difference. It isn’t much, and I’m not the best writer, but it is one thing. I finally came to the realization that even the smallest spark can yield the greatest fire!

I began searching on the internet for examples of what others have done to make a meaningful difference.  As I was debating whether to offer up examples of iconic individuals such as Jesus, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela, etc., I came across an incredible discovery that was too perfect and too awesome not to share with you.

Milana
Her name is Milana Aleksandrovna Vayntrub, an Uzbek American actress, comedian, writer, and producer who is best known for playing the wholesome character Lily Adams in a series of AT&T television commercials. But more importantly and relevant to this discussion, Milana is also the co-founder of CantDoNothing.org  (#cantdonothing) an incredibly successful online organization that has offered thousands a pathway to “individual” empowerment. Her message is simple: doing something, no matter how small and inconsequential it feels in the moment, for it is better to do that small something than to not do anything at all.

Milana is tireless in her efforts to show us that individuals can make a profound difference. Through her own work with Syrian and Turkish refugees arriving by the boatloads into Greece, she clearly demonstrates that feelings of powerlessness that leads to inaction is a false construct created by generations of war-mongers and power-hungry bureaucracies as they attempt to marginalize the power of individuals, of social activism.  The power of one individual helping another, Milana shows, can affect an incredible sea change of good that can and will alter the lives of thousands over time.
Cant

Doing “something” produces ever expanding ripples whose reach extends far beyond one individual act of charity and compassion.  Doing even the smallest thing, Milana demonstrates, can ultimately change the world.

I confess, I have been generally suspect when it comes to feel-good solutions to complex human problems involving suffering and pain. But the more I dug into it, the more I found endless examples where one individual has done something which can, in time, alter the course of our human experience.  You may never hear about these people. These are not well-to-do celebrities or Ivy League business moguls (although many of those do wonderful things) but rather they are your neighbors, the man or woman or adolescent next door, the lady mechanic fixing your car, your child’s teacher, a college student with a bold idea. They are often hidden in the shadows of our everyday lives, but their lights shine brilliantly within their obscurity and their power is undeniable:

Jorge Munozhttp://moralheroes.org/jorge-munoz# Jorge Munoz’s humble efforts and his heroic commitment to feed his needy neighbors equally inspires those who need help and those who can help.

Aki_rahttp://www.cambodianselfhelpdemining.org/  A former Khmer Rouge conscripted child soldier who works as museum curator in  Cambodia, Aki Ra has devoted his life to removing landmines in Cambodia and to caring for young landmine victims. Aki Ra states that since 1992 he has personally removed and destroyed as many as 50,000 landmines.

The Choshttps://www.onedayswages.org/ Self-described as an ”average family” from Seattle, WA, Eugene and Minhee Cho state upfront, “We would never ask anyone to do what we would not do ourselves.”  They founded #OneDaysWages to show others how to combat global poverty by creating their own personal campaign to alleviate extreme global poverty.

Kathyhttps://theliftgarage.org/  Kathy Heying founded Lift Garage, a 501c3 nonprofit aimed to move people out of poverty homelessness by providing low-cost car repair, free pre-purchase car inspections, and honest advice that supports our community on the road to more secure lives.

150417133321-edwin-sabuhoro-poaching-headshot-super-169https://vimeo.com/154614207  He is literally turning gorilla poachers into protectors. , Edwin Sabuhoro came up with an idea to help gorilla poachers make a living — a plan that didn’t include killing wildlife. “I thought of an idea of turning poachers to farmers,” says Sabuhoro, who took all of his savings — $2,000 — and divided it to poachers to rent land, buy seeds and start farming.

There are hundreds of heroic examples like these, enough that I can almost guarantee you will find one that provides an avenue for “your talent, your gift.” For me to feel a broken, aching heart for the victims of a terrorist attack across the globe, yet remain blind to the suffering and pain of those closest to me while doing nothing is a cheap, selfish emotion.  I assure you, I am better than that.  So are you.

What I learned by researching what others were doing to make a difference, I finally understood that In my own life, the line between “grace” and “disgrace” is simply the difference between “doing something” versus “doing nothing.”

I put together this small list of suggestions that might help provide you, as it does me, a pathway toward identifying how you can make a difference:

9 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO CHANGE THE WORLD

  1. Hold onto the faith that what you can do, and are willing to do, matters. Nothing matters more. You are not solely responsible for the solution. Bite off only as much as you can chew and trust that it will be enough to directly and indirectly feed a multitude of others.
  2. When you do pray, pray for purpose. I promise you, the answers will come.  They may not come in a way you were hoping, but they will come in a way that you need.  And you may not see that your prayer was answered until you look back one day and see how all the answers fell into perfect place.
  3. If you don’t do so already, make time to meditate. Oftentimes, we are so deafened by the noise of our own hectic lives and the demands pressed upon us that we drown out the quiet whisper within ourselves that reveals our inner compass, our hidden strengths, and our unique gifts.
  4. Recognize that the person most in need of comfort and support may well, at times, be you. Allow others to do for you what you cannot in this moment for yourself. In accepting love and care from another, you allow other individuals to fully actualize their humanity.
  5. Empower yourself to change the world. Each of us, individually and magnificently, can do something by simply reaching out and offering the gift of comfort, assistance, and love for that one person who cries out in need.
  6. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness involves our paying attention “on purpose” and in “this moment.” Marathons are more easily won if the runner can simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly, and in equal measure. They are generally lost when all the runner can see is the 26 miles stretching ahead.
  7. Accept the reality that you are not powerless. You are infinitely powerful. The answers you so desperately seek are within you. But do not confuse power with purpose. Power is simply the fuel necessary to propel your purpose.
  8. Look to those closest to you in need. Discern what your “gift” is and extend it to others. Resist any temptation toward personal recognition or reward. Empowered individuals are in the business of sowing, not reaping.
  9. Believe that what you do not only matters, it is essential. It may seem like a small gesture to you, but you just might inspire another who then inspires another who then inspires another.

This last point is a beautiful example of the Butterfly Effect; the concept developed by Edward Lorenz in 1960 suggesting small causes can have extremely large effects over time. The butterfly effect simply states that small events can lead to big changes.

Butteryfly-Effect1-400x266

The phrase was started by the Lorenz’s hypothesis that the flap of a butterfly’s wings could influence a hurricane half way across the world.

For the purpose of this post, I have borrowed from Lorenz’s  butterfly effect to demonstrate that even the smallest gesture by a single individual, say a gesture of compassion, mercy, or love, extended to just one other person in need, could ultimately reshape the world into a more compassionate, merciful, and loving place.

Consider this: every instance of great change in the world began with a single person. One person. And it all begins with self-empowerment. It begins with believing that what you think, or what you do, can shape the events in not only your life, but the lives of others.

butterfly-effect.jpg

Keep in mind that in empowering yourself, there is no fixed end point. Self-actualization and empowerment is thus not a location or a stage of development, but rather a state of being, an awareness of who one really is in relation to others. A realization that in this relation to others, you can be the catalyst for significant and far-reaching change. An acceptance that your single gesture of compassion, mercy, and love can, theoretically, set into motion a ripple of correlated events that could one day prevent war and terrorism.

We are not angels, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do angelic things.

And why shouldn’t that someone, somewhere, somehow, be you?

 

Blue No. 1

ILLUMINATION


(Dedicated to Jules)

We always sleep with curtains drawn,
in the soft blue light of morning,
I rise and pull the black velvet tight.

 You stirred, half-asleep in a pool of desire 
then stretched your hand back to my thigh 
our bed a ship in sleep’s doubled plunging 
 
wave upon wave, until as though a lighthouse
      beam had crossed the room: the vase between
 
the windows suddenly ablaze, a spirit,
        seized, inside its amethyst blue gaze.  
 
What’s that? you whisper. A slip of light, untamed,
       had turned the vase into a crystal ball,
 
whose blue eye looked back at us, amazed, two
       sleepers startled in each other’s arms,
     
while day lapped at night’s extinguished edge,
            adrift between the past and future tense,
 
        a blue moon for an instant caught in its chipped
                 sapphire—love enduring, give or take.
Lovers in Flames

OUR BURNING LOVE by D.L.McHale


How long will  our love be kept waiting,
our trembling hearts anticipating,
yearning reflected in half-closed eyes,
refusing sleep when passion lies,
with spoken words clearly stating –
how long will our love be kept waiting?

For love is purely mesmerizing
we tightly embrace as the sun is rising,
come fill  this man’s heart with joy,
for daylight brings my heart’s envoy
in nature’s work there’s no disguising,
what we share is purely mesmerizing.

Your burning love makes my shadows bright,
and carries us through to dawn’s first light,
dancing circles turn around,
feeling the Earth’s beat underground
on this blessed day and shortest night,
the sweetest love makes shadows bright

IT IS THE SEASON by D.L.McHale


image

“God talks in the trees.”
— Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas

It is the season of sleeping late 
while dreaming of red-orange trees 
shuddering in the evening breeze. 
These are the short days
when the thirst for warmth suborns desire 
and Eros kisses summer love goodnight.

It is the season of crimson sunsets 
pouring slowly, like thick molasses, 
over church steeples and frozen riverbeds. 
When snow-pregnant clouds float lazily 
across flower-less meadows
and lovers seek shelter beneath heavy quilts.

It is the season of naked trees, 
with branches like fingers extending 
toward the setting sun, tracing delicate arches 
across the rose autumn sky.
Those days when the blackbird flies southward
into the night beneath crystal constellations.

It is the season of surrender, 
when burdens, like the yellowing leaves, 
fall silently to the frozen earth
and tired bones warm themselves before tended fires.
It is the season of dying in the palm of God’s hand;
comforted in the knowledge of spring’s resurrection.

THE RED SKIRT by D.L.McHale


image

You laid your plaited red skirt
on the foot of my bed,
neatly folded as though
in doing so you could somehow
retain your virtue.

In the midst of our fleshy thrashing,
I kicked it to the floor, and you began
to cry, deep sobs that rattled
the mattress springs.

I moved, too reluctantly, to retrieve it
but you said, “Why bother?
You’ve ruined it.
You’ve ruined me.
You’ve ruined everything!”

Making love doesn’t always
mean making sense,
and so I threw my feet to the floor,
pulled on my jeans, and looked back,
although I would never be able to see.

“So that’s it?” you sobbed.
“You bastard!”

I smiled in affirmation, buttoned my shirt,
and turned toward the door,
and as an afterthought, picked up
your once plaited red skirt, tossed it
carelessly over my shoulder,

and left.

BE STILL, MY LOVE… by D.L.McHale


image

Be still my love.

Shhhh…
There now, can you hear it?

Quietly,
within the shadows
of our mingled selves,
softly rising upon
the rhythms of our breath.

Rest now,
sweet angel of love.
Lie spent upon my breast
and listen;
surrender to the
symphony of our souls.

Feel your senses
dancing
to the chords
of desire’s keyboard;
delicate fingers
upon colored notes
within the crimson chambers
of our dream-soaked hearts.

Hear the song
echoing;
muted passion sirens
lilting lightly across
the dim-lit chasms
of our melded minds;
musical interludes
conducted
in sigh-minor.

See the trees
swaying;
laughing willows of lust
sweeping low over
our embrace;
bending sensuously to us
in morning’s whispered light.

Taste the waters
flowing;
melting fantasies
washing over our
quenched, naked forms,
cascading into deep pools
of ecstasy.

Smell the fragrance
rising;
desires fully blossomed
with petals of relief
falling, simply drifting
from the branches
or our love.

Touch the ribbons
floating;
colors blending
behind love-clenched eyelids;
blinding pastel visions,
stretching, softly binding
soul to soul in evening’s brief rapture.

Sleep deep, my love.

Carry this lullaby
into your hazy slumber,
and rest.

In the cool, gray light of morning
we will write another.

PROMISES by D.L.McHale


image

You ask if love’s forever –
A promise I can’t make,
But if I could, or thought I should
I would not hesitate.

I’d promise you forever
And then a day or two
If I were free to guarantee
Forever loving you.

But promises are born of doubt
A doubt that’s seldom real;
The love we know can only grow
In trusting what we feel.
 
Yet, I’ll promise you this moment
If words can still your fears;
Just hold me now and show me how
To love you through the years.

 

Angels and Demons: An Affirmation of One Woman’s Life by D.L. McHale


image
"Woman Reflecting" (charcoal and ink) Dennis McHale, 2015©

There is much power and beauty in her world, yet her soul is divided into two houses:

One is spare and darkly decadent, surrounded by high windowless walls; there is very little color to break the monotony, and its gate is usually locked.

This house is full of decaying art – the crudely painted memories left by people who felt their life had been changed by divine intervention, offering eternal love for her with promises that were falsely laid.

II.
The other house is rich in colour, its thick outside walls washed in strong blues and reds.

In this house, the gate is flung wide open, and on the patio outside there are clay pots and plates all decorated in a kalidescope of vibrant, living colours.

Inside is a tiny virginal bed with a mirror above it reflecting back the inconsistent themes of her life.

III.
She wears her silken hair in ebony rivulets cascading in loose waterfalls down her gently curving back; she takes great pride in the delicate scar across her upper lip, a reminder of the evil that dwells in the angry guts of jealous men.

Her clothing echoes her hair – she dresses in embroidered shirts and wide floor-length flowing skirts, swirling in the warm summer winds of her womanhood.

All of this colour and dynamism reflect her conflicted character; the turbulent and contradictory life she lives.  Her own story is both tragic and uplifting; the essence of her more provocative, daring and strange spirit.

Indeed, in some ways the dichotomy of her life are chapters in a long autobiography, paralleled and matched by her inner angels and demons.

This internal schizm is refracted through the broken shards of a glass imagination, a constant yearning to fill the void within her. And in that complex yearning, another looming presence which was impossible to escape.

IV.
Her secret love, her one true love, is a huge man who looks even more enormous beside her diminutive body. He is a constant (but not faithful) companion.  She both loves and loathes him, in constant and equal measure.

The relationship between the two is fraught with conflict and anger. So it might be strange to see the two lace cloths embroidered with their names lying across the pillows of her bed.

There is in her life a curious blend of love, betrayal, hope, and long-sufferring sentimentality coupled with a harsh frankness about herself – a combination that seduces many people – not only him.

V.
Each night, she gently and quietly untangles herself from his sleeping embrace and makes her way by moonlight to her gray, colorless house with the locked gate.

She indulges in intense relationships with faceless women and men, offering her backside to conventional morality. But in the cool grey light of morning, she folds herself once more into the warmth and safety of his arms.

This constant terrible pain is a permanent feature of her life, yet it does not restrain her. In some ways it makes her wilder and more uninhibited. For much of what compels her life is about pain, and the terrible fragility of her body compared with the resolution of her mind.

Each day she deals most explicitly with the paradox of excruciating joy and exquisite pain.

VI.
Her alter egos are attached by fragile vessels which are not easily cut – hence the bloodstained scissors resting on her white dress. The lush landscape of her dreams seem inaccessible because of the thorny brambles around her neck.

While she might appear, with her beautiful traditional dresses and her tiny broken body, like the ‘perfect doll’ that all men and certain women desire, she is nonetheless fulfilled in her own right, and pursues sexual fulfilment and monogamous peace with equal fervor.

A ribbon around a bombshell.

She is inexplicably wrapped in endless  layers of the full spectrum of human experience and the unbidden possibilities in human understanding.

She senses affirmation in the enormous potentiality of both houses and the unique power of being a woman once freed from constraint.

She is fighting a revolution within herself.

VII.
Hers is a life of two-way narratives. Of unimaginable passions and failed restraint. An existence made all the worse by sadness, distress and a brutal sense of betrayal. Made all the better by the wanton surrender to the possibilities and potential of a woman’s body.

This is the permanent consequence of her life. Yet the often violent and disturbing intersection of her two houses within her soul provide ironic affirmations of life; there is beauty in both, not only in the qualities of conventionality, but in the power and strength of the life itself.

She is full of curses and imprecations interwoven with lyrical images and fragments of poetry. Her dualism defies fatalism with their colours, their endlessly surprising meetings of image and meaning, their powerful assertions of her womanhood.

VIII.
She is both madonna and whore, and she is perfect in her imperection.

Full of hurt and pain and yet equally bursting with life, defiance, and rebellion.

She is an ever-evolving act of defiance, a challenge, a continuing affirmation of life itself.

Upon Awakening,…Vanishing Dreams


“Wisdom” by Derek del Barrio
Photo Courtesy of Derek del Barrio, 2015

I awoke to a kiss, a whispered taste
softly pressed upon my face,

and in that moment, my soul,  it wished
to know once more that soulful kiss!

Yet it was a vapor of a waking dream.
Nothing more; not what it seemed.

These wretched ghosts that find delight
in morning’s light, dancing and playing

betraying with the dust of sorrowed dreams
promises broken, and vows false spoken!

Violently shaken in the sudden waking
arms no more to hold me tight
through winter nights…I am awake. I am awake.

Where, gentle caress of morning rain?
that eases my pain; The merciful patter

that shatters my hold on false dreamt love
each drop above my window pane, slowly
washing in rivulets the memories set
under granite stone..I lie alone. I lie alone.

Enduring ink upon the page, how do I gauge
What’s real? What’s myst? What’s relevant?

Unlock the night, Release my dreams
silence the screams, and write for me
an ending poem, whereby I lie here not alone.

How sweet the dream that never ends?
Where love ascends and kisses dealt

are truly felt in dark of night.

Outgrowing Her Shoes…


Photo Credit: Jopet Arce's photo of a pair of shoes
Photo Credit: Jopet Arce’s photo of a pair of shoes

She spent half of her life
wearing the same pair of shoes.

When she first saw them, they were dazzling…
full of promise (and promises!)

Tightly laced and polished,
glistening like diamonds upon her feet.

They were immediately comfortable, and comforting.

At first, she walked through dark night forests
and midnight-winding streets; breaking them in,

smiling at the melody of new leather creaking
in harmony with the violin-sawing of cricket wings,
with the ruffling of the night owls feathers.

She dared to share her dreams, and danced in her new shoes
with abandon and trust and hope.

The shoes spoke to her of wondrous things to come…
making promises shoes should not make
but new love demands –

of forever cradling her feet against sharpened stones;
of warming her toes through winter’s storms;
of lifting her heals in rapturous dance…

She fell in love with these shoes,
flooded with dreams of where they might carry her.
Each morning, she slipped them on with tenderness and love;
each night, un-laced, she fell asleep clutching them to her breast…

…whispering sweet hallelujahs
for all the miles they had shared,
and would in all their ahead days walk,
promising – until death do us part!

She loved her shoes with complete abandon
and imagined they would always be as comfortable

as the day she first placed them upon her trusting feet-

each day praying these shoes would always love her in return;
with tenderness, truth, and above all else, never hurting her.

But the years went by, and those beautiful shoes began to wear.
With time, they lost their gloss, and the leather cracked and hardened.

She noticed, one morning, a tiny droplet of blood upon her sock;
Later, a small cut upon her heel, a new pain within her heart.

Yet still, devoted, she continued to wear them
though at night she began setting them beside her bed.

In the final year, she wept looking at these shoes;
they were now ugly shoes, painful shoes.

“These shoes,” she tearfully whispered,
“will never carry me to where I need to go.”

She could tell in other’s eyes that they
were glad 
these were her shoes and not theirs.

They never talked about her shoes.
They looked away in embarrassed empathy.

To learn how awful her shoes were might make them
… uncomfortable.

To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.

She began, for the first time, to hate her shoes;
with guilt at first, then with an increasing passion

until one day an awareness swept through her thoughts:

“I deserve a better pair of shoes.”

She looked around, and for the first time understood
that she was not the only one who wore those shoes.

“There are many pairs in this world,” she thought.
I can either learn how to walk in them, timidly,
so they don’t hurt quite as much…

“…or I can throw them away.”

And she began to plan.

“No woman deserves to wear these shoes,” she cried.
So for the final few months, she gathered her courage
…..to throw them away.

Ironically, it was these shoes
that had made her a stronger woman.

These shoes had given her the strength to face anything.

They helped make her who she now was.

One day, she slipped them on a final time
feeling the worn leather against her savaged foot;

then, flooded with the intensity of love one can only feel
knowing love is forever lost…she kissed the shoe goodbye.

When the time was right, she took her shoes to a secluded ravine
kissed them, and tossed them…like an old pair of shoes,

into an abyss.

The shoes lay there broken, tattered, worn and useless.
The shoes could not speak of the love they held for the woman

For its tongue was torn.
Left to decay with nothing but the scent of the woman’s
tender hands scenting its laces, slowly fading.

As soon as the shoes were disposed of
she went barefoot into tomorrow, pain-free

and dancing and singing:

 “I will forever walk the bare feet
of a woman who has lost her shoes!”

But in exactly one year, she slipped on another pair,
happy and in love again, dancing and laughing once more...

hoping against hope, forgetting old shoes,
willing with all her heart for this shiny new pair to carry her home.

An Eternal Sunrise


Sunrise

The sunrise is eternal.
Our measured days are not.
Yet still, somehow, in this moment now
I am lifted beyond mortality;
baptized by this burnished dawn
and set afire with daring possibility.

All too soon, the damp, cold earth
will grip us by the ankle
and pull us downward.

This morning is not that day.

Heaven ascends before my eyes
kissed by the reflection of amber rays;
my heartbeat echoing the foaming surf
while prayers dance among the murmuration
of winged clouds in dawn’s soft pastel light.

The world spins round.

This is my temple,
and my soul, shrouded in the rolling fog
of a new day, now lifted by salted winds.

I slip the bonds of my earthly servitude
and ascend upon the gilded rays of a new day –
lifted gently like a newborn in its mothers warm embrace.

Windswept Love in a Poppy Field


poppies

How do you keep the wind upon your face?
Like love, it lightly kisses your cheek,
and is swept away.

She led me into a field covered with green,
where a handful of poppies
had already started blooming
along the edge of the split log fence
Filaree and locoweed were also blooming,
and some other small flowers.

Here, she lay me down in the tall grass
gently pressing me to the earth
with the palms of her delicate hands
until I lay prone looking up
into the blue softness of her eyes.

Slowly, she knelt beside me,
tracing her long, slender fingers
along my cheek; her nails lightly grazing
the contours of my face.
Her hand turned; the soft pads of her fingertips
pressed tenderly against my lips.

I looked upward to the bright sunlight
filtering through the strands of her silken hair,
blinded by the intensity of the brightness;
I lost my vision of her in rippled pools
of tears flooding my eyes between the bright light,
the overwhelming beauty of it all.

I felt the wetness of her own tears
fall upon my upturned face mingling with my own,
as she quietly whispered:

“I no longer love you.”

She rises and walks away
as I lie there, the ground growing cold.
In the sky above, two swallows fly by
wingtip to wingtip.
Even these simple, feathered creatures
have out loved me.

The Receding Tides of Love


receding tide

It’s easy to say goodbye – to meet again is hard.
Love gone like rose petals fallen on flowing waters
My thoughts of her are like these flowing waters,
Meandering toward the open sea on their hopeless journey.
In time, washed away over a burnt orange horizon.

My hope, too!

The north wind blows; here on the ocean it’s cold.
My home is at the bend of a crumbling, salt-soaked pier.
I watch a lone white sail at heavens’ end;
Like a waking dream, quickly gone – who can I ask where?
Darkness falls beside the endless sea.

We had often walked upon warmer, infinite sands
Pressing our bare heels into the foaming wetness.
But one set of footprints are swept away too quickly
Swallowed by the receding tides of love.
This cold empty beach was never what I wished;
These scattered empty shells speak of inevitable ends.

The beauty of the ocean’s edge declines more year by year.

As the sun goes down, a chilling wind appears
Whipping the sands, stinging my face…a reminder
That with beauty comes inevitable pain –
To hear seagulls cry, or see pelicans on the fly
Makes me sorrow even more.

I lack the courage for this day.

Wrapping solitude around me like a mother’s arms
I turn for home – or what I now call home –
An empty room, a quiet room, an empty bed, a quiet bed;
My refuge from the darkness and the light.
Myself, I think I’ve found a place that suits me..
I have made my home amidst this mighty shore,
Yet I can no longer hear the crashing of the ocean swells.

Outside my window, all the butterflies are white,
A pair flitter over the dying garden’s grass.
They are damaging my heart!
Two tears trace two lines down my face,
I send them to the ocean’s beaten coast.

One full year now separates the loving and the unloving;
I have not often thought of her, but neither can I forget.
We would not recognize each other even if we met again,
My face is covered with sand, my temples glazed with ocean foam.
In deepest night, a sudden dream returns me to her arms,
We look at each other without a word, a thousand tears now flow.

I know that this must have some deeper meaning.
My muse lifts me from my sickly state,
And smiling, asks me to write a poem
I try to write the pain away, but cannot find the words.

Tonight, the ocean’s wind enters through the window,
The torn gauze curtain starts to flutter and fly.
I turn slowly in my bed, looking up at the bright moon,
And send my prayers a thousand miles in its light.

dying sun

The Dying Sun


In the bitter waves of loss,
Thrashed and tossed about,
By the sullen winds of life that blow,
From the desolate shores of doubt,
Where the anchors of love once cast
In search of eternal purchase
Now dragging useless in sorrow’s gale.
I am quietly holding fast, holding alone
To the things that cannot fail.

Why?

That’s what I seek (although my heart knows full well)
The truth is, I may never be able to know for sure why.
But I do know that there is no single
“Should have done” or “could have done”
Or “did” or “didn’t do”
That would have changed that why.
All that love could do was left undone.
This shipwreck, my castaway life,
This endless frothing of cold, death-capped waves
Was due to my taking my eyes off the horizon
Where our dreams were setting with the dying sun.

Letting Go


It is human nature to become too attached to things or people.  Learn how to let go with grace.
It is human nature to become too attached to things or people.
Learn how to let go with grace.

Letting go of regrets is not some passive undertaking. 

Regret is a weight that anchors us in the past,
rendering the future as unobtainable.

Letting go takes courage and lots of sweat.
It takes a willingness to allow pain to run its course.
We are forever changed by the failures of yesterday.
Who we are today barely resembles who we were yesterday.

The heartaches and the pervasive sense of loss
can either pull us down into the morass of self-pity,
or it can catapult us from the depths of relentless sorrow
to the heights of new joy.

It all depends on upon a readiness to face the sun
as it rises upon a new day.
Upon how hungry we are to feed the possibility
that something more, something better
awaits us in the infinite possibilities of tomorrow.

Memories are like a cracked mirror;
they can only serve to offer us
a distorted reflection of our true selves.
Memories seduce us with useless thoughts and images
of what was, of what might have been.
But memories are a poor substitute
for imagination and hope.
If we are ever to break free from the shackles of our past,
we must first wean ourselves from our addiction to memories.
Our addictive behavior is the root of all suffering.

But much like the heroin addict
who struggles and writhes in agonizing pain
as he kicks his deadly habit,
we, too, must find  within ourselves
the strength and courage
to kick our dependence on self-recrimination
and useless reflection.

The soul is a restless being;
it is constantly expanding
and demanding room to grow
and to breathe.
Let’s be honest –
the air has been sucked from yesterday,
and when we exist with our hearts and our feet
planted in the past,
we deny our souls the essential life force
needed  to carry us further
toward our fullest potential.

In the very moment that we let go,
we invite a rapture that can feed and satisfy the soul.

Be brave. Face the emptiness.
Wrap yourself in self-love.

Breathe again.

Live once more.

Of Love Lost


 All the dreams I dreamt
Will vanish like the morning fog
When at last I awaken,
And something tells me that day is come.

Still that final goodbye echoes fresh—
Oh, how we, both she and I
First kissed as the sun went down.
Will she ever return? I cannot say.

The door creaks.
A sudden whiff of the lost and familiar…
A day with her lost among the days without.
Once more the door creaks.
Who is it?
I have no voice left;
The last candle is almost out.

Painting by Adrian Calin
Painting by Adrian Calin

Mistress Moon


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Her face is frost etched glass
floating in the blue-black winds of the night;
she illuminates footsteps hushed
on decayed and dampened leaves;
grieves for freshly planted souls
who have turned from the light of day.

Her midnight corset is tightly laced
by the dazzling tails of falling stars;
she moves in phases
with the  tempered grace of a childless empress
wandering silently and with bowed head
through the cold shadows of winter’s garden.

She seduces the wolf and the poet
with equal ambivalence, each of whom
compose for her dream-soaked arias
and haunting sonnets that speak of
promises never meant to be kept.

She mourns her  powdered reflection
as it ripples across frozen lakes:
hides behind silver-lined clouds when
she can no longer bear the loneliness
of her shadowy journey across granite
mountaintops and sleeping meadows.

At last, in the cool, grey light of morning,
as the sun softly caresses her porcelain
cheek with warm fingers of breaking light,
she sighs but once, then slowly fades into
the rose colored blush of a new day.

My Life’s Palette


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It all began
with the glowing green meadows;
cool, dew-moistened blades of grass
softly pressed into the shape
of a young boy’s naked feet running 
frivolous and joyous
in the backyards of my innocence.

     In time, the azure-blue skies
     puffed with the carefree brilliant white cotton-candy clouds
     of my adolescence fed my wandering dreams,
     lifting me to new heights,
     pressing me tenderly against the heavens.

In my teen years, the skies grew heated
beneath the raging, orange-flecked storms
battering the massive walls of my pubescent limitations.
I fought bravely against the darkening forces shaping me,
but was laid low with the sizzling strike of a silver bolt of lightning,
my body then forged in the ruby red-hot fires of puberty.

     As a young man, there came a day with you in it;
     a dazzling star as yellow-bright and full of light –
     your beauty washed over me, igniting my purpose, 
     I was blinded by the intensity and the nearness of you, 
     awakening within me the amazing brilliant white glow 
     of desire, love, and hope.

Eventually, the blue-black sheet of night
was pulled over me; the skies darkened a midnight onyx
leaving me lying in the cool-grey mist of the shadow of Death.
The lights dimmed as did my voice,
as the murky fingers of Death reached toward me.

     I was immediately lifted up into a new beginning;
     the soothing winds of forever washing over
     the palette of my life
     as once more my heels were dipped
     into the forgiving green blades of grasses
     of eternity’s meadow.

The Hopeless Longing of This Day


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Each night within my folded dreams
You come to me, or so it seems
My heart beats then a thousand times
In aching rhythm, in broken rhyme

But when the morning sun appears
Once more I’m bathed in lonely tears  

My thoughts of you will more than pay
The hopeless longing of this day
Come now, and let me dream it true
With sleep-clenched eyes I am with you 

You part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say, Love, why sufferest thou?

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!  
My thoughts of you will more than pay
The hopeless longing of this day  

 

Love in a Guayusa* Shop


(*)Guayusa an organic herb sustainably grown in the Amazon Rainforest by Ecuadorian families only available at GUNPOWDER (http://drinkgunpowder.com)

coffee

She’s not the kind of girl
men see across a smoky bar
and write songs about.
There is an uninviting sadness
in her dull blue eyes,
downward cast,
washing out the sparkle of
her tender youth.

Yet, we sit this soundless morning at
Gunpowder, the drone of Venice Beach
tourists muted by the intensity
of her faded beauty,
casting furtive glances above the
flipped lid of my computer –
sipping my guayusa latte,
drinking in the realness of her,
tasting the lukewarm resignation
that hangs upon her like a
torn burial shroud.

I am intoxicated by the way
she breathes slowly and with
lost purpose; how she twirls
a lock of her dishwater blond
hair with her forefinger,
the nail of which is bitten
to the quick.

Every few minutes she looks
off into the empty distance
a blank and distant stare –
perhaps daring to dream, broken,
of a life that might have been.

I know, in that way of knowing
the permeates you to the core,
that she has lived, and felt, and
loved, and lost, and somehow
found the strength within herself
to carry on.

I also know that I love her,
she who I do not know
and she who no longer loves
in return.

She’s not the kind of girl
men see across a smoky bar
and write songs about,
but she is the reason
poets anguish into the night
to capture the authenticity
of true love and broken dreams.

This World


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Your love, your hate –
it’s all the same thing
it gathers me in the same web
entangling me with empty promises.
and like a lot of dreams
it made a monster at the end of it.

This is a world where nothing is solved –
where time is a flat circle
and everything we ever do, or have ever done,
we do over and over and over again.

Where you touch darkness
and darkness touches you back.

Best In Morning


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I love you best in morning…
In that quiet hour
before the sun fully rises
and the shadows of the night
linger possessively;
as I lie motionless
beside you
watching
the seductive blush
of a new dawn
filtering slowly through
the frosted windowpane,
caressing you in those last
moments of sleep
with warm fingers of light.
It is in that
special time,
that magic time of morning
as I, too, caress you
with my eyes
and with my thoughts
that I love you
best

 

The Lantern


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Do you see that lantern on the mantle?
Its light has shined on three generations of this family.

My grandfather learned to read under the tutelage of its glow.
He wrote love letters to my grandmother in verse reflecting
The warmth gathered from its flickering beam.

My mother found her way home through lost woods
To the waiting arms of my Dad,
And on the night I was conceived, it lent its sexuality.

Bright and slightly hesitant, still burn brightly
The night I was born, weaving moonbeams
Linking silver threads through the tapestry of our lives;
Illuminating my path through the years,

It has lit my tears and calmed my fears;
Beneath its flame we all found ways to heal
To bind up old wounds; to celebrate new beginnings,
While keeping vigil as loved ones passed away

One day I’ll pass it down to my children
Now crawling on the ground
And in its light they’ll learn to see within themselves,
Beyond themselves

I take it down and light it it’s blackened wick
Whenever I am consumed by darkness;
It watches over me and comforts me;

It reminds me that there are so many ways
To become illuminated

 

Opposite Sides of the Same Pain


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A Sunni mother silently watches:
overhead, a gathering of scavenging ravens
paints the dusky sky above
the broken bodies of her three children.
Bewilderment mixed with horror and beauty,
accented by the pebbles beneath her feet,
polished smooth by a flood of tears.
An acrid wind swirls
with scattered hope and broken dreams;
confetti raining on freshly scorched earth.
Another womb is rent in unbearable grief
at the loss of its precious fruit.

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In that very moment, across the sea,
a Haitian waif reflects:
A flock of seagulls angrily position
above the ghetto garbage heap
next to a crumbling shanty
where her newborn triplets scream with hunger.
Bewilderment mixed
with horror and beauty,
the waste beneath her feet glistens
with the flood of her tears.
The stench of rotting wind swirls
with scattered hope and broken dreams;
flies rising up from quaked earth.
Another womb is rent in unbearable grief
at the bounty of its damnable fruit.

 

Ocean Walk

Ocean Walk


 

Silver threads woven through midnight skies –
Shooting stars as the white crane flies!
Cool autumn winds and the moon’s reflection;
Shallow tide pools inviting full inspection.

The ocean roars and rolls cascading,
White foam shorelines, slowly fading.
Footprints, mine, wet and dissolving –
Deep in thought, me, a life evolving.

Have I lived the life I was meant to live?
Did I take what was offered, did I offer to give?
Have I fought for the causes that helped to free men,
Or did I justify excuses time and again?

Did I love to my fullest, did I offer my heart?
Did I honor my word, or just play the part?
Have I sacrificed joy for immediate thrills?
Was I too vain, or humble, did I help to cure ills?

Did I live a life worthy, will others be proud,
Will I be buried alone or there with the crowd?
All these and more are the questions I pose.
These really aren’t mysteries for me to suppose!

The Sun now is rising, with fingers of light –
The end of reflection, the end of the night.
I turn with my back to the blue ocean swell;
I’ve too few answers, and that’s just as well.

Life is for living, and there is no exception –
We aren’t meant to dwell in such introspection!
The truth is unfolding, and this much is true;
I’ve plenty days left, and too much to do.

A Dark and Vile Seduction


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Photo by MaggieKai

I can see your soul
in the dark pit of despair, my love…
you have a demon lurking.

Sweat drops in rivulets of panic
staining your face with guilty roadmaps;
crisscrossing your haughty cheeks.

I gave you my faith – you whispered a cursed prayer,
condemning me to the eternal flames
of your vile inequities.

How could I not see the beast
raging within your tender breasts;
the sharpened fangs masquerading as nipples
glistening in the dark?

Your undulating hips covered in thorns,
your lying lips sweetened with vinegar.
Your reddening eyes, beacons of hate.

Just what is you think I’ve found?

Something deep and dark and inviting
despite the screaming in my brain –
I have no voice but to consent, not thought but to obey.

Don’t torture yourself with hungered thoughts;
devour me as your wicked appetite compels.
but please, spit out my bones for Heaven’s sake.

Do Not Be Afraid


embrace

Do not be afraid
to lose yourself in me.
My hands are strong,
yet gentle
and, if need be,
I shall carry you
within the calm shadows
of my love.

Do not be afraid
to laugh with me;
the warmth of my love for you
I gather from the
rainbows of your smile.

Do not be afraid to cry with me
when life overwhelms you;
I will gather your tears
within the well of my understanding
and pour them carefully
upon the fires of your fear.

Do not be afraid
to live with me;
I will build for you a home
with floors of tender mercy,
Walls of compassion,
ceilings of hope,
and windows of promise.

Do not be afraid
to die with me;
I will lead you through
the dark forests of your doubt
until the bright meadows
of forever rise beneath our feet
and the cool waters of eternity
swallows our souls, together.

We Write What We Know


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I had lived one life with my face turned from the sun,
breathing icy winds and my father’s sin.
He is gone now but his fingerprints
remain a stain upon my broken bones.
My sister traded his midnight hugs for an opium exit;
her ashes instead of his lashes.

I took my refuge in dark shadows and withered.

I told…once.
Was rewarded with a year sabbatical in a red brick asylum,
bought and paid for with my mother’s silence.
She collected her ransom daily/offered up her womb’s fruit
to feed him like grapes to Caesar’s gaping maw.
She furnished her home with lost innocence
and found comfort in our cries.

She is buried now and I am robbed of my mourning.

Unearth me when tomorrow comes.
Set my broken feet upon polished stones;
let ascending steps carry me home.
My screams no longer echo from the mountaintops

My dreams no longer tether my pain.
I am not healed, but I feel, and my words
anoint my open wounds.

Poets and Prostitutes


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He was a lover of street prostitutes;
not the sable-wrapped uptown girls
bathed in Chanel No.5 and punishing Daddy
by selling their tight-toned wares retail,
but rather those wholesale working-class girls
perfumed by the sweat of their labors;
standing beneath broken streetlights at 2 a.m.,
in cheap, colorful makeup and Wal-Mart lingerie,
with asses bubbling back and semi-flaccid breasts;
those colorful painted whores of the night.

In his youth, he had been scorched by the beautiful
and he would never again have the fevered yearning
of lying with flesh more pliant and comely.

Street-walkers fed his pathos and filled his inner void.
They would let him kiss them on the mouth,
and wouldn’t complain when he couldn’t get hard
because of too much beer and whiskey.

They’d always wait patiently, filing their nails,
chewing open-mouthed wads of gum –
but most of all, they would never, ever
fill the silence with meaning-less chatter.

If he couldn’t function, they didn’t condemn him,
but would play with themselves upon request
so at least the failing of the hour felt sexy.

Most of all, they didn’t lie!

They wouldn’t tell him what a great lover he was
or offer up false platitudes on his endowment;
They used their real names and would share their coke
for an extra twenty-five, and he would pour them full shots.

Sometimes, he would write beautiful sonnets for them
and they would genuinely be moved to tears.

If the sex was lousy, they took it in stride and didn’t bitch.
They didn’t conspicuously spit into folded Kleenex
or stuff their mouths with wads of spearmint gum
after he had come, just to lose the taste of him.
Rather, they swallowed because they, too, didn’t care
if they got one more filthy, fucking disease.

They were like him; defeated and empty,
just grateful not to be judged and discarded
like yesterday’s rotten fruit.

Self-Reflection


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I am the ripe green apple,
plucked from Eden’s garden
Contemptuously bitten,
no hope for God’s pardon.
I am Achilles heel
that hobbles my stride;
Odysseus’ curse,
my insufferable pride..
That lock of hair
claiming Sampson’s life,
And the brother of Able,
I’m Cain with a knife!
I am the snakes coiled
in Medusa’s dark mane –
Like a lance to the boil,
my mercy is strained.
I’m the brew in the cauldron
of deep-forested witches –
The ugliness that comes
from Frankenstein’s stitches.
I am alone and afraid,
but too stubborn to change;
Hopeless and lost
and most certain deranged!
I’m broken, defeated,
and reeking of sin,
The lowest of cowards,
the most evil of men.
A life, ever wasted
on cheap wine and women,
My descent into Death
is just now beginning.
This ghost will remain
as my specter of shame –
I’d rather be dead
than live more of the same ~