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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

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HOMECOMING by D.L.McHale©


The royal robes of winter’s night
tightly bind me in its blue-black grip
The shadow of majestic purple mountains
kneel upon the fields of frozen graves
ancient tombstones, like granite faces
hemming the barren valley floors

An amber moon spills its bitter glow
through naked branches like brittle
fingers clutching a button-less cloak
Icy winds whip swirls of fog across
lifeless lakes, and on broken wings
doves fall from a voiceless sky

In a distant village, old ladies warble lullabies
to their dying husbands; soft verse cutting
like jagged blades through thick cherry smoke
bleeding from pipes clenched in broken teeth.
The children, with bellies as round as their joyless
eyes feed upon fermented peaches and dance
on knitted bones, playing hide but please, don’t seek
for we are tired, for we are weak

I have walked a lifetime to return 
to this is, my kingdom, stretching as far as the blind
eye can see. Built upon the shifting sands of hope lost
This, both kingdom and the shoveled grave
My head crowned in a spray of dying stars;
my spirit drowned in muted prayer;
my hobbled feet cut upon jagged stones.

This is my destiny, my hell, my home.

Self-Reflection by D.L.McHale


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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 ~

THE HOLINESS OF SUFFERING by D.L.McHale


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I am not yet dead.

Do not call this a miracle or raise your hands in praise. 
First, you should know how long I prayed, and how I came to know the silence of the Lord.

He does not arrive in a ball of light blinding on the road to Damascus. He comes in silence.

Lie there night after night and you will come to know the things I speak of.

My God speaks in the tongue of suffering.

I have survived, but do not call that brave.

I rattled this body from the inside out. There are those who dared get close to me who can testify. I could not find its latch.  I would have escaped it if I could. 

I say this to you because I know, you too have suffered — a body can be rummaged through like a medicine cabinet.

The flesh can be unfurled. Stitched, unbound, mended and stitched again.

Nothing is lost; nothing can be unmade.

But do not underestimate how hard it is to die and do not think death will save you.The dead have forgotten suffering.

Remember what I tell you here.

Remember how hard I held on. Remember the long nights I prayed.

Remember: whole days and nights I wandered outside myself. My body opened to wind and latched like a door against it.

There was pain in the opening and pain in the parts that healed.

Remember what I said of prayer: to house the soul in a body is a way of it.

Sometimes we suffer for one another. I am sorry for those who have suffered for me. But mostly, I am grateful.

If you like, we can call it holy.

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.

الله اكبر (Allahu Akbar) – For the Children of Libya Lost in the Shadow of War


The Children of Libya Lost in the Shadow of War
Kids in the Libyan Wars, 17 Feb, 2011 – 2015  Artwork by Mohammad Bin Lamin

Allahu Akbar! you shout to the weeping sky
While the children play and the children die.
Do you not see in this young one’s face
Allah’s eternal love and benevolent grace?
This very God you seek to appease
Weeps for the child who cries and bleeds!

Behold! Our children’s lost innocence
That your savage war now steals away
Without the slightest reverence or sympathy
For the joy to be found in child’s play.
Yet, still you kill and do not hesitate
To drop your bombs and spread your hate!

As you draw your swords to kill and slaughter
Our innocent sons, our precious daughters
You cry “Allahu Akbar!” Yes, God is great!
Yet with each heart pierced, you seal your fate;
For Allah is the love of the mother and child
Allah is found in their dreams and their smiles.

Allahu Akbar! you shout to the weeping skies
As you seek Allah’s blessings for your pitiful lies
You’ll not find your victory in our children’s blood
Nor the mercy and forgiveness of Allah above.
You kill Christians and Muslims and Hindu and Sikh
As we bury our loved ones and the Prophet weeps!

Our nation’s rivers now flow colored with red
Awash with the blood of our innocent dead
The laughter of our children falls eerily silent
As your war wages on increasingly violent
Allahu Akbar! Yes, God is great!
But pray as you will, it’s much too late.

You can’t win a victory through the ghost of a child;
You can’t claim God’s blessing through acts so vile!
Your prayers, Allahu Akbar! now dissolve in the air
For His justice and wrath you cannot bear.

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.

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Goodbye Beneath the Redwoods


The redwoods swayed softly;
their crowns in the planets,
toes tucked below soft earth
under carpets of wet needles
beneath our feet. 

This is how we said our soft goodbyes.

Our love, our forever love,
lay smoldering in the fire.
I could see the flames flickering
in her dampened eyes. 

I looked away, ashamed and afraid;
too much the coward to own her pain. 

She said it was the smoke –
one final lie to comfort me.

We speak in the soft, cordial tones of defeat
the air hanging heavy and silent between us.
Neither of us could hear the babbling brook
gently washing away the last remnants of hope. 

I will hold back my tears,
and the wrenching of my heart,
for the long, dark lonely nights ahead.  

Tonight, my love, my forever lost love,
let us wrest some comfort and warmth
from the dying embers of this bitter fire. 

Beneath these redwoods gently swaying
gather one last bouquet of memories
to set us on our separate ways.

Behind Green Eyes: A Child of the Ozarks


Ozark Girl

Photo Credit: Jeff Jones, Photographer
(image of his daughter, Valerie)

Skin softly bleached like the Southern twilight
freckle-kissed face ‘neath the Ozark ‘s skylight
fire-red locks and curls tossed by stormy winds
Pa’s softly-pressed dimple upon her boyish chin

     Green eyes revealing her faded innocence
     a determined gaze, a child’s jaded reverence
     for a young life lived beneath the savage blows
     of poverty’s yoke, though no one knows
     for this girl who bravely looks right through you
     wears a forthright courage, honest and true

She rides a bitter storm that’s never-ending
twelve tender years in fields deep-bending
with calloused hands plucking earth’s creations
like her kinfolk have done for generations

     Laughing like a banshee, she dances in the rain
     holding back her tears as she swallows her pain
     A motherless child born to a colorless world 
     still she sings of a future, of hope yet unfurled
     she sings of the woods, and the trails, and the streams
     of infinite hope and impossible dreams

She could never be pressed to surrender this hour
‘neath the soft Ozark moonbeams that fill her with power
to endure what she must, though she’s only a child
under dark gathering clouds she stands there beguiled
filled with wonder and light behind a soft-freckled face
she presents to the world the persona of grace

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.

 

Crucified Beneath Her Touch


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In my darkest hour, rolled up into a drunken ball upon the divan
reading Plath and Poe, fantasizing about the sweet silence of death;
writing angry verse raging against all things holy and full of light;
then, and only then, was I full of purpose and certainty.

Mindlessly pouring ice-less cups of bourbon to free my tongue,
exorcising my demons on the back of torn bank statements;
scratching out never-to-be-read poems pulled from the bottom of empty bottles.

My loving Kate stood sentinel outside the mahogany door, matronly and superior,
occasionally sneaking in a bowl of tepid broth, or a grilled cheese sandwich;
she both loathed me beyond all measure and attended to my waking needs
with a love that pierced my frozen heart and stung me to the bitter core.

Awash in the dappled grey light of morning, reeking of whiskey and fear
I stood shakily, tucking away all evidence of my madness in the roll-topped desk..
Beneath a shower of scalding water, I made attempts to wash away the night’s sins.
Stuffing my walking corpse into a crisp linen shirt, draped with a burgundy tie,
I stepped into a fresh-pressed suit (dear, Kate!) and stumbled downstairs.

With the coldness of a ghost, I kissed her lonely dry lips goodbye.

Each day, I would drive into the city, interviewing for jobs I would never accept.
Stopping by Tommy’s Irish Pub for a shot of Johnny and a 2 p.m. round of lies –
later napping on a faded green park bench outside the old courthouse.

Dinner laid out would rest un-touched as I passed straight through toward oblivion.
Kate would be at her spinning class, pedaling broken dreams through salted-tears.
Rummaging her dresser, lightly tracing my fingers over her satin underthings,
remembering when, then forgetting why.

I shed the suit and all pretense, pulled on a pair of faded jeans…and wept.

Mandela’s Legacy to Us All


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Sacrifice. Discipline. Forgiveness

Whatever the indignities
and misfortunes life throws at you;
No matter the depth or the breadth
of your personal pain and suffering,
these three virtues will anoint
and lift your very soul.

You have within you an enormous capacity
to endure, to turn the other cheek,
to rise above the relentless,
crushing tides of injustice and hatred.

Sacrifice. Discipline. Forgiveness.

When you are tempted to surrender;
to see yourself as a hapless victim
crushed beneath the yoke of life’s
inexorable thumb upon the scales of fairness,
in that moment, you will remember
that somewhere, someone
is bleeding more profusely,
hungering more painfully,
dying more senselessly.

Sacrifice. Discipline. Forgiveness.

Our capacity to ignore
our own anguish
and to ease the suffering of others
confirms our angelic humanity,
and releases us from
the bondage of helplessness.

Sacrifice. Discipline. Forgiveness.

For Better or Worse


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For better or for worse, I am a dark writer.

 It isn’t something I wanted to be as I grew up…it is more something that had to be done to give my inner grief a voice so that the pain and suffering did not consume me. The events of my life have consumed me like maggots feasting on the carcass of a dead child. Have you ever wondered why the best of Irish writers are so dark and depressing? It is because they were consumed and compelled by lives lived in abject poverty, disease and general disrepair and despair. Bram Stoker, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Frank McCourt, …all suffered from severe moral disintegration, from morbid ideations brought about by the unrelenting ugliness that this so called “good life” thrust upon them.  

 The French poéts maudits;  François Villon, Baudelaire and Rimbaud?  These were simple men forced to live  their lives outside or against society, awash in the abuse of drugs and alcohol, insanity, crime, and violence. They all died pitiful, painful deaths. Or how about the Americans?  Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Bukowski…each caught up in what life does best…grinding their souls to dust in the absence of any lasting hope until the merciful fist of death grabbed each by the ankle and pulled them under.

 You may think I’m just cynical and indulgent…but I tell you, for every ray of sunshine you can conjure, I can show you ten bolts of lightning that rip and destroy.  I am glad others have happiness….but I myself was pushed through this veil of insidious despair without my consent, and I’ve learned to navigate life in the absence of hope.  And yes, I find some comfort there.  It’s what I know.

 People are always saying, “try and look on the bright side,” and to them I say, “ Look around you, for fuck’s sake!”  There is an ocean of pain, agony, and suffering washing over the majority of the earth’s population…and you think platitudes  and sweet rejoinders make a difference when the crows peck the eyes from a dead child who has starved in the Sudan? Or when 20 beautiful innocent children in Sandy Hook have their precious lives snuffed out, or when entire populations are being systematically wiped off the face of the earth for political expediency?  Get real.  Take off your rose-colored specs and take a deep look around you!  Evil flourishes upon a people’s unwillingness to see.  They are blinded by their blazing sunshine and forced optimism.

 Yes, we live in the same world, but I see the shadows where you see the light. I don’t write this kind of crap because I have something to say…I write it because something which must be said has me to write it. My apologies for the rant…but I get so ill in my gut when people say, “there, there…the world is a beautiful place. Just try harder to be happy.”

 The world is obscene and delusional. And it hurts.

The Seasons of Life


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In the youngest years, there is fear and pain.

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In the middle years, there is ecstasy, laughter,
hope, promise. happiness, delight, pleasure, bliss,
confidence, optimism, courage, faith, joy, desire,
hopefulness, buoyancy, brightness, anticipation,
choice, sex, cheerfulness, and contentment.

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In the older years, there is fear and pain.

The Trinity and Me


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First they took my father,
then consumed my mother –
Without the slightest hesitance
They came and took another

My sister left in tender years
They left me naught but pouring tears
We’re promised today and not the other
So they came again and claimed my brother

I prayed they’d come for me one day
But here I stand with feet of clay
And this belies my ardent fear
They’ll not return for many years
Leaving me with nothing more
Than dreams of how it was before

How cruel and painful can they get
My day will come, but not just yet
And so I stand here all alone
With a wounded heart and an empty home

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
They’ve chained me to their whipping post
The Trinity it’s plain to see
Is all for One and none for me

Fallen Angel


Image

He writes for a fallen angel
but the rhymes don’t appear,
not in words, but in stilted

verse, in outpourings of
watered down love. She spreads
her wings and hunts the night.

What the poet will not write is,
You hunger for your father’s love;
It never was, but may you find
through the spilling of my ink
Some noble affection upon
which to rest.

But I cannot touch your pain.

He drinks a toast
to the memory of her beauty.
No one wants her faded

charms this night. She stands
beneath a waning moon

with a single tear, a cigarette
from her too red un-kissed lips.
The cars no longer slow

down to guess her meaning.
She traces a vein
to where the needles brought

peace a million times.

I hear your poem, she whispers,
thank you
but I must be home to
where the razor whispers.

Where I Live


Image

How temperamental is the man in me
who misses you but will not call this because
I find the thought of romance more alluring
than actually opening myself to you?
I drink to burn the voices in my belly
that mock my tenuous hold on sanity.
I buy my smokes one at a time because
I have no vision of or faith in tomorrow
and I make my living scratching the underbelly of
this wretched world;
This desolate city, crumbling beneath the
broken wings of blackbirds…it is my home.
It is where I live. My pen scrapes past
its veneer of civility and sheds light upon
the ugly, the lost, the torn asunder. My people.
I take my walks at night under many clouds
all dressed in muted black.
I am callous with the hipsters and the tweakers
camped by the muddy rivers, and the hookers
and the pimps and the holy man and the
goddamned garish fluidity of this headache world.
I live in a city of fifty thousand accumulated flesh tombs
or more pretending about the news and the weather
with their minds drifting always back to the same
goddamned thing. How pathetic to be so far away
in space but not in time?
How desperate is the faith convinced by two arguments;
Both to be and not to be?
When I stumble, I lean against the wall or the lamppost
reading a page of Plath or passage of Hemingway
and all I can think is how courageous their exits were.
I yearn for their knowledge of the final crossing.
I read words, not novels, because words
are better spit than woven.
I refuse my fate gazing at my expiration date
and pouring another drink, I turn off the radio and
sit silently in the dark chambers of my thoughts.
I remember you, but me? I do not.

Beneath a Dust of Snow


snow

The darkly puffed clouds, pregnant with snow,
hang dark and bitter and over mountaintops flow.
A cowardly moon casts a muted light, reflecting
scattered jewels across the veil of night;
Winter descends.
The rippling hills in the park in dusted white repeat;
streets grow eerily silent beneath unmoving feet . . .
The timeless face ticking on the old clock tower
shivers as the bell strikes its mournful hour.
The city sleeps unaware, or lost in the memory
of yesterday’s warmth and illumination.

He, from his frost-laced window panes
in silent rumination, stares out in pain
over the bitter whiteness of the slumbering town,
Seeing through swirls of white softly floating down
one candle burning in the window of a shuttered house
where this night the flame of love was cruelly doused
as she, in death’s harsh grip and coiled embrace
surrendered the light that transformed her face.
The frozen earth, itself reluctant to let her go
as he laid his love to rest beneath a dust of snow.

He desires like this to forget what will not pass,
Grey death, stale ugliness, and the sodden grass.
Deep in his heart old bells are beaten again,
Slurred bells of grief and twisted pain.
Dull echoes of hideous places where poisons grow,
he desires to drown in a cold white peace of snow.

Irises


Irises by Vincent van Gogh
Irises by Vincent van Gogh

I watch from my folding chair,
the low autumn sun measuring out
the remains of the day.
She, genuflecting in the garden,
places four purple seedlings
into the dark damp earth,
pushing each with a jab of her fingers
and a prayer to bloom their beginning –
(those same fingers that used to softly
trace the curvature of the small of my back
when we made love)
purple irises close to the ground
She says they are insanely beautiful
and I say, “Did you know van Gogh painted
Irises from an insane asylum in Saint-Remy,
locked in the grip of unimaginable pain and suffering?”
She looks at me…looks through me,
as a small tear appears in the corner of her eye.
She knows.
She knows her garden better than she knows me,
but she knows that once these flowers root,
I am leaving her.
Turning back above these flowers,
my sweet-faced wife tilts a rusted watering can,
wanting more leaves, more flowers,
more life!  as water pours from the spout.
Five tongue-shaped petals fall ever so slowly
onto the black earth before she bends
and picks up each severed petal
and puts them oh so carefully in her pocket.

My Turn From Heaven


God Hate
My ashes are to dust betrothed,
my bones ‘neath lily and the rose.
My soul, which hath no penitence,
shall ne’er see heaven’s countenance!
While God doth cry on bended knee,
“Who brought this vile wretch to Me?”
I have no prayer to speak for me,
nor do I seek His sympathy.
I’ve cast my lot upon this heap,
come now an everlasting sleep.
As angels flee on bended wing
my unwinding was a simple thing.

Light heart though first was given me
soon beat with endless misery.
Once hopeful dreamer fast awoken,
songs unsung and words unspoken.
Continually seeking His advisement,
receiving only harsh chastisement.
As a child I prayed for his bemusement,
though my suffering lent to His amusement –
He offered love, and then he took
my loved ones from his holy book.
He filled my life with misery
and hid Himself in the Trinity.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
lashed me to their whipping post,
And each with certain celestial glee
tore the very heart from me!
And so began my slow decline
that leaves me now in full recline;
I have no faith, nor do I now,
profess in this my final hour
To seek His love and lifting grace
in this my final resting place.
In timeless repose let me rest,
a thorn insert into my breast.
For pain is something dear to me,
His lust for blood unclear to me:
Why such angst and bitter spew?
You do not know the God I knew!

 

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Armageddon of Faith


Dark_Angel_by_LordHannu-72619-1

 

When the Angel of Death extends his wing
And Heavenly stars fall into their black holes;
And Angels no longer sing;
When Mountains to dust once more descend
And the Stain of Original Sin eviscerates the soul;
When breath of Man is sucked from his great chest
And His hopes and joys are laid to eternal rest.
Then shall our eyes, in one final moment, see
It’s all been a Celestial mockery! To wit:

Life has been damned from the beginning
And meaning is but a vaporous fog that leads nowhere.
Christ wasted upon Roman cross,
yet the wooden nails pierce us all;
we the lost and faceless children of Golgotha.
While God, the coward, dances to hopeless praise
And we, our feet planted in jagged stone,
Give way to bended knee and broken bone
At last falling upon bleeding palms! And mutter thus:

Oh God! Oh God! Why have you forsaken me?
When I have betrothed my life, my heart and soul to thee;
The free will that you’ve given me recoils beneath your vengeful rod.
Blighted love, as fire rages through Eden’s gates,
His Celestial image consumed in the belly of the snake;
We, the children of Adam, cursed and abandoned
Have stormed Heaven and cast God to earth
And locked Him in temples…worshiping His bones.
Will not the Saints in pious verse compose
His holy eulogy? Lay granite praise upon His
Grave, and silence these babbling Prophets!

The warm embrace of Hell awaits the faithful
And the wretched alike; Heaven is but a cloudy
Cauldron pouring souls into a molten sea;
Feathers floating down from the torn
Wings of the Heavenly Host.
Fate draws the darkened veil upon mankind
and the gates of paradise, with resounding contempt,
slam profoundly shut.

 

We Are Gods


gods-love

We are gods treading boldly
upon a blue-green marble
beneath a sprinkle of stars,
tossed upon a blue-black canvas.
We blow creation, like a kiss,
from open palms, fingers spread
like the wings of a butterfly;
dreamers who paint visions
upon the granite walls of time.
We whisper songs to angels
while dancing upon mountaintops.
We tread upon the oceans
in wooden shoes with billowing sails.
We laugh and cry with equal measure,
pouring our emotions into silver cups
bejeweled with love and compassion.
We embrace the hour of life we are given
but rejoice in the infinity that follows
and the lifting up of fallen loved ones.
We are gods who sing and speak
with honey on our tongues
the endless verse of truths
and seek a simple understanding
that guides our celestial journey.

We are blood-soaked warriors
who have slain our brothers and sisters
in the name of false religions
for He that stays His healing hand
amidst our pain and suffering;
for He that weeps into the clouds
that rain upon our crimson sins
and washes clean our inequities.
We are gods who daily feast
upon the abundance of our fortune
while the world’s children
wither on the vine and fall like
rotting fruit upon the earth;
flowers that never fully blossomed.
We stop our diamond-pierced ears
to the screaming of poverty and injustice
and look directly into the sun
to blind ourselves to the horror
that stretches upon the horizon.
We are gods without wings
falling from grace and into
the waiting arms of Death.
We have wrapped ourselves in
the burial shroud of indifference.

The Trinity and Me


tombstones

 

First They took my father,
and then consumed my mother
Without the slightest hesitance,
They came and took another
My sister left in tender years,
They left me naught but pouring tears
We’re promised today and not the other,
so They came again and claimed my brother

I prayed They’d come for me one day,
but here I stand with feet of clay
And this belies my ardent fear,
They’ll not return for many years
Leaving me with nothing more
than dreams of how it was before
How cruel and painful can They get,
my day will come, but not just yet

And so I stand here all alone,
with a wounded heart and an empty home.
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost;
which of these I hate the most?
The Trinity it’s plain to see,
for it’s all for One and none for me.

 

For Better or For Worse: I Am a “Dark” Writer


dark writer

For better or for worse, I am a dark writer.

It isn’t something I wanted to be as I grew up…it is more something that had to be done to give my inner grief a voice so that the pain and suffering did not overwhelm me. The events of my life have consumed me like maggots feasting on the carcass of a dead child. Have you ever wondered why the best of Irish writers are so dark and depressing? It is because they were flayed by mental anguish  They were compelled by lives lived in abject poverty, disease and general disrepair and despair. Bram Stoker, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Frank McCourt, …all suffered from severe moral disintegration, from morbid ideations brought about by the unrelenting ugliness that this so called “good life” thrust upon them.

The French poéts maudits; François Villon, Baudelaire and Rimbaud? These were simple men forced to live their lives outside or against society, awash in the abuse of drugs and alcohol, insanity, crime, and violence. They all died pitiful, painful deaths. Or how about the Americans? Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Bukowski…each caught up in what life does best…grinding their souls to dust in the absence of any lasting hope until the merciful fist of death grabbed each by the ankle and pulled them under.

You may think I’m just cynical and indulgent…but I tell you, for every ray of sunshine you can conjure, I can show you ten bolts of lightning that rip and destroy. I am glad others have happiness….but I myself was pushed through this veil of insidious despair without my consent, and I’ve learned to navigate life in the absence of hope. And yes, I find some comfort there. It’s what I know.

People are always saying, “try and look on the bright side,” and to them I say, “ Look around you, for fuck’s sake!” There is an ocean of pain, agony, and suffering washing over the majority of the earth’s population…and you think platitudes and sweet rejoinders make a difference when the crows peck the eyes from a dead child who has starved in the Sudan? Or when 20 beautiful innocent children in Sandy Hook have their precious lives snuffed out, or when entire populations are being systematically wiped off the face of the earth for political expediency? Get real. Take off your rose-colored specs and take a deep look around you! Evil flourishes upon a people’s unwillingness to see. They are blinded by their blazing sunshine and forced optimism.

Yes, we live in the same world, but I see the shadows where you see the light. I don’t write this kind of crap because I have something to say…I write it because something which must be said has me to write it. My apologies for the rant…but I get so ill in my gut when people say, “there, there…the world is a beautiful place. Just try harder to be happy.”

The world is obscene and delusional. And it hurts.

Faulty Reasoning


inmate

I was wrong about obscurity then,
hoping for darkness and a quiet bed;
but then the iron door slammed shut
and the cacophony of inmates filled my brain.

My crime was meant to buy me the freedom
from life’s incessant hammering; but I found
myself thrust into a discordant and never-ending
screech of men bemoaning their false innocence
and knives fashioned from melted toothbrushes
jabbing the life from unsuspecting fools.

I had hoped for the consistency of routine and
lights out early, but beneath the glaring ceiling
sconces that burned 24/7, each night slammed down
with new threats and opportunists to perish.

I longed for the numbness I had known in my
drink and drugs, but in here, they would only
give you antacids and an aspirin.

I had simply not thought this through.

Self-Reflection


death

I am the ripe red 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
that claimed 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 to 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 spectre of shame –
I’d rather be dead
than live more of the same ~

A Failed Seduction


seduction_of_innocence_700w

in the cool black-velvety jacket of midnight
she threads her hair with purple lilacs
her lips licked lightly, eyes half-closed
arching breasts filled with urgent breath
dancing under the moon with wild abandon
no care for which way the wind blows
or where the water flows
each step held lightly
pressed upon dew-soaked blades
of summer’s green grass
she sings a broken verse
whispers each refrain, to bury her meaning
while cool rivulets of passion’s sweat
run like melted snow down
from her brow to her rapturous breasts
rivulets dropping like rain on the
broken down-beat wings of angels
dripping to the parched palm of earth
gathering into puddles of sweet supplication
echoes of forbidden memories
perfume the nighttime air
places and spaces filled
with the frivolities of youth
she comes to me on bended knees
reaching for my turned up face
in the ticking of this hour
no time in my disgrace
I push away her yearning

An Ode to Syria’s Freedom Fighters: the Children


SYRIAN-CHILDREN-640x468

     For Justice all, or none to have, half-measures will not matter
    Beneath the sword of al-Assad our heads upon a platter
    Fight until our people’s chains, slave-forged, now timely shatter
    We’ve offered up our innocence, ascending heaven’s ladder

The price of freedom comes not cheap
It’s why the village women weep
Sweet daughters and their native sons
Lie dead beneath the setting sun

Old age will never call their names
Nor will they play their childhood games
They gave their lives that we might live
No greater gift could children give.

For Allah gathers to His chest
The angels here we lay to rest
He carries forth through darkest night
These stars to hang that shine so bright

     For Justice all, or none to have, half-measures will not matter
    Beneath the sword of al-Assad our heads upon a platter
    Fight until our people’s chains, slave-forged, now timely shatter
    We’ve offered up our innocence, ascending heaven’s ladder

As painful as this fight may be
It now comes back to you and me
We have no children left to pay
The price demanded of this day

Oh, Sweet Liberty our hearts succumb
To the constant beat of Freedom’s drum
With swords drawn high we heed the call
In battles pitched we give our all

Yet still we fear the sting of death
The drawing of  our final breath
Immortalize our children’s  names
Within a hot and forging flame

     For Justice all, or none to have, half-measures will not matter
    Beneath the sword of al-Assad our heads upon a platter
    Fight until our people’s chains, slave-forged, now timely shatter
    We’ve offered up our innocence, ascending heaven’s ladder

Cathedral of Shame


The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Alois Ratzinger) becomes final Thursday. After meeting with the cardinals, he departs via helicopter to the papal retreat south of Rome. His abdication of the papacy, however, pales in comparison to his abdication of the truth in the issue of molestation within the church. His legacy will be forever tainted for his abject failure in addressing and attempting to right this terrible wrong. Shame on him.

My poem below, “The Cathedral of Shame” underscores the lingering pain and shame of those who fell victim to this horrific sexual scourge within the Church. Try as they might, many have tried to return to the fold, but until these crimes are fully owned by the papacy, most of these efforts at reconciliation will become epic and painful fails. Perhaps the next Pope will possess the courage Ratzinger lacked, and will take ownership of the Vatican’s complicity in these sordid crimes against youth. Let’s hope so, because, until they do, the abuse of the body will only be compounded further with the abuse of denial.

The chances are slim, however, that any meaningful redress will arrive with the new pontiff. This is, after all, an institution that took hundreds of years to issue what ultimately amounted to a lukewarm apology for the Great Inquisition, and has yet to take any responsibility for the bloody atrocities of the Crusades. Let’s hope that the addition of the Age of Molestation doesn’t replace the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost with the aforementioned Trinity of Complicity.

cathedral

Cathedral of Shame

It was never my intent to return to this place
dark halls of betrayal, and lacking in grace
Lustful intentions, like geysers of steam
scald memories ‘neath mahogany beams

Yet I come on this day to recapture my soul
To quiet the screams now three decades old
Black flowing robes with collars of white
Incensed chambers to the left and the right

The bones of saints litter this brothel of sin
While confessions absolve the evils of men
The innocent novice here silently cries
Behind red velvet ropes of cardinal lies

Like lambs sacrificial to the altar are led
While the pure hearts of angels are quietly bled
I kneel before God, but my prayers silent fall
In the shadow of Christ in this candlelit hall

The peace that I seek here doesn’t exist
Where the holiest men refuse to resist
Hail Virgin Mary, full of sweet grace
Help me to rise and get out of this place

Armegeddon of Faith


Image

When the Angel of Death extends his wing
And Heavenly stars fall into their black holes;
And Angels no longer sing;
When Mountains to dust once more descend
And the Stain of Original Sin eviscerates the soul;
When breath of Man is sucked from his great chest
And His hopes and joys are laid to eternal rest.
Then shall our eyes, in one final moment, see
It’s all been a Celestial mockery! To wit:

Life has been damned from the beginning
And meaning is but a vaporous fog that leads nowhere.
Christ wasted upon Roman cross,
yet the wooden nails pierce us all;
we the lost and faceless children of Golgotha.
While God, the coward, dances to hopeless praise
And we, our feet planted in jagged stone,
Give way to bended knee and broken bone
At last falling upon bleeding palms! And mutter thus:

Oh God! Oh God! Why have you forsaken me?
When I have betrothed my life, my heart and soul to thee;
The free will that you’ve given me recoils beneath your vengeful rod.
Blighted love, as fire rages through Eden’s gates,
His Celestial image consumed in the belly of the snake;
We, the children of Adam, cursed and abandoned
Have stormed Heaven and cast God to earth
And locked Him in temples…worshiping His bones.
Will not the Saints in pious verse compose
His holy eulogy? Lay granite praise upon His
Grave, and silence these babbling Prophets!

The warm embrace of Hell awaits the faithful
And the wretched alike; Heaven is but a cloudy
Cauldron pouring souls into a molten sea;
Feathers floating downward from the torn
Wings of the Heavenly Host.
Fate draws the darkened veil upon mankind
and the gates of paradise, with resounding contempt,
slam profoundly shut.