WHAT WE VALUE

Our society worships entirely the wrong animal, venerating them and reducing others to ash.

The news recently devoted a good portion of the sports coverage to how much money certain sports figures were going to be paid for kicking a ball across a field. And this in a time when our jobs are dissolving, our society is being wrecked, our economy may be irrecoverable and certain industries will cease to exist en mass. Put simply, there will not be jobs to come back to folks but apparently we still need to pay these guys billions for their service to humanity?

I cannot understand how ANY society and how any of us can tolerate/accept a sports figure being paid anywhere NEAR that sum for what they do when those who really do jobs worth paying, are dying in droves because they are not receiving enough personal protective gear to protect themselves.

When did we start paying someone to kick a ball millions and a nurse who saves our life, hundreds?

What’s wrong with us?

If I were an alien observing our planet, I would seriously wonder if we all were crazy in our assessment of VALUE. What we value. What we do not. If nothing else, Covid-19 has given us a chance to see this once and for all and try to do something about it.

We have marched for Black Lives Matter during this time because it was over-due and our raw emotions on the subject burst out of their polite shell and filled the streets with ire and a desire for equality but how many of us really want equality? Not all of us that is for sure, look around and you can see it in every facet of life, a desire to be above someone else somehow.

We still routinely under-react and permit by our inaction, serious hideous crimes like rape to go unpunished in this country and others.

It’s the year 2020 and we still think inequality for women is acceptable in some forms and fashion. Let us not forget what Maya Angelou said about wanting to vote for a white woman over a black man. She said – women were the original oppressed group, thus we should work backward until all oppressed parties are equal. I agree with her.

We still think hate crimes against Jews and telling Jews that Israel should not be their country is somehow acceptable, despite those Jews having descended from that country. Would we say the same to Black People about Africa. Of course not! So why do we say it to Israel? Because of the Palestine Question which Europe in particular has decided to side with, uncaring of the history of persecution toward Jews and their right to have some land of their own. Of course we shouldn’t persecute Palestinians either and of course, Israel has made mistakes but it’s now about what optics politicians choose and what side of the story is half-revealed via inaccurate news reporting. It’s essentially about which side looks right to support? Because Trump supports Israel, most left-wing supporters are against it. Yet it is not that simple and never should be. Lest we forget our history.

We still think homosexuality is unnatural and abhorant and that being queer isn’t natural. We don’t say it out loud because it’s not popular to say it, but we think it and we act it and gays know. They know.

We talk about slavery and how horrific it was, but half the time we just pay lip service to the deeper issues, because we don’t know our history so we don’t mention Native Americans and how they were exterminated en mass and continue to be disenfranchised. We’re so proud of ourselves for changing the Red Skins but we think that’s enough. Or how slavery has never really gone away, it’s just changed hands and outfits, but it’s still well and thriving in many forms.

So it’s never enough. Until everyone is equal and inequality and racism are a thing of the past. But will they ever be? With people who seem to thrive on discrimination and putting themselves ahead of others and putting others down? If people think wearing a mask is too much, is it any wonder they really don’t give a shit if you are sick or you are vulnerable? Don’t they just want you to die and bugger off?

Likewise with illness, with chronically sick people, it’s never enough to just have laws that allow them to not be discriminated against because discrimination comes in a myriad of differing forms. Subtle. Unreachable. Devastating. People of color have to put up with this EVERY SINGLE DAY as do women, as do gays, as do sick people. Just one roll of the eye says everything. Says; ‘we think you are pathetic‘ invalidates an entire moment.

Chronic illness is a little like amputation. Obviously anyone who has suffered an amputation will refute this and rightly so. But metaphorically it remains akin to the loss of a limb. You are left flailing, unsure of how to right yourself, and continue as once you were. A part of you is lost.

They talk of periods of adjustment. The stages of grieving: Anger for what you have lost. Shame imposed by a society who now judges you weak. Acceptance of a ‘new normal’ that includes intolerable things such as chronic pain etc. For many, those stages of grieving never really end, they cycle and you go through different dilutions depending upon how you progress.

But progress is perhaps not the right word. In our linear society where so much is expected. For someone to drop off and no longer thrive, in nature they would be left behind to perish. In our society they are carried along but reminded frequently, of their burden, of their ineptitude.

For many who suffer mental illness, physical illness, both, there is a lot of shame attached to their existing after this fact. Even as people do not come out and say it directly (and believe me, many do!) there is a thin veil that is easily penetrable. People know when they are treated differently, seen differently, worse, judged without jury.

Being ‘sick’ in any manifestation is seen as a ‘weakness’ by our society. This invariably goes back to the ‘dog-eat-dog’ notion of surviving. The weakest link perishes or is a burden to the whole. But these days, with our so-called faith and mercy in place, one might imagine a little more compassion? And if you did, you would be sorely disappointed.

Since getting sick in 2017 I have felt intermittently well enough to continue working and ‘accomplishing’. But as with any pendulum, when it swings deeply toward illness, I am right back at the horror point of when it all began, down on my knees, imploring the universe for healing. And for the most part I have done this alone, because as all those who have been sick for a time will attest, most people do not stay by your side. Even those you expect to.

You can’t plan any longer. A trip is a fear because what if you get sick? Then someone suggests; maybe it’s in your head, maybe you are making yourself sick? And no matter how many times you prove otherwise, they think maybe it’s a choice, just like being gay is a choice, right?

Wrong. You can’t rely upon yourself like you used to because you never know how it’s going to be, how you are going to be. And usually you could be relied upon 100 percent and now that’s gone and somehow you still have to plan a future, but how do you plan a future if you can’t rely upon yourself?

I try to take something from every experience I have, including negative ones. Without learning we don’t grow we just regurgitate and I would rather grow even if I’m throwing up and in pain as I do it. I have taken from this experience what is obvious, but I have also tried to take from others experiences, and have noticed disturbing patterns among those I know who have also been sick for a while or a very long while.

People leave.

People don’t care.

Poverty goes hand in hand with illness.

Anxiety and fear are natural outcomes for a plethora of reasons.

Loneliness can kill.

What I have come to see is this. Sick people are TRUE WARRIORS.

They fight the unimaginable that most of us never have to endure. They have to get pacemakers in their 40s, they have to struggle through taking 2 hours to get dressed and STILL MANAGE TO SHOW UP and this strength – this strength is what I have learned the most from my experiences and listening to others. Strength comes in many forms. We dismiss most of those forms but they are real.

I watch people who have seizures and brain tumors, fight and fight and fight and I realize, we’ve got it backwards. We should be applauding these people not marginalizing them. But we do everything backwards, because as a whole we are poisoned by false ideas of what is valuable and what is not. We toss aside those we deem un-valuable when they are perhaps some of the most valuable people in the world.

So if you are disabled in any way, be it in your head, or your body, remember that. You are some of the most valuable people in the world. Let nobody ever let you forget that. You are some of the most valuable people in the world.

This is written for my sister Angie. You inspire me every single day. You are that light in the dark that refuses to give up and because of you, I refuse to give up too.

Shoulders

Have you been a pall bearer?

Hefted the weight of a life

On your knitted shoulders

Waited out a scraped legacy

The bare snow covered branches

Truncating desolate plowed fields

Bird feathers showing in peppered shake

A recent emptying of warmth

Wearing kid yellow gloves because of early snow

Have you? Ever

Felt the weight digging into your neck?

Prizing reflection from your mortal frame

For he who rides on your calcifying bones

The errant and purposed heaviness of death

What did you think?

Going home to lean on thin elbows at kitchen table

Watching scarred pigeons on the sill

Coo and jostle for favored place in good fat sun

How stirred your mind

To the carrying of a whole life?

The resonance of loss, an impression

Marking you sutured and changed

Oh Lord, anything but cantinflear

What I learned from my father’s girlfriends #1 Mariana

s60_66

Mariana was nineteen and built like

a short Bogotá cigar

her skin was buttery and she

used a lot of lip gloss

in those days every woman worth their salt

had a Princess Di cut

Mariana, 5’ft nothing, full of contradiction

Columbian girl with English Princess bangs

she spoke using long consonants

her teeth were crooked but very white

her breath smelt of chocolate and hairspray

she said; sé una buena niña y te daré un dulce

so nicely I couldn’t be naughty and disobey

we read books together, learning the same words

when my father got home she delighted him

with a South American sauce

I wanted her to be mine

to keep her with my marzipan frog

on my mantle

where she’d fit right in and squat

watching over me when the night grew dark

I didn’t want her to leave

the day it rained and she boarded Air Iberia

in a yellow slicker and tight Gloria Vanderbilt jeans

I’ll write you mi Amor she called

a yellow handkerchief tied around her neck

reminding me of 1970’s air-stewardesses

crying more for the loss of me than

my father, already checking out arrivals lounge

for a time I received

Little Twin Stars and Hello Kitty

perfumed notes with bubble handwriting

until I forgot too, her words of endearment

she was like my marzipan frog

who disappeared one day

years later I found out

he’d rotten being kept too long and been thrown out

just like children cannot understand

the whims and fickleness of

adult love

Equal

At every juncture

The challenges are

Equal

For a five year old

First learning to fit in

Can be as painful as

A ninety year olds last breath

When we inhabit that moment

In the skin of then

We are incomparable

For one shall survive a flood

And another the passing of their favorite dog

A child may cry at a bad grade

Whilst her mother learns she must lose her breast

There are few compasses

In the search for meaning

We are not

Linear beings

Back to you

What used to matter

Hangs damp in cold room

Thin at neck, gravity urging shape

To stretch uneven and gnarled by neglect.

What used to matter

Is a stain that isn’t removed by washing, even on high

A partial magnet on fridge, without part that gave meaning

Just an outline, take a guess; bird or city, resort or wise crack

We fill in what nolonger makes sense, with the dried impatience of ninety year olds

Unable to return volley.

What used to matter

Lies between us at night, tossing and turning

If we were milk, we’d spoil before first light

But you were always practical, rinsing bottles the night before

If you’d been a typewriter you’d have made a perfect sound at the end of each sentence

ding

You take out the old and bring in the new

I’m reminded of lamps, one shiny, one tarnished

And your face, free of regret, is smooth as avocado forest

But if I tell you, we’ll go round and round, quips about green skin

And eventually sing Kermit’s song; It’s not easy being green

I know this before you’ve even moved, to rid us of silence

That has grown like icicles, betwixt our garden

So it is I, who unlatches back door and places

What used to matter

Out for recycling.

Early morning hands will whisk away

All those spoilt emotions

And sun will dapple our lawn with fresh light

I figure, it’s the start

Of doing things differently

And I climb the stairs

Back to you

The memory of fire

Most habits

Are learned lazily

Incorporated into being, before aware 

Of what it means to be.

A habit is a slothful fellow

Whispering in our ears;

You’ve done it before

Come sit by the fire 

And watch others rush at life

Put your aching bones close to the warmth

Feel the security of what you’ve gone and done

So many times

And if you were asked

To break out of your stupor

Throw water on the fireplace, dousing heat

And with no preparation

Launch into a violent rain storm

Obscuring your direction

Lashing your sides with chill

Would you follow?

Thrill seekers maybe

The very young, the chronically overlooked

That girl with braces who wanted to be the busty blonde

Maybe they’d fall like extinguished stars

Into the storm

And from their yearning to matter, to win 

They’d keep going long after the memory of fire was lost

Fighting without knowing why, on the off chance

Suffering brought you nearer

To really living and grabbing by the throat

Its beaten heart

Or you may forgive yourself

The hesitancy of those

Born fatigued by knowledge

This world’s loose knots and fallen heroes

As a splayed chess board can be used

For kindling

I used to imagine outside my window, the clamoring future

Now

I sit staring at flames 

As they consume and turn to coal

Painted stages

And it is the soft stir of moonlight

Lifts my gaze 

Watching the edge of time, rub herself dry

All things will come and go

Whether we chase or remain rooted

It is the repetitive homage of a circle

To revisit ourselves

Standing beyond shelter

Contemplating beneath infinity

Our place in the universe

Tell me then

20150820121056_00001It’s not all about me.

We look up at the sky, wondering who is looking down.

It’s not all about me.

As we age, moments catch us like snags on

favorite cardigans

mended but never the same

too good for charity, too flawed to sell

value in sentiment and what was once

at first glance, flawless

as if such a thing matters after a while

too late we see this

after years of staring into mirrors thinking

if I were just a little prettier they would … love me, desire me, need me

it’s not all about me

or the holes we mend, attempting to recreate

but you find that out after many errors and so

is it any wonder the old will smile wistfully and proclaim

youth is wasted on the young

just as bras that are uncomfortable

are the domain of insecure girls like I was

clinging to images and totems

rather than digging my heels in and

staring upward at the sky

heavy with impending storm

so we left our youth like a shed skin

and not knowing of this wasteland stumbled

catching glimpses of who we were before

fear made us raw

the taste of elements on your tongue

every superstition a reminder

what you don’t know can harm

and then

letting go because the weight is

crushing you into absorbing mud

drying your scream

wondering

what did my ancestors feel? As they walked

witness to the stillness of night and

the unseen murmur of what could and is not

like a giant ships knot

impossible to pick

halts momentum

I stood like an ice princess

poised to act

and turned to fat

turned inside out and back

like a flipping cat will somersault maybe eight times

landing on his feet

my soles are sore

with the burden of myself

all those unlicked envelopes containing

individual tethers to places in time

experiences, terrors, lessons

and the well-worn knees of an ardent repenter

who throws down their sin

and still it sticks to him for one and the same

we become, with our habits and our movement

gliding through the years like ivory comb

will stick in tangled hair and pull

some loose

I dangle

from a mountain of my own making

all the aches, those childish glimmers

reflecting across the lake like

long fingers will create sound

we move to instinctively

tell me then

how to absolve myself of the penchant

for avoiding hard things

tell me then

how we live, in still life, arranged on a table

like hot watermelon, freshly sliced, drips its

sticky insides

tell me then

the exact mixture to eliminate that

terrible awareness you have

mastered easy ways out

only to find yourself

grown over with maze

tell me then

is it too late

when the hour strikes

and your reflection is almost unrecognized

to return and begin again

that clear, straight path

you once believed yourself on

before you lost courage

The fantasy held by someone else

il_570xN.690115987_nnkdNever been good at receiving, prefer to give, in all things …

I gave you everything I had left, it wasn’t much, a persistent hole, had formed long ago and I was seeping out.

I look whole, but that’s just mythology. I may outwardly appear, to stand upright, but in truth I sag, even in wind.

If I had more I would have given it. You believed I did, as many before you did. I call that the capture of delusion, you see in me, what you want to see, not who is actually standing there.

And if I were a pirate, I’d have a wooden leg and a parrot. If I were a dragon, well hell, I’d be a dragon (and yes, I really want to be a dragon).

The doctor said I had a flabby heart, and still you believe me an angel. But angels play the lyre with taut string, not my kind of slack gut.

It didn’t really surprise me, at ten years, on the gym mats I recall my calves like moon cows, soft and milky, against tight sun-honed legs of my friends.

I remember when he took my blouse off and exclaimed; have you had children? A euphemism for losing the fight with gravity (even then, so long ago). Or standing on a chair, in the student dorm, to see orange peel running its fingers down my legs.

You never knew these things, you built an image of me from Ralph Lauren advertisements and The Blue Lagoon. You added my French ancestry and your own penchant for leather, making me an exotic bird I never was. Though if I had feathers, they would be tropical-coral.

It was addictive, to be seen through your lens, though I knew it faulty. Whom among us, does not want to be special and rarefied, if just once? And like an addict, I couldn’t wean myself far, from your camera, I didn’t want to go back to being, the flabby-hearted, plain- faced fish in the sea.

Try as I might, reality never lives up to the dream, or possession of desire. These are self-fed lures and we,  the hungry carp, falling for our own tricks, being pulled from our refuge of water, lain out, gasping on shore.

As we lose the ability to breathe, in this strange land, oh how we rue our former vanities, and wish for simple love., laced, hand over hand, without deception.

The trickery we employ, to appear just fleetingly different, running from our truth. as the stowaway is always found in the storm, hiding behind bottles of rum, drunk on themselves.

I confess, I’ve never known how to be loved for this husk, the multitude of ordinariness. True then, it is hard to be loved if we loathe ourselves, we who are giving, sometimes do so, because we are trying to give ourselves away. Scrub the history of us, remake the self, becoming for a day, the fantasy held, by someone else.

The cruel joy of condemnation

michelle-rodriguez-girlfightRound up, round up

gather round, gather round

it is time to judge the dysfunctional

even the mad ones do

if we have succeeded where you have not

we’ll throw the pitch and tar

round up, round up,

gather round, gather round

easier to chuck stones even as we inhabit

our own hypocracy and glass houses

damn those considered weaker than us

for we can tred water and you cannot

(and they wonder why the depressed often die)

taking their lives as you would

walk off an edge just to stop

the scold

the approbation

the cruel joy of condemnation

 

I have long wanted to understand

the thrill of hurting another because you CAN

it passes me by, seems nothing more than

squashing a fly because of your size

what cowardice in that !

thinking of the playground

how we grow but remain treading mechanics of cruelty

those kids who would spot the weakest

single them from the pack and throw rocks

did not know the damage they caused

every year hence, disturbing growth

perhaps it is wrong of me to wish

to return and throttle their skinny necks

how is cruelty resolved by violence?

yet the passive do rise within themselves

seeking retribution

 

that’s what it took when an ugly boy with red hair and freckles

and a thick Irish accent decided I was his prey

I tried to be patient for a time

when I saw on his face the sick gratification of a smile

at hurt inflicted

there was no reason or ignoring could fix it

I swung my arm as hard as I could

just like the day I tried out for rounders

and hit a curve ball

his jaw made a whacking sound and a click

something unnatural about it

burning pain shot down my arm and into my mouth

as if I had swallowed his aggression just for a moment

his face swelled and grew red before his cry

I noticed how good it felt to stand above him

looking down avenging myself

screaming at the top of my lungs

don’t ever touch me again or I will destroy you

he never did

and right or wrong

that day taught me whether I wanted it or not

sometimes rule books and morals miss

the playground solution to evil

 

if you’ve tried everything else

hit them with all you’ve got

don’t bow your head and say

thank you boss I like it when you make me feel so awful

ever since if nothing else I can say

nobody will walk on me or hold me down

it might not be much but it’s something more

than the fear of being bullied, that sickness

in the morning as you wake

terror in your day ahead

sometimes there is no good outcome

much as we try to use our intellect

the savage side of us can protect against

those who like hurting for no reason

 

how can you fight absurdity with sense?

we are given fists, and I do not regret

the blood on mine

antithetical to almost everything I believe

when we are pushed to the edge

we react in kind

like with like

fire with fire

an eye for an eye

may leave the whole world blind

yes and still

come for me and I will

 

 

(A lot of people may disagree with this. But in the real world ‘reasoning’ with a bully doesn’t always work. Having tried everything and not having further recourse, with nobody to stand up for me, I stood up for myself. Was it morally or ethically any better than the bully? Yes, because it wasn’t what I wanted to start or finish but it had to end. This ended it. I have never regretted it. If it happened exactly the same again I’d do exactly the same again. What they don’t teach you in the karma and psychology books is the street rules, and what actually happens in real life. Even kids can be sadists, even kids can want to destroy a person for NO reason. Learning to stop that, is key to survival. I survived because I fought back. Condemn it, but in the same scenario, what would you have done?).

 

We believe

Use your long words

describe the smell of memory

antiseptic

there in your transparent igloo

born to incubate

smoke before it’s legal on your mother’s habit

bequeath me the tendency

to live without need

from pockets we pull

the nurture the seed

sprouting in defiance

when everything else died of frost bite

against the ire of a late Winter storm

gusting itself into white rage

through the glass you see

yourself being re-made

in the eyes of old women whose wrinkles

make a universal puzzle

and the swell of hills

cast over with violet

a heaven of sorts in setting light

glazing countertops

for foot prints of unseen beast

leading off into nearby copse

could we will ourselves

another go around?

stepping backward into

infancy, chewing the umbilical

surrounded by potential like

a wet firework strains to explode

would it be any different?

your hands, molding my shape

DNA

the type of pasta eaten

over Lake Como the day

of conception

holy was the love that bore the wish

lost in steepled weather vein

glistening against straining light

a mockery of control

just out of reach

there she is

eighty years from now and

just re-born

in unfurled leaves and first sprouting

green a forbidden thing

among the white ushers and

dark flitting ponderable

marveling we can be conscious

of ourselves and of nothing more

than a stream aching to unfreeze

creep closer to living

inch by inch

two warm bodies without a thing between them

aside the shame of knowing

we live both futile and richly

worming our way into the meat

and tender bruise of absolving

those things we believe we need