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.

All they saw

All they saw were moments left by those who came before

Not knowing what they meant or who they were

Lain in their waterpainted graves like matryoshka dolls

Did they grieve like us, whetting their knives on totems?

To understand those things that cannot be understood

A child breathing her last, in dimmed swaddling

The ache of old age, enveloping once limber athlete

Love crumpled like fallen leaves, forgotten beneath

Did they yearn to be special? Noticed? Relevant?

Or glide invisibly through spun sheets of glass

Like early morning bakers rising their bread

Grown stale by afternoon, becoming food for birds

Such circles clasped in ever decreasing circles

Worn as sea pearls on mermaids smooth throats

Were they kind? Merciful? Fearful? Incomplete?

The sight of tilled soil and ruined land cleared of living green

Did it bury the same arrow in their quincing conscience?

Will time gently lay a wreath of forgetfulness?

Over their efforts as if never and not, their lives

Extinguished in a long roll of time and bundled up

To lie beside other oxidizing keepsakes and memories

Til the last person who remembered, was no more

So much existing, lost in favor of the clamoring now

All they saw were moments left by those who came before

For survival is found

We looked at the bright box

Lighting reproductions of your brain

You made the inevitable joke

And I wondered how many had

Sat like us, closely squished into single seat

Faux leather gleaming with accumulated sweat

For humor seems solitary solace

When the world goes to hell in a hand basket

Leaving behind folded gloves with bitten tips

Back then I was untrained, in navigating pursing hallways

Pushing wheelchairs, your head horizontal, stapled

Youth’s strength saw us over the sanitized hump

Out into the car park where we ran, loose gowns and trailing bandages

Afterwards felt like climbing out of hell, without traction

Floundering to understand the submersion of health

I told you, even nightmares have to wake up

And with each removed staple, pulled from your sore skull, you found release

Near did I guess, my own oily cavort with sickness

Lay silently sheathed, like store bought bread, just around the corner

I should have worn those pinching purple shoes and danced

You should have run the glow foam 5k and eaten vegan tamales

We should have visited Kavik River Camp in Alaska and climbed jagged cliffs

Tried the new Japanese restaurant with pastel tea lanterns

Wrung out from quick glimpses, thimbles of life

Instead I borrowed on my new found strength

Worked long hours, forgetting to look out the window at passing moon and sun

Putting off tomorrow, building futures without living now

It is our mistake when shown a lesson, not to stop and be mindful

For survival is found in, the smallest moments

Ode to the antipoet


I told the cheongsam wearing beauty

You are very kind

But I’m not sure there is such a thing

As humility

When our world is made of capital

For only recently

I heard a conversation

On the end of poetry 

The deceivers, sharp, pointed folk

Trussed in their certainty

Poetry was neither vocation nor career

But some beast of the very idle

Something retired people and students dabbled in 

Not a grown up or grown down job but

Proof of latter life impressionist indolence

Yet, like land auctioned off and trees torn down 

We cannot know of the beauty once standing

Without the witness of a scribe

For more roads without direction we take, employing compass

Without translation, our journey remains an enigma

Like redheads, freckles and those left-handed

Doomed to scorn and ostracized days

They paint the world with much needed alternatives

As poets write out everything within us we couldn’t see, lending words to universal feeling

Yet, relegated by the long tongue of capitalist decree

Those who configure feelings shall never be 

The vaunted or the high priest, followed in obedience

It is our nature to ridicule what we do not understand

Absurd yet with mis-hap sense, justifying how we turned out

No choice, no desire for question

Some grow up longing to be dentists, chartered accountants, bankers, zoo keepers

And those of us who from earliest moment

Wrote what others dismissed or feared to touch

Carry a strange torch

Maybe the value is not always clear

Surely easier to pour scorn upon, the role of poet 

Than to give thanks

We have not in our collective greed

Forgotten the art of being

When frail turn reminds us

Being human is more

Than cast off rind

But the potency of citrus

In a land that had never before known

Tropical fruit