Social Anxiety


At the people’s fair, the poets and priests applauded,

amid moon beams, day flowers and drifting bubbles,

they chanted om-ish dreams in wiling away the hours.

For days on days, the fleet of foot and spare of change

smoked sense into surreal, eating praise and crackers

like Jamesian daisies and a Dapper dangling a cheroot.

There were criers, circus barkers among lap dogs afoot

staring down cookie crumbs, brie chunks on sooty floor.

Festive and feast-ive, the colors and chaos crept edgily,

spun the words from the loudspeaker on love, language,

power, God, emptiness, blunting, alienation and forgive

me if I recollect badly for such forceful good cheer stung

my fear-filled hidden face, feted, feeling the drafty ales

culled by court jesters and juggling clowns reciting lines,

preached poetry and rhyming prayers to a cloying crowd.

And the arms reached me, slung their shawl-like shroud

over me who did not remember how she came here to be

fair of people, puppets, poets, perfume, priests and pot

when then I recalled a choice collected as entry gate fee:

Lithely spin inside the tales of others’ telling or turn tail.  

So, in a booted click-thud pivot, I chanced the lone trail

beyond fenced cloudy star-lit trees blinking cheer-ishly

and down the hill atop which the cacaphony decrescendo

subsided wide for miles stretched into the nomadic night. 

One week 

He keeps referring back to school days

And clinging to his child

Fidgeting and bullied

His crazy wisdom holding onto something wild

He asked me to be patient

Well I failed

“Grow up!” I cried

And as the smoke was clearing he said

“Give me one good reason why”

(“Strange Boy” excerpt–Joni Mitchell. Happy Birthday, JM!!)


Day 7

I was never an outcast. If I was, I never noticed. However, something mysterious was apparently amiss in the first grade to warrant seeing the school psychologist a few times. I vaguely remember. Dr. Richardson, a thin, blonde professional-looking woman in a suit, something notable for the year 1966 to even me at my meager six years or so. She was kind, thin with narrow, burnt red lips. She made me feel comfortable as much as possible given that I was ultimately aware that I joined the good doctor for some reason I neither understood nor cared for. What was wrong?

 I only knew that I sat at a desk stationed near the teacher, Mrs. Moynahan, and suffered from the angst of not knowing what to do at times, lost inside myself. Not knowing the way, the code, the proper steps or a place to start always sliced deeply, caused undue distress. Missing information meant I had no control over my environment and fulfilling others’ expectations of me. 

I recall the first day of kindergarten not wanting my mother to leave me, and she having to wait outside the classroom while I was inside knowing she was out there, or thinking she was, and even considering the possibility that she was not actually outside the door but making me believe she was. That latter idea, the fact that I could not know whether she was out there was more distressing, keeping me on the edge of tears more so than the abandonment itself. Abandonment fears were not in my mental vocabulary. Being deceived piqued my radar more than a fear of being left, which rarely occurred to me.

On the first day, kindergarten felt like fear and restrained tears, despite the sweet, slow-moving, wide-girthed, dark-skinned Mrs. Dudley, who cajoled song from us five-year olds, cheery angled songs that induced amnesia, like the distractions any adult relies on to detour a child’s unwanted emotional expression. Do you know the muffin man? 

I knew being left with questions. But that was all I recall–that and my trips to the psychologist in first grade, moving up two classes in the school smarts hierarchy in fourth grade, being teased by Mr. Muller in fifth grade for having the same name as someone in a newspaper clipping who married someone with the same name as a boy in the class, Robert Pitt. I was mortified. I remember having Denise Eccleston back in class with me then after missing her in fourth grade, the year of my upgrade. She was my best pal in third grade; we loved silliness and laughter. She was my one good friend in fifth. I only needed one–one at a time. 

Wind-Swept Day’s Percipience


Outside my window, thick stubborn leaves
of the hardy, overgrown orange tree’s
sturdy branches shudder and sway
in the sweeping wind of mid-winter cool
on a sunny Southern California day.
Turbulent travel of the upturned earth
make me wince in trepidation,
my eyes burning with a pasty silt
swimming in the tears welled to protect.
Sighs whine, escaping through
too poorly insulated window linings.

This house, soaked with life, is weathered
worn as are most of its inhabitants:
fifty, seventy and eighty somethings.
It creaks and moans in wind and swells
sighs in the rain, arthritic in its painful joints.
Like us, it is in need of repair, extra care
reflecting the love above the strife inside.
We patch it along of necessity;
it shelters us from the cold in gratitude.

Weather like this, near tempestuous
yet mild all the same, mirrors the mood
of a sleepy house after a full night’s slumber.
The question lingers the hours with wonder–
why am I adrift despite a bountiful sleep?
Vexing, the answer weighs in abeyance
mid-way between the poles: acute curiosity
at one end, and the other, impalpable aplomb.
The clime of an indecision, windy-cool-sun,
thrusts itchy thoughts at my scalp like
“When will that email be answered?” and
“When will I know if my request is approved?”

A day like today, gasping and groaning,
agitatedly in disarray, is hospitable
to scalpel-probing limitless presence–
of each period on the page or dust mote
in the sun’s slender dusty ray laser’d on the sill
hedging that testy tree so peevish and pinched
with heat-worn unseasonal, dirty-drawn,
dotted orange orbits a’ring its edges.
The world is edgy and requires a long look
in the hurricane’s eye, fluttering relief
where calming pellucid perceptions lie.
Peace, my restive gusty sense, peace.