Published on The Mindful Word today is my review of Stephanie Harper’s Sermon Series.
A short prose piece was published on Life in 10 minutes here. It feels good to be writing something other than sales tickets, school papers and grocery lists. Please enjoy.
My ten was published here. Please enjoy.
Ever try and look at all the pieces of your life, all the jobs paid and unpaid you do, all the habits conscious and unconscious, and all the words spoken and silent, and put them in a pattern? Have you ever tried to read your life like a puzzle starting to form the picture it’s going to be? Ever place the links in the chain of cause and effect in a line (a necklace) or a mosaic (fence) to see how it all fits?
I do that. It feels good. I’m a pattern maker, a puzzle solver, and a radical analyzer. I’m also critical and judgmental, as collateral effects. I do that–knit patterns, crochet chains of events and behaviors–because I want to know. We’re all seekers.
It’s not just death, either. Some people have that question covered, while still more probably don’t. The notion of doing right or wrong is somehow tied up in prediction and calculation. If I do this, the result will be this, so I should or shouldn’t. It’s not rocket science. It’s logic.
But long ago, I gave up the god of logic. I know there’s more to this living thing than logic. And whose logic anyhow? Mine? Yours? Intuition and sense are real. No denying them. Mostly, I comfort myself with balance. Life is balance. It glides off the mind’s tongue. But aren’t I just looking for patterns again?
Yes, I know I can count on one thing for sure. Chaos is my creed. And randomness. There’s comfort there. Neither disappoints. They just are. Fact. I don’t understand why the more fearful of us don’t embrace random chaos more.
It’s not anarchy or nihilism. I believe in order and cause and effect. I just don’t let them rule my world. My sigh of relief is the mystery, the storm-flurry of ideas, flung pieces, like the shrapnel of cogitation embedded in the skin of consciousness.
Surrender. Give up; you can’t build a tower to the sun, so lie down in the grass and let it bathe you in warmth instead.
I’m having a life that’s whipping me all about, inside and out of the eye of the hurricane. The eye’s stillness eludes me. I’ve always aimed for the eye, that stillness inside of the chaotic destruction and creation around me. Some call that spectating.
But I don’t merely spectate. I activate and create too. My many jobs require it. When I write, I create something from nothing or nothing from many somethings. Mostly I spin what I research around inside my head until something—a notion, experience, memory, a line, or story—attaches itself to the research and the point of the thing, the blog, article, essay, poem, or whatever.
The process appears hapless on paper but there’s method and madness, kind of like that eye of the storm. I know what I’m doing; I just don’t know how everything will turn out until I’m there, writing that last pithy line, witty, provocative, or simply tied up finished.
There’s an indestructible, spun strand, taut with vibration so speedy the hum is silent, that runs through it all, that directs the writing and me.
But this life now, with its many moving parts and fits and starts, tunnels and bridges, I just don’t know what to think. I’ve challenged myself to do something—to sell love in a box–foreign to my natural instincts and trajectory thus far. I cast myself long ago as the exiled extrovert in the back of bars and coffee shops. What am I doing in everyone’s face, prying?
It’s as if I’m trapped inside the writing process, floating, attaching to random bits strewn about a feverish brain of what ifs and what nots—and I’m supposed to come up with something not only coherent but valuable to someone else. It’s loud. It’s jarring. Where’s the unspoken, voiceless name only I can hear?
The calm. It’s what I’ve practiced all my life. Find the core, the stillness. Be the eye.
My gut gurgles, “true.”
Storms a’ brewin’,
a slanted wind tossing Bazooka bubble gum wrappers and wooden popsicle sticks across
the stoop of my youth.
Windward blows the dead awake; shredded zombies moan skyward cries. Stand ready.
Leeward gusts settle upon soot-trodden lace and rusted pipe,
like predictable night crowning the inexplicable horizon.
There’s no way to tell, so breathe through the crackling wires’ electric veins.
Tear it down, board it up, and blame the weather.
Poised on the cliff, each steps cautiously, blind-seeking gripped edges, rocky shards of granite rubble,
a death slide or eternal flight.
A cat agilely climbs the dresser stairs with jaws in machine gun chomp, aching past windowed perils.
She studies her predator’s patio glance back.
Coyote snouts flick-sniff, scuttling to flashed fear beneath orange trees and wicker tables.
Storm’s a brewin’.
Pleistocene gassy beams once pocked the scarred heavens, now snuffed shut,
too, the wind tilts mountains pebble by pebble.
Lighthouse rays pierce the retinal fog, a grainy lightning chop of insight.
We’re all just kicking up some dust before we bite.
That girl at the party sitting in a chair, plastered from too many beers slurred, “You smell like wheat germ and almonds.” I wasn’t sure whose scent she was describing, but I was the only one close enough to be inhaled and registered.
I remember thinking then, almost thirty years ago, what an amazingly precise olfactory perception for a nearly senseless drunk. I laughed after she said it, but she didn’t seem to mind, not taking it as ridicule anyhow. It wasn’t. The weirdness of her image drew a laugh to fill the gap that most certainly emerges after a statement like that.
She brought on the chuckle because she used the word wheat germ. Back then, who at this Bruce Springsteen-blaring keg party would know such a thing? Not me. And then I worried about how I smelled. I didn’t know whether wheat germ smelled foul or fragrant. I wrenched my neck to sniff my pits. I still can’t smell myself.
Almonds? What do they smell like raw? Nothing. Roasted and chopped, they smell heavenly, like earth and sun. If a lover ever told me my aroma was nothing lovelier than freshly roasted and chopped almonds, I’d blush with the flattery.
But here was this inebriated partygoer unconsciously tossing out poetry as if no one was listening or worrying about body odor. She might have been talking to herself, but my youthful narcissistic self felt besieged with momentary muse-filled doubt.
A few days later I asked my mother what wheat germ smelled like. And without a second’s notice of the question’s oddness, she replied, “How the hell should I know?”
“Hey, I bought bagels and lox yesterday,” my dad pipes up early this morning as … (read the rest here).
Peace, the Gaze
You give me ten, I said to her, and I’ll show you blue corn stalks
bent at the waist spying on wet larvae writhing in raw earth bleeding mud,
conjure up emerald-studded Gucci sunglasses’ shattered templates along the highway.
I’ll paint the vines growing over sacrificial ruins in Tenochtitlan
where snakes gulp pigs in jaws detached at the hinges.
Ever see the black ice that skids mango school buses with barely a wheel’s turn?
It grows atop lanes frayed at the edges with stony tar, rusty nails, and powdered glass.
Don’t fall in a ditch, or the black rats’ll strangle you purple
I heard the old man tell the boy on his knee.
Quick sand isn’t a movie myth carved of convenient climax.
And cornflowers dot the meadow almost azure not the Iowan June-wheat sun’s tapestry.
It’s only when she’s waved goodbye and disappears through the gates
do I smell the clinging scent of honey oil dipped in sea float above
the rippling hem of my cotton laced wrap.
She taps my shoulders at an arm’s reach to say, “Hey.”
Sparrow beaks tweet ticket-ee tee tee tee
Yer mate tweets back, “Impeach the dude”
And all the kerfluffle of sham and shatter
Nattering a morning’s cuppa jo unsweetened
Enough to make you hate your neighbor or
Honk your horn at a red light to waken her,
Lap-staring, brown-haired comatose waif.
But I read somewhere that choice cuts the
Day in two, yours and mine, theirs often 2
Late 2 make 2 more light seconds matter.
By the next exhale’s end, paused like ice
As you draw the next breath inward ho and
So it goes, so it goes and so it go, go goes.