Tag Archives: understanding

Whatever Works: ghazal

To say positive thinking breeds success
is to a point the truth – well, more or less.

Reality, however, would suggest
what matters more is really openness:

acceptance of what comes as being blessed
with more experience and evidence

that life provides in both pleasure and stress
instructions for achieving happiness;

that seeing plus and minus makes complex
equations of existence that compress

the ebb and flow of being to a test,
a pass or fail we struggle through, at best.

Far better, say the sages, east and west,
to use whatever works, and leave the rest.

23 MAR 2017

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Freedom of Speech

Americans talk loud and often
of their right to speak:
a pillar of democracy
that gives voice to the weak
as well as strong, in equal shares,
so each may truly taste
of freedom’s sweet, delicious fruit
and none will go to waste.

And yet, a legal right to speak
is often not enough;
reality suggests in action
such talk can be tough.
The truth is, outside one’s own home,
and often even there,
we never say just what we want –
we could, but do not dare

to say the speech that we would speak,
if we felt confident
that we could trust those listening
to grasp at what we meant
with honest ears and open hearts
that tried to understand
despite their wish to disagree
or cut us where we stand.

Alas, we all too often hide
behind our words, instead;
encouraging “just bite your tongue
and never lose your head,
take heed of what your friends will think;
the walls have ears, beware!
They’ll use your words against you
if you loose them in the air.”

But truth is not in comfort zones;
it lies somewhere outside
the social structure we impose
to justify our pride
that we are somehow civilized
and will not cause a scene,
regardless of the pain it costs
to forget what it means

when you are truly free to speak,
your voice heard loud and clear,
to cut through the hypocrisy
without regret or fear,
and truly share as equals
in a strength that won’t decay
until we open up our mouths
and find nothing to say.

15 APR 2013

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Firm Foundation

A note to whom it may concern:
fortunes may change, and tables turn,
adversity may try and get you down.
The world is often hard and cruel,
it makes the wisest men just fools,
and fashions from its gold a thorny crown.

The more you try to get ahead
The more you find yourself misled
by summer confidants and so-called friends;
and when your health and money’s gone,
the bread and circuses move on.
There’s only one thing on which to depend:

Build your house on a firm foundation,
look for rock buried under the sand,
find a place for your roots right beneath your old boots,
and connect to the place where you stand.
It will improve your whole situation
though in ways you might not understand;
’cause the universe works in mysterious ways
and fate laughs at those who make big plans.
Let your word be the code that you live by,
let your hand lend itself where there’s need;
and despite of the strife that comes throughout this life
You’ll have true happiness guaranteed.

A note to whom it may affect:
misfortune comes, and through neglect
the strongest love may turn to bitter hate.
The world is strange and can be wild,
it turns a man into a child
who doesn’t grow up until it’s too late.

The more you try to find your way
The more you’re tempted, led astray
by soft illusions that too soon are gone,
and then your life has come and went.
Be sure your time is more well spent;
invest in something you can depend on:

Build your house on a firm foundation,
look for rock buried under the sand,
find a place for your roots right beneath your old boots,
and connect to the place where you stand.
It will improve your whole situation
though in ways you might not understand;
’cause the universe works in mysterious ways
and fate laughs at those who make big plans.
Let your word be the code that you live by,
let your hand lend itself where there’s need;
and despite of the strife that comes throughout this life
you’ll have true happiness guaranteed.

16 JAN 2006

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The Politics of Deconstruction

A moment, more or less, of deconstruction:
by which I mean to delve into the soul
that strives to separate life from destruction
and yet maintain some semblance of the whole,
to claim by sacred right the single kernel,
the isolated truth-soaked grain of sand
that by its presence negates the infernal
in concrete terms all can understand.

It does not matter what stated intention
the writer may have claimed explained their work.
Creative types are just show and pretension;
in equal parts: saint, sinner, genius, jerk.
Believe me, I have far more poignant insight
by virtue of not wasting any time
in chasing muses past the hour of midnight
to be rewarded by one simple rhyme.

Besides, too many think themselves creative
and squander precious time lost in that haze.
The world needs workers, not more contemplatives,
who pass up duty just to navel gaze.
We need poetry, ’tis true, but with some guidance:
interpretations that have been approved,
that faced with doubt and free will, choose avoidance
and recommend such options be removed.

It only takes a moment’s intervention
to steer a young and growing mind astray;
remember, cure is harder than prevention,
so put those blinders on without delay.
Besides, it only starts with art and culture;
are politics … religion … far behind?
Trust me, do you want, hanging like a vulture,
someone with vision checking your design?

We deconstruct to make it seem like science,
instead of art or magic, sacred stuff
that at its core encourages defiance
and shows our plans for what they are, a bluff.
In pieces, the world fits into our puzzle,
and none can see the holes we’ve yet to fill.
With so-called education as a muzzle,
we can do what we want, and always will.

30 APR 2005

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An End to Parables

I’ve spent a life in parables,
disguising my ideas
in costumes and strange metaphors
deliberately unclear

and so perhaps convinced the world
that I’m a harmless quack,
imagining just chimeras
with no spine in their backs.

But recently, while looking through
and sorting sundry stuff,
I’ve started thinking parables
are just not clear enough.

So I’ve decided to speak plainly,
well, at least plain as I can,
and for a while, pretend that I’m
a new idea man.

Besides, it seems at present
the world needs of bit of this;
so I beg your indulgence,
and hope you won’t find amiss

the fact that I’ll be writing things
to stretch your world, and mine —
and perhaps we together
can build a new paradigm.

24 JAN 2005

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Common Grounds: a forensics poem

“The one thing I want is to be understood,”
she yelled as she slammed the door. I yelled back, “Good!”
Now looking in hindsight, I know that I should
have tried to defuse the melee, if I could.

But knowing is one thing, and doing is tough,
so against the door, I said, “Not good enough!
You claim independence until things get rough,
and then want help fixing things. I say, get stuffed!”

She opened the door a crack, threw out a plate,
and screamed, “Your compassion is misplaced, and late!
I don’t want to argue, or start a debate,
but frankly, your attitude is second rate.”

With that, I was fuming, and righteously so.
I picked up the car keys and quipped, “Well, you know,
I’ll leave the door open wide after I go.
Just pack up your suitcase with all of your clothes,

your angst-ridden CDs, your Sylvia Plath…”
And she answered, “And the rest, I’ll take my half!
I’ve suffered your breathing and miserable laugh;
that’s worth pain and suffering, you worthless calf!”

And so, she left shortly thereafter for keeps,
assisted by Valium and two Mohawked creeps.
The last thing she said was, “you sowed, now you reap.”
And I got my life back, on the whole, quite cheap.

15 APR 2004

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One Can Learn Anywhere

Once upon a time, long time ago it was (a time of innocence / a time of confidences?), I was a parishioner at the Mennonite church in Bluffton, Ohio. In addition to being volunteered to teach youth groups about the Mennonite martyrs (which gave birth to the great memorization tool — thumbscrews, blunt force, burnt at the stake / severed tongue, rack-stretched, drowned in the lake — to remember the order of demise of the major participants), I also participated in a young adults study group where a number of interesting exercises were indulged in and then discussed. One of these exercises I provide for your edification and amazement below:

Take a piece of red construction paper and cut out a heart.
Take that paper heart and rip it into several pieces.
Using scotch tape, repair the heart.
Now, describe what that tells you about love.

Here is a paraphrase of my response:

First, the field from which the heart is cut illustrates that there is much more to love than we admit into our own perspective.

Second, the heart is a fragile thing that can be easily damaged and broken.

Third, the heart can be repaired. What repairs it is the adhesive bond of friendship and community, as well as sticking to it and believing that the “center will hold,” despite Yeats’ vision to the contrary.

Fourth, if you take the repaired, taped heart and handle it, look at it closely, you will notice one very important thing: because the ripped edges do not meet as closely as they did when the heart was a single piece of unmarred paper – it now includes a little bit of space between the parts. Your heart, thanks to the rending and breaking, and subsequently thanks to the added density of the tape which now holds it together, is bigger than it was before. In fact, it is perhaps even bigger than it would be if fitted into the original piece of red paper (the field of possible love, you’ll remember).

Finally, because of the tensile strength of the tape used to make the repairs, it is now much more difficult to break along the same lines. Yet, because only a single layer of tape is required to mend the broken heart, it is still as flexible as before; and its color and character, because of the transparent nature of the healing medium, are relatively unaffected and no less red and vibrant. In fact, it may be a bit shinier (and attractive).

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