Wait Here. A Poem

A loitering cloud,
hanging around,
smoking,
looking cool
in the leathered sky.

Apparently no agenda,
no place to go,
so it leans against
the evening
and waits for a star.

Shoulders. A Poem.

They talk about chips and weight and coldness.
On my shoulders rests nothing,
it’s the tense sinews and dehydrated fibers
in them radiating down to the blades like a bread line
from the thirties, tattered and wrung by despair.

I suppose they would better slump than lay
like a plank above the chambered muscle,
stiff, stubborn, automatic, like a blink.
Should I pay attention, I will them to bow down.
They give momentary prayers to pacify.

Then back up and perpendicular they set like a beam.
It is their fall-back position, default mode,
and I ignore their stance at attention,
I refuse to return their salute.
I carry on

until an arm rests atop my neck and shoulders
and the pressure, the presence reminds me
although I experience loneliness, I am not alone.
“Leave me alone” as I squirm out from underneath,
as if that were possible.

A Time To Cry. Sung Prayers.

Have you ever said to yourself “I could use a good cry?” Sometimes there need be no reason for this type of release. I recall a nickname from grade school days…crybaby. I had reasons for spilling tears alright. How dare they laugh at my stripped overalls? But these days, brimmed with history, carry the simple weight of being human in a human filled world. As I settle into my fifties the rear view mirror sees more eye action than the windshield perhaps.

Words like regret, sorrow, and grief shove hope, grace, and forgiveness around like the bully up the street. Humans often reach for these words at one point or another, or we find ways to dull their sharp edges and drift into a catatonic glare of being more or less human. Literally. Either we find a way to be superhuman or we fly low like drones.

Somewhere in the middle is where the healthy people live. They dance between regret and grace. Their sorrow is lucid, malleable, and not without hope. Their grief is experienced and eventually drinks from a chalice of forgiveness and acquiescence. How?

God.

My wife gave me the Les Miserable’s movie for Christmas and with the rush and stress of the holidays over, we finally sat to take it in. It was just the two of us humans in the chilly basement. No popcorn. No fizzy drinks. Simply the big screen HD and us snuggled on the couch.

I remember crying when we saw Les Mis on the bigger screen in the theatre. This time we afforded ourselves total immersion. The kids were in bed and Buford lay down after circling a spot just to the side on the floor.

The uncontrolled sobs came when prayers were sung. Val Jean and Fantine slit me open with their aria-like approach to God. Their prayers were released like a bow across the strings of a Stradivarius. I thought of the last time I aired it out to God.

I had fallen asleep after days of vigilance at my mother’s side. My head rested against the womb of my birth. I awoke to find my mother gone. She left while I slept. I thought I was done crying, my eyes had burned for days, yet from deep within a groan filled prayer surfaced. A wail interspersed with language only God knew. The secret lyrics of the heart directed to God. For a moment two of the greatest mysteries, birth and death, encircled the room. I sensed God sitting on the edge of the bed with a hand on my shoulder. I hadn’t realized Barbara had come to be with me and share in my grief. What comfort.

Ecclesiastes states there is a time for everything, even a time to weep. Jesus wept. When was the last time you allowed yourself to cry? It is one of the rhythms of the God given human condition. I am not a crybaby but I do cry sometimes.

My Mom Dressed Me This Morning

I will make mention of my mother today. When customers ask if I am staying warm my canned answer is:

“Yes, My Mom dressed me this morning…Just don’t tell her I lost the mittens with the string between them.”

Happy Monday! It may be a tough one, but don’t stick your tongue out at it…

When Church Gets Cancelled…

It comes as a relief. Did I type that out loud? Sometimes I cancel church myself without any winter storm warning. Bedside Baptist is what I used to call it. Skipping church some call the equivalent of AWOL. I know in my Catholic beginnings, missing Mass was a Cardinal sin. I didn’t know what a bright red bird had to do with God, but before my parents separated we went to church.

In grade school once I hid behind our garage all day to walk into the house just minutes after the dismissal bell rang. The only hitch; it was a fifteen minute walk from West Main Elementary School to the dead end of Grand Avenue, my childhood home. Either my mother ignored the incongruity or she was still at work when I arrived home thirteen minutes early.

I don’t remember why I skipped school that day. Maybe it was fifth grade, the year I cussed out Mrs. Linde a few times. She sent me to the principal’s office so I could throw the same “wash my mouth out with soap” words at him too. If I didn’t get some educational concept easily, frustration would turn to tantrum and Mrs. Linde was first responder. School work, she reasoned, wasn’t the root cause of my behavior.

I ended up hanging out with other troubled kids in Mrs. Hoenes’ office on occasion. She was the school social worker who introduced me to Mr. Gregory, a jolly man with a jolly big stomach. Some of the best hugs, which swallowed my body whole, came from Mr. Gregory, the counselor. He showed up as Santa Clause at our house and I didn’t know it was him until he hugged me. When he showed up at my High School Graduation open house years later, his hug wrung tears helplessly down.

Before that day behind the garage, skipping only meant a happy jaunt down the sidewalk. Since then it has taken on a duality of joy one moment, avoidance the next. Church, over the years, has occasionally taken on elementary school ambience. I have walked out of many services, mid stream, with the same frustration and tantrum tendencies of my youth. Within the walls of stained glass light sat a boy hiding behind a garage. Underneath the steeple the same boy wished for a jolly God that could stomach him.

Mary Karr’s Liar’s Club autobiographies’ title catches the mutability of the processes in which I am engaging. There are lies to be addressed. Not people or God per se, not even church, but the whole of perception and perspective inlaid in twisted interpretations of situations.

As snow keeps falling down like flakes of forgiveness and grace covering the tracks of the past, I will shovel as needed to keep walking forward. I know walking on snow could be like walking on water, like faith steps over injury and those I have injured. Sometimes in the sinking or drifting there are lessons to be learned. I pray that less snow will be needed in our future, but I am thankful it will snow again.

Theatre Of The Mind.

“Theatre of the mind” was an interesting turn of phrase. The counselor threw it out there as a place in which to change inner conversations. I started seeing thoughts as characters choreographed into a play, entering stage left, interacting with other thoughts, exiting a scene.

“All life’s a stage” according to Shakespeare. Now the stage is being coaxed to shrink into the infinity of my mind. Metaphor, sure, I like metaphors. The theatre behind the frontal cortex curtain ushers interaction of memory and history to compile new thoughts and prayers onto this string theory of neuron highways and cul-de-sacs.

What?

“I think, therefore I am” births into “I’ve been thinking, therefore I’ve been becoming.” There is literal moving of props and scenery thoughts into positions which set the next scene.

What? What?

My tendency is to think my way out of action. So many thoughts, so little do’s. Over thinking, some might say, and the stage gets cluttered and confusing. The plot gets crowded out, and meaning and purpose start acting out of character. Such a mess.

Sheesh.

So I begin again to grow up at the front end of this year. As much as I would rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy, neither choice would reset the stage nicely. A counselor will suffice, especially when he talks in interesting metaphors. The theatre of my mind can handle some flood lights and direction.

Romans 12:1,2

Blessed Be The Binding That Ties. (New Year Schtuff.)

I’ve been running silent for weeks now. Like a submarine drifting below the light and foam of the tips of waves, my words echo in this steel hull of a brain. I say little, even to myself.

Barbara and I purged yesterday. Tossed out of our room so far are three kitchen bags for goodwill and a large black bag of “Why are we keeping this?” While Barbara sang her made up song about purging I reset books amongst other things. I didn’t organize them. I consolidated the three different areas of books in our bedroom.

The short stack sits on a simple one drawer desk, where about a dozen reside for easy access. Against a wall is a four story bookshelf made of time darkened cherry wood. No vacancy there. In our walk in closet books line three long wall shelves crowded together, bindings out.

As I said, I didn’t organize them, which used to be one of my favorite putzing past times. I simply made sure they fit properly in the spaces provided. A handful of them were purged, plucked out with the attitude of “I will never consider turning these pages again.”

The remainder is resting quietly with nothing to say until the pages turn. I feel like a book on a shelf, and it isn’t a pleasant feeling, especially as a New Year pulls on my bindings. I call myself a writer, and when that dad burn memoir is published I know eventually the binding will be silently standing at attention getting no attention. That is what most books do.

I don’t want to be “that” book. Who would? So, today I start counseling again. My name is Jerry, and I need help. There are times when the pages get stuck together and we need help peeling them apart, don’t you think? No pity party here, just determination to read between a few lines and change the story line.

I want to begin writing worn out religious words minus the cliché ambience they sometimes hold. Words like forgiveness, restoration, redemption, and that old bugger repentance to bring the plot points of this life some resolution this side of the Way Over Yonder. I will say “I’m sorry.” I will say “How can I help?” more. I will engage in the small talk and the large talk. I will see my wife more. I will see my children more.

God help me. God grace me. Good God show the way.

I suppose this is a New Year’s Resolution…What the heck…How about New Year’s Revolution?

God help us all to be open books in a way which makes the world a bit brighter this year.

Happy Belated New Year!