Protest-ant. An Ice-o-lated Poem

Stubborn as a statue,
he stood barefoot on the ice,
smooth as polished granite.
The chill climbed over his ankles
to just above the knee;
that’s when the rattling started.
First the teeth under sealed lips,
then uncontrollable chest quakes.

His misquote of Donne
led him there.
“No man is on Iceland.”
He saw the block, frozen,
and stepped up on it naked.
No one saw him on the west end
of the memorial park.
After twenty minutes he stepped off.

He got cold feet.

***

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.John Donne, Meditation XVII
English clergyman & poet (1572 – 1631)

 

It’s a thought. Iffin I don’t get voted off, I step off the island to find my need for you. My poetry and books don’t protect me. They often push me toward community. We all close the pages at some point and meet each other. All we have to do is count our ribs while we embrace.

 

 

 

Handles, Wings, and the Special Needs Child.

4:40a.m. I heard “handles or wings.” Not audibly, but thoughts rattled and I carried my journal to the bathroom and wrote it down. My friend Peter Dehaan commented about my blog post on writing, the one about keeping paper and pen available while sleeping. He mentioned that sometimes a thought would arrive in the middle of the night and when he revisited it the next morning he was clueless as to why he wrote it down.

I imagined an angel with handles where wings would usually be found. Maybe my guardian angel could be easily moved. Just grab ahold matie, and take control.

Or maybe the angel is like a G.I. Joe I had when I was a child, the handles were where I would attach a parachute and throw him off the garage roof.

Maybe when God created angels he gave them a choice at the end of the assembly line. “Handles or wings?” the Creator asked. No brainer…wings! Much easier to do the Lord’s bidding and keep up with the silly things humans do.

Then I thought of our special needs children. You know how parents are to give their children wings. Well, not so fast. Handles might work better in some cases. They can be flighty but not too good at flying. In fact, given some of their disabilities and history we have tried to get a handle on them.

Take their moral conscience for instance. I have heard Barbara say more than once that we are their moral conscience. Some of them anyway. We really don’t want them flying around without an air-traffic controller in their minds. You know what I mean?

It can be pretty exhausting. Often I come home to find my dear Barbara with a deer-in-the-headlights glare.

So, I ask you, handles or wings? Any thoughts?

How To Wake Your Muse, Not Abuse Your Snooze

Do you know what I like about my alarm?

The snooze button. I know I have posted on this joy in my life before. It’s nothing to be proud of I realize. Slapping it down is simply another creative way to procrastinate. I must rise eventually, shine or not.

Do you jump out of bed immediately as if the alarm was Gunny Sergeant Hartman, from the Full Metal Jacket movie, degrading you with his bull horn voice?

I attempt to be up at 5:30 every day to read, write, and listen for a Still Small Voice.

I heard one trick of waking your writing muse up is hold something in your hand, keys, a glass, or a set of jacks, and allow yourself to fall asleep. When you nod off your hand releases and the crash on the floor startles you awake. With your pen and paper beside you write, write right away, and write whatever is rattling in your mind.

Some writers keep a journal on their night stand in a ready ready position should they wake unexpectantly. I am going to try this. Whether it’s Buford having to pee at 12:30a.m. or me having to pee at 2:00a.m. my journal will be curled up next to me. In the morning, instead of hitting the procrastination button, I will pick up the pen before I yawn, stretch or wipe the sleep from my eyes. “Yeah, right.” So says my Muse. She knows me well. Listen sister, I have a ‘will’ and Will and I will make our stand by the night stand. So there!

Do you write? What are the first thoughts of your day? Do you have a journal? Have you been introduced to your Muse yet?

Sgt. Hartman

Don’t let him intimidate you. Intimidation and motivation are two different animals. Sir, yes sir.

Light Slips Under a Boy’s Bedroom Door at Midnight Thirty.

Buford scratched on my bedroom door about 12:30a.m. The bloodhound we have doggie sat for years now skips all the other bedroom doors. He woke me out of a dream about sliding a needle across a vinyl record. The Beatles White album me thinks. I Zombie-strolled to the sliding door on the deck and Buford headed out to the latrine.

I fumbled around for useful things to do while I waited for his return. I peed too. I drank water. I stared in the fridge. I turned off lights. I noticed the boys light on in the basement, so I walked down to find our 11 year old awake with a rubber band loom next to him on the bed. I asked him why looming was necessary at midnight and he said he woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. “Well, you better turn off the light and try to sleep, okay?”

“Okay.”

Now I am remembering a conversation I had with Barbara about this adopted son of ours recently. We were concerned about the trajectory of his little life. Barbara has pulled out of her sleeve a multitude of actions in hopes of helping him. She always does. Some issue pops up with a child (which happens daily) and she is researching and doing some figuring to be the best parent she can be. I try to stand under her to get the run-off of insight.

“Barbara, what can I do for this boy?”

She gave me some suggestions, good ones I will implement when I am not busy letting Buford out.

When I woke up this morning I realized I missed an opportunity. I only had to ask him a simple question. “Why can’t you sleep?” should have spilled from my Zombie lips. I remember being up late in the night when I was young too. The lonely quiet hours where thoughts trickle down and slide under the bed next to the crouching monsters.

Recently I remembered watching the Late Movie (11:30p.m. scheduled start) when I was a preteen. There was this Tijuana Smalls commercial. Tijuana Smalls were cigar type cigarettes. In the scene a man in a train smoked casually. The camera pans outside the passenger car as it heads into a tunnel and darkness ensues until the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ finds him sitting with a beautiful woman. (Commercials haven’t changed much have they? Every product leads to love and happiness, does it not?…Not!) The thing sealed in my memory is the jingle. The melancholy tune evoked loneliness in me as a young near pubescent lad. The jingle still jangles in my head on occasion.

Last night I missed a shot at a little boy’s heart. Daft. At least I will be more aware the next time a similar opportunity arises.

Prayer: God, give us eyes to see and engage in the opportunities set before us. Amen.

The lyrics to the commercial are quite promising. I guess I didn’t pay attention, otherwise I would have found out who I was a long time ago. Sheesh.

Seizure and Search Part Two. A Special Needs Child.

My heart wondered why I couldn’t shed a tear for a little helpless girl we had taken in. Wasn’t God’s heart bent in a unique way for one such as Lisien? Had I lost heart? Lost faith? The vision of our calling became out of focus, for me anyway. With my calling tested, I felt like I didn’t study hard enough and was destined for a failing grade.

With my hands on the pew in front of me I bowed my head, not to pray but to think and soak in some self-contempt. I don’t know if it was the cyclical stubbornness, an attitude of gritted teeth and folded arms. Often my heart would seize in church, not a Carpe’ Diem type of seizure, but a cynical, critical, paralyzing spiritual state. Spiritual warfare would be a good category, and I was in it once again. I crouched down in a mental foxhole in fear and anger, stiff bodied.

The mode of the worship music shifted into a reflective tone and I straightened up. The front of the sanctuary was under an alcove, a mini amphitheater of concave plaster twenty feet high in the middle. From its center hung a ten foot wooden cross. I stared at the iconic image of my faith and in its center was the ‘crux’ of the matter. The here and now represented by what held outstretched arms toward humanity. Eternity and transcendence as the head of Christ once raised and asked, “Why hast Thou forsaken me?”

With folded arms I whispered “Why have I forsaken Thee?”

It was then I saw something floating next to the cross. Jesus. Jesus carrying someone. The body was limp and naked. Hot tears began flowing down my face as I realized my own lifeless self, cradled in the arms of Christ just like I had carried Lisien the night before.

So many seasons I felt abandoned, by God, by humans, by my own failure. Right then I caught the grace and mercy of God in Christ. I was rescued and carried. I thought of Lisien and all the others and how many more are in need of being carried.

Lisien had another seizure a few days ago and I remembered how a seizure years ago brought me back to dependency on God and others. I don’t wish seizures on her or anyone else, but it helped me once again see how my life has seized up. I whisper a prayer…”Will you carry me Jesus?”

“I got you. I got you.”

Will you whisper with me?…

“Dear Jesus, I know you first carried a cross. Now carry me and help me to die to myself so I can live with and for others. Thank you for your promise ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ Amen.”

Seizure and Search Part One. A Special Needs Child

Each time she has a seizure I remember.

Our family life had ramped up to include four more children. Four plus four. Eight was enough then. Lisien, the youngest of the new sibling group, has a seizure disorder along with complications of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. All four had F.A.S. but Lisien displayed her deficiencies. Her body, thin as a toothpick could barely keep her britches on…even with a belt. When she smiled, a mouth full of teeth jutted out and shone like a search light. She was born with no corpus colosum, the part of the brain which connects the two halves. Hydrocephalus required a shunt to be inserted from her brain to her abdomen to drain the excess fluid. She had special needs indeed, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

My wife Barbara and our “Original Recipe” (Our biological children) were out at a movie for some respite (A new and often used word since we began the journey of foster care and eventually adoption). I was at the helm with the four foster children and Lisien lapsed into a seizure. A big one. They call them Grand Mals. I tried to contact Barbara but the movie had begun, so no answer there. I considered an ambulance as her rigid body took over, her arms and hands glued to her chest, her pupils rolled back into her sockets.

I couldn’t wait for an ambulance, so I called the neighbor and she willingly watched the other three as I scooped up Lisien’s stiff lump of a body. She was a light weight, but I experienced for the first time “dead weight” as her limbs were autonomous from her torso and her head hung without the support of the crook of my elbow. I laid her in the back seat and adjusted my mirror so I could keep an eye on her. I talked calmly to her to assure her (and me) she was going to be okay.

The medical staff immediately took her back to a room when we arrived. The relief I felt gave way to fear…she might not make it. She had been seizing for a good twenty minutes and helplessness set in. The staff asked me some questions and immediately gave her a shot and started an I.V. The doctor kept increasing the dosage until her brain started to calm down and her body followed suit. The doctors ended up transferring her to a bigger hospital. Barbara caught up with us and we stayed with her overnight.

The next morning I could see our church’s steeple from the hospital room. It was Sunday morning and Barbara encouraged me to make it to the service. I freshened up as best I could, which was acceptable for this casual church community.

I walked in and stood next to a friend. Most everyone stood for the worship set. The songs melded into one another as I stood blank faced and unmoved. I was dry like a cotton ball. It wasn’t just the events of the previous night, but a series of busy days and weeks of working, giving, and finally giving out. My heart wondered why I couldn’t shed a tear for a little helpless girl we had taken in. Wasn’t God’s heart bent in a unique way for one such as Lisien? Had I lost heart? Lost faith? The vision of our calling became out of focus, for me anyway. With my calling tested, I felt like I didn’t study hard enough and was destined for a failing grade.

To be continued…

And I Drone On

It kept sticking its tongue out at me
and I tore off its thrush laden attitude.
Another tongue appeared like a lizard’s tail
and I snatched it away forthwith.

I went into the outer room to find
Humans walking, running, sweat faced
with electrodes in their ears.
They glanced at each other but offered no help.

Endless paper towels and treadmills.
“Odd the gym is.” Yoda

funny treadmill photo:  treadmill.gif

Let Us Go From Here, You and I

Take this blank page for instance.
This square white cloud,
blinding, silent as snow
with nowhere to go.

It’s like a Monday
when a weekend
ended weak.

The party’s over
and duty calls
Cliché’ “Hey you.”

Blank pages
and
Monday’s

Hmmm.

Making Sense

God picked my nose.
Out of all the noses picked
this is the one front and centered.
I don’t know why I feel the need
to keep picking my own nose,
it just doesn’t make sense,
except the sense of smell.

Tuesdays With Morrie

“The most important thing in life is to give out love, and to let it come in.” Morrie Schwartz

I cried when I finished reading Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Albom. Yesterday morning at 6:00 I closed the book, leaned on my knees in the padded rocking chair and sat in silence. I’ve seen the movie, but the words written were well timed as I come to the close of the winter of my discontent.

As Morrie Schwartz’s body relinquished its rights to the debilitating effects of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, his spirit/soul gained strength and momentum. One of Morrie’s college students, Mitch, reconnected with him after a sixteen year absence. Mitch began flying from Detroit to the east coast to visit his professor every Tuesday. The memoir captured their often poignant conversations about life, death, and the space between.

When was the last time you had a poignant conversation with someone, your spouse, a friend, a relative, or a complete stranger? When did you make eye contact or embrace with the freedom of knowing trust and grace? Humans are designed for connection, relationship, and community, are they not?

I signed off Facebook, the ‘ultimate’ social endeavor, over the Christmas rush (I deliver for UPS). I signed back on in January, to delete my account later after I realized it affected my real time, in house relationships. I was distracted, unfocused, and longed for affirmation and ‘likes’ to underline my existence. By the way, this isn’t a wagging finger at anyone who Facebooks, no. Someday when I am on the other side of this ‘reboot’ of my life I will return to social media of this sort. Not as an escape or some sort of pseudo therapist, but to connect in a healthier way.

Some of you know my real life is full, full, full…of, well, life. My comrade and love Barbara and I keep working at being on the same page with all these children around. I keep falling off the page. She has been in the trenches as I go off to the Big Brown UPS. It’s a culture we chose with little knowledge as to how stretching and challenging it would be. As with any challenge we were brought to our knees on many levels. There is lots of baggage sitting around to trip over. Sheesh.

So, we are looking over our own baggage to see what we can do to get on the plane with just a carry-on. This involves self-examination. As Socrates aptly said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” So, this winter acted like a white cocoon as I prayed a little, thought a little, and got (and am getting) some help from a counselor, a class, and always from Barbara, who knows me better than I do.

So, back to the book at hand. Listening in on Morrie and Mitch’s conversations woke me up to the possibility of deeper relationships and re-engaging. Quite honestly, I would rather stay in the cocoon sometimes. Retreat and withdrawal come naturally to me. I even had it out with my writing and told it to leave and not to let the door hit it in the ass on the way out.

I found that I had a form of ALS of the heart. I wasn’t nurturing the God given relationships right here, right now. All the distractions, work, and activities didn’t do a thing for what really matters…the heart. Ask Morrie, he will lay it out for you. His aphorisms and quotes from poetry will engage you. Even this agnostic “lifer” relinquished to engaging with God.

I will end with an excerpt.

“Love is so extremely important. As our great poet Auden said, ‘Love each other or perish.’”
Mitch wrote it down.
“Love each other or perish,” Morrie said. “It’s good, no? And it’s so true. Without love, we are birds without wings.”