FEEL FEAR

“That guy doesn’t have any fear.”

My longtime friend Jeff used to say

about me often in front me, near

a machine built for speed in a parking lot,

bar, party, around a fire or wherever

old stories get rekindled – as if I wasn’t

there. I can’t explain why

some are drawn to the edge, to live fast

near places most avoid. Velocity, Adrenaline,

Testosterone held together in youth

make a delicious cocktail some call

 

“Wild.” Hunter Thompson once said,

“The Edge… there is no honest way

to explain it because the only people

who really know where it is are the ones

who have gone over.” I don’t recall

how many times having to pause

 

for Blue lights to hear words like:

do you know how fast… you can’t,

shouldn’t, that’s illegal, catch you

next time – see you in court. Coming back

a few occasions under Red lights

hearing: how many fingers, can you feel…

you could’ve, should’ve, cannot believe

you didn’t – you must have an angel.

 

Fear can be turned and projected

like a shield. Sometimes you can smell it

on an opponent as they go

down. Tuck it behind a name

badge to stand in serious corners

of a club where others escape

under dancing lights, loud music

and strong drinks. Feel it

on a head shaved to support a friend,

swimming with chemo, during a time

of skinhead uprising. Heard daily as most

turned to avoid and occasionally tasted

as some returned to scream assumed hate

I left them uniformed to keep

their pride in confronting stupidity.

 

As time etches glass. Slamming Wild

mellows into sipping Perspective.

 

Love holds fear. A blend

could walk in front of getting another

pet, close an open hand, freeze

a mind, lose pieces of a broken

 

heart. In our place where it is better

to be feared than afraid, I am tired

of paying for what others stole.

Tired of being feared for what others

have done. I get to shoulder

a fear that comes in the form

of an unearned invisible decrepit sign

created by monsters. The word [Beware]

written with body fluids of others.

It can be seen by unknown women

who go out of their way to avoid

sharing a sidewalk. Heard in the stressed

air near a vacant seat. Noticed

by a child taught to stay away

from the lone-strange-man.

 

Perception does shift

when my spotted dog walks me

through awakening blooms, falling

leaves and assorted flavors of rain.

And it disappears when surrounded

by my daughter’s wiggly girls. Seems

I now have a few angels.

 

There are many edges to the dark

force labeled Fear.

Feel them.

Or don’t.

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Summer’d

Tired eyes awaken anyway to stare

through coffee steam  Blended lines

turned by the sun overlap as if stickers on an edgy club wall

 

Torn stubs fall

from an overbooked calendar pausing

to be glanced at like posters once stapled to a pole

 

Sore feet crush grass burnt brown and bleached

in time

 

Fresh wrinkles appear like scars

on a machine built for speed— traded for a moment

 

Photos pile

waiting to be reflected on and laced into history

 

Energy spent, bartered and consumed

in the season of the sun  Leave one Summer’d

Why

Why do I keep trying to understand the list of many things that I do not.  I carry around a fifty-one year old scroll of weathered paper inked with a variety of unknowns.  Some once understood – now not.  Many new, others ever-changing.  The list grows…

If “Life is what happens when you are making other plans” – why plan

Why do traits that attract – become reasons to leave

How is walking in rain therapy to some – yet loathed by many

How does a special animal change a person’s life – what do you do when they go

Why does pain remain when the damage is long gone

How do butterflies know to show up when you need them

If writing can be an antidote for Depression – can it help with Understanding

Destiny, Obligation, Calling (words that are larger than life) – can you really see them coming

Herman Hesse wrote, “I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.”

Was there an event that opened his eyes to this realization or is it the wisdom of a tired traveler?  When is it okay to let go of questions and simply embrace?

The surprises never end.  Perhaps it’d be healthier to lean back: let the bad be curses and the good magic.

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As always I learned while enjoying my day at the “Write to Understand” writing workshop on December 10th 2016.

Matt Love lives and teaches in Astoria, Oregon.

Her name was Mary

Saturday I read a text while on lunch break from a writing workshop.  While walking my dog I learned that a favored cousin had died, that it may have been as long as a couple weeks before she was found.  The small words on my phone almost sat me down on the wet sidewalk – once again my dog kept me moving.  Nobody can see a tear in your eye if you eat alone in a dark corner of a pub, this was working until I was invited to sit with the group.  I chose to save the news for later, join them and float in their conversation’s.  I succeeded in not thinking about her very much and did the best I could with the rest of the day.  As I began the three hour drive home over the bridge guilt clutched me for being able to put myself first.  The tortuous lone drive home on wet roads through dark trees seemed like an appropriate time-out.

Sunday I learned that she left a note – she had chosen this ending.  It felt like an asthma attack in my head.  As this sad ending becomes another of life’s unsolvable cruel riddles that ride in on the monster we simply call “Loss”; I will focus on what I can.

Mary was ten years older.  Being another only child gave us a special bond, our club of one’s.  Most years we got together on my family trips back to North Dakota.  Mary lived on a huge farm alive with animals, horses being her favorite.  This contrast to living in a small Washington town appealed to me.  One Summer I was given three little ducklings to care for at my Grandparent’s farm.  Years later we’d meet for dinner and a night on the town to catch-up, a highlight of my annual visits.  Mary’s adult life revolved around taking care of elder family and helping other friends, she seemed to delight in the role.  Certainly as they passed away, chunks of her went with them and loneliness soaked in.

My cousin had a huge heart.

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Her name was Mary.

Word For The Year

I chose Happy.

A couple of years ago I saw a blog post (sorry I lost track of the source) promoting the idea of selecting a word for the upcoming year. Despite never embracing the practice of making New Year’s resolutions, this annual fresh start appealed to me. I liked the idea so much that I went back a few years to give them a word and then started. Basically you pick a word that represents what you want, need or hope for the year. It can be a wish, goal, dream, etc. whatever appeals to you.

I keep the list on a wall in my office where it can stare at me and catch my eye on occasion.

2011 – Write

2012 – Survive

2013 – Rebuild

2014 – Blissful

2015 – Prosperous

2016 – Balance

2017 – Happy

2018 – Energized

This year when I added the new word I took a closer look at my list. The first ones were accurate thanks to hindsight but the rest seemed off a little. As I focused on this it occurred to me that they seem to take shape more clearly, after the year is over and even well into the next.

Is it some kind of time-release power of a word?

Who knows…

 

What’s your word?

 

Liquored in Astoria

“Well isn’t everything more fun with a crazy bitch!?” flies out of the mouth of Mark the merchant marine, as a drunk couple finally stopped quarreling and left in a cab.

“Why yes it is!” laughed Erica the bartender.

***

Earlier I had taken a nap to put a break between a long day and a social experiment.  More than the rest, I wanted to look through the lens of not really feeling like going out, but doing it anyway.  Walking in the rain, across the street to the Workers Tavern, washed my face and cleared my head.

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The creaking door and wet stained wooden floor greeted me.  I eyed and claimed a stool at the bar.  Moments later a guy (who could be Neil Diamond’s son) sat down next to me and said, “You a fisherman?”

“No”

“Oh, I’m a merchant marine.  Anything exciting going on in here?”

As a quarreling couple brought their issues back inside from an herbal smoke break, she plopped down on the vacant stool between me and Mark.

“Really…Really!  You’re really going to do this – Now?!” barked the guy. “The cab is here.”

Silently she stared forward while I ignore them.  He moved closer toward me while pounding her with various forms of “Really!”  As suddenly she pushed back from the bar and marched outside, followed by her guy.

In the following silence I sat and watched drops slide off my beer and run into carvings on the bar.  As the words ‘Toys for Tots’ filled I noticed a sign behind the bar, “Those caught carving on the bar will be fined $100 – funds to be donated to Toys for Tots.”

Three guys rushed in like waves and landed on empty stools on the other side of the bar.  The older one seemed to lead, whether by blood or air he acted like their father.  After about an hour of noisy conversation with other locals the muscular one who’d been staring at me walked over and put a heavy hand on my shoulder.

“We’ve gotta stop all of this shit…” and something about “..Paris” was all that I could understand.

Father figure grabbed him and the other guy by the shirt and ushered them toward the backdoor.  He growled at them, “If we can get out of here without a fight – I can go snuggle with my wife.”

Through the evening I made eye contact with a couple of senior locals, a smiling logger and a silent disheveled Santa.  Their eyes reflected a weathered ‘Seen it all before’ look, quietly they sat and sipped.

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Four hours, four beers and a shot of Crown later – I’d lived in another dive bar story.

***

I enjoyed the experience of another writing workshop “Dive Bars and Dark Stories” on Friday the 13th November 2015.

Matt Love lives and teaches in Astoria, Oregon.