Feel Fear

“That guy doesn’t have any fear.” My longtime friend Jeff used to say that about me often, in front of 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 escaped under flashing 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 it turned to avoid and occasionally tasted as some returned to assume hate. Found hitting the face of an attacking dog.

 

As time etches glass, slamming Wild mellows into sipping Perspective.

Love might hold fear. A blend could walk in front of getting another pet, close an open hand, freeze a mind, lose pieces of a broken heart.

I 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.

There are many edges to the dark force labeled Fear. You either feel them. Or you don’t.

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Kindness

Loneliness forms silently like layers of rust on an unused surface. What if kindness is an antidote to loneliness? Some sort of unintended return on a moment. An exchange of glances, a connection of eyes trading a gesture for an expression – causing a change.

Proof can be as slight as making another smile. Anonymous as packaging food for strangers who need or preparing a meal and joining hungry people. As lasting as giving an abandoned animal a new home. Quiet as standing by a friend whose luck changed. Sudden as showing up at a door that hides abuse. Strong as being a wall for momentary blocking and pushing off into a new direction.

The gift of kindness may not tip a permanent scale to be measured on some karmic score card but it might simply remove a layer.

I’m the kind of person who ________

I’m the kind of person who would rather know than wonder — to find out. As I’ve often said, “You won’t know if you don’t go.” That being said I always have more enthusiasm when signing up for writing conferences, workshops and classes than I do in the day(s) leading up to them. Stubbornly I drag myself to them with a new notebook, caffeine, open ears and soak up. You see I have a battery that for years I wasn’t aware of and for it I need to keep going…

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Yesterday I was reminded that “You don’t know what you don’t know”, “You’ll absorb things will come back to you when you need them”, “Have fun and be honest”, “Retain subsidiary rights”, “Eighty percent of published material doesn’t earn out”, “In poetry the writer gets to chose the right margin

(aka. The Line)”

and possibly most important, “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

THOUGH I WASN’T ALWAYS

Why do I keep trying to understand

the list of many things that I do

 

not? I carry around a fifty-

one-year-old weathered scroll

 

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

turn into reasons to leave?

 

Is life alone settling,

fate, or just giving up

 

on the game? Why use the word

forever when nothing is?

 

How can a lifestyle choice threaten

others? How is walking in rain

 

therapy to some, yet loathed by many?

How do crows know I am

 

a friend, though I wasn’t always?

How does a special animal change

 

a person’s life? What do you do

when they go? Why do tough

 

people sometimes betray the code

and cry? Why do some become monsters

 

instead of protecting

their children? Can the kindness

 

of an outsider make enough

difference? Why does the 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 lead

to understanding? Is philosophy

 

a gift, or an over-thought

burden? 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.

 

This poem started with my piece Why from the “Write to Understand” writing workshop taught by friend Matt Love  on December 10th 2016 in Astoria, Oregon and evolved over time thanks to the help from another writer friend of mine Tara Hardy .

 

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.

Why Memoir

Why Memoir?

This may be a strange compound question from me, as I have been capturing a story of my own for a few years.  I think I’ve figured out a little more about why they are written, they seem to be therapeutic for the writer.  In my case it just happened.  Loss cracked me open and the words came out.  I started smearing these memories on paper and while watching them dry I found that preservation made me feel little better.  Discovery became compulsion and grew.  The spirit of my dog led me down this new path and I just kept going…

Why do people want to read Memoir?

Often I wonder why do strangers read other people’s life stories.  Many are tragic and share deeply painful moments.  Are readers looking for a similar experience while hoping to gain some insight?  Find hope?  Learn something?  Follow someone back from an edge?  Does a common thread need to pull them together?

For me these questions will hang on lines – like yesterday’s laundry in today’s rain, waiting for tomorrow.