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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Monster

Staring into the future as if to see something misunderstood, possibly hope – probably not. The resting baby on her shoulder waits, her two boys still wait.

“Nothing changes through the one-way window. Growing stubble, anchored tight crows feet guarding steel blue eyes, his sun baked skin doesn’t even sweat” was scribbled on the old police report, now exposed for granddaughters not met to read.

The assumed word Monster now appears on his face above Husband, Dad and Grandpa.

***

 

I always learn something when I cross my favorite bridge, this time it was for a “Faces” writing workshop taught by Matt Love September 16th 2017.

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.

Nobody Likes A Coward

“It doesn’t rain at the end of July, the forecast is wrong.  My motorcycle trip to the coast won’t be cancelled.”  I declared one beautiful sunny day.

“Okay, well yes it’s raining, but it’ll stop – it is July.”

Mike stared at me in silence.

Are Norwegian’s more stubborn that Swede’s?  Ah who knows, I laugh at such things.

We put our rain gear on in silence and rode out into it.  My open-face half helmet allowed the drops to hit me with a blinding sting.  Twenty minutes later we stopped to buy a better helmet at the Harley Davidson shop in Tacoma.

“You riding in that?” asked the pretty cashier.

“Yes!”

“Where to?”

“The coast.”

“Oh – really?  Be careful!”

After the monsoon experience on Interstate 5 we stopped at a Barbecue Restaurant to warm up, eat and pour out our boots.  No one said anything – everyone looked.

“It’ll let up, has to” I laughed.

“Sure, it’s gonna” Mike laughed back.

After the winding roads and fresh tarred construction we stopped for a beer at a Peninsula Dive Bar.

“Cheers to stubborn!”

Clank!

***

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As always I learned while enjoying the “Rain” writing workshop at the Fort George Brewery on January 23rd 2015.

Matt Love lives and teaches in Astoria, Oregon.

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.

Who Knows

I just attended my third consecutive Write on the Sound writer’s conference in Edmonds, Washington.  These gatherings always bombard me with new thoughts and ideas while stirring up my mind.  The conference mental rush undoubtedly causes plenty of thought, the trick is to get some to flow out of the hand and onto the page.  One of my chosen sessions started with three writing prompts (none of which did anything for me, so I wandered off on my own a little).

***

I often lay awake recalling how good it used to be.

The days back in time when with no effort, no thought, nothing – it just happened.

At the end of a day I could just turn on the radio, lay down and drift away… for hours.

Very different from my current life – I could stay asleep.

***

The question comes up, “Do writing conference’s help you become a better writer?”

For me sharing time with others interested in learning about writing, from other writers, charges a battery (that for many years I didn’t know that I had).  So as long these gatherings stir something in me I’ll go, as for becoming a better writer – who knows?