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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Pinned Permission

Permission from the artist to modify his work was not what I sought, well it was, but I wanted him to do it – not me.

The first time I saw the piece was in a magazine. It was being used to promote a biker event somewhere down South. The second time I tore it out and pinned it to a wall. A couple weeks later I looked online for this event, which led to more searching until finding the artist Jeral Tidwell. I began following him on Social Media and eventually purchased his book Sketches. It has two versions of this design, one rough pencil and one finished in ink. Again I felt drawn to it, but not completely.

Surfing the Internet a few months later led to a notice that Jeral would be at Bumbershoot the next week as part of a printed poster art exhibit.

“Really like your work, this one in particular – found a version in a magazine.”

“Oh great wasn’t sure I’d have much of a following up here.”

After about a half hour of talking and purchasing some prints to be autographed, “Hope you don’t mind but I’ve been wondering what you’d think about changing this one a bit, something like this.”

“That’s a cool idea, do it.”

“Uh… Okay great, thank you.”

*  *  *

About a year later I met with another artist Roni Falgout who blended the work, added her touches and pinned it to my skin.

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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.”

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 .