National Poetry Month: Otherwise

It’s the last Monday of the month which means it’s the last poetic version of motivational Monday.

This afternoon I’m thinking about how my back is aching and how my legs are sore and how I’m exhausted. But I know that I have things much easier than someone else.

I recently read this article suggesting that looking on the brightside of things, looking for a silver lining was a negative thing. I vehemently disagree with this line of thought. I have always looked for the silver lining and trust me my life has not been peaches and cream. For me, brightsiding is another way of practicing gratitude. I will honor the struggle and pain that my friends are facing. But I will also remind my friends that we all should be grateful.

I hear so many complaints and less compliments. Jane Kenyon reminds us that, no matter what we’re experiencing, it could be otherwise. Life is full of ebbs and tides. Once we learn to accept that, I feel that life becomes more navigational. My back hurts but I’m thankful that it’s nothing serious. My legs are sore but at least I have legs and that they work. I’m exhausted but at least I know I have a warm bed to sleep in later tonight.

“Otherwise”  — Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

National Poetry Month: Sunday Morning

God Breaks the Heart Again and Again Until It Stays Open (after a quote from Sufi Inayat Khan) — Sandra Cisneros

But what if my heart is a 7-Eleven after its third daytime robbery in a week?

What if my heart is a piñata trashed to tissue and peppermint shrapnel?

What if my heart is a peeled mango bearing an emerald housefly?

What if my heart is an air conditioner weeping a rosary of rusty tears?

What if my heart is Sebastião Salgado’s sinkhole swallowing another child?

What if my heart is Death Valley in wide-view Cinemascope?

What if my heart is a chupacabrón chanting, Build the wall?

What if my heart is the creepy uncle’s yawning zipper?

What if my heart is a Pentecostal babbling a river of tongues?

What if my heart is the cross-eyed Jesus bought at the Poteet flea market?

What if my heart is El Paso, Texas, in bed with the corpse of Ciudad Juárez?

What if my heart is unhinged from the weight of its lice-ridden wings?

What then for an encore, oh my soul, when you have blessed me a
      hundredfold?

National Poetry Month: Detroit

I’ve had a lovely long day. So much crammed into the day. A quintessential Detroit day. And, in honor of that, I tried to find some poetry to reflect that. This comes from a series that Surface magazine did in recognition of Detroit becoming an UNESCO City Of Design. Check out the whole series here.

National Poetry Month: Sex & Revolution

Yesterday was about love. Today, it’s about sex. I’m far from a prude. Sex is a vital part of health and happiness. And, as a gay man, sex is sometimes revolutionary. I’m not a neutered gay best friend that will be a sexless spinster as I watch you have all the fun. I have my own urges and desires and to make those known is an act of courage and visibility.

“Sex And Revolution” — Marius Mason

as I move my hands my lips across your supple
body blending everything becomes bewildered unpretended
in these moments of ecstatic rhythm
reggae sweat your breath so still
lingering upon my lips
your body mine the last of the wine
spilled between us in a kiss
an offering not offered to some other god
but shared
these moments of ecstatic rhythm writhing
in abandon Dionysus could not have taught me
mysteries more powerful than making love
all acts of pleasure consummate rebellion
all conscious nakedness can shuffle off this mortal coil
and by expanding span the growing chasm between
Self and Not-Self
eliminating borders to abandonment’s continuum
a communion of surrender and resistance
which is survival and our happiness
think this: distances are dangerous
illusions of distinctions are conclusions of
extinction
we must be in love with the world become it
to save it fro our own self-hatred
lover, i caress the whole in you with every touch
turning us away from sure destruction
bring your lips again to mine
and seal our sweet conspiracy of sex
and revolution pleasure is our bread and wine
and Anarchy our paradise
chaos comes into the inner heart surrounds the world
around just at the moment we dissolve our barriers
against it in these moments of ecstatic rhythm
we become the everywhere and everything
at last, uncontrollable and free

National Poetry Month: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I’m thinking about love this morning. I’m not thinking about romantic love or platonic love but self love. It’s been said time and time again that, before we can love another person and really be content with our life, we have to love ourselves.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a sonnet that is probably one of the better known love poems. Well, at least the beginning of it is well known. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways?”

This morning, a dreary rain soaked morning in metropolitan Detroit, I dare you to ask the question of yourself. I dare you to look in the mirror and notice the things you love about yourself rather than your flaws.

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) — Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

National Poetry Month: Oriah

Yesterday was a day of rest. I spent 4 days in Virginia visiting my folks and the trip is both physically and emotionally draining. I crashed before I could share a poem. My apologies. I’ll be back to regularly scheduled​ programming soon.

The Lenten journey I embarked upon ended while I was in Virginia. And though Lent is over, I feel that my spiritual journey is only beginning. You might not be aware but I’ve been taking these leadership classes at my church. When I was first asked I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a right fit for me. That first class I went out and did shots afterwards because I’m the most secular guy on the planet and I wasn’t sure if the way I somehow merge the secular with the spiritual would work.

As Lent continued and I continued to attend these classes I felt something shift in my soul. I can’t explain it but I knew that I was supposed to be taking these classes. I’ve discovered that I’ve finally reached that place where I truly know myself. I know what I’m about, what I can do and I also know and honor my limits. I trust myself and my instincts more.

I didn’t have a poem planned for today. The day of rest threw me off my plan. The more I thought about it, the more my instincts said to share this poem.

I was introduced to Oriah through the Oprah show. I don’t have the words to describe this poem except to say it speaks to the heart of what I’ve been trying to do. I’m seeking connection and I could care less about the surface. I want connection on a soul level.

The Invitation — Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

National Poetry Month: Success

It’s the Monday after Easter and my thoughts are about Resurrection. I can’t quite describe the healing properties of this current trip to Virginia but I feel ready to resurrect my own life. Part of doing that is defining the life I want compared to the life others would want for me.

The one thing that I want, what I feel we all want, is a successful life. We all have different ideas of what success means to us but mine resembles a poem often misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson but it’s really by a woman named Bessie Anderson Stanley. I’m including the real version and the Emerson version.

“Success” — Bessie Anderson Stanley

He has achieved success
who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;

who has enjoyed the trust of
pure women,

the respect of intelligent men and
the love of little children;

who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

who has left the world better than he found it
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;

who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;

who has always looked for the best in others and
given them the best he had;

whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

“Success” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the approval of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give of one’s self;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived…
This is to have succeeded.