what are reasonable expectations?

i don’t really know where to go from that question.

sleep, i guess.
thats the big one.
i used to assume that everyone was tired.
once upon…
a lady asked me how i was
(which at the time was typically low)
i didnt want to tell the truth, that could be obnoxious
but i have trouble saying “fine” like i’m supposed to
so i thought i had the perfect answer and i responded
“oh, same as everyone else i suppose”
she got serious and asked how everybody felt
and my response was: tired.
she said, “I’m not tired”.
and seemed genuinely surprised that everyone else was.
honestly, very presumptuous of me to speak for others
but surely this lady is an outlier.
she has like six kids and is super active all the time with everything
but not tired.
is everyone tired? (besides her)
i am too tired to even write this
that which i am writing
or are you too tired to tell
those who which i are reading.
can you be too tired to procrastinate?
i mean, it seems impossible now
surely i would fall to my knees and weep
if i tried to keep writing, to do anything
but whats to say it will be any easier tomorrow
to order the following into proper meaning
more sleep is unlikely
but i cant do it
put it off
you can read all this later. – oh, sorry.

how are you? says the van…
i am tired. says the wheel.

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we were reading aloud…
Wendell Berry instructing us on how to be poets
in which he advises:
“stay away from screens”
to which all of us adult children and spouses nod;
feeling so sure of ourselves and think:
yes this is good advice for the poet;
media consumes and destroys,
overwhelms imagination, steals time.
when Mom says quietly:
but screens can be very good
keeping out pests and saving children from malaria.
its a rare and pleasant thing to sit on a veranda
wrapped safely in screens looking out onto the wild savanna
and relax into the soft breeze of the evening
with the provided protection.

and so the word screen constructed itself between the generations,
we sliced it open and hugged through it
crawling freely back and forth without difficulty.
knowing that Mom was right and obscured nothing
and if she was not a poet, certainly her life was a poem.

cage

October 16, 2014

my brother (in-law) always asks:
if you were an animal right now, what would you be?
i like this game.
i like to hear the kids answer
and what the adults say if they’re willing to play.
well, since you asked…

i would be a (non-specific) zoo animal.
see, here’s the thing about zoo animals:
for the circumstances of survival? they’ve got it made.
in their modern enclosures
well fed and comfortable, safe,
taken care of, even loved.

i’ll be honest,
as i sit here and write this
i think, “i’m failing to explain myself”.
on the way home, in the car, it seemed like a good metaphor
and i had it worked out on so many levels
that i was surprised.
i mean – all metaphors eventually dry up,
break down and face their limitations
but this one seemed nicely apt
and remarkably nuanced and multi-whatevered.
now i’m not even sure what i was trying to get at.
plus there’s plenty folks who find zoos sad / repugnant
and would have good arguments against what i just said.

but i’m not debating anything here, just wandering…

at the zoo:
when we pass the pumas
their eyes follow my golden-haired child
and i feel their feral thoughts: …food.
the flamingos walk around mumbling at one another;
goofy and striking.
the petting area full of harassed goats
and a carpet of brown pellets.
the enclosed, engineered spaces full of thousands of creatures
worlds away from where their wild fellows are mostly dying.
and they have no idea where they are or what their world is,
and probably don’t care.
but i once saw a local squirrel lose its grip
on the net covering the snow leopard enclosure – falling.
that was an intense few minutes.
but when the chase was over;
the squirrel was breathing heavy on the outside
of the net considering its unfortunate clumsiness;
dexterity, good luck, and freedom…
while on the other side sat a frustrated beautiful beast.
born and bred in captivity, languid and lackadaisical.
then the squirrel had to rush off
to its frantic existence of foraging and survival
while the leopard yawned, stretched,
found a comfortable shady spot
and lay down for a rest after the excitement.
and there it is.

if animals were people
and had some kind of idea about themselves
and feelings about themselves one way or another
as a success or failure in their animalness
what kind of people would your animal be?
(that was stupid but i’m not gonna change it.)

i don’t want to be pacing the cage
but i like being safe and warm,
loved, cherished and taken care of.
our instinct is to be feral
but we all enjoy having our bellies rubbed.
as my mind flies and dives
runs and climbs and leaps
exalting in wild beauty;
i sit in my cage
roll onto my back and wait.

there are the moments
i just want it all to explode
i don’t know what “all” is
my head my chest my gonads
sounds like some sort of cheer
goooOOOOO Nads!!
i take the field
and my knee blows out
then both my ankles
my spine compresses, bends
shatters
lie there barely conscious
unable to move
but none of the pain has gone
trapped in apoplectic paralysis
an indigent indignant invalid
of quotidian quadriplegia
and out of all that in·com·pre·hen·sile pretension
hypertense and grasping at meaning:
invalid is both the most accurate.

hello… can you hear me… hello…
hey, God… your cuttin’ out…
im going through a tunnel…
and i don’t see any light at the end of it.

so, what to say about prayer?
(without really thinking very much about it – 
cause i don’t feel like thinking)
well, ive definitely fallen out of the practice.
exempli gratia, i.e., e.g. :
the other day i was sextoning down on the basement level
at work on a stubborn (plumbing) problem.
i got frustrated enough to say out loud
“c’mon God gimmee a break here.”
(mens rea? well, it was the men’s room)
and i was out of character and out of sorts.
the exclamation did not shock me because of banality
but because after the exclamation, i immediately thought,
oh, He can’t hear me,
you can’t get cell phone reception down here.

i was done with the job and half way up the stairs
before laughing out loud at myself:
wow, i am really out of practice

go and do likewise

September 29, 2014

a neighbor, a friend
one who shows mercy.
the inconvenienced, the kind;
you are these for reading.

one of the unspoken rights of friendship is standing permission to inconvenience each other without the fear of reprisal, rejection, resentment or disconnect.

but my Samaritan instincts are lacking
and i need time when someone asks something of me;
to get over my petulance and my tiny self.
yet time is often exactly what can’t be granted –
that being the nature of needing a sudden favor.
(oh me, to suffer inconvenience, to interrupt my privilege)
the thing is
an unplanned conversation can take as long
and possibly be as inconvenient as a sudden favor,
but a good talk happens all the time and goes mostly unnoticed.
but when its an actual physical favor;
why do i want recognition for having been inconvenienced?
shouldn’t one just feel good for being good?
unless you’re talking to me at night…
no one will feel good about that
cause i wont let you go to sleep
though your eyes will be drooping
and you can no longer focus or pay attention
and you will feel like weeping unless i go away…
still i will be talking and talking and failing to say anything.
sort of like… say… me blogging
the recognition in such cases should be me going away.
sorry.

usually you can’t really know how
the other person is put out when you ask a favor
(or have a conversation)
even if they let it be known that its not good timing for them.

im thinking about a time i asked someone for a ride suddenly
or another
when i was with someone who had to borrow an old unused truck.
small things, but there was hesitation before agreement
and i cannot possibly know what it really cost to grant the favor,
what happened during that moment’s hesitation,
they may not be able to articulate it themselves.
but people are so good.

no matter how small the favor
the only possible response is gratitude.

one thing that none of us need
and none of us need be
is a scorekeeper.

forgiveness and gratitude walk around hand in hand
under the auspices of mercy
who in turn is acting for love.

and i am an incredibly clumsy friend.
though i love and i am so loved.
i have seen so many gracious, generous people;
friends, neighbors – inconvenienced and kind.
who am i that my time should be so precious?
my friends are wonderful
and my neighbors have been pointed out to me
by a very reliable source;
i just want to be humble
and go and do likewise.

years
it takes years
becomes a part of you
and you no longer know
what you’re dealing with
and what is just you
if there could ever be a difference.
not so many years left anymore
it takes all the time
no room to think
no pleasure, no more clever
dries up the ability to be sincere
eye contact / interest / make some one’s day better
to be occasionally funny, self-deprecating, observant
too tired – too many excuses
tension that makes it hard to see
and so hard to see others
so sorry – deeply
regret
once i was just so glad to get a diagnosis
thought that maybe it meant that i wasn’t
stupid and lazy
just crazy just crazy
and maybe there was a solution
spent some hard time
searching / failing
wanting to just be like everybody else
whatever that means.
…plenty of time in self-pity…
time in prayer
time wanting to feel better
time wanting / needing / desperate
for more time
a moment to sort it out
space to breathe
get it under control
more time to do something
whatever it might be
unable
useless
never can do whatever the somethings are (record)
never can get enough time
accomplishment
wake up – and wish i hadn’t.
but still want more time
if time just spread out before you
than certainly some bit of it
would contain calm
would equal success
satisfaction
is somewhere in time
its not that i don’t want to do it
i do – desperately
i just need more time
so…
lazy or stupid
and i realize that when i sit down to write
to get it out for my own sake (helping no one)
it always sounds like a suicide note
without a climax
so i hesitate and delete
but i’m safe
cause i just want more time
and a hug
kidding = just more time.

the last sock matched
laundry finally finished
bed was made before a child got in it
and jumped and wrestled
and hid under the blanket
until bed time
when clothes again filled the laundry basket
and covered the floor
scattered with the legos and cars and more
art work than any surface could handle
oh… someone has taken a deck screw
and twisted it into a candle
red wax chunks all over the carpet
what child did this?
probably the one hiding under the blanket
in the wrong bed, in the wrong room
go get the kid, go get the vacuum
so neither of them get smashed into the ground
do something good, that sucks,
while calming down
floor is cleaned
now what about teeth
that goal tonight
might just be out of reach
but wait there is also faces, feet, hands
off to the bathroom, kids, be a marching band!
no, no fun can keep out the fussing
no level of effort can prevent the cussing
that never comes out
but swirls around in the head
when it becomes certain that the children
will never go to bed.

the sexton vs. the plumber

August 21, 2014

warning: the following prominently features a dream sequence,
and is a bit long for the small story it has to tell…

i do not often remember my dreams.
a lot of times i’ll wake up with some snippet of melody
or a single strange phrase, like: lunch-meat tunnel
bouncing around endlessly in my head
but i won’t remember the story that goes along with them.
i’m glad cause they are always stressful.
(here is an example of one i did remember).
even if i dream about flying
exhilaration will mutate into a terror
of not knowing how to land without certain death.
ahhhh sleep, i’m so good at it in every way you can fail.

i’ve got a friend who is an excellent plumber
and an even better man.
we don’t really hang out on purpose
but whenever we encounter each other
(i think) we are both genuinely pleased.
he is stalwart generous confident capable clever funny,
he often volunteers at the church with labor and advice
+ i know that if he can’t or doesn’t want to help
he will tell me – and that is very freeing.
yet, we are ideological opposites;
but these things that many people would consider core
and necessary to even having a civil interaction
have no effect on the mutual enjoyment of our friendship.
once when watching our kids play the conversation
turned to discipline and after a bit he laughs and says:
“oh yah, i forget you guys are dirty hippies.”
it was a fun talk (really) and as a closing statement
delivered totally straight-faced (but with an eye twinkle)
he says: “doesn’t matter, i know i’m a better dad than you”.
i have been open with him and i trust him
and, you see, all that…
and the fact that i recently learned he is a competitive marksman
is probably why…
in the dream: he is who i called
when my family was taken hostage.

in the hazy way of dream remembering –
i don’t know the who or why; only the what…
it was an intense and desperate situation:
my family was in extreme danger from a group of horrible some-ones.
these others broke in and violently took my wife and children.
the threat to my family of every possible bad thing was implicit.
my life was also threatened but i was alone, powerless
and didn’t have access to wherever they were being held.
so i called the plumber:
“man, you gotta help…
please promise you will do whatever it takes to protect my family.”
in an instant he was there and i was running to meet him
everything in slow motion.
he stepped out of his truck
while fluidly bringing his rifle to his shoulder
and shot twice:
the first bullet slammed into my right shoulder
jerking me to the side,
the second tore through my gut
throwing me backwards off my feet.
the pain was incredible
but worse, was the shock of betrayal
as the bullets ripped through my body;
the thought: no, he’s… with them, how could he do this?
he walked slowly up to where i was lying on the ground
calm and earnest, pointing a pistol to my head, he said quietly:
“this is in the best interest of your family”
and i knew he wasn’t with them
and i knew he was right.

the final shot was ringing in my head when i woke up
leaping through the air, out of the bed, into the wall.
my shoulder hurt for several days.

the thing is – if i tell the plumber
i know what his response will be:
“man, that’s not realistic.
you would have been dead after the first shot.”

sinkhole

August 14, 2014

sometimes something happens
and i look up and realize
that i have no idea whats going on.
i mean: everybody everywhere everything
including myself – no idea
and i am shocked.
this always makes me feel like such an idiot
no… an asshole really = just incredibly selfish.
everything comes flooding in
overwhelming me with my own self-centeredness;
an unwanted emotional enema,
which is terribly ironic because
i think i am desperately trying to maintain my connections
and not fade out of my obligations
but i know that i am depressed
and avoiding really thinking about things.
i think i see that this is happening
but its hard to see your own undersides and
the main reason i dont know what is happening
is that i have crawled inside myself
for what i think is self-preservation
but is actually impeding my efforts at relieving
some perceived fragile mental imbalance…
what? and there it is: (colon)
i find im full of shit.
insincere and not making any sense at all
even to myself
how am i supposed to write about not knowing anything?
i am a fossil aquifer.
there used to be all this fresh water
full of fruitful promise
but it was apparently a non-renewable resource
impenetrable from any outside participating precipitation.
i didnt know and pumped it all out
faster than it could ever be replenished;
the water dried up and the ground gave way
creating that big hole in the ground,
a depression (ha – how droll)
maybe nobody will notice.
(i think) i keep hoping some new reserve will be found
a hidden pocket untapped (quickly depleted)
or better yet – magic…
a spring that will serve as a source to replenish,
but the sources that i havent
polluted, poisoned, hurt, dammed, diverted, neglected…
when their waters do get through
they find a black hole
endlessly sucking
never being filled.
i still have hope
i still keep drilling, keep searching
but i only end up with holes.