what can I bring

January 7, 2016

oh, my Daughters.
I am not proud
I know I have no discipline
and when I try it on you = its weak at best
sporadic, erratic; I bark and back off quickly
having accomplished nothing.
what am I teaching…
only what you are watching.
no fooling myself,
I know its only my consistent behaviors.
my inadvertent quirks and starts and lurches
that bring any lessons.
you see me survive,
love your mother well
and the rest is vague.
you know me in my limitations
and lingering sadness; vulnerability.
you know me
and I can’t know what that means
or how it is shaping you…
terrible and terrifying
I don’t even know where to begin.
I was a man of prayer and imagination once.
I wish you knew me before the grinding.
now I’m just tired…
a man of reluctance,
a man who needs a shave
who needs convincing;
and you can usually do it…
because you have soft cheeks that gather when you smile,
interests of your own,
secret ways that know me
to wiggle into all the cracks.
you have learned,
whatever I have brought;
I hold on to hope that somehow
to you
it will always mean safety.


we awoke to snow the other day
a bit unusual here
the kids went out (ill prepared) to play in it
with wet gloves and pink, swollen fingers

I wanted to go out
but I excused myself regarding my pj pants
and that I remember the treasure of playing alone
without adults.
I did make one snowball
and threw it at a telephone poll (I missed)
but mainly the snow served to more deeply and clearly
define the Woolf tracks at my door; prowling
surrounding me.
come. I want to be eaten – devoured
but my pockets don’t hold enough rocks
and I don’t have the energy to fill them
besides the river looks so cold
to just go walking in gasping
grasping a poorly made snowball
pj pants sagging off from the weight of the rocks,
besides Virginia didn’t have kids
playing on a hill in the near distance.

come Woolf and howl
it is mournful but meaningless.

another Woolf

eggshells and mug shards

December 17, 2014

tell me that you love me.
i just want to stop moving for a little while
have a lie down
sleep to escape me,
but these days i snore
so even in the night
i bother us all.
dammit this stuff was supposed to help me
not make me crazier.
i don’t know what to expect
or what is even a valid expectation.
your love
is the constant.
so exhausted that it
turned to crying this morning
for me for you for us for them.
i don’t know where my heart has got to
and the mug leapt out of my hand
as i was trying to put it away
crashed down on that important plastic thing
rendering it useless
i yelled as it bounced and fell to the floor
broken, ruined
my heart
what kind of fragile things
are our children growing up with
as i toss eggshells all over the floor
on the couch, on the carpet, in the kitchen
where ever i went this morning, wherever i go.
i know that our first-born
would cover the shells with candy hearts
and sweet little slogans
sincere visions in colored paper hung on the fridge.
she squeezes into the hug
so tall now
but still finding room…
there is room for them all.
but i lack the strength
to sweep up.
be careful where you step, kids
dad’s heart is missing again.

i will try

November 17, 2014

if i were to come home
wrap you in a cozy blanket
lay you on the couch in warm light
brush your hair and rub your feet
with quiet companionable equanimity
that would be awesome

if i were to come home
grab a cheapassbeer from the fridge
collapse on the couch amidst the chaos
feel the ache in my head and feet
try to accept the noise and my deep tension
that would be obvious

if i were to come home
wrap you in a hug as soon as the kids let me
sit on the couch with them and read books
look forward to when we can relax our minds and rest our feet
together release as much of it all as we can
that will be enough

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.

paradox and palindrome

July 30, 2014

my firstborn’s initials are HRB
and because we call the middle kid by her initials –
EZB (Easy Bee)
i thought i would use fair practice for initials (FPFI)
and so i started calling her Herb
and then Herbert – she hates this.

HeRB has a strange artistic integrity,
an intensity that commands/inspires respect
though she can have trouble granting it.
she is older than she needs to be
and yet liable to break her self down
to near emotional infancy in a moment.
she can be generous to a point that makes me nervous;
and i want to tell her that she can’t give so much
but she doesn’t hesitate or regret,
she anticipates. (positive and negative)
she does not make it easy to romanticize parenting.
she does desire to please
but is not so eager to do so
that she will allow it to interfere
with whatever story her mind has her living in.
she loves with all her heart
she is passionate, earnest and fragile
she is her own and
has a hundred worlds spinning all around her at once
awaiting her pleasure and continued creation.
she dances in my deepest heart
captures, captivates, fascinates, infuriates
she is definitely not just a little kid anymore;
i delight in her friendship.
i think we will always be friends,
i have joy in that.

she is so much more than I could ever say
so far beyond my powers of articulation or reason
she is exasperating
she is beautiful
she is 7
she is my daughter
i am glad.

its almost confusing.
on the way home
on the same drive
at the same time
the thought comes
with an exhausting sadness
a slightly different refrain but well known
and of the same stuff:
“help me.”
perhaps thats a bit different
a bit better somehow
a cry
still silly and dramatic
but maybe with a bit more desire for connection
to whom? – i don’t know
i thought i did once
but not anymore
maybe to my friends and family and Unfair Advantage
to those who so politely (so kindly) read my bullshit
maybe just out of me
because there is nothing left inside of me
to manage
nothing that i want
but out to the other, out to the ether, to the eternal
i don’t know.

and then i’m home.
with only dark anger knitting me together – loosely
not at anything or coming towards anyone
but not fun for anyone either
and the Unfair Advantage is abandoned to absorb
and does (grace)… and i do the dishes.
cause thats what i can do
and wipe the counter and listen
as love swirls all around me
prodding the knotted knitting
saying pay attention
cause this is so much more than you deserve
so much more than anyone deserves
but you could know to expect it if you were clever
because drops of wonderful are always falling all around you
and my first born says “i love you”
and holds onto my arm
and shows me her inventions
and dances for me with her “new moves”
and the boy…
he is so beautiful
it cant possibly be fair to the rest of the world
and EZB says: “I love you as high as the sky
as big as big
as small as small is small
and as medium is medium”
can this be true?????
that i am loved so much?
it is and it is and it is
and the hurt is there from nowhere
but the love is all around me
from everywhere.

fuck this life…
is that really what you think – what you want?
it is
harsh and ridiculous / overwhelming and ephemeral.
like poor ole Wile E. Coyote
at the edge of the cliff
thinking he might be alright this time
only to have the entire rock overhang that he’s standing on
break off from the cliff and plummet
somehow manage to flip over during the descent
and smash on top of him.
but his nose twitches and he wiggles his way from under the rocks
and walks away.
now, if he were suddenly corporeal, actual, self-aware
he would turn and look at the wreckage and think
“well, that was a bit much”
all very sudden, very brief
very dramatic
very silly
what, with the world turning upside down
and the passive suicide attempt of chasing the roadrunner
to begin with, hoping… and failing again
a·nal·o·gous, ba·nal·o·gous, snuffleupagus
get over your tiny self and your invisibility.
illness, food poisoning
you vomit and you feel better.
so dont be afraid and by all means
dont take yourself too seriously.
instead *sob* – breathe – release…
drive home and keep trying.
they came and sat on my lap outside
and there was a breeze and a beer and a sunset.
we started by reading books but as it got darker
the fireflies came out, by the hundreds
so many in our tiny space that you could just sit
and they would come to you
and EZB could catch 3 at a time
and the boy screamed with fear and delight
and flapped his arms after stretching out his hand
to receive one after another from his big sister
who knocked over the beer (good beer) that i bought on purpose
for the sake of a treat in the hopes of feeling better
and she felt bad (so did i)
but she more than made up for it
running around with lightning bugs in her hands and her hair
and im laughing and crying with the wonder
and the ephemeral nature of it all
taking on a different meaning.
i know better than to believe either moment will last
but it is my choice which i will hold on to.
and it is simple and it is not so simple
and i will do my best and keep trying.
embrace this life…

“stop biting the walls.”
“don’t eat the paint.”
“there is no nutritional benefit to consuming dry mortar.”
(or wet mortar or the kinds that explode – any kind of mortar!)
do all parents really have to say these things?
i know theres the typical: don’t eat dirt,
or: don’t drink from the dog’s dish, toilet, etc.
and even “don’t eat paint” is probably pretty normal
but “why are you gnawing on the corner of the house?”?
i know that they are not going hungry,
and these were 3 separate occasions.
there are teeth marks in places that i don’t understand.

you know…
everybody is always so concerned, so sensitive, so insecure
about parenting. (i understand – its horrible)
and we’re all just desperately trying to figure it out
as we stumble around in the dark (often quite literally)
from one child to the next – hoping no one gets hurt.
thus we participate in parenting polemics
and partake of popular parenting publications.
and now a fad in some parenting advice literature is to say
that the current popular advice in parenting advice literature
is just a fad.
apparently the paradox of parenting produces
the perpetually rotating plethora of popular parenting advice.
its a pain to process.
so the truth is, the answer to all of these hard questions
is quite simple:
… i don’t know.
i mean it. i have no idea.
i am not qualified to be a parent
i have absolutely no answers
i have no clue how to do this

i never knew
even during the very brief time
that i thought i might know something
i didnt.
that was before we had children
(clichés that are true = most.)
so if i took a quiz about parenting?
i would get 100% right. A+
because “I don’t know” is the true answer.
does this mean that i am a good student of parenting?
but i would be graded well
on the quiz i just made up for myself.
i would test well in test taking:
absolutely a valuable skill for getting into grad school,
and therefore very practical for all of life and for parenting.
well, as helpful as anything else – anyway.

to further illustrate my incredible expertise…
here is another quiz question:

when my children repeat things that I say
it sounds either:

A) horrible
B) obnoxious

its a humbling thing.
to realize (again) that you are an idiot
because a child who can barely speak
repeats something that you said
and it sounds dumber than the words they make up on their own
that don’t even mean anything.
for example:
i might say to my children,
“you’re a silly goose”
“you crazy nut!”,
thats not so bad – right?
if said with affection and fun and happiness – Hooray!
but my brain shortened and combined these two phrases
and it came out as: “goose nut”.
now, that might not be o.k.
i didnt notice it at first,
(yes i did and i thought it was funny)
coming from my own mouth: “you’re a goose nut.”
is kinda odd and maybe a little uncomfortable
(why would i ever say this you ask?
answer: C) i don’t know = parenting)

but when repeated?
…its gotta stop.
but it probably won’t
cause, though i am embarrassed to admit it,
i still think its funny.
even if vaguely offensive.

you know, now that i’ve written all that out?
it really is quite embarrassing.
in part because though i did realize it was odd
i didnt think about it sounding bad
until somone else pointed it out… “should they say that?”
i have tried to shorten the phrase further
to just use the word “goose”
you know, like saying, “you goose”, see how that works?
it’s pretty complicated.
cause i really need a harmless name to call my ludicrous children
but they insist on adding the nut
there is no way to make this sound or look better.
yep. i am a parent, i have no idea what i’m doing.

i had a quasi-celebrity i met once
tell me that he thought
humiliation was good for humility.
i think he is wrong.
but… i don’t know.

uninformed unicorn

May 23, 2014

today i realized
that what you say
has absolutely no correlation
to what people hear you say.

so thats fine…
sure, i will do everything that i already told you that i wouldn’t do,
yes, i will be here during the time i planned to be gone
and i will happily find a place for all of that shit in the mechanical room
that i wanted thrown away…
cause thats awesome.

during a full staff meeting:
a good man talked about his trip to Israel.
>> Holy Land Cruises: sailing through the desert…
Jesus walked on water and so can you
with our patented inflatable shoes!

touch the lepers with “Jesus is the Balm”® Brand skin sanitizer!
turn water into wine with our miraculous:
alchemy oenophile osmosis expander;
just don’t drink any – cause that would be a sin! <<
– that’s, uh, all from their promotional materials –
anyway, he said that it was wonderful and he felt totally safe.
…and then it just slipped out of my mouth:
“yah, apartheid has its benefits”
the youth minister sitting next to me
put his head in his hands and whispered “no”
but apparently no one else heard me cause
the good, old man kept talking
and everyone else kept nodding and smiling.
i felt pretty bad,
but its fine cause everyone just heard
whatever it is they wanted to hear.

another day it was the youth minister
who heard something other than what i said.
i had to work in a room where he was having a meeting
planning out a special sunday service
about chastity and sexual purity for the teens.
they were discussing what songs would work well
during the worship/singing segment…
i suggested “Come Thou Fount”.
it was very quiet in the room and i went away.
i felt pretty bad.
later i went to apologize and he didnt know what i was apologizing for;
so i didnt tell him.
he thinks well of me and so hears me say good things.
so sometimes the rule works in my favor
even when im being a juvenile idiot.

today i saw a big bumper sticker on a white convertible BMW
it screamed:
      LIBERALISM: stealing from the rich
      to give to the LAZY.
as i drove behind the lady i saw her
drive off the road and over the curb
to run over two songbirds and a baby panda.
why would anyone want to be that angry?
i don’t think i have ever heard a version of Robin Hood
where the sheriff of Nottingham was the hero.
oh no, politics – quick, pretend you heard something else.
– i like money and would definitely take some
if only those damn liberals would fork it over. –

i was sitting in the Kroger parking lot
watching a group of people take pictures of themselves
with a guy in a saggy tuxedo and a knight rider replica car
he had apparently rented for the evening,
the red cylon line going back and forth since 1982.
i was thinking how the kroger’s parking lot was an odd venue
for this photo-shoot activity (or maybe not),
when another car pulled up and a mom let her daughter out.
the girl was dressed in khakis and her blue kroger polo
uniform shirt with her name tag.
she said good-by to her mom and casually walked into the store.
immediately, i mean, before the mom
could have even made it out of the parking lot
a red cadillac with oversized rims and black tinted windows
screeched up and the girl ran out and jumped in
and began her evening.
i wondered what her mom heard her say
and if i would hear my girls say the same thing someday.
i thought: they will likely say things
that they think i want to hear
and then i will hear what i really want to hear
and it will all be different from what they’re actually saying.
i felt sad and i went away.

so thats all i have to say for now,
feel free to hear whatever you want
but please make whatever that is into something funny
cause thats what i was trying to make us all hear me say.