“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut
I think Vonnegut is badass. He’s always had this tough guy ‘tude, and writes fearlessly. His stories stay with me, most for decades. And then there’s this quote, which feels like the boiled-down-to-purity essence of the struggles I’ve had everywhere lately. I’ve been growing bitter, something far from my true nature. I’ve let the bastards get me down, again, only this time it’s been more than just a peaceful dark withdrawal into self defeat. I’ve hated other people this time, sometimes just for taking up space, or more often for spewing hate themselves.
But I want this beauty, and the softness that is the hardest damn thing sometimes. It used to define me, it’s been used against me, but it’s who I need to be, somehow, again. I think this may be the real challenge of my lifetime, my measure of success. If Anne Frank could still believe in the basic goodness of human beings after being hunted and hated by so many, who the hell am I to write people off?
Still, my inner cynic is swearing about asshats right now, and she has a point too. Some people suck. Some people delight in creating chaos all around them. Some are just lost in ugliness.
But I don’t want to be one of those. I want to be part of that thing that Anne Frank saw in us, that Vonnegut sees in the beauty of the world. I want to follow my own advice, given often, to step outside and feel the air on my skin and feel the wonder of the world and of life and of creation, however it got created, because please, that’s not the point for me. The point is, just breathe, and be soft.
I’m taking the site, Stephen, and I’m sorry…
I know when we bought the site, it was for the novel, and I know that even though it was my title, you had some kind of stake in it too. The novel may get finished someday. I promise to involve you, somehow, if I ever really get it going again. And you’re a co-author, regardless. I actually had some ideas for it not long ago. Good ideas. But these days, like older days, it’s just best to write alone. I don’t think the novel killed my marriage. I don’t think our friendship did either, in spite of the stories I kept hearing then, and second-hand for years later, probably even still. But when the marriage collapsed under its own weight, it smothered the novel too, as you know. The few times I’ve stopped by to visit, I’ve just stared, feeling so sad to see it languishing there, then breathed a few very shaky breaths into it, and closed the door again, turning back around to face the life I live now, and love.
I feel like a liar sometimes when I tell people I’m a writer. I mean, I have the poems, and chapters of new things that have some promise. But it’s hard now to remember the time when I would write for hours a day, and work with you on the nuances of it all. I know I was happy, and I know the writing was good. Yeah, there’s a lot that still needs changing if it ever goes forward, but there’s some great stuff in there too. I feel more like I should say I was a writer, once. But it’s easier to just say I’m a writer, present-tense, because even with that little bit of information given forth, the questions come at me like accusations. Are you published? You mean, like, fiction writing? Have you written a book? Plus, I’m not ready to give up just yet. I hope I never am.
Anyway, this isn’t about the novel. I mean, the site, this site, isn’t about the novel. Somehow this note became all about the damn novel, didn’t it? Well I’m taking the site, and I’m going to write things down, and I have no idea what I’m doing, but so far my life seems to work better that way. The other half of me that analyzes things to death needs to accept that this may be one place where I can let my spirit take me, up, down, and sideways. Or, it’s just one more thing I started that I won’t take care of in the end. That’s poetic in its own way too.
Anyway, like I said, I’m taking the site, Stephen, and I’m sorry.
There is no “what am I?” as you wake up to the world.
The knowledge comes from your DNA, everything you are made of, the program tells you what you must be. You are protector.
You live for this. You would die doing it and never think of any other way of being because that is simply impossible.
You will never wake from this life and realize that you yourself are worth protecting.
You will never abandon the Body to which you were born and sworn before you ever thought to have a say in the matter. You will never have a say in the matter.
Your days and nights are spent in glorious battle. You, the hunter and sounder of the alarm. You, the swallower of monsters.
You are a hero, mighty, brave, and unloved. For God, and glory, and Body.
You would go on forever, but the battles take their toll. There is no retirement home for heroes.
And so you know, as sure as the day you woke up to the world, that it is time to go.
Shriveled and gray, you give yourself to the river as your replacement awakens knowing just what to do.
I would walk for miles, for one of Sarah’s smiles.
There are words forming in my head in a language that this keyboard doesn’t recognize. Maybe anyone who’s ever watched their beloved children hurting can speak it too. My daughter isn’t happy, although she has memories of being so. She has a drive for more, and nothing ever seems enough. And yet, the trip we just took to Disneyworld gave us both a glimpse inside “enough,” into what it could feel like. She’s a tough girl! She beat her fear of flying just to get there. She beat her fear of coasters, and rode so many times I lost count, although she didn’t, and she would tell you if you asked. She spent a lot of the trip not smiling, but content enough. Then the night-time parade came through Main Street USA, with snow that she knew was made of soap but maybe that just added to her excitement, and with hot cocoa, and free apple slices and cookies. This was just after the fireworks that literally filled our sky from all directions and lit us both up like little girls. The fireworks had come just after meeting an admittedly slightly intimidating mouse in his own backyard. The goosebumps were still fresh from that, a surprise to both of us, but welcome.
Then the parade. She’s never liked parades, according to her. I have different memories, filled with small-town parades and her chasing after candy in the streets, catching all she could. But still we sat, with our good friends, and waited, watching the crowds forming and feeling that electricity of anticipation that makes the hair on your arms rise up, just a little. Disney magic does not often disappoint. The parade was magical, and we pointed and laughed and delighted in recognizing characters we each grew up knowing so well. I saw her excitedly spot each princess, then shrug it off, because she outgrew that stuff, long ago, she says. Then in one amazing moment, the Fairy Godmother went by, THE Fairy Godmother. And she looked right at Sarah, and she winked. And blew a special kiss right to her. That kiss was loaded with real magic, and it brought my girl’s smile back to us, if only for one wonderful night. “I feel special” she said, wonder in her voice. You are special, Sarah, so very special, Godmother or not. We watched the rest, the dancers, the toy soldiers, the whole Goofy lot of them. Then Santa came and blew her a kiss too, before heading back to the beach to rest up for December. We had to hurry then, to catch all the rides we could before midnight. She and her good friend and I closed Space Mountain that night, walking away wishing for just one more ride.
There really is nothing like Disneyworld, especially at midnight. You can really feel the special everywhere.
We’re home now, and Sarah seems to have lost her smile again, although I catch glimpses. I can’t afford to take her back to her Fairy Godmother, maybe not again in her first childhood. But we sure could use that smiling round happy lady around here, both of us. Keeping the magic alive is a challenge here in the Real World. I hope we can figure it out, and Sarah smiles again.
You need to unwind yourself if you can
and try to be kind in an unkind land.
I mean, man, there are so many freaks
leaking… (narcissistic-ally speaking). Freaks
who are all about themselves, me me my my
Gimme or I’ll start to cry.
That’s why good souls are easy to miss
blissed in the background, happy to exist,
and also why you should look in their eyes,
’cause they’re awake and looking wise,
what a prize they could turn out to be for you.
Now, you really do know what to do,
because you dared to take that peek.
So just speak, because you’re not another freak
after all. Just try it, listen and maybe learn,
let better instincts take a turn.
Then burn your lists of those perfect traits
for your perfect, perfectly made-up mates.
over your smooth cover of skin
and vellum pages deep within
I wander gently with my fingers
slowly, contemplation lingers
too much, no, not quite too much
you’re so inviting to my touch
like breathing in the freshest air
because, it’s simply written there
and each in turn, your dog-eared pages
tell me stories of your ages
watching chapter numbers climb
to revive adventures lost in time
unearthing artifacts from history
step by step we unwind mystery
I seek your truths in a closer look
and try to read you like a book
Stop detailing my depression
like you were the only one in it
Stop smoking the ghosts of our pasts
and just pretend we’re both sane for a minute
Stop cruelly despoiling my history
to explain my recoiling from you
Stop dragging me down through your gutter
and obstructing my halcyon view
Stop fingernailing my fault lines
with the extended claws of a judge
Stop wrapping your self-justifications
to embrace your unholy war grudge
Stop passing out my report cards
when we both know I won’t make your grade
Stop advocating for bitterness
so our children can live unafraid
Stop wallowing on through our past lives
when we both have new places to go
Stop waiting for me to keep fighting
’cause I stopped all of that long ago
sometimes there comes a night
who loathes dawn’s early light
swollen thick with soggy dreaming
it wrestles the sun’s cruel beaming
for its life
sometimes there comes a day
who charges straight into the fray
you fight to reclaim meaning
but your dreams are reconvening
while dark so longs for longer
blurry visions grow much stronger
and as you watch your dreams diffuse
you see how daylight hates to lose
I have a used dog
Full of bark and no bite
A cuddle from him
Is a warm soft delight
I have a used cat
Who was born to be wild
He’s all Bengal tiger
In the eyes of my child
I have a used man
Though he wasn’t used well
But he says that we all have
A story to tell
I have a used heart
That still needs to be kind
Are you used or brand new?
Either way I don’t mind