This is a collection of some of the poems I wrote this summer in Nicaragua. Some of these are about me. Some of them are hopeless because they remember a time of hopelessness. Some of them are joyful because they were born in this summer of joy. Some of them are not about me, some are just about humanity. I hope you enjoy them.
Man in the Box
An impression, a moment. A man in a pane. A thin strong man in a tile. Arms and legs spread wide like a star. he stands there, ever majestic, ever dancing, ever locked in time. He stares off into the distance as the wind blows his hair. he stands as a symbol of strength for his people. Always pointing the way. but he is trapped, he is frozen in a moment.
The White Whale
His eyes pierce the darkness.
His tattered cloak steams behind him. Following Zeus’s breath as it batters the ship.
His stance is strong. Worn leather boots planted firmly on the blood and oil stained deck.
The driving rain pours down his long, white beard in a waterfall.
His torn fingers are locked on the wheel. Cracked fingernails biting deep into the weathered oak.
Ropes are coiled around him like pythons. Slowly constricting and binding him ever tighter to the wheel.
His white hair flies in his face, but he does not blink.
Lightning flashes white, but he does not wink.
The wave crests rage with white foam, but he does not bat an eye.
The wind torn sails fly in front of him like white flags, but he does not surrender.
He has eyes only for the White Whale.
The Eyes of God
We lay in the dark, looking up at the ageless wonders. Our backs resting on the ancient earth. Our warm presence is fleeting and soon we will join the soil beneath us. But in our fleshy bodies something eternal looks out. More ancient than the dirt and more ageless than the stars. The soul that was known before the body was formed. And each time it looks up at the endless universe, it yearns to be free.
Isn’t it strange how the body remembers? The corners of the eyes revel in the echoes of laughter. The forehead creases in reflection of past contemplation. Freckles stare back with sightless eyes at the bygone sun that burned them into existence. Blue veins run like rivers down the body, flowing with time, the countless seconds rushing to be remembered. And scars remember the pain.
Some say the body is a temple, but I say it is a garden. And in every garden there are interlopers from foreign fields, be they wildflowers or weeds. What is escaping from your garden? What will you sow in your neighbor’s field? Will you plant a dark, brooding, flower with your fist? Or will you plant a blushing, red, flower with your lips? Humans can forgive, but sometimes the body will not forget. It will tells tales to whomever has eyes. With laughter, rising in the corners of a mouth, or with screams, sounding from the depths of sunken eyes.
Desire, burning. Not in the heart or the mind. In the stomach. In the loins. In the muscles, sinews, ligaments, and bones.
A challenger appears. Legs crouch. Fists clench. Teeth gleam. Then burst forth. Blows raining, legs kicking, arms rending, teeth tearing. Blood rises behind the eyes and the night becomes red. The sound of battle echo through the jungle as the men are measured. Grunts, snarls, and screams are their battle cries. They dance to the beat of the music they make with their fists on instruments of flesh and bone. The song is hurried and frantic, careening towards the finale.
Until, the final refrain comes, a long scream. Followed by a roar of triumph, that speaks not to the ears, but the body. It says, “Fear me.” The deadly dance has ended, but the desire will burn again. The desire to take. The desire to run the gauntlet, to test the mettle. The desire to dominate. To rend the opponent to pieces. To feel bones snap. To feel muscles tar. To quench the thirst with blood. To rip that most valuable last breath from another’s throat, as if it can be added to one’s own breath.
This is the beast, and it lives in each of us. Watching for the beast in others. Waiting for its chance to rise and fight. To once validate its existence in conflict. Each harsh word and disrespect stirs the beast. So let it sleep.
Float away with me, into the dreamscape. First, make yourself comfortable. Sit or stand, it doesn’t really matter. Quiet your body and open your mind. Set your eyes on something beautiful, something inspiring. The heaving fluid landscape of an ocean. The crackling, dancing, tendrils of a fire, that tell you stories in flickering tongues of flame. Or most preferably cast your eyes on the face of your beloved and drown in the ocean of their eyes, and listen to the whispering tales of the flames in your heart. Now breathe. In. And let the top of your head blow off. Now here leaping from your brain, like Athena from the head of the Zeus, is the dreamscape. Colors course quickly from your cracked cranium. Drenching the dreamscape in your deepest desires while songs sound from your cerebellum, shaking the scene in an earthquake of escaping emotion. Paint on the canvas of your mind. Here you can be free. Free to sing or dance or sit or fly or swim or laugh or cry or live or die. Build the city of your dreams with the people of your dreams. Enter into the nirvana of an uninhibited universe. And in the center, make something you cannot live without. Now it is time to come back. Gather back the fractured pieces of reality and breathe. Out. Now turn your third eye inward and see the dream of what you cannot live without. Then open your eyes, raise your hands, and build it here.
God. Each aspect a single word. Peace, love, hope, faith. Each a small ship on the ocean. Unassuming and innocent, these ships rest on the deep unfathomable sea. You could dive down year after year and never discover all the lies beneath each boat. God is summed up in many small words. Behind each word lie thousands of years of history. Behind each word lies the world that we live in. And though we daily drown in an ocean of grace, we will never fathom its depths.
The Clockwork Man
Look at the tin man, sitting there ticking
Hold out your hand, and he will be giving
Candy or compliments or prayers from on high
But over the ticking, you might hear him sigh
Always the server, but never the served
Always the lover, but never betrothed
Used and confused, forgotten and rotten
He longs to rise, but though he tries
He was made to sit, set in cement
And though he curses, he serves his purpose
To sit and give, give and sit
Powered only by the lover of his maker
Yet in his throat, is a cry of hope
That one will not leave, but stay and cleave
And love this clockwork man
The Stalwart Walker
See there the tin man, look at him plodding
Right after left, he never stops walking
A line so straight and very thin
Drawn in the desert, just for him
But now and then he lifts his gaze
And sees a mirage out in the haze
An oasis full of forbidden fruits
But the trees that grow there have no roots
Though wish he may, and wish he might
He cannot grasp what’s in his sight
The line he walks has no chains
But something in him pulls the reins
His metal feet will tread the trail
No vision or ghost will him derail
And though this man is made of tin
Something lives down deep within
Something beats inside his chest
A human heart that’s made of flesh
Each new steady, stalwart, step
Pumps his heart and draws his breath
He continues onwards toward the horizon
To the true oasis that his hope lies in
And as he walks the sandy miles
The tin man slowly starts to smile
His tin begins to change to skin
And he hopes that he’ll be whole again
A man of flesh
Who finally can, rest
I look down at my hands. Fingernails cracked and broken. Blisters ripped open and bleeding. Hands torn from steering this ship. On a course so straight and true, but a course that wears me down with each passing second. I cannot hold on any longer, Jesus take the wheel. I begin to blackout and fall backwards to the hard, unforgiving deck. But right before I hit the ground I stop. Hands have caught me. They hold me and comfort me. They bandage my hands and pray for me. And now I have the strength to stay the course. I know that every time I fall the hands will catch me. Even now I feel them on my back, encouraging me and pushing me onwards.
She is not a beautiful woman. She is grotesque. Her eyes are sunken and black. Her black infected teeth glisten with poison saliva as she licks her lips with her rotten tongue. She shows me her body, less than skin and bones. She flips her greasy hair, knotted and tangled. Tied in a braid that only shower drains wear. She reaches out a hand, rotting with gangrene, and beckons. Her fetid stench washes over me and vomit rises to the back of my throat. As I swallow the bile I take one last look back at the entrance to her cave, where the lover of my soul stands. Then, I take her hand. She leans in for a kiss and I do not resist. I can hold back the flood no longer. Our lips lock and the bile rises. The kiss lasts forever and I asphyxiate in my own vomit. Until, at last, I pass out. And my lover once again carries me back into the light. Until, like a dog, I return again to my vomit.
Poised to Strike
Here we are again. Poised to strike. the day is done, and night’s begun. it’s time to decide once again. Truth or lies. Death or life. The door is closed, and no one knows. Maybe the tears come, maybe they don’t. but the feeling comes. The orgasm of despair. Maybe tonight is the night. The knife glints in the moonlight. An inch away. Press it gently against the skin. Pray. Wish. Hope, that this time the courage rises to slice. Take a breath, prepare to press down. Give up. Lay back. Throw down the knife. The hope of life saves the day again. Another night to dream of day. Another day to live in pain. Maybe tomorrow…
1 In 50
step. gasp. step. wince. step. cry. step. sin. step. weep. step. ache. step. pain. step. fight. step. rage. step. grimace. step. frown. step. whine. step. complain. step. bleed. step. fall. step. pretend. step. freeze. step. burn. step. yell. step. scream. step. sleep. step. laze. step. glaze. step. lie. step. hurt. step. argue. step. ignore. step. push. step. shove. step. regret. step. surrender. step. forsake. step. punch. step. kick. step. slap. step. run. step. flee. step. fear. step. despair. step. lust. step. grave. step. glut. step. grind. step. strain. step. stare. step. degrade. step. loathe. step. grasp. step. cling. smile. step…
I’m sorry. For my disbelief. For my lack of faith. For mocking. For defaming. For degrading. For insulting. For loathing. For hating. For lying. For pretending. For fighting. For attempting to murder. This man of God. I’m sorry for regretting. This man in the mirror. I’m sorry for restraining. This warrior of the Lord. I’m sorry for all the years. I’m sorry for all the tears. I’m sorry for exiling. Myself.
We sit in the dark, just as we have so many times before. The night invites us to think and feel. No moon shines tonight and the black sky calls us to fill the endless void with words. Alone, we fill it with re-fried regret and songs of sadness. But tonight we are not alone. Me, addicted to despair, in love with hating myself, longing for the kiss of death. Her, addicted to band aids with smiley faces on them, she has covered her eyes with them, afraid to see, knowing she’ll hate what she sees. But we are not alone together. Demons surround us. Slavering with hunger, drooling at the prospect of two more meals. They creep up behind us, their red eyes tinting the night sanguine. They whisper into our ears. To me, “Come back to us, you know you like it. You can’t leave us. You’ll never escape.” To her, “Ignore it, don’t look. It’s too dirty. Thinking about it won’t help. You’re too filthy.” They flick out their claws, ready to tear us apart at the first signs of weakness. But we are not alone, together, with the demons. There is a third party in attendance. His hands cover our ears. His arms hold our shivering bodies. And he speaks, “I made you. I love you. I was there in your past. I made you who you are. I love the person you are, and I have already traded the world for you. So no more hate/ No more fear of the past. No more regrets.” At his words the demons scream and vanish. The cloudy sky clears, and He holds us as we cry. Now the words we speak into the void will change. “I am not afraid of the past. I am loved. I am redeemed. I have no more regrets.” The redeemer has bought us and paid in full. His mercies are new each day. I have no more regrets.
Grasping at Straws
I draw in a nice, cool, breathe of water.
Bolts of lightning illuminate the ocean. Glinting off the toothy smiles of the sharks that surround me. There is a gleam in their eyes. The assurance of victory, as they wait for me to stop struggling.
Water blasts into my ears. Pouring in the screams of all the other lost souls who have drowned in this ocean. Filling my head, begging me to join them.
My throat burns with bile and salt water as the ocean forces itself on me. It batters my body with crashing waves. Beating me into submission.
My arms and legs burn. Bones creak and sinews scream as I fight for the surface. My right arm stretches out of the maelstrom, grasping for anything. Hail is the only thing that deigns to touch my hand.
I am drowning. Sinking in a sea of despair. I try to lift my countenance to the furious sky, but my eyes burn with sea water. I try to cry out to the raging heavens, but my vomit gags me. So I pray the only prayer I know.
A white moth flutters by. So splendidly clean. It never washes, yet, whenever it wings in the sun it shines. My clothes are filthy no matter how much I scrub. Wild dogs need not bathe, but pets are scoured by their owners. Maybe filth is a human invention. Imposed on the Earth by our desires. What animal looks at the fallen tree, feeding the termites, and thinks “trash.” Animals eat and are eaten. Every last part, even the bones are consumed by the soil, feeding its ancient hunger. But humans produce strange things, that when eaten choke and strangle. They erect monuments to their arrogance and leave the earth, wind, and fire to bear the pain. And bear it they do, but each day you can hear them groan. Someday the Earth will have no more of our pride. Then, like white moth’s wings, we will flutter down into the dust.
Written In Blood
For years I wrote the word worthless over myself. In the air, my tongue lazily tracing the syllables, tasting in full the despair that they carried.
With my pen, hard, angry strokes, resentful of their creation, wishing they could warp into something else.
With my tears, hot salty drops staining the word on my face for only the darkness to read.
But I thank God every day, that I never wrote it, in blood.
Star Light Star Bright
A shooting star steaks across the night. it bursts into existence, a ball of fire, plunging recklessly into the atmosphere. What pulls it into the Earth’s bosom, is it the gravity of her weight and beauty? Or is it weighed down by the countless hope and dreams piled on it at birth. The meteors never seem to mind, they carry the wishes of their watchers as far as they can. For they know they will not be remembered in the fractured fragments of broken dreams. But their light will twinkle again in the eye that sees a hope fulfilled.
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For years I beheld myself in a broken, cracked, dirty mirror. Each time I looked in the mirror I felt filthy and would take out a loan on beauty. Something to dull the pain. I made so many withdrawals, one almost every day for 7 years. I never had any real beauty with which to pay the bills, so now I sit on a huge debt, 7 years worth of false beauty, and I have no way to pay. Luckily, though, someone else has been beholding me. Long before I was born He was speaking beauty over me. So now when I look at my account, I see that he has made many more deposits than I could every withdraw. My debt was paid long ago.
Just A Child
Sometimes you can still see it. In the scars that show when he wears a tank top. In the brash cries for attention when he rides his bike into the middle of the circle. In the angry eyes when he is yelled at. In the punches thrown when you try to restrain his wrists. But right now he is in the hammock. Right now he is yelling “Un momento, un momento, ok!” Right now he is being tickled by people he loves. Right now he is giggling like a dolphin and rolling around in laughter. Right now, he is just a child.
I am not afraid of ants. I am not afraid of spiders. I am not afraid of cuts or bruises, of embarrassing moments, of a misheard word. I have known a greater fear than these. The fear that comes in the night, not for your body, but for your mind. The fear that makes you curl up in your sheets and pull the covers over your head. The fear that ignores you bladder’s screams, because if you get up to go, you fear you might never come back. The fear that demons whisper in your ears as you lay awake, wishing only for the sun to come and scare away the shadows. But I have known an even greater fear than this. The fear that they are only masks. The fear that they inwardly sigh at your presence. The fear that they are lying through their teeth, like so many before. The fear that, when you get right down to it, I am alone. So what have I to fear from insects or sharp objects. When the only thing that has almost killed me, was myself.
One says, “we are his hands” and one says “we are his feet.” But one’s fingernails are too dirty, and the other likes to walk in a strange way. So the hands tear at the feet, and the feet run from the hands. And in the end, all that’s left is a broken, bloody man, crying in the dust as his body tears itself apart. All because a hand is not a foot.
See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Save No Evil
Every day we close our eyes and plug our ears from our brothers. We say it is so we might remain pure, but really we are afraid. Afraid that what we see might look too enticing. Afraid that the sounds we hear will be too sweet. So we guard our hearts from the beauty of our brothers. And we forsake the God in our friends, for the god in our heads. All for the fear that He is not beautiful. All for the fear that what’s in our heads won’t match with what’s really there. All for the fear, that what we believed, was a farce the whole time. So keep the picture in your head safe. Walk the roads with eyes shut. Speak to your brothers with ears closed. Shut out the God you seek to know.
A Quiet Place
A quiet place. Nestled down in the hills of some far off peaceful country. Here the air is fresh and clean. No stench of foul rubbish or noxious fumes blow through this guarded glade. A babbling brook trickles tenderly through the quiet trees. It meanders through the woods, wandering where it wants, without hurry or worry. tiny fish sparkle and dance in the stream. Unaware that other beings watch their simple lives and find some peace in them. The trees that grow here are old and knotted. They withstood the wild times when the Earth was young and fraught with danger, and now have been granted an eternal retirement in this nice niche. They sit peacefully in the ground, and their leaves quietly rustle in the breeze, like the gently settling feathers of the birds that make their homes in the lofty boughs. The birds sing sweetly and softly, no rude or brash noise sounds here. The forest floor is carpeted in a bright green moss, thick and lush. It grows thickest up by the the tree trunks, forming comfy chairs among the gnarled roots of the ancient arbors. Sometimes bright wildflowers break through the green carpet, adding brilliant splotches of color, creating contrast that helps the dark greens of the forest be fully appreciated. No interloper can disturb you here. You need fear no storm or wild animals. This forest is at peace, and here you can rest. At dusk the fireflies will come out and float through the air like Will-o-Wisps. Their soft lanterns create a galaxy in the wood. A forest of slowly blinking stars that are always forming and reforming, flashing a new universe into existence with each blurry blink. At night you can sleep on the soft moss, it never gets too cold here, and in the morning you can wake and leave or stay another day, it’s up to you. This forest is open for you to visit at any time of the day or night, and you can stay as long as you want. It is nestled down in your mind, a place of peace and rest. All you have to do to find it, is relax, and let go.
What Could Be Better?
What could be better than this? sitting here in the warm breeze, looking out at the expanse of water and the distant fuzzy land. Songs of peace and tranquility flow into my ears. The peace of God overwhelms me as I sit here, content. Writing down the words that the original artist speaks into my heart. No place I’d rather be, than here in your love, here in your love.
I stand on the stage. Eyes closed tight as can be. Arms crossed over my chest, my hands reaching up to cover my ears. The only sound I hear is the pounding of my own heart. My chest rises and falls rapidly as I begin to hyperventilate. My knees shake, causing my whole body to quiver like jello held in the unsteady hand of a child. I take a deep breath and my eyes snap open as I fall. Down. Down. Down. Stop. Their hands catch me. They pull my hands from my ears and I hear the roaring of the crowd. Screams of joy, screams of love. The crowd swells like an ocean beneath me and I begin to move. They pass me around and around. I worry that they will fail me. That one will grab my butt cheeks or something else unseemly and drop me in disgust. But they don’t. I keep sailing across this sea of love. And I finally begin to see, that I am loved here.
They watch us every night. Far, far, away, but their gaze still reaches us. Through the expanse of the firmament. Past rocks and rings and spinning things. They always look down on us, even if we never look at them. But sometimes we do. And we see them twinkling their messages down to us. Either they have forgotten how to speak, or we have forgotten how to listen. No one ever interprets their intergalactic semaphore. However, their cosmic code is not in vain, though it falls on deaf ears. For the eyes of the Earthlings see beauty and hope in the gleam of their ancestors. Maybe someday, when we look up and see only dirt, we will open our eyes and look down on this small blueberry. Maybe we will sparkle out our own secret messages. Seeking to pass on the wisdom of the ages, but instead inspiring the dreams of the future.
Praise be to the Lord, for he has saved me. Saved me from death, despair, hate, and anger. Yes, while I was wallowing in the mud he saw me. A swine mired in its own muck. He picked me up out of the swamp and changed me. He has turned my flaws to beauty. Purified my fetid flesh and made me valuable beyond the stars. Praise be to the Lord, for he makes beautiful what is wretched. Praise be to the Lord, for he redeems what we have destroyed.
Right now the fire blazes so bright and hot. It burns furiously, consuming its fuel of ticking clocks as fast as it can. Soon, though, this wildfire will burn low. The dancing flames will halt their steps and the clock will run out. Though it may be gone, it will not be forgotten. After each fire the embers remain. Take an ember and hide it away. Then, when you begin to forget, blow on this smouldering memory. Let it warm you in its deep red glow. And someday, it will be time for the fire to burn again. Then it will be time for this heart of fire to beat again.
Weathered and worn, scratched and torn. The palm tree stands watch at the head of the road. It is tall and still strong enough to grow fruit. But it is battered. Deep cuts are scored in the trunk. As if some freakishly large lion used it as a favorite scratching post. The gashes are deep, cutting in almost an inch, but they are old. The slices have darkened and scarred. The wounds have healed and now only serve to ignite the mind of a passerby with questions of why and how. So this tree stands as a testament. That broken does not mean destroyed. That wounds can heal. That a slashed tree can still bear good fruit.