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Samantha on Nature

She decided to sleep in today. Every weekday Samantha woke up early to have time to herself. She sipped her coffee in an oversized sweater leaning back in the chair by her window as the sunlight broke above the cityscape through her blinds. It was Saturday, and her bed which was far too inviting the previous night was just as reluctant to release her. Neither did she fight its increasing gravity.

The sun was already peeking above the nearby historic downtown buildings. She stretched all limbs as if to stake claim to the entire mattress and, after coiling back in, slowly revealed herself to the day from under her sheet with a sweep of her arm. Rolling once more from her back to her side, squeezing her pillow, and releasing a sound that is only heard during someone’s final stretch, she finally turned her legs over the side of her bed and sat up. The air was warm and inviting. The spell her bed had over her was broken.

Her apartment was small but comfortable. Modern utilities in a historic building. In the bathroom, she completed her wake-up sequence and lazily slipped on her bra and an oversized shirt. Leaving through the bedroom and passing her favorite window chair, she floated to the coffee machine to serve a habit that she neither needed nor did it serve her, yet remains a habit nonetheless. While it warmed and steeped, she leaned over the counter and scribbled single words per each line on a yellow ruled notepad.

It was almost mid-April and the farmer’s market had just opened for the year. While she was merely going to browse, she would already be quite late. But she knew what she was buying today, where she was going. This was going to be a very deliberate trip. Samantha was deeply in love with the farmer’s market. It was where she spent the majority of her money. During the colder months when the market is closed she honestly feels a little lost. The city market is always open and filled with artisan crafts she also cared for. But there is something delightfully pastoral to her favorite canners selling marmalade and honey. The expensive, but fresh tomatoes and basil.

As she daydreamed her walking trip, the sound of some particularly upset birds at the window jolted her from her fantasy. Her list and her coffee were nearly done. Samantha was well-paid at her office job but felt disconnected from her passion for nature and a semi-agrarian lifestyle in it. That lifestyle sat slightly beyond her budget, ironically, as it can get costly to get rid of everything you own and simply move away to nowhere. She sometimes browsed over plots of land she will never purchase from her work computer imagining where she would place the blackberry vines, and if they would be adjacent to the flowers she would plant to attract pollinators. She imagined the sound of the wildlife and the birds, ones a little less angry than the ones outside of her window.

Curious and distracted, she walked to the window to see what the fuss was about. She peered through the blinds to see a cat stalking a couple of birds in the green space. It wasn’t a stray, but rather an abandoned feline that was adopted by a neighbor and kept as an outdoor cat. Just domestic enough to come to the sound of a food pouch opening, just feral enough to run from being touched. The birds had beautiful blue and black feathers, which fluttered about just feet over the cat. Not as charismatic as a pigeon nor as brilliant as a jay, but nice to look at. They seemed to be protecting a nest.

Samantha mused for a while over the tussle. She had no interest or concern in stopping the cat. She understood he was certainly hungry, and well within his rights. Neither did she feel compelled to scare away the birds which at that point swooped down to peck at the cat’s head. They were simply protecting their lives and their nest. In her eyes, what nature does is pure, and she has no authority to intervene. It would, in fact, be disruptive for her to step in. No, it would be immoral to choose either creature’s side.

She didn’t know nor particularly care who’d win, but the cat grew louder to match the birds. But she knew there was a good chance to see blood, and she didn’t want to. Samantha was far from a heartless woman. She, rather, placed a tremendous degree of respect in nature. Human nature, she felt, was to curate a piece of nature. Tempering any urge to interfere, Samantha returned to her own curated space. She walked away to her coffee, which finished while it was unwatched, and poured it. Her favorite chair was saturated in tweets and mews so she leaned against the counter. Samantha glanced at her list while she sipped. She looked forward to her fresh marmalade and honey.

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All Obstacles In My Way

At no point in my life have I had a healthy relationship with Shame. It is a force of nature, or maybe even an expanse of nature, such as a wood or a desert or an ocean that consumes all would be travelers within its relentless stomach. Often I have approached the edge of shame and even marched far enough into its maw to lose sight of the safety I left behind me, but never have I done so unequipped or unattended. It isn’t that I am a coward but rather that I lack courage enough to bare myself to the elements of Shame. Like biting cold or scorching heat, it tears away at me and I find myself unable to live in the element. Shame is a demon. It is a god. It is an Authority of immense breadth, and it has maintained tyranny over my psyche for my entire life. It sets its claim over me as my master and shall maintain that stance until I master my relationship with it.

Shame in my life is less an obstacle in my way and more of an obstacle course. The field is itself riddled with several more discrete obstacles all about it. Memories, inner voices, culture, belonging, remnants of Guilt and Fear, and the gaze of others all litter the landscape and present their own unique challenge and distinct pain. Through means of cartography, I know what exists on the other end of this boundary were I to traverse it. Love. Esteem. The chance to properly grieve. Vulnerable intimacy. A fulfilling livelihood. And the chance to exercise my authentic will in both selfish and charitable ways without the ceaseless cacophony of my inner monsters. Without consistent utterance of my worthlessness, my sinfulness, and my irredeemable case of humanity. As it is, staying as I am without conquering the wilderness of Shame will only continue to bring me self-loathing, a career I fail to identify with, and unhealthy submissiveness.

As is the case with most things (once left to their own for long enough), Shame has manifested in my life as very real and sometimes tangible representations. Shame has often and has again driven me to self-incrimination even where Guilt hasn’t fastened itself. I’ve experienced this with family, in businesses, and most presently in relationships and with the law. These representations need to addressed by understanding where my guilt is rather than feeling ashamed simply for being less than I would aspire. Shame also bars me from occupation. Not only have I been unwilling to change my career into one that best suits me out of embarrassment, but I have also been too ashamed to request work from new clients or request my payments from those I have done work for. Finally, shame keeps me from intimacy. The truth is that I don’t feel worthy of love and I so don’t actively seek relationships that would serve me. Instead I accept the ones that come, and often they come with abuse.

I have to overcome Shame. I have to overcome my expectations and standards for myself, because they will never be realistic or perhaps even ever attainable. Doubtlessly, I need to learn how to love myself. I need to find something in myself to love and something about myself worth protecting from the many tribulations I have invited to myself. Once that is done, I have a very specific need to claim my identity. I’m not a martyr nor a victim but I don’t claim the identity of a hero or a victor. This lack of resolute identity or ownership of my strength leaves me floundering in a sea of my unresolved problems. Presently I suppose all I need to do is convince myself and a judge. What I’m sure of is that I am unsure of myself and that once I’m certain that I am a firm footing to stand on I can tread forward in an affirmative way.

It isn’t in my nature to use an obstacle as an excuse the avoid a task, but I have been known to take the more difficult path forward in avoidance of the painful necessity. I regret the slower roads despite the insights I have found along them simply because I know that it has been my choice not to resolve my difficulties. It isn’t fear, but rather, disgust that is directing my feet in this instance, which is just one leg of a long instance of my developmental life. In this particular instance. Surely, however, I am integrating my many separated splinters through ritual and habituation. If nothing else, I’m beginning to feel comfortable with myself. I may not win against my aggressors, but I may very well conquer Shame this way. This has been my greatest obstacle in life, so it is paramount that I capture this momentum and carry it forward.

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I bend my heart to you, oh belov’ed
and pledge my pulse to stir you 

I bend my will to you oh believ’ed 
and in pledging you animate my form

I resolve to exist in your name 
to act at your announcement

For I have nothing but my devotion
and it is my devotion I give in evidence of the same

I empty my soul of its adoration
and make room to house you

My value is in my appreciation of you
I recognized my worth solely because I recognized your own

Let my efforts be a blessing onto you
A fraction of that blessing which is to know of your unknowable essence

I am consecrated by your gaze, oh belov’ed
by filling made whole 
by feeling made holy

Oh believ’ed, I bend myself to you
and with dedication fastened shall I be with meaning

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Sometimes you don’t realize that your life is poetry until you notice the stanzas. I started recording my thoughts together, particularly here, with a two-fold purpose: stitch a semblance of a narrative together from my scattered thoughts, and to figure out what character I was in that narrative. The latter proved far more of a struggle, due largely to the baggage that comes with being a human in even the broadest sense. There was simply too much “self-ness” in the being bucket to discern what parts were authentically me and what was simply getting dragged along. I heard a phrase once quoted from a yogi I don’t remember the name of which declared that only through constant self-annihilation can we discover the indestructible truth of who we really are. In April of 2019, I set the charges to self-destruct my own ego and in April of 2020, I detonated them. The resulting mess was substantial and dwarfed only by the resulting message. The previous stanza —

Over the past year, I have experienced and accomplished extraordinary oddness, at least for me. I don’t have the energy nor the bravery to expound deeply in detail in this article alone. Suffice to say it involved inexplicable and unexpected involvement with politics, scandal, activism, nearly para-military organization, world-wide catastrophe, jail, and esoterism, all of which I impressively survived largely unscathed. Actually no, not unscathed. I emerged scarred mentally and to a lesser extent physically, destroyed in several aspects and reinforced in others. Despite that, more than enough of me survived to teach me valuable lessons, some about who I am and a great deal more about who I am not. While there were truly lovely circumstances over that year, I would be lying against myself if I said that it wasn’t a terrific gauntlet of pain and suffering. Even still, in what might be either to most direct or indirect of ways, I’ve succeeded in clarifying my identity through the very thorough event of annihilation.

As I type I am working through a mood stabilizer which keeps me quite unable to track my own thoughts through a coherent narrative. If there were anything that made it hard to tell a story, that would be it. And yet, the conditions I currently live in, the strings of causality that conjured them, and the heaviness of the entire scenario makes it so that is barely an issue. I couldn’t imagine not knowing where I am or how I got here. My narrative is baked in my present, and my every breath is a forensic lab report describing the bizarre worldwide and personal events of 2020. Ironic that I would end 2020 without focus. Apropos that I would end 2020 with such sharp clarity. I seldom know if I am in the tragedy or comedy anymore, but at least I know my character and his role. Interestingly enough, though it seems to breach my previously established theories of mind and several takeaways from any number of Joseph Campbell books, I turned out to not be the hero of my story. As it so happens, I’m the audience insert. I am Doctor Watson. Call me Ishmael. I’ve been here to tell the story all along, not to live it.

I have, through one device or another, been trying my best to remove myself from the story. In childhood I had an obsession with the invisible hand. The idea that my life would be happier, and even more purposeful, if I were some ethereal being that participated in the world through untraceable action. To have no body and no voice. Appropriately enough for the Christmas season (It’s December 10th as I write this) I often remember the Rankin Bass Christmas special Jack Frost. Jack is a spirit of, as insinuated, frost. He coats leaves with shimmering ice, freezes the surface of the lakes, and even interacts with humans who can neither hear nor see him by nipping the tip of their noses with Winter chill. Apart from that, he is a non-agent, relegated to be essentially “other” from the world at large. This isn’t because I ever wanted to not deal with others. On the contrary, I like and actually love others and very much enjoy being in the human world. Rather, it’s because I have never felt quite human enough to be considered human in the human world.

When you don’t quite feel like others, and yet are expected to feel like others, and certainly to act like others, existing takes on a substantial eight and resistance. It is in these times that I am well acquainted with the phenomenon in which Hell is other people. This Hell is less characterized by the fires and smoke of Gehenna, and more with the chains, shackles, and iron bars that represent expectation itself, as well as its cousin, obligation. These things aren’t inherently bad or bothersome, especially seeing as they are among the threads that weave the fabric of social cohesion. The issue is that they seem, more often than not, detrimentally misassigned. The aforementioned Jack Frost fell in love with a mortal woman who claimed that she loved Winter dearly, and more than anything she loved Jack Frost. He petitioned with Father Winter to make him human so that he might love her properly, and when granted, he found himself awkwardly too inhuman for the masquerade. The funny thing is that in a lot of ways, he could never love her properly as a human. She loved Jack Frost the spirit, and the spirit is what he properly was. His life was doomed, on one side of the veil or the other, to disquietude.

Over the past year the story caught up with me. I can’t pose as the nameless narrator or the disembodied declaimer. The weight of the words and the pressure of the paragraphs crashed down on me hard and fast enough to remind me with certainty that I am no ethereal spirit. That hiding from my agency wasn’t an option anymore. That was the coward’s way out of self-annihilation, and no, freshly re-embodied, I was to be thrown into the cauldron. After losing a lot and suffering considerable psychological and spiritual “processing,” I am, or at least I feel, ready to assume my role actively. It was the metaphor that finally made it clear. The constant use of symbols and ideas I placed to distance myself from the description that helped me realized it was a poem. It was the pattern of the stanzas, the December collapse, April recovery, and July re-invention, for me to recognize its structure. I always felt like a misfit in my own narrative, like I didn’t rhyme with anything, so I omitted myself my page. This year perhaps at last gave me the vocabulary to belong amongst my own thoughts. If not, at least now I know, I couldn’t run from this work because I was always the title of this piece all along.

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Heartbeats countdown
The flow of time and blood
Both of which I’ve too much on my hands

Contrary to popular belief
Neither heals all wounds
To think otherwise
Is to think too much of time
And too little of wounds

I cannot wash my hands of either
No disinfectant makes me a suitable surgeon
To sew the stitch
Or apply the salve

tear drop

Is the worst witch doctor remedy
Snake oil dripped from forked tongues
And venomous fangs
It’s a token subtle serpents hiss to women they betray

We often fail to realize that we are someone’s poison
Their wounds can’t heal
Until we are removed

Some wounds still
Neither close nor kill
They leave survivors, not victims
And they live with their damage within them

I’ve been someone’s poison
And to have committed the unforgivable
Is to live your entire life in penance
A sentence dealt by the justice of truth
And what can be destroyed by the truth deserves to be

You can’t bury your past and not also yourself
Leaving an unhidden tombstone for all to see
And shame etched upon your epitaph
You see, wounds that neither close nor kill
Leave one survivor too many
If harm lives to harm another day

The cure and the poison cannot share space
The finest thing I’ve done
Is allow my annihilation
And in small ever-constant doses
I’m am made into my antidote

Neither time nor blood heals all wounds
To think otherwise
Is to think too much of time
And too little of wounds

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Golden Hour

On Apollo’s Chariot
Tied by golden lariat
To equestrian beasts
Hephaestian feat
By Vulcan forge was formed

Golden orb of Helios
Fire burning furious
Cross celestial ledge
Horizon edge
The Earth is slowly warmed

Stars and Nyx abscond away
Aurora is fond to stay
Luminous advance
The heavens dance
The nymphs awake in kind

Bathed in bless’d beatitude
Life returns its gratitude
Turn Euros’ way
I greet the ray
Which on my face too shined

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two bird

We sing similar
Peaks and pitch of such likeness
As to seem equal in audience of an Audobon auditor
The two of us each early share the same worm
We soar across identical paths
Both bore by Boreas
The wind which renders our wings weightless
Our wings
Beautiful wings
Covered in pretty plumage
Of radiant color and pattern
Iridescent black and bold blues
Extending from dapper dactyls
Yes you and I
Dichotomously distinct
Yet different
Special even in our species
Yes, you and I
Even you and I
Are not the same
What we share in genus we differ in genesis
We hatched from the same nest
Yet emerged from different eggs
Which is why now I come to roost
In the same tree
But a different branch
You and I so alike
But our duplications are duplicitous
Indubitably inimitable
I am not you
Nor you I
No matter where you fly
My flap is mine own
And though
Together we flock
Whether or not
The weather is fine
My feather is mine
And will never be thine

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And Then it Happened

obscured face mask

And then it happened
Announced by herald Angels to atheist shepherds
Upon whose ears the horns fell silent
And foretold by portentous stellar scribes
Whose etched prognostications shone down on illiterate Magi

And then it happened
Like a thief in the night
Responding to his early invitation
Prophesied to non-believers and their talking-head idols

A plague spake by Pharaoh’s own mouth
Who stands shocked o’er his stricken son
So leave it unwritten
Still let it be done

And they wept
O did they cry
“Why have you forsaken us?”
And lo
God did not answer
Their DM was left on read
As did His emails go to their spam

As wisdom cried through the streets
Fools paid her no heed
And the plague did visit every door
And as he knocked they opened

And there was no lamb’s blood
O’er their posts
The lamb was slaughtered
And made into a scapegoat

And then it happened
Announced by no one
That was being listened to
And then it happened
That the world stood still
And science was blamed
For not sounding urgent enough

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It must have been the words carried on the air
The subtle trickling of meaning soaking itself into every neuron
Even making the atmosphere more humid
Or was it the flop sweat
Or the tears
Or the reign

The cloud began as soft tufts of obfuscation
Ever so infrequently blocking the luminosity
The disinfectant of daylight
Passing by like idle thoughts
Bubbles of speech in illustrated Sunday funnies
Then the thoughts, and the chatter, and the gossip
Blotted the sky with ominous darkness
With the portent of storm

change in atmosphere

Lowering slowly, as clouds are wont to do
They prevailed their dominion over land
Abandoning heaven
There is no heaven
And alighted onto the cement and asphalt as fog

The chatter, the gossip, the silent and deafening thoughts
The din which became hush
As I walked into rooms
The change in mood in tone in pressure
In atmosphere
I was a cold front walking into a hot mess
I brought the storm

Maybe it was the flop sweat
Or the tears
But I could swear it was raining
Not a cloud in the sky

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I Knew I Couldn’t Turn Back

I knew I couldn’t turn back when I wanted to turn back more than anything else
When not quitting felt like not breathing
When continuing felt like just bleeding

I knew I couldn’t turn back when it was still too easy to
When I was four feet from a forfeit
And no one would judge me for stopping

I knew I couldn’t turn back when they told me that I should
When their being right meant they were right forever
And forever is a long time to face what if

What is there to turn back to?
Back to the dreamer who wished he started?
Back to the starter who wished he finished?
Who told himself his life wouldn’t have purpose if not lived on purpose –
Who felt meaningless if he didn’t send a message –
Who couldn’t feel valuable without utility –
Who was empty when he didn’t fill a role?
If I’m going to have a neurosis
It will be one I choose
That takes me somewhere
Because I’d rather like myself for achieving nothing
Than hate myself for not doing anything
What was there to turn back to?

Walking on

I knew I couldn’t turn back when the first person called me an inspiration
That they kept trying because I gave them hope
And they weren’t just watching for me to fail

I knew I couldn’t turn back when I committed myself not to
Like forces burn bridges
Like Cortez burnt boats
The port is now closed

I knew I couldn’t turn back when forward became falling
I couldn’t stop if I wanted to
And to reverse would be an act of God

For too long I didn’t answer my calling
Like my accounts were in collections
I didn’t realize that I wasn’t trying to do something
I was trying to be someone
I wasn’t trying to prove I was alive
I was trying to earn the right to die
By doing what I was privileged enough to be born to
Because the world would be lesser if I didn’t
And it hurts to move on

But every time I doubt it hurts someone else

I knew I couldn’t turn back when someone said they needed to hear what I said that day
I knew I couldn’t turn back when I was asked to come back and speak again
I knew I couldn’t turn back when someone told me I helped them clean up their life
I knew I couldn’t turn back when my children told me they wouldn’t want me to change
I knew I couldn’t turn back when the people I harmed on the way weren’t healed yet
I knew I couldn’t turn back when the secrets I held weren’t revealed yet
I knew I couldn’t turn back when the visions I saw weren’t real yet
I knew I couldn’t turn back when the obstacles didn’t make me yield yet
I knew I couldn’t turn back when I couldn’t see my starting point past the curvature of the Earth

I knew I couldn’t turn back when I finally stopped thinking “I knew I couldn’t.”