Poetry: How it was

 

we were wine drunk in a sad state
rain fell softly, our feet bare in tall grass
we discovered and devoured everything
it was a time, I wish we could go back to

a place that no longer exists
nothing is the same
we are not the same
like rain runs off an old tin roof

we did our best
we were all winging it
without a book of instructions
we loved and tried and cried

sickness taught us about mortality
and of time
of right and of wrong
of a balance of life based on mystery

life gave us as much as we took
we were brittle, we were broken
we looked deep to encompass pain
to draw a circle around it and around us

the circle around us, that was grace,
I, just a boy, you, a girl, we
to each other, every boy and girl
we had ever had and lost

we wanted to leave, to not exist,
to go leaving no tracks or marks
to be forgotten and not followed,
we yearned only for us to be

we wondered how to live
for ourselves and for life and
because we believed
in each other as one spirit

we wanted to see the sky,
to go home, but how ?
we did not think past us
over our shipwrecked lives

everything was falling and not falling
the next toehold in life was
sore tired hearts and bodies
of the children we were, we are

we lost, unsure of what was real
we didn’t know what to do or to write
or to say or to ask, to only feel a sad
liberating acceptance of a deeper sadness

we were stripped of a dignity in life
of all things tried and failed
all the love we’re ever given
can be invoked long after it’s gone

I’m here
we are here
in this moment, this place, a time
when once there was this: us.

©Bill Reynolds 1/21/2019

Look both ways, but love the past we’ve lost to the cosmos.
Those gaps are gone, sadly.

Essay: Romantic or Realist?

Disclosure on me:

I’ve been told that I’m a sensitive man. Given the smiles and nods around the room, it was intended as a compliment. The unstated enigma was that men normally are not.

I was recently told that I am a romantic (noun) because I’ve written romantic (adjective) poetry. The person who said that was laughing at the time because in her view, that is ironic. She claimed the higher ground of a realist (noun) partly because she was on her third (two bad experiences) marriage. This time to a man who was quite ill, adding to the reality of life.

The poem was about the dreamy desire of a (real) woman who was not in a happy, romantic relationship. It was my interpretation of her romantic dream – how she wanted things to be.

I responded that I accept who and what I am, that one can be both romantic and realist (definitions-dependent), and that a romantic realist is a thing in art, if not in people. Realistic art does not necessarily point to a realist artist. A writer of romance literature or romantic poetry need not hold personal romantic views. But, she was partly correct about me (does not know me well).

Most of this is because people attach my writing to my persona (or vice versa), which is okay, but what I write is not always me and certainly not about me. Often, I write about the world and people or things I see. In this case, my poem was about someone I knew who is struggling with life and her circumstance – her dreams and desires, perhaps pushed beyond the limits of practical reality.

Once bitten, twice shy

I believe that we learn best from the most painful lessons of life. We recall shocking or painful times well, if not always accurately. For my age group, it might be when JFK, RFK, or MLK were shot, among others. I suspect that the lady judging me formed her view because of her personal life experiences. That’s fair enough. But given the number of times I have found myself speaking in defense of reality and things as they truly are, a true romantic I am not.

The paradox

I haven’t posted about the paradox of love in a long time. I’m uncertain and struggle with what to say and how to say it. What will people say or think? I worry less about my writing and more about the subject or content. I sometimes wonder if I wrote about crime (I haven’t) if the FBI would show up at my door with a search warrant. But let’s give this a go even if I admit to the romantic leanings of a realist with both feet planted in the real world.

How long is long enough to love someone? In both quantity and time, “I love you now and I will forever (time), to the moon and back (quantity).” Is one day or night all there is? Is 20, 30, or 50 years enough? My mother died about 30 years ago, but I still love her. I’ve been married over 50 years, and my wife and I love each other.

I write about the Paradox of Love, loosely basing some of what I say on a book of the same title by Pascal Bruckner. I add my observations and limited experiences (in the worldly sense mostly, but I love many people, most seem to love me back). There is no shortage of material on this topic, many experts, and hundreds of ways to look at it.

The paradox to me is when love is added to the learning mix of life, painful lessons do not seem to stick. For some, the devastation from damage where love is involved is virtually unrecoverable. Yet, I have seen many times when the paradox of love allows us to move on with life and with love. Once again, “I love you forever…we love each other….” For me, that is the paradox. The human relationship quandary. However, as with the lady who labelled me a romantic, we may move on with less romantic naivety.

The human condition

Yet, love is forever until one of us blinks, looks away, wants more, samples greener pastures, or simply decides it’s over. Then all bets are off. Forever isn’t quite so long as we thought, right? None of that for better or worse shit, it must always be better and continually improving. Bore me and you’re gone. Then there is the ubiquitous found someone else. I admit to being dramatic here, but I’ve seen ugly romantic breakups and divorces. I could add friendships, but I am focusing on romantic love. What makes it work so well for many, yet repeatedly fails for others? Why?

I get it. The human condition is imperfect, and these things happen. People in love can, and do, fall in love with others. How many times do we love before we spend a lifetime with someone? Some people are polyamorous (one is not enough – a blog for next time).

Rarely is it okay with the other person to act on this. And if we do act on it, often all the shit in hell piles into the manure spreader and is sent flying (shit storm). On the bright side, without all the misery involved with love, over half of country music’s best crying in yer beer tunes would have never been sung. That’s also true for much R&R, R&B, and opera. I enjoy romantic comedy, but there’s room for tragedy in my mind. And is pain not the best teacher?

Free love – by the book

In his book, Bruckner describes the 1960s liberation movement (mostly civil rights, anti-war, and feminism) as a time of “free love” (especially within hippy groups but certainly not for all). No commitments, openness and a willingness to share even the most intimate and sexual experiences with others. That still goes on, I suppose, but without all the publicity of post-1950s drama.

Many good things came from the movements of the 60s: improved equality (woman, people of color, others), better human rights, music, long hair, care for the environment, and others. But the oxymoron idea of free love was not one of them – fortunately, according to Bruckner and me.

Free and open sex is just that. And love is also just that, meaning it is neither open nor free (e.g., she/he is mine). While I can’t speak for anyone else, and certain groups (religious, LGBTQ, cultural) may see or experience this differently, the romantic love two people may share could be about the most powerful emotional human force we possess. But, (and my idea of the paradox is) it is also among the most destructive.

All my exes live in Texas

A friend of mine who had been married several times, looked at me one day and informed me that her latest husband told her that he no longer wished to be married. Obviously shaken, she further confided that she had never loved him. I didn’t ask her (or him) if he felt the same way.

After the divorce ball was rolling along, he asked to reconcile (meaning he’d been dumped). She declined, which pissed him off, and it was not a nice, amicable divorce after that. The third thing she told me was that she was sure that she was not good at marriage. A difficult time followed for her, but that was mostly recovering from financial and ego damage. In time, she survived both and eventually remarried a guy after a long partnership (News update. I recently learned they divorced, and she is engaged to a new man).

Which are you?

To love and to be loved are wonderful things. Romantic me. To love often may also be wonderful. To be the couple in my poem is indeed romantic, but is also realistically feasible. Yet, to love comes with great risk and personal vulnerability. Remember, even the realist was on her third marriage. What is this human condition I call the paradox of love?

My original post on the paradox of love was over a year ago. It is more about the book than my thoughts. Read it by clicking here. You can read the poem that started this by clicking here.

Look both ways in romance and reality.
Be especially mindful of gaps in romance and real world relationships.
Live and learn, love and learn. Risk love, always.

 

Note: paradox synonyms; contradiction, contradiction in terms, self-contradiction, inconsistency, incongruity; oxymoron; conflict, anomaly; enigma, puzzle, mystery, conundrum, dichotomy, and incongruity.

Poetry: Benching

Benching

I’ve been benched
watching
and thinking –
but mostly resting,
feeling sore and angry
because I do know the score.

Sit down and shut up,
sit on your hands
she said.
Be a good little nobody.
When the tyrant teases,
take it like a man.

Fuck that. I am what I am
if that is not pleasing to you,
eat me, ass hole sick breath.
I dunno why I’m here but
not to please you is for sure.
Not one damn bit sorry am I.

I benched myself, to rest,
to think and to talk, to look
and to waive my wave or
give the nod, an atheist’s blessings
be upon you and your dreams.
The pains and gains piss on the bench,
and the next and next after that.

Feel the pain in my body, my mind and my core
I’m benched — out of the game. On my ass.
Sitting here watching dogs and deer,
wondering when this all will pass.
Sympathy and anger, it’s all the same to me.
On the bench is where, I can always
be – or is this all that I now can be?

Now you can tell me, to get off my ass
to make the pain come on back, to stretch,
and move, to walk and run and to see and feel.
Benching is good and it feels so bad.
Move over dip shit, this is my bench,
My time to cry, my time to rest

on the old man’s bench.

© Bill Reynolds 1/14/2019

Look both ways and know where the respites hide.
Mind the gaps. Broken slivers can hurt.

Song Lyric Sunday – Laughing

 

Jim selected the Song Lyric Sunday theme of laugh.

I almost took a pass today because it’s that kind of day for me. But, I browsed my iPhone playlist and selected Losing My Religion by R.E.M. Fucking perfect!

This is a song about a pissy (as in arrogantly argumentative) mood, which is where I am this Sunday morning. The mood will pass, but this song is a classic rock-whiner. I love it! I might not normally pick alternative rock, but this tune means a lot to me.

I prefer the official (old MTV) video best. Since it has no lyrics displayed, I’ve pasted them below. The hook is in the refrain lyrics:

“I thought that I heard you laughing//I thought that I heard you sing//I think I thought I saw you try”

Losing My Religion
R.E.M.

Oh, life is bigger
It’s bigger
Than you and you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I’m choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

Consider this
Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
Try, cry
Why try?
That was just a dream, just a dream, just a dream
Dream

Songwriters: Bill Berry / Michael Stipe / Mike Mills / Peter Buck
Losing My Religion lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

Look both ways and be still my heart at the sound of mandolin and flute.
Mind the gaps, or ‘but that was just a dream, try, cry, why try?
That was just a dream, just a dream’ or maybe
a dream within a dream.

Note: I get it, but it would be cool if there was a flute.

Essay: Shit Happens

  1. My mother said, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”
  2. My wife looked at my adult son and said, “Everything happens for a reason.”
  3. The minister looked into the eyes of the congregation and said, “There is no such thing as a coincidence.”

I forget the exact contexts and situations.

To my mom I would say, “You did nothing to deserve cancer; no one does.” While there may be reasons someone gets cancer, it is not punishment for being not good enough or for being bad. However, it is no joke that a lot of people think like this because of religion.

To my wife I say that most things have a cause and effect. Many things happen due to natural causes, environments, and special situations. Some things are random and have disastrous outcomes. Shit happens.

When someone is fired from (or not selected for) a job, and they later get a much better job, that is good fortune probably assisted by the fact that the person is well qualified for both jobs and it is fortunate that they snagged the better one. The opposite also happens. While such a comforting phrase may bring minor, temporary solace; it is not true that everything happens for a (supernatural) reason. A spiritual being causing a temporary problem to bring about a happier or sadder outcome fails any common-sense test.

To the minister I say that coincidence may not mean exactly what you think it means. According to one (MW) dictionary it relates to coinciding of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have a connection. Better words might be random, arbitrary, pointless, haphazard, or desultory.

Whether one believes in a god or not, and regardless of the influence of any god, those words exist because things and happenings can be random, pointless, and desultory.

I recall reading a poem in Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones: Spiritual Answers to Psychological Questions by the late Father Benedict Groeschel. The poem of unknown authorship is titled “The Weaving.” The last of three, eight-line stanzas goes,

At last, when life is ended,
With Him I shall abide,
Then I may view the pattern
Upon the upper side;
Then I shall know the reason
Why pain with joy entwined,
Was woven in the fabric
Of life that God designed.

While the poem is beautiful and weaving as a metaphor for a life designed by a god is useful, it also points to the unknown reason for the suffering in life. It implies that we will find no reason until after death, and then only if we are in heaven with the deity who will, presumably, make it all clear. In other words, it makes no sense.

I prefer this outlook from the song “The Sad Café” by the Eagles.

***
Now I look at the years gone by,
And wonder at the powers that be.
I don’t know why fortune smiles on some
And lets the rest go free
***

Shit happens. It’s not our fault. Blame it on whatever imaginary entity you choose. That may be the only reason you ever find.

© Bill Reynolds 1/10/2019

Look both ways for the reasons in life, but don’t accept not knowing—wonder.
Mind the gaps, they are real, but may be overcome with knowledge.

Poetry: They die, dang-it

 

Dad was 74, and then some more.
Mom barely passed 77, but she did.
And then they died, as happens to humans,
even parents go away one sad day.

It’s natural. Bad enough — life and death.

They were just short of some expected norm,
Dad a hard-core Camel smoker with a long past
as an underground hard-coal miner, and a heavy
weekend drinker till he quit. Cuz, “too old.”

Now names of leaves and ancestor memories.

Mom got late to fixes for breast cancer,
yet survived about ten mo’ years and may have
won even more, but in life —  it’s always
somethin’ what makes one go away.

Each day of life is precious with mothers.

“Smoking is my one and only pleasure”
said my sister, ‘Show,’ to me, trying to quit
but failing. And, before yielding to lung cancer,
“You know, Billy, I never quit. Now I can’t.”

I hate being right. Precious is life with others.

Other sister was bro Danny’s sis, half to me,
was still poking in her time card at 80-some.
I loved her dearly but struggled when asked,
“What’s it like, to be treated like 3 year old?”

Over fifty years of love for her baby, half-brother.

Now, I just act my age. If I’m lucky, I’ll be 74,
after I blow out 73 candles in the next year,
more, with good kismet down the road, but got them
genes. I love my life today, an’ when I’m dead,

I’ll love that too, all things now bein’ said.

©Bill Reynolds 12/10/2018

“Existence itself does not feel horrible;
it feels like an ecstasy, rather,
which we have only to be still to experience.”
~ John Updike

***

Look both ways along the life-line and cherish every second,
with every person.
‘When yer dead, you’re dead.” (Mom said)
Mind each gap, cuz they count, too.

Song Lyric Sunday – Boys

Helen’s theme for today is boys. I prowled through many songs about boys and by The Beach Boys and other groups with boys in the name. But I kept coming back to a song with boy in the lyrics; a song I really like: The Boxer, sung by Simon & Garfunkel, written by Paul Simon. I love the music, the story, and the lyrics. This song makes me yearn for something, but I don’t know what.

The hook lines for the prompt are in the first (‘I am just a poor boy though my story’s seldom told...’) and second (‘...I’m no more than a boy in the company of strangers…’) stanzas.

I selected the video because the lyrics are there and images get you through a lot of La la li, and Li la li, in the refrains. Great, great song.

 

Look both ways when runnin’ scared and laying low. Mind the gaps on 7th Avenue.

 

Click graphic for link to SLS page.