tall silence of the gray

there is a bottom
to this place
tho it looks a lot like–
when you’re on top
when nothing can go wrong
but you’ll find
some different people
there
at the bottom
where the valley is wide
and flat, and hoary rubble
where the pinnacles
we’d once claimed
hold new flags
in the clouds
tho the sun still shines
and the days
still come and go
and come
and go
as always
aye, you’ll find
some different people
below
some, the same–
and oft times a few less
than you’d known before
tho there be hordes, unknown
wanderers, and crossed-eyed babblers
and slurring lunatics
or mutes, scratching noisily at their skin
or anarchists, black-clad and clamorous
or some– becoming suddenly
red-faced, and pious
and some are quite loud
about it all
to stave off
the tall silence
of the gray
yet still, they are each
distant
muddle, and murmurs
from miles away
even when right beside you
screaming– about nothing
or about everything
and everyone
loved
and all things
touched
are not really there
anymore
the reach of a hand
to comfort another
passing right through
where they’d once been
souls, and flesh, now like notions
become ghosts in the ether
except the ground
the concrete streets
of the fallen cities
stay
there is a bottom
and the stony soil
of the wide valley
remains
unyielding, beneath
those grown weary
tho they’d wish it
give way

that grace once promised

birthed, ten loves ago
and perhaps more
hollow and screaming, then
endless, red suns’ crimson sorrow
flickers and wanes
to the west of us
as does the flame
a dog-worn path
traces the borders of periphery
pacing, never leaving this place
aye, never finding that grace
once promised
slender winter now passed
round-blond petals
yellow memories, each
wide, and yearning, return
silent, in the trodden earth
awakened, and awaiting
and here, my loves
shall we remain

That vs. Which, a Curious Conundrum

I should really be writing something that will make me money. This won’t. The problem is that every time I park my behind to write something, there are grammar questions, ones that make me wish I had paid more attention in English class instead of watching Susie’s derriere twitch as she walked to the front of the class to turn in her puuurrfect paper.

Today, I find myself again perplexed by the notion and usage of That vs. Which in proper grammar. Yes, I know my main topic should have been in the first paragraph, rather than leading with than Susie’s shapely rear end, but that’s boring and I don’t care. Oh, the memories, dear Susie.

Anyone who has read more than a few sentences that I’ve stitched together has seen me misuse and/or abuse both of these words. In fact, I may have done so just now, in the previous sentence. I have no idea. The topic is almost as baffling as semicolons, which also make me think of asses, but not in such a nostalgic way as did Susie.

I’m too old to go back to school to learn the proper usage of That vs. Which, and Susie has moved on by now. My brain cells are mostly gone anyway. The ones I hadn’t killed off in my youthful insobriety have fled, screaming, having seen what I did to their brethren.

Needing to understand the difference between That and Which, and which one I should whip out at a given time, I did what any modern writer would do: I consulted the experts on YouTube.

Now, to be fair, I think the people in the videos really were experts. Also to be fair, I wouldn’t know an expert if I saw one, although one did look a bit like Susie.

These experts used a lot of technical jargon, like Identifying Clauses, to help distinguish the cases where That should be used, or where Which should be used. Nobody made any jokes about Who’s on first, but it would have lightened the mood.

As best I can figure, Which should be used when there is additional information to be shared, but when this information is not necessary to understand the sentence’s meaning. That should be used when you need to identify which one we are discussing.

That:

The alligator that bit Grandma had big teeth.

Maybe there were 10 alligators, or 11. The distinction must be made as to which one, and that distinction is made by using That. The other alligators refrained from biting anyone that day and need to be given credit for their good behavior by clarifying which one did the biting.

Which:

The alligator, which had big teeth, bit Grandma.

In this case, the fact, interesting or not, that the alligator had big teeth is not necessary to the sentence’s meaning, so Which would be used. I think. Never mind the fact that the entire sentence, blog post, and most of the internet is not necessary. We’re just talking about Grandma’s alligator here, and grammar, and Susie’s prominent posterior.

I hope today’s lesson on That vs. Which has been educational. If not, go look it up on YouTube. As I am still confused, and perhaps more than before, I’ll see you there.


This is not a poem.

ache

in all of us
there is a thing
missing
there is an ache–
an unspoken vacancy
in the eyes’ glossy shimmer
there is a sunny-day sparkle
that doesn’t shine
there is an absence
while visiting other worlds
or worlds passed
there is a ring-planet place
we’d all rather be
but of which no one speaks
there is a wish
we’ve all had
and still have
and have kept
shrouded
there is a thing
clandestine
which we’ve held–
nestled in the bosom
of our heart’s shadows
bringing it out at night
to admire, and caress–
when the lights are dim
there is a thing
we see missing
in others
and which others
see missing
in us
as we drive, and shop, and work
and pray, and fuck
there is a part of the smile
even those smiles
a bit too wide
that is never given
and we don’t say a word
about this ache
never in a lifetime
it is ours, alone


I’m quite aware that every poem I write is a rewrite of this one, in some way. In any case, I’m posting it here again as I kill off the other blog slowly.

Late for Work

I’d just walked in, plugging my company-issued laptop into the dock when the email arrived. “Eric, In the future, if you are going to to be 15 minutes late for work, I’ll need to know before you arrive.”

I hadn’t intended to be late. My job was already hanging by a thread; they’d been courteous enough to tell me so in a private meeting. And now they were building a file on me, making notes on all the small imperfections which every employee has, but which would be used to document my upcoming dismissal. Corporations like having these things properly documented. The tsunami was already on its way and there was nothing anyone could or would do.

I hadn’t intended to be late. The traffic was heavy as we all jammed up on the highway near the frozen Delaware, fighting for position as 5 lanes merged into two heading for the state’s capitol. And we all hated each other, silently, without even knowing each other. But it wasn’t each other we hated, it was our own existences, and how small our petty jobs made us all feel, filling us with seethe which bared it gleaming teeth and showed its frozen soul in the daily traffic jams next to the blue-ice river.

It wasn’t each other we hated, it was that we knew none of it meant anything. It was that nine hours of time and another three hours of sitting in traffic jams was all we’d amounted to. It was the knowledge that none of it mattered, and– as a part of it, that none of us mattered. After decades of hope and promised possibility, it had come down to this, pissed-off, over-caffeinated assholes, cutting each other off in a race to arrive at tall, glass buildings filled with nothing but futility.

Sure, we’d make our money doing meaningless things, and we’d spend it all on meaningless things, hoping something might fill the emptiness which sits in the passenger seat beside us as we all sit in traffic seething. But nothing ever does, and the emptiness grows, and we turn up the radio to crush its cackling silence.

I hadn’t intended to be late– but the minutes and the moments have a way of sliding into our individual history, and becoming a wavy memory trapped in the past, desperate faces pushing up from beneath the river’s ice, a past which doesn’t even seem to be mine, somehow belonging to someone else, each a memory transplanted, and most of which I’d rather not have.

I hadn’t intended to be late, but I’m glad I was. Fuck them anyway. I didn’t get an email thanking me when I stayed late, or when I worked from home on weekends. Fuck them and their empty building and worthless job. It was all lies anyway. None of them gave a fuck about the customers, other than if they thought they might lose one for not giving a fuck. Then they cared, but it never lasted long.

I hadn’t intended to be late, but they didn’t deserve my time, or anyone’s. The publisher there had just retired after 20 plus years. They had a retirement luncheon for her, and I was on time for that, and we ate from fancy plates and clapped after the speeches which were more about the speaker than the person they honored and afterward we all left and belched loudly in the echoing emptiness of our cars, and everyone quickly forgot that she had even existed as another took her place.

I hadn’t intended to be late, but I was. And they fired me, though I tell people that they let me go. Not just for being late, but because I didn’t fit. There are a lot of ways to say it, but that’s what it was. And they were right to do so.. at least for that reason. I didn’t fit, and I would never fit. The man who used to be able to play the game is dead. I drowned his sorry ass in the river. That was his screaming face trapped beneath the ice. Scream all you want you fucking sell out. It’ll be over soon. And you’ll thank me for putting you out of your misery. You’ll thank me for bringing death’s honesty. You’ll thank me because you’ll never have to smile a fake smile again. Though you’ll wonder why it took me twenty years to kill you.

But I’m at a writing group today and there’s a lady next to me, writing about having to sell her toes. Better her than me, I suppose.


#notapoem Old stuff found in the archives

Secretly Sad, Fairy Tales of Happiness

“Happiness comes and goes. It’s enough, and perhaps better, to simply seek contentedness.”

The words came during a conversation on life, and have stayed with me, for decades now, and every once in a while I revisit the notion to test its truth as it relates to my own life. He was right, of course. Happiness is measured in moments, not lifetimes, and if we’re lucky, there are enough of these moments that we find some level of contentedness that is somewhere above zero.

The suicide rate is higher than the murder rate by more than 30%. That’s right. We kill ourselves more readily than we kill each other, and we do a lot of the latter. Though, why we kill each other is a topic for another article. Why we kill ourselves at a rate of 11.3 per 100,000 in population, why nearly 7% of adults suffer from Major depressive disorder in a given year, why one in eight adolescents have clinical depression, those are the questions asked here.

I watched a show recently about thrill seekers, people who jump off cliffs and similar activities. Contrary to the larger-than-life persona which they wore, the show suggested that some, but not necessarily all of these people, suffered from low levels of Dopamine, which is one of the chemicals of the brain which make us feel happy, like everything is going to be okay again. The adrenaline rush of jumping off of high places gifted them with a return to an emotional normal which the rest of us enjoy– but do we?

And what of the rest of us, those who don’t jump off cliffs wearing colorful wing-suits for fun? Others suffering from depression might be more likely to jump without a parachute, if they even felt like climbing a cliff or a bridge to jump. That’s a lot of work, and the jagged stones hurt when climbing. We hurt enough already. There are easier ways to die, dying slowly, without having shared the internalized pain or ever finding an effective remedy, being the most common.

And why are we depressed? Even if not included in the clinically depressed statistics, whatever clinically depressed might actually mean, many are simply sad, plagued by a lingering melancholy which returns in our solitude, measuring happiness in mere fleeting moments. Everything is great, though, fucking wonderful, in fact.

We, as Americans, are rich, filthy rich by comparison to much of the world. People in other parts of the world watch each other cough up poverty’s dry dust to pass the time and make fried protein-patty meals from swarming gnat-like bugs. We have cable TV, dammit. We have fast food for our quick grease and calorie fixes. If we are able to afford it, or if our credit cards aren’t maxed out, we have fancy dinners, movies, massages, parties, and shopping for fabulous, shiny-new stuff in palatial malls.

We have drugs and alcohol to help us forget, or to help us to be social, to help us pretend we aren’t so damned sad. Still, the melancholy returns for many, like the next morning’s hangover. What the fuck is wrong with us? Maybe our money is boring the hell out of us, making us sadder as we’d wished it to fill an unnamed void. Maybe it just isn’t enough to be rich, by comparison.

We feed ourselves constantly, and not just food. We devour love, and religion, ethereal hopeful-hippies who hide in the sky. We consume material things, and state of the art entertainment, and self-help books written by gurus who are also secretly sad, and we already know this; nothing ever fully satisfies.

In a recent conversation, someone had referred to us, we fragile and moody humans, as chemical beings. Maybe she was right. Maybe the still-not-understood-by-science chemical reactions going on in our bodies all day, every day, are to blame. Maybe we have a deficiency of some sort. If we ever figure out the cure for our deficiency, someone should bottle that shit and sell it. Though the money won’t make them happier.

We’re just sad; we can’t figure out why, and we don’t want to talk about what’s eating at us all the damned time. It makes us feel ashamed to feel so sad, often without an apparent reason, even though many others feel the same. Maybe we aren’t as alone as we often feel, and if we only knew, we’d feel less sad.


Okay, so it’s not a poem, but I found this in the rubble of a website I’d abandoned. Sharing it here. Be well. 

amber and crimson

when it’s over
all of the poems, written
when clouded eyes set upon
the last
of the amber and crimson, diminishing
swallowed by swirling vermillion
fallen, into the dark sea
there is no right
no wrong, remaining
in this place
no judgement
found within
heaven’s earthbound whispers
there is only
what now is
and what once was
and the shadow-choir, silent
in the tall fields of the knolls
behind us
the gently swaying ashen souls
of what could have been

gravedigger

someone
needs to stay behind
to dig the graves
to remember
we’d once lived
we’d once loved
aye, the way a woman
tosses her hair
to clear it from her eyes
and then stares
deep into the soul of a world
if anyone might notice
I rememeber her
— the way she moves
like a shadow slipping though the brush
the night air cool upon her skin
her hips, tracing ellipses
her stride, a gypsy’s dance
her perfume, lingering, still
taking my breath
when doubt comes to live
to stay
within in a heart, darkened
growing larger
than hope’s wishfulness
it’s not just, it’s unfair
to whisper
more of our promises
lovers
but, I did
and I have
I fell in love
with the girl
who had sad eyes
those that stare deep
into the collective soul
of this world
tho, as it always ends
someone–
needs to stay behind
to dig the graves
to remember
we’d once lived
we’d once loved

Lynn Rose

a gray woman
named Lynn Rose
came to see me
tho she wasn’t there
to see me, specifically
we were in the same place
at the same time
as happens often for all of us
without a second thought given
souls– bumping against a glass sky
uncertain– of where they belong
but seeking the light
and she smiled
tho she doesn’t smile, most days
hard eyes, softened, a pale blue
like the mist of morning’s wishfulness
letting me nearly all the way– inside
where I lingered
for a few long moments
saying nothing
words are trifles
and most are lies
but I saw her there
in a sway-grass field
as a young girl
she was singing
a child’s song
the lyrics–
like the wind’s memories
oh, so lovely, and smiling
with soft eyes
of pale blue

hand of kindness

tell me again
what the hand of kindness
feels like
as it cradles a jaw
warm lavender curled ’round
the cool square of the bone

the way a love scatters
never gone, entirely
but not again found
where it’d once been
known– to be
leaving us behind, to wither
scenting the ether for its perfume

the secrets a man’s heart holds
whisper among themselves within the hollow
each new moment, the shadow
the remembrance
of another
since passed
aye, the gray-throat murmur of a love
and some days
I wonder if I’d still know you
so much time now passed
a few affairs, perhaps
tho still
does a soul ever forget?
does the shine of the eyes
dull ‘neath time’s flicker?

I’d loved you
tho it’d been
something more than love
and I sang along
with the dispossessed
the elegies, the vagabond’s songs
when our time fell away

if only
we’d loved each other
as children, still young of heart
before this world’d broken
its every promise
we might still–
have saved each other

tell me again
what the hand of kindness
feels like
as it cradles a jaw
warm lavender curled ’round
the cool square of the bone