Stinkin’ Thinkin’

When I was a teenager and my depressive cycle started, my sister would tell me,

That’s stinkin’ thinkin’, stop it

She and her husband ran a sales office and motivation was their game. Positive thinking would drive a man to enter a strange place and do something completely out of character, and after that the money was addictive.

I always tried, for her, goddamn I worshipped her. She had always seen good in me, and told me.

That’s important, that you tell people good things you see in them. Not everyone can see good in themselves.

……

So my depression isn’t a constant. I have cycles that don’t run on a clock or a schedule. Most of the time I’m just normal depressed, and I’ve learned some good coping mechanisms for that.

I write, I focus on my children and wife, I watch funny movies or I play games and try to get out of my head.

It works for me.

Then comes the darkness… I never know when it’s going to happen but once it starts I can feel it

Suddenly there’s less to say

There’s a growing weight on my eyes, my shoulders start to slump

It gets hard to laugh

My mind goes numb

and for a week or two or a month

Watching The Princess Bride doesn’t fill me with nostalgia and laughter

I have to avoid most of the songs I love because they’ll send me into uncontrollable fits of sobbing

Stray thoughts float around and if I pull the thread

I’ll find death at the other end of the line

Ol’ Grim doesn’t give up…

As patient as death, is that a thing?

……….

When it passes, it does so like an Iowa summer thunderstorm. Rip through, make a lot of noise and leave a quiet sunny day in its wake.

I’ve felt it leave often enough that now I just ride it out, hoping it goes quickly.

I can tell my wife it’s starting and she loves me a little louder. As I fall into myself she holds my hand and won’t let me fall alone.

The second day (the one I’m on as I write this) is when the numbness dissipates and the memories flood my mind.

Standing up and speaking for the dead. I remember the words coming out of other’s mouths, telling me

She’s gone

He’s dead

Or I’ll be not thinking about anything in particular and suddenly I’m reliving some awful shit from my childhood

Sneaky fingers sneaky toes

Keep the secret no-one knows

And I can’t find my grown-up strength, I can’t find my walls, my mechanisms are seized up and nothing will help

….

Until it passes

I have to be very careful with

Stinkin’ thinkin’

Because the wrong thought has almost done Ol’ Grim’s work, before

Like the night I was in the bedroom closet with my knife and my wife, my savior, my angel,

Wrestled it out of my hands and damn near cut her thumb off

And I can try to make excuses to myself but I can’t look into her eyes and say words that are less than true

So I ride the darkness

and wait for the light.

I know it’s coming.

Reaching Back

I saw him.

He held a razor to his wrist, tears streaming freely down his cheeks.

He kept whispering, “Just do it. Just do it. Just do it.”

I saw him, trying to convince himself to cut his life off, and I had no idea how to stop him, or if I should try.

When animals are suffering, we kill them, and call it humane. Wasn’t he an animal? Aren’t we all? How could I tell him to prolong his suffering?

What could I say which would be honest enough to be accepted, and change his mind about life?

He lowered the razor to his wrist, prepared to cut open his veins, vertically, so there wouldn’t be time to save him, if they found him before he died.

He had a plastic bag, spread open below him, trying to be considerate, not wanting to leave too big a mess, for the unlucky soul which would find his body. An open bottle of aspirin lay on the counter, he had taken it to thin his blood. He had thought this through, maybe for years.

I could see him, but he didn’t see me, yet. I watched him deliberate his existence, and my heart broke for him. I could see that the perspective I had gained through life’s experience had not been revealed to him. He was fighting a battle which he was bound to lose, searching for meaning in a meaningless life. His pain was palpable as he swam back and forth through the waters of depression, and all I wanted was to throw him a line, help him back to shore, give him some way to make sense of it all.

Over and over he lowered the razor, then pulled it away, shaking his head, face twisted with pain and sadness. He was dancing with demons, first leading, and then being led. The agonizing march was tapping its way toward oblivion.

I resolved to cut in on his dance, and I made my move cautiously.

Trying not to startle him, I softly whispered, “Don’t do it.”

He looked up, finally seeing me. A brief recognition crossed his face, then the storm clouds crossed his sight again, and he asked, “Who are you?” I shook my head slightly, responding, “You’ll find out. What’s more important is who you are, and who you might be.”

Anger flashed as he caught my eyes, shaking his head violently, and said, “This life is too cruel, for me. I have tried to be happy. I have tried to be true. The two mix like oil and fire. Humanity spends all its energy trying to destroy each other, and greed is the law of the land. Because I’m young, they tell me I don’t understand, but I understand better than they do. This life is wrong. For me, for everyone. We are not animals, we are a virus, an infection. I won’t be a party to it, anymore. I will go, on my own terms. Now.”

He once again lowered the blade, this time touching the soft, thin skin at his wrist, piercing his skin and drawing blood. A look of determination had fixed upon his youthful features, and a small grin peeked out between his teeth.

Mind racing, desperate, I cried weakly, “Please, don’t do this.”
He looked up from his bloody wrist and stared into my eyes again. He angrily spat at me, “Nobody loves me. Not the real me. They don’t know me, and they don’t want to know me. Nobody will even take the time to find out who I am, what I need. They have no time for anything but their selfish pursuits, and I won’t feed their egos nor wallets. They don’t care to know me.”

I tried to send all of the love I possessed into his eyes as I whispered, “I do.”

Laughing angrily, caught off guard but unwilling to concede a single inch of battled-for ground, he walked toward me a step and thrust his face toward mine. The rage flew out of his eyes and his voice shook as he yelled, “YOU DON’T KNOW ME!”

His point was valid. I nodded agreement, and put my hands up to show my surrender to his fury. I said, “I want to know you. If you die today, I never will.”

Shocked by my statement, he stepped away, looking down at his bleeding forearm. A crimson pool was collecting on the plastic below him, as his blood dripped down his fingers. He looked at me, then back at his arm. He started to speak, and his voice cracked.

Tears started flowing again, and he shook his head side-to-side. Shoulders slumping, he pointed his bloody hand at me, again tried to speak, but could only issue a mournful groan as the sobs ripped their way out of his throat. His anger faded, and he crumbled, limply collapsing, sobbing, to the floor.

I let him cry, speaking softly.

“You have only just begun. You will find your way to people who see you, understand you, and love the real you. You have more to be. You are needed. Your life has hurt you, and if you stick around, life will hurt you more. But you will grow strong. You have a purpose. There are people not yet born who need to know you. Would you leave them to their hurt, without your help? Without your love? Who will help them, if not you? Who can help the next young person to see their place in this life? The cruelty and suffering you see is real. You may be the only thing standing between someone and their grave. Someone will need you, and someone will love you. If you are here, breathing, living, fighting against the sorrow, the cruelty. To that person, to those people, you are already their life. Somewhere, someone is drowning in their own misunderstood sea…you have to be the driftwood to which they cling. You have to let them be saved, by your presence. If not you, there will be none. No rescuer, no lifeline, no hand reaching back to their flailing grasp. Your pain will not cease, but without you, they will never learn how to carry their own weight.”

When I finished speaking, a look of understanding was on his face. He stood, put the razor down, and looked me in the eyes.
“You’re right. I don’t know who they are, yet, but I need to be here, to be there for them.”

He picked up the plastic and placed it in the trashcan. Looking at me again, he said, “thank you”, and walked away from the mirror.

Through A Mist

I will not see your face with my eyes, nor touch your hands with my own.

I will never hear your voice outside of my dreams, I cannot watch you live.

A life is not made of time.

Supposing I knew you, I weep in secrecy for what I might have known.

I can tell the story of what may have been and what was, I can interpret my intuitive emotions into language and create a space for you in the hearts that might understand.

When I was twelve I had a kitten, he ran away before he was two months old.

When I was nineteen I had a crush on a girl that didn’t return the favor.

When I was thirty-two I forced life to my will and captured love and family.

When you were-

When you were-

You weren’t.

Perhaps I didn’t do it right, maybe a mistake on my part left you on the other side of the veil. It could be that I wish it was my fault, I’ve always been more comfortable wearing blame than my own face. It could be that random chance left me an unintended consequence.

When you were… No.

You were not, you were almost.

I will never forget your name, the sound that means my smile. I will never let go of your possibility. I will be what is, I will be your life. You exist in me.

I will hold your image, bouncing curls and sad eyes over a glowing, crooked smile.

I will say your name in privacy, I will call your name through the mist of what might have been until my lungs stop drawing breath and my mind can finally let go.

There is at least a small chance, still, that this life is my dream and one day I will wake to find that nothing was lost.

In Pieces or Whole

I had a dream that I was sitting with my dead sister and my dead brother

and I was describing to them the way that Dennis the Menace park in Monterey had been dismantled, destroyed and abandoned

which was strange because the park hasn’t been, it’s still there and functional

but I told them in detail the way that the train had been melted down 

and the big slide ripped out

and the tables were burned

and as I told them, in my dream, it never occurred to me that they were dead

or that I was describing an important part of my childhood that was gone

and when I woke I felt the pieces come together and the picture fell apart

because somewhere between a group of kids playing at the park and an almost-forty-year-old man having a dream 

some dreams were lost, some dreamers woke, some nightmares came true

and I massaged my temples for at least twenty minutes while my wife slept and the darkness changed to dawn, my head and neck and shoulders aching and refusing my request to slip back into sleep

when we were kids we would play and laugh and it never mattered if we got hurt because we were going to live forever

and the secrets behind the daytime smiles were never told

In loving memory of Ruane Richardson and Ethan Eayre

First


From the moment of first awareness until death, I only get to see life from one perspective. 

It’s the same for you, no matter how empathetic you may be, no matter how understanding, you can never truly know what others think. Just what they say, what they do. All of that is interpreted by your mind, colored by your experiences, your emotions, so the truth is
there is not one TRUTH
everyone gets their own version
Knowing this doesn’t make much difference, right?  We still have to interact with each other, to see ourself. I am formless without confirmation. There is a balance to be found, between how I perceive myself, and how you see me, and in the middle lies all of human history, societal standards, religion, politics, and all the other devices invented by humans. We are taught how to act, how to pretend to be a part of the collective. We are criticized and degraded when we step outside of the accepted norms, we are punished for shining our own light, instead of dimming to the lowest common denominator.
I ask of you a simple question, without an easy answer:

Can you, will you

put yourself first on your own list?

Some will say it’s selfish, and somehow wrong. 

I wonder, if you do not put yourself first, if you always take care of another’s want before your own need, 

who will put you first? 

Is there another you, who will come to take care of your wants, while you see to someone else, and so on? 
I can only live my life,walk my path, I can only see through my eyes. 

It’s the same for you. 

I want you to just consider for a moment,

being yourself. 

I know that put up your defenses, saying that. What do I know about you? How could I say you are anything other than yourself?
What could I possibly know about hiding ?
Day by day,you bite down on the words you wanted to say. You stop yourself from showing the way you feel. You hide away that child that still lives inside you. You clamp down on the “foolish dreams” or ” silly feelings” or any of the cruel labels we put around our hearts. 
Can you understand that nobody speaks for you, if you remain silent.

Nobody else can feel your feelings, nobody else can stand up to your attackers, and degraders, and conformers, nobody is going to save you from the costume you’ve put yourself into. 
What do you look like, in your mind? In your heart? What did you want to be, when you were eight years old? When did you give up, and allow ” the rules ” to paint you to look just like everyone else?
It’s such a silly thing to say, You are unique, just like everyone else, but it’s true. 

At least, in my version of life, it’s true. 
I want you to do something today, that is only for you. Do something, say something, BE something, that is only for you. If you feel the desire, and see an opportunity, encourage someone else to do the same. 
Love ya, kid.

Speak

 They talked about what was lost, what had been taken away

They cried about broken trust and they poured out their rage

I sat in the circle wanting to fix them, not speaking

They took turns revealing wounds and scars and falling to pieces

They saw each other as safety, recognition of shared experience

I cried quietly and wanted to undo their past

They looked at me and asked the question

I couldn’t speak

I couldn’t share 

I hadn’t lost anything

I could still see the untouched, innocent, pure picture of me, in my head

I couldn’t reach him, but he wasn’t dead

So I didn’t tell them I understood, because I didn’t

I didn’t spill my hurts, my pains, my betrayals,

I was scared that they could tell the difference

If I showed my wounds

They would know that I hurt so much more for theirs

If I told my story they would hear the disregard I held for myself, they would know that I could see the hurt, but not feel it, I could remember the pain but never touch it, I could still hear the little boy crying and screaming in my mind but I couldn’t reach him to offer comfort, 

So I didn’t say anything, in that room where five teenage girls explained how they were abused, and I never explained why I was there. 

I kept my words inside and I never thought much of it, 

I couldn’t feel how hurt that boy was, 

I could feel the pain of those girls and my sisters and my friends and all the girls and women who had been hurt, I could see how they would suffer without end, and I was a boy turning into a man, I had no time to fit suffering into the plan, whatever I felt was moss growing on the other side of the wall, I know that it was there but I couldn’t reach it at all

But I could have spoken up in that room

I should have

That little boy deserved some respect

Unicorn Poop

   

When I started sharing the things I write, I had a lot to say. I would write four or seven or nine pieces a day, and at least three times a week I was discovering new parts of myself. 

I haven’t been writing as much since my sister died. 

I’ve been contemplating the balance of life. My sister was so many things to me, and so many parts of my memory are wrapped around her. In a lot of ways I worshiped her, as boys worship their mother. She was the protector, the teacher, the nurturing presence in my life. 

In a lot of ways I was angry at her, I still am. She had so much that others never get and she threw it away. She was capable of so much more than she did. She killed a lot of dreams, mostly her own. 

I saw her as a unicorn. Magical, impossible to capture, perfect. 

I was blind to the way she saw herself. 

There are lots of differing opinions about self-image. Some say that the way one perceives their self is irrelevant, some say it’s everything. 

I say that self-image can be heaven or hell, and it can change at any time. 

My sister was horribly abused and it twisted her life. My sister was wonderfully gifted and it was beautiful. 

She was a unicorn. She also had flaws. 

I married the love of my life. It was not easy, it wasn’t fated. I had to make it happen, she had to make it happen. We spent a long time apart before we were lucky enough to get it right. 

We each turned down other opportunities, we each tried other paths. We had lives apart and we have histories, separately. 

My wife is a unicorn. I am a unicorn. 

We have flaws. We have magic. We have damage. We have healing. We are devoted to our WE. We are human and we have wandering minds… We’ve both held fantasies that bring jealousy, territorialism into play. 

Balance in life doesn’t mean equality, justice, it doesn’t mean everything works out for everyone. 

Balance is the eye of the storm. All of life rages, all of life has pain or healing. All of humanity has the capability to be awful or amazing. 

I had some of the best parts of my sister. 

I saw some of the worst parts of her. 

I have most of the best parts of my wife. 

She has most of the best parts of me. 

What I have come to realize, about my sister, my wife, myself, all of the pieces of glorious magical humanity that live in my view, is that unicorns shit. 

Magical, perfect fairytale beings, out there making miracles, shitting just like other animals. 

Worship as you will, see the magic. 

Understand that flaws are present in every person. Don’t just say that you accept the flaws. Understand. Know that you have magic and you have flaws. 

My sister is dead, my wife is a person, I am a jerk sometimes. 

Balance is the eye of the storm, and remembering the wind. 

One Poor Correspondent

Isolated is not a good way to be. 

Asking for reassurance from friends, I got some really wonderful feels. 

I matter, even if I can’t see it all the time. 

A poem is not just words, it’s the condensed emotions pressing into a mind through phrases that mean more than they say, it’s a slice of a soul given without a price and received without boundary. 

A poet is not just someone that writes poems… It takes a deeper disturbance in the mind. 

I don’t call myself a poet. 

I am disturbed. I am damaged. I am paying attention to every goddamned word and feeling and eye-flutter. I am reading tea leaves and watching the wind play with flower petals. 

I am trying to write a life, here. 

I am trying to feel everything. 

I am hurting myself on purpose, for the sake of…

Poetry? 

I am colossally fuckered up, in here. 

I appreciate how I seem to others. 

I am thankful for the love that floods my life, the tide that lifts all boats. 

I am also suffering greatly, for loving what has been lost. For losing what has been loved. For living a true life, and caring about the moments. 

I am also suffering from too little sleep and too much stress. 

I’ll be here, 

Even if I say goodbye. 

I promise. 

Eyes, Skies, Lies


 
It’s okay if you feel like these are just words on a screen, and if that obscures the obscene from your mental regime than I cannot fault your resolve and try to topple your walls, if it’s somethin strange in your neighborhood and you don’t call Ghostbusters than I’m not sure we can really connect. 
So. I see a lowered flag waving from your heart, and I want to help it fly boldly and proudly, to stand true and strong and somehow find light in private imagined darkened rooms, pre-emptively constructed tombs of doubt and despair, to climb up the ladders and fly up the stairs no matter how the stares and the glares might pierce you and demean, your challenges accepted, you are coming clean.
] tell me what you need
And I will provide
When they read of my love for her they look above her but none could ever be supreme to her she is my queen to serve and my life is what she deserves to burn if she wants fire I’m fuel, an uncontested duel of whatever you want and what I’m willing to do, but I would sell my child’s organs for you because my skies are all lies covering a thin disguise and my eyes cannot pry from locked doors and closed minds what truth in my life I should not leave behind.  
i can’t say anything anymore without thinking of how it sounds, 
 
is there a gentle touch inside us all which might propel some form emotional evolution, some type of redistribution of values and ideas which have been seen to be false; perhaps on a cold day all men shiver, and time is a package which never remains undelivered, but the hearts of all creatures are designed with a purpose, to live the next fraction of a second before your life muscles contract, every breath is gone with no guarantee of payback.
At times I think the whole world has gone crazy and at times I know there is no world or any crazy which is crazier than the thought of a placebo effect and we still won’t believe that we are what we perceive…is there any sense to any of these insane pursuits which scuff up our boots and leave us bereft, clinging to the small pieces left from the last time we loved and got broken again. 
someday all the doubts that live in my head will be silenced for good and I will believe what I cannot deny. 
Maybe.