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Friday, August 18, 2017

Poem of clarity

At a crossroads, a limited place,
under the squeeze of shame in the past,
feeling hopeless and under a curse, feeling a need to burn bright but with nowhere and nothing to burn but to consume myself and lie in ash,
I need not steel myself, with a false and cumbersome armor
I need not lie
I need not.

Now is not the moment of need, nor panic.
Now is not now.
The true time is a matter of choice.
It is not tonight, it is all nights; it is the first time; it is the last time.
It is a year from now, five, twenty.

A feast of life from ten thousand days, give or take.
The review of the feast goes unread. Its judgment by the sages does not echo even once.
The feast itself is all there is.
The bites with broken glass,
the miserable courses,
the embarrassing failures of experiment, mixing up the plum sauce and the peanut butter,
are all a part of it.

Nobody cares. Or—somebody cares, but nobody cares.

The stupidity, the presumption are not to be pretended away
with a rictus grin. Not to pompously summon the waiter
and scold the kitchen.

But the doors are shut to me! The truth must be known! I must explain myself!
Yes, but no one reads your Yelp review. That unjustly blocked path,
that misunderstanding, that knock to your reputation:
these are pebbles on the road to the gallows.
The path along the way is more open than I care to notice,
the kitchen and dining room filled with those who muscled in,
the crowd insatiable, the executioner unconvinceable.
This is not a world of justice, where merits are measured and rewards given proportionally.
Greed and kindness both go uncounted. No one is keeping score.
No one is keeping score. No one is keeping score.

And your heroes—make no mistake—muscled in, and that's how you know them.
Their classmate was smarter, their teammate was wiser, their spouse was more deserving
and if you wish, you can be that classmate, that teammate, that forgotten husband.
No one is stopping you. There is no award at the end for being one or the other,
except one day's reality, followed by the next.

They muscled in. Didn't they? Philip Dick, Walt Whitman, Harriet Tubman, full of doubt, penniless, raped, rejected, blocked, divorced, stuck, estranged, forced to buy horsemeat from the vet,
exhausted, unfulfilled, broken with desire and yet not broken,
not stopped, not over, not whining, not pissing away every ounce of passion.
Showing up, from time to time or every day or inconsistently or spectacularly,
none living up to their true potential.
Not showing up from guilt, not stuck in their own heads, at least not every day.
Driven, at least once in a while, by passion.

The truth is our natures don't change. My battles today are my battles on my deathbed, wracked with regret.
I'm prisoner to them and always will be.
The camera shows me behind bars, rattling them with my weakened arms and pathetic psychic fire.
But look--the camera is slowly moving through the bars. Look. I've been outside the cell all the time.
The audience is screaming at me to notice. Just walk away! Just walk away and be free!

If part of you must be imprisoned—leave behind a token, a talisman.
Safely put away, safely in an impossible cage, a part of me can remain.

Think of Mother Teresa. A sterling reputation.
Venerated. And yet: pathetic; disgraceful; a repulsive hypocrite.
And yet a comfort to some, while complicit in their death.
Shall we sit in judgment? Perhaps, but only for the sake of each other. Never for our own smugness.
Nowhere are my sins are being weighed against hers; nowhere does my credibility or hers amount to the smallest moment’s smile on a child's face.
If I fear the balance will come due, the use of my days judged,
know that the appointment takes place at an address that doesn't exist, on leap day in a year that's not a leap year.
It’s a government form nobody follows.
I can be the only one who clutches that form to my chest if I wish, the one who writes a righteous letter to the editor. Or I can turn my glance to love and fire,
and never give the rules another thought.

In five years, how will my actions now affect my family? My friends? The world?
Scarcely at all.
Still the vise closes in. Didn't Eddie Vedder write the first three songs in his head
during a single surfing session?
Is that the kind of day I'm denying myself?
Yes. Certainly!
And in his every day since then, he joins you in that failure.
Both of you have had the same nine thousand days since then, and he has only one more day like that then you have.
And he surely doesn't feel like he has it still.
Each day you are a new person, the continuity only an illusion.
You are born from the transporter, the Starfleet officer with your name having been murdered by Chief O'Brien. A murder no one notices, including you, because it's treated by all as routine.
Are you to spend your days building shrines to every dead copy of you, accosting passers by, rending your clothes?
You have no obligation to him, no connection except on paper.
Crinkle up the paper and show me your Larry Bird. His brother Mike lived below Kwaku in Cambridge. Now Kwaku is dead
and soon so will be Larry, and Mike, and you, and everyone you love.
The days can be spent fiddling or fussing or free.
There is no pressure because there is no such thing as pressure.
The part of you that resists, that can't be free— don't grit your teeth and push her out; just ask politely if she can take a break.

We all need a break.

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