EARN MY WIN

If you should rise from Nowhere up to Somewhere,
From being No one up to being Someone,
Be sure to keep repeating to yourself
You owe it to an arbitrary god
Whose mercy to you rather than to others
Won’t bear to critical examination.
(Robert Frost, FEAR OF GOD)

EARN MY WIN
I
The Argument

My small car won the wood-shop race in 8th grade
It wasn’t a fair win
A screw on the track popped out the other car
It wasn’t a fair loss
So I didn’t take the win; I called for another run

I wanted to earn my win

In the subsequent runs, I ended up last
But it wasn’t a fair loss

How about I explain what happened in language that isn’t poetry?  Jeff Aubaugh pestered me to catch my car at the end of the track and I let him.  But on my winning run, he had wandered away and my car skittered against the wall, breaking the fender.  So the bare axle was exposed and my car kept sticking in the wooden walls of the track.  Everybody challenged my car, one by one, and I kept losing and came in last.  But this poem isn’t about my wooden car, or Jeff Aubaugh.

Next class, the boys told the girls that I came in last
It wasn’t a fair humiliation

II
The Evidence

Once, I interviewed for a job they wanted me to have
But it wasn’t a fair win for me
Others interviewed for the job they wouldn’t get
But it wasn’t a fair loss for them

I took the win, fair or not;–the job

It broke my friend’s heart when he peeked at his admission file and found out
His minority status superseded his mediocre standing among the applicants
Now, a grad student with me and his broken heart

He took the win
I earned it, deserved it
I got it by merit

I got published a few times
I merited those publications
They were fair wins
I got published a few other times
I don’t know if they handed me the publications
They may not have been fair wins
My professor got his book published
On the press of the university where he also graduated
A friend thought my professor handed out A’s
Only to graduates from his Alma Mater
Which I am and I got an A

III
The Conclusion

No one wants a hand-out
We want to earn our win
No one wants to take that all we didn’t ask for
A lot of it I didn’t ask for
Neither deserve some of what’s come my way
Certainly didn’t earn
The young couple who worked at Subway
And accepted me, a broken doctoral student, as a friend
When bipolar disorder shattered my confidence,
My professional collegiality, ties to colleagues, professors
No, I did not deserve their love, the young couple
Nor earn the air I breathe
Deserve the beat my heart gives me
Deserve heaven and earth
Merit heaven

Carol

Earn grace
Gracias, we hate to say
Gracia, hate to receive
Receive grace

Receive anything at all

Receive
Grace
Gracias
Grace upon Grace
Gracious
Gratitude

And it’s not all mine
All of my own making

WHEN MY ILLNESS WAS MY LIFE

I was the bipolar poster boy
When my illness was my life:
Super Consumer
Drop-In Center
Support Group
NAMI Organization
Seminar presentations
Academic publications
Consumer community
High functioning.
The eyes of all consumers waited upon me
—We understand one another—
I was my psychiatrist’s favorite
When my illness was my life
And the textbooks labeled me mentally ill, label me
A chapter now closed on the fulness of my life
I can hardly recollect in my life now
Realize that the textbooks still label me mentally ill
My life then, when my illness was my life

My 12-Step community was my life
About which I must keep anonymity
At the level of press, radio, film, and poetry
My only friends
My social life
My whole life
Salvific meetings
Salve
Salvation
Save
And healing persists in the 12-Steps
And I live the principles in all my affairs
But all my affairs are not only in and of
The meeting rooms I attend
All my affairs are not only the 12-Step community

Life does not launch me into recovery
Not as failed life once did
Recovery launches me into life
I must live with, but not by, my illnesses
My illnesses walk with me, will ever walk with me
While I walk this mortal coil
I embrace the whole world that walks among life outside meeting rooms
Life that finds fulfilment among hypergoods that thrive outside meeting rooms
Outside the Consumer Drop-In Center
Recovery, sanity, serenity, meetings, pills
Launch
Launch me
Launch me into fulness of life
This, my life of
Music
Verse
Friends
Amusements
Work
Study
Love
Spirituality
Fulness of life
Life outside the drop-in center, meeting rooms
The illnesses that no longer make me who I am
No longer make life what life is
The chapter closed
Poem concluded
I compose new stories in the fulness of life I live
Write new poetry

MY LOVE

And I will not renounce my American citizenship

Or my love

And I will participate in healing the deep wounds

Of my country

And I will not hold my tongue, my pen, withhold my rebuke

Or my love

And I will participate in government, in democracy

Of my country

My voice, my vote, my pen, my informed participation

And my love

Of my country

MEDIA CHRISTIANS AND CHRISTMAS EVE

Today is Christmas Eve.  Christians celebrate Christmas.  I don’t wish to impose my holy day on the rest of the world, but it seems like that’s the way things are going, these days.  Nevertheless, I am grateful to live in a free society that allows me to celebrate according to my religious tradition, as I think all religions should.  I called tech support for my computer a while back and got a tech in India.  He turned down the volume on his end to dampen the background noise from the Durga-Puja festival which was going on in his neighborhood.  He and I had a wonderful conversation about Hinduism, which I had studied in grad school.  I even have a statuette of Sarasvati on my desk—the Goddess of learning, music, and poetry.

I self-identify as a Christian.  A Christian of the Swedenborgian Denomination.  Let’s establish that from the get-go.  Also, I am a Christian pastor.  But what does that mean?  What does that mean to you?  What does that mean to me?  It may very well be that what it means to me is not what it means to you.  The operative question is who gets to define what Christians are?

Unfortunately, I believe that the media get to define what Christians are.  News media tell stories about Christians—often in relation to politics.  And I think that a lot of people get their ideas about what Christians are from new stories.  However, we need to understand that the media are profit-driven enterprises.  Their reporting has to sell.  I’ve spoken with journalists who say that anger and outrage are good “hooks” to draw in viewers or readers.  If that is true, then the Christians we will encounter in media may well be Christians who generate outrage, are outrageous.  I hope that, as a Christian, I do not generate outrage.  At least I try not to.

Then there are Evangelicals.  I have issues with evangelism, itself.  I’m sure that Evangelicals are as sincere in their faith as am I, but I tend to resent people trying to make me think as they do.  I am a student of religions.  So I have a keen interest in others’ understandings of ultimate reality.  But I prefer to learn about others by inquiry, not by their imposition upon my free thought.  You can see Evangelicals on street corners yelling at people and shoving tracts at you.  Since this kind of Christian is loud and prominent, many define Christians by them.  My frustration with this is probably evident.  Also, there are televangelists.  Anybody can turn on their television and watch a program featuring a Christian preacher.  Often, perhaps usually, televangelists tend to be Evangelicals, which I am not.  I have a friend who owns a multi-million-dollar cigar company.  He always tells me that I should become a televangelist.  He says that that is where all the money is.  He also dated an Evangelical Christian for a while, and keeps telling me what he thinks Christians believe, though he is not a believer in any faith that I know of.  But I don’t hold to a lot of the tenets his former girlfriend held to, and I didn’t go into Christian ministry to make a lot of money.  My Christianity has little in common with televangelists.

For me, Christianity means living by Jesus’ teachings about love.  And I understand that to mean love for people inside and outside one’s own belief system.  The Good Samaritan was a Samaritan—a race despised by the Jewish Orthodoxy of which Jesus was a member, but not a strict follower.  This tells me that Jesus promoted religions other than His own, even religions despised by members of His own Jewish Orthodoxy.  So for me, Christian love extends to all peoples of good-will: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Jews, atheists, and peoples of good-will whom I haven’t mentioned.  And love seeks to establish friendships, and to promote good-will.  When I say that I am a Christian, sometimes I worry that people will understand that to mean I am a media Christian, who seem to get all the press, or an Evangelical.  Practicing Christianity for me means seeking to find good in every situation and to be an agent for that good.  But I practice quietly, privately, and some might even say in stealth mode.  My Muslim friends, my Jewish friends, my Zoroastrian friends, and my Hindu friends enjoy my company, I think, and I their company.  That kind of harmony is how I understand Christian love, is the kind of Christian I try to be.  I am a definition of Christianity as much as are televangelists, Evangelicals, Catholics, or media Christians.  Maybe that kind of Christian, and there are lots like me, doesn’t make for good news stories.  Any more than the moderate peace-loving Muslims I know make for good news stories.  But that’s no reason for me to stop calling myself Christian.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are times especially for me to relax and let love be, to let myself be an agent of love, and to remember and renew old friendships, to enjoy family.  As a Christian in this world, it is a time for me to reflect on Jesus’ friendship with Pharisees, tax collectors, prostitutes, rabbis, Samaritans, and Lebanese.  In a broken and fragmented world, Jesus yet has a message of healing and unity for Christians and/or others of good-will.   

THE MYSTICISM OF US

It’s a strange mysticism, about you
Sometimes it’s like you’re not another person
We’re so close, I’m you and you’re me, too
One current into which two streams run

There was a time before you, which was no time
Time began the time of our lives blending
The ordinary world became sublime
And moments, days, and years have no ending

That space in which the clock’s hands cease to move
Is when I’m with you; then time is our own
And we make heaven of our faith and love
In a kingdom bounded by our union

I got by before you, you before me
But time was meaningless; moments absent
Looking back, I see my life as empty
Successes seemed so unimportant

All that changed when you dawned like the sun
On the darkest morning of the year
And our two lives intertwined into one
Each in each other makes our heaven here

PAS DE DEUX: MY DANCE WITH THE MACHINE: A COMEDY IN THREE ACTS

Any More Than The Way Things Are

My Irish-Catholic friend published a book
About a world-famous Irish-Catholic poet
On a highly respected Irish-Catholic university press
And teaches college in a large, deeply Irish-Catholic city

I am a Swedenborgian
And even if I wrote a book about William Blake
There are no highly respected Swedenborgian university presses
Or big cities with prominent Swedenborgian populations

I have to think that all this matters
Isn’t it why my dissertation director counseled me not to write
About Swedenborg, for the sake of my career?

–“Academics don’t know, in fact, what they are suppressing”–

The dean of a Lutheran university confessed to me over breakfast
The General Secretary of a prominent interdenominational organization
Asked me over lunch why I am a Swedenborgian, meaning, I think,
“Why on earth are you a Swedenborgian?!”

Time was I believed that if I worked hard, became good at what I do
Success would be laid at my feet, not disappointment
It takes other things than being good at what I do
And I wonder that I am passed over for so many things I am good at

I am not asking for a leg-up toward success
Any more than is the way things are in this world
My Irish-Catholic friend is good at what he does
As am I, a Swedenborgian

Disappointment

Disappointment only descends upon failed ambitions
More than just getting your hopes up, as, for example, winning The Lottery
Expectations in general that fall through
Especially ambitions’ realization evaporating as one watches

Years pass, the doors close on what could have been
Out of time; out a life; a lifetime passed by
They say Reike can heal time—the past, present, what will be
Which is a different understanding of time that I know

Carol tells me that she has no ambitions, never did
My mother wonders where mine came from, since
Neither she nor Dad craved other than their work, homelife

–Nor credited me with success—

There’s something so real about Carol, which echoes back to a place I once was
I take it her upbringing on a farm
Where dirt and the harvest cycle are as real as it gets
Formed her out of the dust of the earth

The blanched suburbia of my impoverished culture
The shallow depths I almost drowned in
The neglect and torment my nascent family ignored and inflicted
Perhaps conspired to inspire my drive to reach for what my hand never grasped

I don’t know if Carol knows my disappointment
She has come to terms with riches she will never own
Guess it is not for me to posit where I would be
Why I continue to reach; I think Carol likes it

Some Glad Morning

I raged against the machine and did my own thing
Cultivating the garden that is my soul: wisdom, love
I didn’t care if they groomed me for success
Or if they said that I was just a fool

And so, my self found development in accord with aspiration’s beckon
Ever evolving aspirations leading my meandering pathway. I am pleased.
So why do I want that machine against which I raged
Now to bless me, sanctify my works with recognition and acclaim?

I wouldn’t say that I resisted playing ball with it all
I wasn’t in it for the game.  Karma drove my play
More than systemic machinations: I never felt like

–A cog in something turning, never cared to—

I followed and worked through my karma: the issues and stages
I got out of my system, that were me, became what is not me
Yet not another; self—the salve and the wound
The problem and the solution, the lock and the key

I suppose I made too much of eternity
Some told me I was too old to be thinking like that
And yet, I am old now and had better be thinking like that
So why this desperation about credit from the system I never much rated?

I suppose it isn’t so much about credit, I have credentials
Damn craving for more laurels I will never rest on and smile!
I do smile, smile at who I was and am: this beloved self
This no self, no permanency, only eternity of states flowing into who I am

WITH US TOGETHER

I am better with us together

Better than I was when I was alone

We’re both better with each other

Than when each of us was only one

We two together made me make a start

Toward a new approach to the life I’m living

Which never would have happened when apart

Apart from you and all the life you’re giving

With us together, your life flows into my own

Your influence wore down my harsh self-assertion

As water’s current smooths adamantine stone

Or discordant edges in a person

Like a river’s constant, faithful current

You give me consistent affirmation,

My heart secure with your encouragement,

I work my dreams into manifestation

All with you and all because of you

I incarnate learning with confidence

Ever seeking teachings to help me grow

And guide my heart in spiritual ascendance

Our love is a crucible, burning

With refining fire that purifies

All our aspirations, all our learning

Rising to a finer us, to higher highs

REMEMBRANCES OF ICONIC CHICAGO

I remember old, green copper and concrete lighthouses,

Green algae seaweed patched concrete water level lighthouse bases,

Water-worn wooden posts standing at angles in front of them

We floated past on the Chicago River tour boat that afternoon

They render in my mind more than

 

the iconic Chicago skyline,

the angular, massive, stainless-steel Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park,

the Aquarium,

The Sears Building we went up in to the observation floor,

The Green Mill Speakeasy where Al Capone used to hang,

 

As does the folk art that covered the walls on all three floors in The House of Blues

A shrine, it seemed

I remember one set depicts images of folk shot with bullet holes, bleeding

Every folk in the paintings shot, in that African-American artwork’s neighborhood

I remember the second-floor stage with nine world religions symbols across and above it

Symbols captured in language in the central iconic image above the stage

 

UNITY IN DIVERSITY

ALL ARE ONE

 

The burning heart on the ground-floor stage curtain

Iconography like the Catholic Sacred Heart

(Yes, I remember, too, the disappointing blues band there in iconic Chicago)

Taking home rather the impression of a visit to a shrine

 

As does a black man at Buddy Guy’s who remembered me from The House of Blues last night

Joined us at our table tonight, with funny jibes, japes, and jabs

While his wife smiled and shook her head sometimes

 

As does the personal appearance of Mayor Lori Lightfoot on the 4th of July

At an outdoor concert in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park early evening

Seeing her more memorable than the event itself

And now in Canada we see Mayor Lori Lightfoot on TV and smile at each other

 

(Maybe the free Picasso “Untitled” in Daley Plaza)—Carol liked it perhaps the best

 

Of course, I remember the patient, eager, hour’s wait to get into the Art Institute of Chicago

Paying extra for a special exhibit I now forget

Waiting in line to just view certain paintings:

“Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare,” by Monet

“American Gothic”

And me being the only one in a whole exhibit room of early Christian art

(Part of me is glad that the proximity of religion

Hasn’t let Christian art be considered art in the same sense as Monet’s Impressionism)

 

Carol and I talk about what we remember

We talk about the trip

Things that meant, what Chicago meant

Chicago meant

EVOCATIVE NOMINATIVES

Sky mountains waterfalls ocean depths

Snowflakes white earth rivers frozen lakes

Leaves in the air fallen on the sodden ground enveloped by the season

Raindrops vaporescent oceans downpours clouds

Mist meadows fog sky rainbows

Faces mobs friends the human race

Love a God above devotion heaven sky and earth

KEY WEST: NIGHT CRUISE

The sun had left to darkness the reflecting sea

And the sunset gave the night to you and me

That we watched from the harbor,

The masts’ rigging weaving an arbor

Of love.  The night yielded up silhouettes I cared no longer to see

While I gazed on you in the harbor glow.  Some moments suffice for eternity

 

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Dear visitors to my site: Your each visit means so much to me, and when you “like” one of my posts it makes my evening (I usually post late at night, my time).  You may have noticed a recent flurry of posts–sometimes even two a day.  This is not a sprint of new creation.  I am revising some old(er) poems with an aim of assembling a collection to send out for publication.  To no small degree, I weigh the response my poems get from the internet to gauge whether I will include them in my collection.  In general, when I get a favorable response from the net, I, too, prefer the given poem, personally.  So I think the net is an accurate metric to consider when I make my final determination about whether to include or scrap a poem from the ultimate collection.  So thank you each and every one for taking the time to visit this site.  Your visits and even more, your feedback, are so much appreciated!  Sorry if lately I’ve been sending a plethora of scribblings into your inboxes.

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