SACRIFICES OF A GRAD STUDENT

The others are out partying
Cruising in their urban assault vehicles
One night they shot chicks in the ass with a plastic dart gun
Outside the neighborhood convenience store
And a girl panicked and the police showed up
They told them to put their toys away and go to bed
After the bars closed but the night wasn’t done for them
But I stayed home in my apartment reading
That night I heard about, it was Blake
I was deep in the wailing and groaning mythic Giants
And Sunday afternoon I was explaining
An ethics paper I was working on to a girl I picked up Friday night
About love and state public policy, bussing and race
And she asked me how long it took me to write the poem I gave her
It didn’t last because, she said, I wasn’t in business and it was the ‘80’s
We’ve already made terms with living impoverished
And not being able to afford a lot of beers
But there are still ways to get into trouble

A DALLIANCE WITH ATHEISM

Atheism, the Greek alpha privative applied to God
A simple letter that would negate
The Word
Fashion has that apparent privative power
Belief is hard come by these days
In my day I’ve dallied with atheism
More as an academic posture, professional pose, poseur’s profession
Impressed by express academic probity, I professed an inculcated cultus
Grew unprofessional regarding the confession of God,
Like professors I grew to like, I grew like
Fashion dressed up as sophistos
Quite unlike my younger years, when I didn’t know
In my gut
I didn’t know and I don’t know now,
I believe
It’s hard to keep faith in mind and heart and life
In my gut
With a thinking mind, overthinking, ubermentation
Entertainment of doubts
It’s quite a thing to believe in things unseen
Unseemly, out of fashion
In fact, a factitious cultural cult
As if my mortal soul would matter as does a hemline
Lifeline to eternity the believing mind, heart, life.

God whispers

Aethereal evidence
A veritable mass of evidence opened upon open-minded assent,
Heaven sent, yet evidence, still solipsistic criteria,
I cry tears in this wilderness, this wildness
This worldliness, this world view, this zeitgeist, the spirit of this age
The Spirit and Words that give life
Life in a time and place in which belief is optional
Optimal
Words, Spirit, life, script for acting good, scripture
Inscribed on the heart, covenant, conformity to script, solipsistic criteria
Information for theological formation not Positivist logical formulation

God whispers

I hear upon open-minded assent, prior ascent, priority assent
Ascent out of that which is for this world alone
That which Is
That which makes this world
My faith in a doubt-filled world, the denial of the world, other world

THEODICY

“Hey Laura!  Lookin’ hot!”  Jackie exclaimed at coffee hour after church
Broadcasting her own bisexuality, which struck me as attention-seeking
And I thought about her mother’s own attention-seeking behaviors
Of her childhood abuse she now struggles as an adult to survive
And her several marriages, separations
I wonder how many generations down
The iniquities of the fathers are visited
And I have to survive the iniquities my father visited upon me
Complicit with my mother’s silent abetting

Once riding with a Harvard friend in his boat off the coast of Atlantic Florida,
Which we were able to enjoy through his wife’s wealth,
We glimpsed the mansion visited upon the young Kennedys
—I think I saw a yacht moored in front of the Kennedy mansion—
And try to wrap my mind around why, from one perspective,
Some don’t seem to catch a break
The Aqualung types hanging around the convenience store down the street
Made something by Jethro Tull’s ‘70’s rock album, otherwise despised
And to discourage them from hanging around the convenience store
Scaring people by being who they are or were made to be
By iniquities of vague, distant Fathers
The cashiers won’t let me buy them a sandwich
Won’t let me practice Mi’kmaq Star Teachings
Won’t let me care

From one perspective, the fates spin an unjust thread
What a cheat life would be were that myth exclusive
A shade drawn on the glimpse through ultimate reality’s greater window
Vanishing lines that converge upon the perspective of conviction
That an ultimate equity may yet inhere here, inherited curses be confounded,
Or else redemption were a vacuous term,
Rebirth but a rabbinic dialogue written in a Sacred Text
Close the embossed leather covers and lock the words in silence
Yet were there another perspective, vanishing lines of inquiry pointing to
An unjust inquisition’s verdict denied, then there were another perspective.
Swedenborg said he saw it;–what if temporal goods matter
Only insofar as they remain eternally?  What if matters of soul matter
As much as material goods in this material world
And the Madonna of antiquity means more than a pop star
Even now relegated to antiquity
Then the ode to Jackie, her mother, the Aqualung types, and I is composed
in quite another key.  Overcoming the iniquities of the fathers,
The iniquities of vague, distant Fathers, we see the material of humanity
when our eyes meet, and belie Blake’s HUMAN ABSTRACT
Rise up in new birth, reform into new selves, new souls, Arise all Souls Arise

The vanishing lines of ultimate reality’s perspective converge on
The crucified One
I try to wrap my mind around how He just couldn’t seem to catch a break
And look where He ended up
Have I tried to squeeze the universe into a ball? 
To roll it to an overwhelming question I can scarce conceive:

Really, where did He end up?

WINTER: SEASONS BLEEDING INTO TIME

WINTER WAY NORTH

In the way north, winter is warm
We’re indoors almost all winter; we’re way north
It’s just too cold to go outdoors
I like to watch the float and swirl
When snowflakes bless the cold air
I don’t complain about road conditions
When I do go outdoors after my car warms up
And maybe it’s 5 minutes in the elements, the bracing air
From my car to the shopping mall’s stale air
Which is community in the winter
Or maybe live music and dancing indoors in a bar’s congested air
Which all conspires to make winter warm
And it is not a Taoist reverence for Nature
As one would find in Swedenborg or Emerson
But more like the poetry of Marinetti without fascism
In celebration of an industrial conquest of nature
As most who live in -30 temperatures would
And buildings and tunnels connecting buildings
And automobiles transporting you warm in the elements
Would make anyone a Futurist in a warm automobile
Warm shopping mall, warm apartment, warm winter
In the way north where the outdoor elements are deadly in winter
And indoors we are warm, my body heat borrowed
Until what makes my heartbeat departs the final cold
I watch the snowflakes cover the pallid earth

AUTUMN: SEASONS BLEEDING INTO TIME

THE LEAVES TURN BROWN

I’m not ready for the leaves to turn
The annuals to wither, the night to encroach on too soon twilight
The dimming of summer’s bright intensity

I’m not ready for the armchair
The table lamp, the book off the shelf, candles
The quiet confinement after summer running around in sunny outside intensity
For only a couple months when it wasn’t raining

I don’t know if I can leap and kick anymore
That Hung Gar Kung Fu move I used to do so effortlessly,
And still might need in a situation, but . . .
Don’t want to try or I might pay for weeks
The same if I sit too long, even type
Paid in shoulder pain, stiff joints, a strained, numbing thumb nerve

I used to find a fond summation of it all in autumn
In the high, long lingering August sun’s long shadows
Adumbrating on the cold, hard ground
The dead leaves my slowed steps will kick through
Walking the weary earth in wan light
And now I see only summer dimming
Flowers withering, green leaves turning brown

And there’s nothing I can do about it

Snow will preclude the patio
Whose withering flowers say that won’t be long away
Maybe cool fall will linger through months in the café’s patio
Before the short daylight and the long, dim indoor lamp light
However it plays, there’s nothing I can do about it coming

Though I know it doesn’t all end in such a long winter

SUMMER: SEASONS BLEEDING INTO TIME

BARED SKIN

Lying on the raft, anchored out from the beach,
Which floats upon icy-cold summer Lake Superior
I would bake in the Upper-Peninsula Michigan weak summer sun
Until the surface of my skin felt hot
Plunge into icy Lake Superior
Feel the bracing, cold water against my heated skin
The sensual feeling, my skin become my consciousness
My consciousness, my skin
In the deliciously chilling Lake Superior water
Dove under water over all my made frigid skin and face.
I climb back up onto the raft and bake off the chill
In the summer Upper-Peninsula Michigan sun
Repeating at my leisure through the passing week-end summer afternoon

We like bright summer sun’s heat on our skin,
Basking as bare as we can in its rays,
And the general warm summer air.
Summer cools into fall, fall freezes into winter.
Who enjoys winter’s brace upon our barely exposed skin?
Extraordinary stimulation excites my sense
Like chill Lake Superior water
Or heat of the sun on bared summer’s body
Or brisk, crisp air in winter’s bite on the barely exposed face
My sensuous face embraces icy air’s welcome winter brace
As much as sensual summer’s pleasant bake on my skin
Or the years that came at me in this early adulthood
When it all lay in front of me and I was ready to take it on
My future my consciousness, my self making my destiny
But I didn’t know it at the time nor even through much of my adulthood
And now, among fall’s gold and russet colors, I think of coming icy air again

SPRING: SEASONS BLEEDING INTO TIME

TIME TO BE HAPPY

It’s springtime and it’s time to be happy
Soon it will be Easter, the happiest day in the Christian calendar
And how can I not be happy with increasingly more daylight
Longer days and I can go on a walk at 5:30PM
And, in time, way north up here there will be little night
In fact, just a dim dusk which is what we call night in summer
That will make my accustomed indoor activity difficult
For how can I write music, read W. H. Auden
When my eyes are blinded by brilliant long day light
And I don’t feel the quiet dark indoors and maybe a candle-flame’s faint glow
Even in recording-studios they play only in red light
The buzzing bright florescent lights turned off and the soft, red light bulb
Glowing to set the mood and I have a red light bulb in my floor lamp-stand
When I practice, I turn on the red light bulb for mood
And light a candle to Sarasvati when I write poems
All that dims with the rising spring sunlight, bright days and
The candle-fire yields to the sun even as indoors yield to outdoors, and
Latin music makes more sense with its outside
Percussive soul and how many different drums and percussion go into one song
And group response chanting vocals because outdoors you can gather in groups
Salsa steps in the open air, and even the piano plays percussive syncopations
And it makes no sense for me to play a mambo all alone in my apartment
Or a güiro or claves punctuate your dance steps to a Bach fugue
Which it does make sense to play all alone in my apartment
Like Bach way up in the organ loft and the congregation sitting still, listening
I live in The Festival City and in summer we congregate by the hundreds
At Bluesfest, or Folkfest, or Symphony under the Stars
And the Mandolin Coffee Shop and Bookstore will soon open its patio
And it will still be hard to read W. H. Auden in the brilliant sunlight
When it is better to hike, bike, picknick or barbecue and even bonfires
Don’t really work in the perma-twilight we call night way north up here
Sitting indoors doesn’t make much sense;–as if there hasn’t been enough of
Sitting indoors, though one does become accustomed
And springtime is always a new exploration of life way north up here
As when, a teen, one by one, I discovered Beethoven’s only 9 symphonies
Sad to discover that Vivaldi didn’t sound like Beethoven
Trying to get over the mini-skirts in the halls between classes
Or at desks while I tried to concentrate and get algebra over with
And I would play around on the piano in my parents’ living room

WHEN MY ILLNESS WASN’T MY LIFE

My illness once was my life, when I was the bipolar poster boy

When I needed, I needed to know, needed help, needed support, community
My illness was all bewildering—new to a shattered world, my world
When the fulness of my life sunk into my illness
My identity reposed in the drop-in center
When the eyes of all consumers waited upon me
My category slotted me High Functioning: the drop-in center super consumer
When my illness was my life and I befriended NAMI’s salve
My life and acquired competences sent me all across the US
When my story lectured at local, state, national, and international conferences
My recovery article published me in university journal and recovery workbook
When my illness was my life and I was a textbook label, the bipolar poster boy

My illness echoes in my every life outside the doors of the drop-in center
My recovery calls me to thriving stories outside psychiatric textbooks
My illness recurs but ritual chant in archaic language of quaque hora somni pills
My recovery fashions me in the image and likeness of a wholeness I always was
My illness wrapped me in clouds, warped self-image flashing fragments past self
My recovery closes the textbook identifiers written upon a terrible chapter
My illness fades in the clarity now illuminating the mind it once dominated
My recovery lives as a poem, a song, a choir of friends, a cathedral of love
My illness shadows my awareness as a backward glance into the dark
My recovery belies the stigmata that would mark me as unholy, unwhole, ill
My recovery nearly makes me an unbeliever, that there ever was a time

My illness was my life, when I was the bipolar poster boy

A VISION OF BLOOD DARKNESS

Has your consciousness ever been in blood darkness?
Where the black all around your soul is palpable, though you can’t touch it
And you can’t seem to see through the blood darkness
And two funny guys next to you at the bar—
One sitting next to you and the other—his pal—standing
Give you the time of day, almost care
But not enough to touch you through the black cloud
Encompassing all of you except a fragment of mind
Just poking through into the light, to the two funny guys
They make a joke about Ordinary World by Duran Duran, popular those days
It’s playing on the bar sound system, and I listen to Ordinary World
Twenty years later and I think of those two guys
And how they were almost comfort

I needed comfort badly, all alone with my psychosis
Which my psychiatrist’s professional distance
Didn’t afford, all alone in psychosis and no insight
Little mind available to understand if there had been an explanation
Neuro-transmitters, serotonin, norepinephrine, bipolar with psychotic features
And, maybe, someone to tell me I’m still a person
Understanding’s comfort, any comfort, like the young couple
Who worked at Subway and befriended me—which meant
More than hanging out together, us guys—total acceptance we both craved
And I didn’t wonder about what had become of my ambitions
Like my old friend over the phone thousands of miles away
Made me feel like I wasn’t all alone while he was on the line
In blood darkness, though I was still

Psychosis and its consequential changes in my life
Derailed ambitions, transforms identity, remaking self, patched-up fragments
Changing the way I attack the world’s scarce opportunities
I wouldn’t say I attack, now, as then,–before
And changed direction into the path I followed to here
Becomes life as I know it, self as I know it
Trajectories of identity and it’s not a matter of
Adjusting to circumstances—I, in fact, am the very circumstance
Blood blackness and emergence into such sanity as I possess,
Such stability as content the psychiatrists, which is measured and categorized
Into functioning and I am categorized as High Functioning
Even though to me, 40 hours is a stretch, not like before,
And people wag their heads at me and think me lazy
Blind to the blood darkness following me like a malevolent shadow
And I can’t make them see the light, not even in a dissertation, textbook, poem

DOING ALL KINDS OF THINGS

I finished my Calamari
And as I sip my coffee, I wonder
“What am I going to do now?”
I suppose I need to get gas
Go sit all alone in another COVID-emptied bar?
Go home and sit all alone?
Maybe I’ll feel like playing Stones on my keyboard
Record the bass line for my new blues song I’ve had in mind for weeks
Maybe feel like it
Why don’t I feel like doing anything?
I feel like I should be doing all kinds of things

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