Poem: Signs and Signifiers

I like being out
in the world with
Deaf people.

In a crowd,
they are always first
to pick out friends
we hope to meet, or
find the exit signs
and the rest rooms.

At the grocery store,
they have no problem
picking out the right spice
from a crowded shelf.

And shame shrouds me
as I enviously imagine
how my hearing is
my disadvantage.

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Poem: A Contemplation on War and Visions of Peace*

Some young professionals were sitting in a diner talking about their visions
for the future. Once they made enough money, they’d buy a farm somewhere
and finally find some peace. One would open a yoga studio.
Another would build a Zen sanctuary and retreat.

A redneck in the corner overheard and shouted,
“You don’t know shit about peace. You don’t know
the first God-damned thing about peace.”

They objected, of course, that they read
Thich Nhat Hanh and D T Suzuki.
In the country quiet, they averred,
they could meditate on universal truths.

The redneck philosopher snapped back,
“You think it’s quiet in the country?
That only means you never lived one damned day in the country. “

But these professionals spent many holidays in the fresh air,
hiking, biking, camping, and learning to appreciate the outdoor
wonders the universe offers to those who can see.

In a blind fury, this hick shouted,
“I don’t give a good God damn if you walked a thousand miles in the desert.
If you can’t find peace wherever you are, if you don’t take peace with you,
you can never find it. Can’t you see that? Can’t you fucking see?”

With that, this veteran
picked up his duffle bag and
shuffled into the street.

*Based on a Buddhist parable.

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Poem (huitain): Postdiluvian Disaster

The sky burns an oppressive blood orange
as billions of beings run for scarce refuge.
The storm sends ash and ember debris pouring
everything but water in a scorching deluge.
It’s only the sea that declines to refuse
protection for those in panic so dire.
As they pray to be saved from this cosmic abuse,
They remember God would spare them from water, not fire.

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Prose Poem: The Lure of Depression

Yes, we talk about the pain and suffering of depression (rightly so!), and we ignore the allure of this deadly disease because we don’t want to tempt anyone. We don’t want it to look like we’re encouraging people to have a deadly disease. But what happens if we don’t talk about it? How can anyone understand it? I mean, there’s this giant monster sort of hanging around threatening you for days, months, or years, and you stay busy to ignore it. And one day you just say, “Go on then.,” and you get a big hug. You just disappear in there. You’re lost in the warm embrace of infinite apathy. Nothing matters anymore. The cruel family members, indifferent friends, soul-crushing job all just become indistinct parts of a distant life that no longer has any bearing on you. You don’t care whether you live or die, and that’s the scary part. At least it’s scary for other people. You don’t care. This is why someone told me my depression was a “luxury.” I was luxuriating in dissociation and alienation. I was there and not there and couldn’t be reached. And being out of reach has distinct advantages. When you are no longer of the world, the world has no power. What will it take to bring you home?

Poem: Depression is a question of stamina

Depression is a question
of stamina. We know how to win.
Build walls and fill them with light
even as darkness batters the barricades,
threatening a wholesale invasion. So we turn on more lights,

call more friends, play, dance, and work, work, work.



This isn’t mania,
unless swimming to shore
in a river of white-water rapids is also mania.

We’re strong,
and we can make it.
We just need a break from the madness.
Maybe a few moments rest. Just a little quiet?

And that’s it.
It’s over.
The lights have gone out.
The music has gone off.
The food is tasteless.
The walls have crumbled.

The weighted black blanket presses comfortably
on the chest. And there we are.

Immobile and secure.

Poem: Nothing is Vegan

Sounding smug he said
“Nothing is vegan” as if he
had stated a truth revealed by God.

And I remembered a story about a
Buddhist monk who started each day
with a prayer for all the living beings
he would kill or harm just by
existing on the Earth.

He said simply walking,
or even breathing,
would surely cause and
perpetuate suffering.

He could have said, I guess,
everything is harmful,
so it’s no use even trying
to save the animals from suffering.

Instead, he prayed daily for
compassion and kindness,
ate only plants, and
lived as simply as possible.

He still perpetuated some suffering,
and the world continued its cruelty,
but somehow his entreaties for
compassion and peace never ceased.

Poem: The Dire Consequences of Room-Temperature Tea

When I was a teenager, I stopped putting ice
in my “iced” tea, and started drinking it right
out of the pitcher at room temperature. After an
initial phase of alarm on the part of my family, they
sort of just decided that if I was too lazy to put ice
in my tea, then I deserved to suffer all the
consequences that might entail, which,
I have to tell you, weren’t very serious
consequences in the end. I still enjoyed
strong and sweet freshly brewed tea,
but I didn’t have to worry about ice
trays or running out of room in the
freezer or any of that stuff. I was just
happy in my own kind of way.

A few years ago, I moved to England,
where nobody drinks iced tea,
so ice is no longer an issue, but
I still drink tea at room temperature,
which surprises the people who notice,
because most people don’t drink tea
that has “gone cold” around here.
I do, of course, and it isn’t really a
problem so long as I hold onto my
tea mug in case someone notices
it has gone cold and dumps it in the sink.

And, yes, in both countries I still get
judgmental comments about how I like
a little tea in my sugar, but I’m not bothered.

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Poem: Interminable Questions and the Invariable Dimensions of Certain Coffees

I don’t like answering a lot of questions.

Like when I go to Starbucks and order a
flat white, and the cashier asks what size
I want, and I say there is only one size of
flat white, pointing at the menu, but the
cashier says, no sir, you can have whatever
size you want, and I say, yes, but any other
size is not a flat white, is it? It’s just some
milk with coffee in it, and the barista is
confused as to why I’m so exercised about
a coffee order.

And so am I.

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Poem: Oblique Confessional Poems and Holiday Cheer

If I wanted this poem to be more intimate,
I would address the reader directly, and
invite the reader into my inner world.

I would use second-person pronouns and
share the deeper and darker aspects of
my personality. I would regale the reader
with stories of elation and spiritual fulfillment
along with brutally honest accounts of
self-doubt, anxiety, fear, and loathing.

I might make it a little shocking by offering
raw accounts of emotional terrorism,
suicidal ideation, perversion, and criminality.

I might make the reader uncomfortable,
embarrassed or outraged. But today I want to
keep my distance. I will only tell the reader
the weather is crisp and cool and fine enough
for a pleasant walk. The livestock are neighing,
and braying and crowing in a delightful
cacophony of good cheer. The holidays are
just around the corner, and it’s best
I keep my distance.

Poem: Cassandra (I am) feat. Greek Chorus

I predicted the results of the election, and the death of the republic
I warned of financial collapse and the beginning of the pandemic
I shouted right in your face that you needed to protect your investment
I told you the university you chose faced regulatory reassessment

I knew your car was built by underpaid and untrained workers
And I mentioned you’d get heart disease if you ate too many burgers
If you listened, you’d know your new hoover would be recalled
And that the new prescription you filled will make you go bald

I laid out the argument against a global corporate cooperative
But reviewer number two insisted I’m being too negative
It is too depressing, I’m told, to always focus on disaster
We’ll just hope for the best and muzzle the forecaster

If we focused on our impending doom incessantly
We’d be paralysed with fear you declare contemptuously
So stop crying about all the amenities to be lost
We’d rather stroll contentedly to our next holocaust

I know you’re distracted by things much more important
And sometimes my entreaties come across as mordant
So you tune out what is most difficult to hear
And focus on beauty and how to calm your fears

You need clarity and can’t take it all in at once
So I should expect a certain amount of avoidance,
And I know the daily clamour distorts true prophecy
But I still want to be part of the chorus, not the cacophony

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