Poem: The Problem with Irony

Nobody really liked Connor’s poetry,
anyway. It didn’t really even seem like
poetry. It just seemed like someone
rambling around trying to tell a story
the way Connor did every time we
tried to get a cup of coffee with him.

Anyway, he said that’s what he wanted
from his poetry was for it to sound real
natural like he was just talking to his readers,
and he figured he had a few things he
wanted to say and what better way to say
a few things than in the context of a poem?

But honestly no one ever knew what he was
going on about because he just sort of
started talking and then went around in
circles for a little while with no kind of
point that anyone could see. And instead
of an ending, he’d just sort of trail off.

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Poem: Your Face

Jesse Bernstein died after he stabbed himself
in the neck, and it was all because there was
something wrong with his face.

That’s what he said.
He said there was something wrong with his face.
Something just wasn’t quite right.
It’s sad when something is wrong with your face,
because you can’t do much about it.
It’s your face and you’re stuck with it.

When people look at you,
you can tell they’re uncomfortable with your face.
When you look in the mirror, you always feel a little
nauseated and you have to look away.
The worst part is that you can’t figure out
what is wrong with your face.

It’s just a face everyone hates.
A face you hate.
And people make all those face jokes.
You know, like they’ll talk about something horrific
and then say it reminds them of your face.

And that’s so fucking funny it takes your breath away.
And you don’t know what to do, so you end up sticking a knife in your neck.

But I found something I love. Something that brings me joy. Even if you can’t bear to look at me, listen. I found something that gives me hope:

Your face.

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Poem: A Theory of Vision Not Rooted in Reality

Colour lies in the mind,
not in objects in the world.
The philosophers said it’s true.

Even children wonder if others
see what they see when they ponder
all the universe lying in their view.

As we grow, we debate inverted spectra
and possible mass hallucinations
creating discord and hullabaloo.

We want to see phenomena just as 
God sees reality,
and we 
puzzle every ambiguous hue.

Finally, we content ourselves
To accept things as they appear,
but 
keep imagining the missing shade of blue.*

*We can’t have ideas without impressions, said Hume,
before saying we could mentally create a new kind of blue.

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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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