I Need to Stop

I think I need to stop,

just stop.

Not slowdown,

not take it easy

no, just stop

just don’t move

and feel the earth

under my feet

feel the air

on my face,

listen

as the trees rustle

and the birds sing.

Just stop

because

it’s the only way

to feel,

hear,

smell

and know

that I’m connected

to this earth,

to nature’s movements,

connected to the stars

in the heavens

as they reflect

Divine love

in the dust we share.

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Stories are Everywhere

I’ve been sitting here, staring at that blinking cursor and blank white screen trying to figure out what to write about. Do I write a piece of prose, a bit of nonfiction or fiction, do I write a poem about a tree? There are millions of ideas that float across my mind and like a school of fish they slip past quickly before I’ve had any chance to grab even one. Stories are out there and stories are within, the trick is to start digging away and just write what you see and damn the consequences.

Stories come from our everyday experiences, those seemingly small moments that we don't think are very important but when we begin to unpack them we see something of ourselves. Yesterday I had one such experience, a connection made with a man named George. George has been hanging out in our church yard, using the picnic table to have his breakfast and coffee. George is one of those characters that seem to gravitate toward the church. They are lost, lost in the world, lost in society and lost within themselves. He’s not a dangerous person, he’s not unintelligent, he’s just lost. That is something many people just can't wrap their heads around, that here is a man, who is educated, seems smart and yet can’t seem to find his way. Yet, here he is, struggling. In his mind, in his lostness, he is wrestling with God in his own wilderness. The spiritual struggle some of us go through as we seek our place in this craziness called life.

George and I have now spoken several times and with each conversation another layer of his complex personality is exposed. That he was married, that he was a lawyer, that he had gotten involved with a fundamentalist religious group, and with their blessing went over to Europe to begin a ministry of house churches. Along the way he lost his purpose, he lost his wife and children to divorce and he may have even lost his connection to family and friends.

I sit here, a conduit to God’s grace, a conduit that is in itself flawed by my humanity. I sit and listen, I can offer no quick fix, no special prayers, or some magical incantation, I’m not a Shaman or a mystic, I’m just the person God created me to be. There are stories to be told, to be written down and shared. Stories of our common humanity, of our need for one another, not just when things are going great, but also when we are traveling along a darkened path. Life is a struggle and for some, like George, it is a greater struggle. That is why we need to share these stories because if I were to I be honest, if we were to be honest, there is a bit of George in all of us, that small, scared child who fears what is under the bed or the monsters lurking in the dark closet. Our lives are connected in that mystery we Christians call the Incarnation, the Divine Presence of the Word which called us into being out of the dust.

Maybe that’s why I’m writing this piece, because there are moments when it is easy to get oneself lost. I know there have been those moments, when the darkness of my own mind has overwhelmed me and I found myself struggling to find the path. I don’t believe there is not one human being alive who has not faced their own dark night of the soul, who have wondered about the choices they made and the consequences of those choices.

I read something yesterday stating that what anyone writes is not something original, but mainly a reworking of age old stories. Stories of love, of death, of growing up and coming of age. We all have those stories in the deep well of our memories and it is my task to dip into that well and draw upon those deep waters. Some of the water will be sweet and fresh, and some will be brackish, but it all comes from the same well.

I can say with complete confidence that I am no genius. I struggle with my grammar, I’m unsure of punctuation and word usage, but at least I’m willing to expose these thoughts to the world. Creating anything, whether it is a piece of art, a poem, a story, even a life, requires taking a risk. It’s all too easy to sit on social media posting someone else’s words, it’s something else to post your own. Maybe it is because in taking a moment to try and see the world through the eyes of another, I have been granted a gift and that gift is these words that I write.

Writers Block or Not

I can’t really call it “writers block” since I just read a litany of quotes that deny the existence of such a malaise, for instance:

“I don’t believe in writer’s block or waiting for inspiration. If you’re a writer, you sit down and write.”

– Elmore Leonard

“I haven’t had trouble with writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, clichéd writing, outright flailing around. Writing that doesn’t have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments. It seems writer’s block is often a dislike of writing badly and waiting for writing better to happen.”

– Jennifer Egan

“All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?”

– Philip Pullman

“I’ve often said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block; the problem is idea block. When I find myself frozen — whether I’m working on a brief passage in a novel or brainstorming about an entire book — it’s usually because I’m trying to shoehorn an idea into the passage or story where it has no place.”

– Jeffery Deaver
“Writer’s block is a luxury most people with deadlines don’t have.”

– Diane Ackerman

“Lower your standards and keep going.”

William Stafford

I love the last one from William Stafford mainly because, I can’t lower my standards much more than I have already. Then again, what are my standards? That’s a good question and one I’ve never given much thought. Sure, I would love to write that one great piece or that one great novel or poem, but do I really have the stuff, the inner smarts, to write like that? No matter what some may say, I believe that the really great writers have a skill that us mere mortals do not. Somewhere in the genes, in that magical mix that makes us human beings, the great writers got something else, a bonus gene that allows them to see the world through different lenses. Sure, many of us can describe a sunrise or sunset, a forest full of tall pines or the view of the ocean from atop a mountain, but can we see what’s underneath, the glimmer on the glass, the undulating waves, the various shades of green that fluctuate as the shadows of the clouds pass over the distant scene.

There is a sense of the magical, of wonder and desire that some people can easily write about. Love in it’s infinite ways of being, how it feels in the deepest parts of our souls, how just to look at one’s beloved brings a depth of feelings right into the core of who we are. No wonder we say, they are broken-hearted, for love can and does not only break a heart, it shatters the fragile flesh.

There I go again, off on a tangent not at all sure how I got to this point when the point was about writers block and my own style. Maybe, and this is a big maybe, it’s really not a block but a more of a drought. Ideas, ones you thought would make for a great story, once written down seem flat, dead and rather silly. Yet, each day I try to write, something. A small piece, a bit of poetry, micropoetry, something that forces me to dig below the surface and mine the richness that is waiting to be exposed to the light of day. That is if all I discover is a vein of fools gold, it looks all bright and beautiful but upon inspection and retrospection is found to be worthless. As I write this, I’m thinking, isn’t this all part of writing and wanting to write, the self doubt, the fear and wondering if what is written is any good?

I’m sure that most of this sounds familiar to many who have read some of my stuff, it’s become my theme and maybe my vocation. It allows me to express my doubts, fears and inadequacies and put it out there for all to see and read. I also hope that by voicing my own lack of confidence that it might just help someone, who has more talent, to go ahead and write that one piece that has been rattling around in their head for so long. As for me, I’ll continue throwing out the words that I see with my minds eye. I will continue to write knowing that I tend to jump from one thing to another in the most haphazard of ways and really, isn’t that the reason to write?

The Headache of Zeus

I’m looking for that perfect sentence

the one that will open this poem

the perfect metaphor never used

so that you will read my poetry.

I even bought a book or two

to help me on my quest

to find the right combinations

of those words that I seek.

Poetry for Dummies is one

that claims to help demystify poetry

only will it help demystify me.

I dream, dreams of words aligned

all in perfect poetic order

then when I sit to write they are a jumble.

Outside the sun shines bright

and I hear the birds singing

the world is slowly waking up 

as I emerge from the dreams.

Now I sit here writing once again

looking at the blinking cursor

on the blank screen of the iPad

trying to remember what I dreamed

in the midnight hours

because what I saw was that sentence

all pretty and perfect

just waiting to be birthed

a sleeping fetus

enclosed in a darkened womb

of my mind

the headache of Zeus

that refuses to be born.

What Tale do I Tell?

What tale am I to tell? 

Where does my story begin?

Where will it all end?

I look about and see poetry

in the trees as the wind blows through the leaves

in the songs of the birds nesting in the branches.

There is poetry in the love I share

in the tears I shed

in my own imperfections.

I look up at the clouds scudding across the sky

changing shape molded by unseen hands

creating a story that is timeless.

I am such a small part of the greater whole

seeking to discover that one great purpose

writing these bits and pieces of poetry

hoping to see in the words a reflection of my soul.

Perfection is a dream, a fantasy of youth

these words are imperfect as is the language.

It can never describe those deeper feelings

that lie at the core of my being,

a being fraught with fear and anxiety

of knowing I am not enough on my own.

What tale do I tell? 

What mystery lies at the root of my heart?

The roads I have travelled were never straight

winding through a landscape at once beautiful and terrible.

Through the gauntlet of people and places

faces haunting the edges of my memory

now I stand on the precipice of the future

as I stare out across a valley shrouded in fog

wondering where my story will take me.

Time grows shorter with each passing year

I now have arrived at a point where there are less tomorrow’s

and I can no longer sit idly 

as that enemy time, 

gnaws me down into dust.

All is sacred, all is holy, if I dare to look outward

fear is the cage created to justify our own failures

and I have failed and fallen so may times

yet, like the Phoenix I have risen from the ashes

to stand before the judgement seat of the Holy

the mystery of unconditional love

that calls us out of our tombs

unbinding our tortured souls

and bathing us in the light of truth.

Memories of a Time on a Snowy Day

So, on this snowy day, I’m sitting here remembering being out on guard duty looking out onto the fog illuminated by the perimeter lights, and hearing the crack pow sound of an AK-47 off somewhere in the distance as if in a dream that makes no sense. Meanwhile, outside the snow is blowing around and it’s hard to see across the yard as the plows scape and bang their way down the street and here I am stuck once again with memories of youth in a place and time where there was no snow, and the air contained the smell of rotting vegetation, mixed with the scent of tropical flowers, growing in the burned out perimeter, where only the rats ran and thrived.

Writing Poetry

 I’ve been writing a lot of poetry these past few months, well, let’s just say I think I’ve been writing poetry. I’m definitely not a classic poet, I don’t do all of the rhyming or understanding of what constitutes a decent poem. Yet, I continue to write these poems and once in a while I get a few positive comments and quite a number of likes. 

 Lately, I’ve begun to reflect on my writing, what it means, what I intend it to mean, basically those great existential questions of self worth and what my life is about. Most of what I write starts as a short verse or just one word. From that one short verse or word, I start to write, usually a stream of consciousness until I exhaust that vein of words. I then look over what has been written, read it out loud to hear what it’s saying and then make edits. Many times I surprise myself at what I’m reading. It’s as if my mind and thoughts are no longer my own as I write down what I’m hearing inside. Another voice, ancient and elusive, seems to be seeking an outlet as I write. 

 Ever since being struck by that car door, over a year ago, this voice deep within has been ever present with me. I see the world and all that is around me in a different light. I see the flowers and trees, the birds, and the life around me, coming even more alive. There is a vividness all around, an achingly beautiful, yet fearful world, that screams at my heart to write about. I really can never explain these feelings, as I am still seeking to make sense of what I’m hearing and writing about.

 So, I will continue on this path, I will write more poems, delve into sacred prose, seek the Spirit that underlies my very life. Some will resonate, some will just purely suck, all of it will be mine.