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Category Archives: Poetry

How I Spent My Monday Afternoon

I don’t know if any of you have checked out my Songs page.. I used to play a pretty mean guitar … did coffee house stuff when I was in college for a short while, church socials and the like.

My fingers took a big hit about four years ago or so.  I was one of the lucky “1 in 3” folks that contracted shingles (I HATE those commercials) and it was centered in my upper left torso.  I have to say that I wouldn’t wish shingles on my worst enemy – the pain was excrutiating. It felt like someone was ramming a broomstick into my armpit and the entire left side of my upper body was wracked with pain.  The worst thing was that I suffered long term nerve damage as a result (again, I was one of the lucky “5%” of all shingles sufferers who experience permanent nerve damage).  I still don’t have full feeling in my left hand … primarily my ring finger and pinkie.

I tried picking up a guitar during the months immediately after the pain started to dissipate and couldn’t play worth a damn.  All THAT did was contribute to my depression getting worse.  When I left New Jersey for Charleston, I didn’t even bring my guitar with me.

At the encouragement of a couple of friends though, I decided to give it another shot.  I bought a used guitar and started playing again. At first, it was incredibly frustrating.  I play a finger-picking style of guitar that involves a lot of chording, and it was my chording hand that was impacted.  I decided at first to try songs that weren’t quite as intricate and started strumming more instead of “picking” songs.  After about 5 months though, I found that I was able to play some of the old finger-picking songs … nowhere near as well as I had in my past, but what are you going to do, right?

Anyhow, I posted some of them for a few old friends in Dallas that I knew were guitarists (primarily the two “Mikes” … if you guys are reading this, I can’t tell you enough how much your encouragement has meant to me).

What’s interesting (at least to me) is that when I look at the songs I posted, most of them have to do with “inner pain” … whether it’s regret, moving on, relationships ending, wishing you were somewhere else, etc.  I have to say that I don’t know many happy songs.  I think I used to, but I honest to God don’t remember.

My buddy Mike in Houston suggested today that I try to add some new songs to my repertoire, so today, I worked on one that I’ve wanted to learn how to play since I first heard it performed acoustically a few years back.  I never tried … until today.  That’s how I spent my afternoon – sitting on a picnic table, watching an online tutorial while not only trying to learn a new song but trying to use a pick – something I haven’t done in at least 35 years (everything I’ve done since I was younger involved some form of “plucking” the strings with my fingers.

So here’s a rough … repeat, ROUGH version of the first verse of “She Talks to Angels” by The Black Crowes.  Very rough (did I say it was rough?)  I haven’t tried to play harmonics in years, and I suck at it. But overall, I have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable afternoons I’ve had in I don’t know how long!

What’s really funny is that while I was focused on trying to get the strumming right, I wasn’t paying attention to anything.  I looked up after about 15 minutes to see three ducks, sitting in a little group less than 20 feet from the picnic table, watching me play.  When I finally stopped, all three of them just turned and waddled back to the lake and swam away.

Everybody’s a critic!  Thank God Frank doesn’t mind me playing.  ;o)

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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Poetry

 

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More Poetry

The Climb

It’s funny where life takes you
as you head on up the road.
You make your plans. You think you’re set.
You see the “pot of gold”,

But then the bump. The sudden turn. The unexpected fall.
And things you thought would never change
are gone. You’ve lost them. All!

Some men would let it ruin them
while others go in stride.
Me? I’m the middle, choosing paths
for the rest of my life’s ride.

I wish that I could boldly say
with total certainty
that I won’t let misfortune
take its final toll on me.

But for the moment I have to take
things one step at a time
and forget the steepness of the hill ,,,
to focus on the climb.

Walls

I’ve spent a lifetime building walls
knowing nothing else to do
With walls, I felt protected
from heartaches, old and new.

With every passing day a brick
was added to the pile.
As months and years passed by the wall
grew higher. Yet all the while

it never seemed to bring to me
the joy and peace I craved.
It only brought me solitude
and closer to the grave.

I longed to have somebody take
the mortar from my hand …
to tell me, “You don’t need that wall!
It’s alright! I understand!”

But I’ve spent a lifetime building walls
knowing nothing else to do.
So if I reject your loving hand
please know it’s me. Not you.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Poetry

 

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Epiphany

In my Superbowl Sunday post, I mentioned an event that happened in my youth and the ensuing epiphany I experienced while coming to grips with it.

Years later, I was watching the Grammys with my ex and her son. I think it was 1995 or 1996.  Anyhow, Coolio won an award for his song Gangsta’s Paradise, featured in the movie Dangerous Minds, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Anyhow, in his acceptance speech, he said, “I have one thing to say to my homies … ain’t no gangstas living in paradise!”

I said to them, “That is very cool.  He’s taking rap music and turning it into something positive.  Maybe some kid on the street will hear that and change his life.” My next statement was met by head-shakes, rolling eyes and guffaws from her son (who was around 17 at the time):  “If I were to write rap, that’s what I’d try to do.  Say something positive.”

Anyhow, Bryan scoffed at me.  “Yeah, old white man rap.  That would be good.” (As an aside, whoever invents the first “sarcasm” font that becomes the Internet’s accepted norm? They will be rich beyond their wildest dreams!)  And I looked at it as sort of a challenge.

A few years earlier, I had started writing poetry as part of therapy.  I don’t know how it came to me, but it did.  I used to carry a little notebook around, to catch different lines and phrases that would pop into my head.  I used to laugh and tell people that I had “mental diarrhea” – stuff would just flow out of my mind!

The next day, the following piece “flowed out of me” (yeah, you’re probably sorry I painted that mental picture for you in the last paragraph, right).  I later met a street preacher in East San Jose who expressed an interest in it and gave it to him.  Don’t know whatever came of it, because I moved east, but I like to think that it did some good for someone.

EPIPHANY

So let me tell you what I used to think about street rap.
I thought it had no value. It was just a bunch of crap.
But then I heard Coolio (featuring L.V.)
with his message about gangstas at the Grammys on TV.
I realized that rappin’ could be used just like a tool
to educate young people in a diff’rent type of school.

Now I know you look at me and you’re thinkin’ “He ain’t hip!”
Yeah, it’s over 20 years since I took an acid trip.
And I ain’t no gangsta, but I rumbled once or twice
(and I done a lot of other things that wern’t so very nice.)
I thought they were cool, cause the ones I called “my brothers”
affected my decisions about how I treated others!
And it wasn’t til I made a mistake or two (or three)
that all the consequences started coming back at me.

Yeah, no one kilt my sister in a driveby at my house,
and it wasn’t an assassin that nearly took me out …
it came in a way that was NEVER expected.
It was a voice inside my head that was never detected
until it kept getting louder and LOUDER in my ear.
It was the truth about my actions and it was very tough to hear.

Now don’t discount how I nearly faaced my death.
It wasn’t knives or bullets. It wasn’t speed or meth
that nearly took me out. It was my own two hands,
and my own two eyes that finally coulnd’t stand
to look at the face in the mirror looking back.
I couldn’t stand myself when I looked at all the facts
of what I had become. But then the voice spoke again
and it said, “It’s not too late for you to make a change, my friend!
Make a choice right now to leave the road you’ve taken!”
And I did. It was a miracle. Epiphany. Awakenin!

So don’t listen to your homies if they say, “It’s too late
for you.” Cause it’s not! Hey, unless of course you wait
til the law catches you in the middle of a tag
or worse – they take you off in a zipped up body bag!
Don’t lose the opportunity to start a new life
Don’t miss out on the chance to be a husband. Or a wife.
Or the parent to a little child that’s lookin up to YOU
for guidance. Affection. Direction. (Love, too.)
Make a choice right now to leave that useless crap …
Let your “Ephiphany” be the message of this rap!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Poetry

 

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Poetry

I’m empty today.  Except for anxiety – lots of anxiety. Not a “good” day.  I’m grateful this feeling hasn’t hit me for couple of weeks, but I could sense it coming on since Wednesday.  I know what’s causing it. I’m sort of in between things right now … I’ve finished up all of the planning for the first nine months of my impending venture out “on the road”, even going so far as to lay out the groundwork for the following three. But I’m four months away from leaving.  I’ve made a withdrawal from the IRA that won’t hit my account until Tuesday. With those funds, I’ll be able to start actually doing something, like getting my car worked on. But today, I can’t do any of that.

I used to listen to a CD I bought from a place called HealthJourneys.  Guided imagery for therapy. They had one specifically for dealing with PTSD.  It would help a bit when I was going through particularly bad episodes.  But I lost it during my latest move to South Carolina.

So, I figured I’d start a new section of the blog and add some poetry … something I’ve been writing for over 30 years.  Had a lot of it, stored on an old disk drive that I carried with me on the move from California to New Jersey. But I lost them all back in 2002 … someone I was living with at the time tossed the drive in the trash without me knowing about it (this was before such things as “online data backup”).  Almost 200 pieces.  Lost.

I haven’t written much since then.  Maybe I’ll try to do that today, try to touch the inner part of me that still feels so raw when I go near it. In the meantime, I thought I’d share two old pieces. I wrote the first one in the late 90’s, around the time of divorce #2.  The second came around 2005 (one of the only pieces I’ve written since losing all my old stuff). I wrote it during a  period of “nightmare sleep” (something a lot of PTSD sufferers experience).

Both represent an integral part of who I am.

Awareness

I remember sitting in the clouds  (it seems so long ago)
and my teacher was beside me. I was asking him to show
me, give me guidance, to help me plainly see
the lesson I must tackle on my next lifetime journey.

He said, “My friend, you needn’t ask. The answer’s in your heart.
I sense you’d rather tarry though. Are you afraid to start
your next adventure? Is there something that you dread?”
(He always sees right through me, even when things go unsaid.)

“I guess I am afraid old man. This one’s not like the rest.
I sense that in the life to come, the things I’ll have to test
won’t be my strength or character. I’ve done that all before.
No, I’m afraid that in the life to come, I’ll have to face much more.

You see, I know I’m at the point in my eternal quest
where the lesson I must learn is how to cope with loneliness.
I wish I didn’t have to, but I know that it must be
or I’ll never hear that still, small voice that speaks inside of me.

But then, you know that! In other lives, I’ve never taken time
to pore through books. To sing a song. To sit and pen a rhyme.
To feel. To want. To ache. To love. To be torn by inner pain.
To be touched by children’s laughter. To dance out in the rain.”

The terse reply? “You’ll do just fine. We’ve had this talk before.”
So we hugged, and then said our goodbyes. And I went off to be born.
But now that I’ve been on this plane for lo, these many years.
I’ve come to understand why I had all those pre-birth fears.

For loneliness and heartache truly are quite hard to face.
But if I want ascension, I know I must embrace
the pain and angst that keeps me searching for a sense of “home” …
or I’d have never heard that still, small voice which helped me write this poem.


Night

Here it is, it’s late at night.
That’s when the visions always come.
That pain, the deep sense of fright
and hopeless loss of faith numbs
the senses. All my regrets,
all the things i’ve left undone …
they’ll fade … yeah right, when it gets
lighter, usually when the sun
breaks. God! Chase these ghouls away!
But they’re back again to haunt
me when night swallows the day,
and with their mouths full of taunt!
Hamlet said,  “to sleep perchance
to dream”? Bullshit! If i  say
what I want, well, fat chance
i’d wish for dreams. No way!
i just want
to sleep…
to find peace …

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Poetry

 

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