When Things are Finished

The air starts moving again
You almost
Let yourself forget the stillness that paralyzed your lungs
Kept you from shifting your weight even a little
Just in case the floor caved like everything else
Or gravity stopped obeying the rules too

You can almost
Think again, almost
Let one idea flow from another
Without stopping the train at every station to check for contraband
Images that can never be allowed home
Words that can never be respoken

The phone calls know you’re almost
Available, can almost
Pick up and answer, can almost
Affect a lack of hatred towards the voices that say
The sun still sets in the West
You’re still as wonderful as ever

Friends who almost
Have enough courage to talk to you, almost
Make you believe that you can almost
Live through this, almost
Accept that faking it is making it
That this is all there is

But I’m not the like the cowards who hide
Behind uncertainty, support your chance to fail
I’m the one who screams the words you don’t want to hear
That the air has always been moving
That the ground never stirred
And that I don’t believe in almost

Self-Made

In a home of my own making
Amidst the broken glass of an abandoned Colorado factory
The hollowed-out brambles of a Pennsylvania backwoods
Shared blankets and trash can fires of a New York slum

Sticks and sheets and coffee cans
Huddled under a bridge
Decorated with a showcase of my discoveries

Cobbled together handiwork
Make the best found-item artists proud

With friends of my own making
Fellow travelers and lost boys
Street preacher questioning his book
Cop who turns an eye when I “find” bread

Songs and stories and helping hands
The few who look at me from where they are
And accept the journey to who I am

Cobbled together acquaintances
From the throngs of passersby

Through plans of my own making
Tomorrow’s landing site, today’s art medium
Who to say goodbye to, who to invite along
How to respond to the next insult, what hat to wear

Trails and trials and mangled maps
Close my eyes and point
To who I will be next

Cobbled together dreams
Building a sculptor from the clay

From components handed to me
An upwardly mobile society
A forgotten trade
Poor decisions by someone who once was me

Snips and snails and castaway coins
I pick up where you leave off
Twigs discarded at my threshold

Woven together human
Designs from a graduated cobbler

From leftovers handed to me
I weave art from the twigs

Geometric beauty
A mathematical masterpiece

That no one will see
Until the birds pick through it for food

Hypnogogic Jerk

This evening’s lullaby
Everyone’s a critic
X for x’s sake

Sleep with one eye open
Memorize the patterns, sounds in the metal walls
Bang, ba-bang, clank: guard making his rounds
Bang, boom, scuffle: a new resident, learning the way of things
Schiff, bang, thunk: an old hand, giving up
So long as it’s not… Clang, clank, slam
You can still sleep with one eye open

Dream with one hand in the cookie jar
Learn the language of subtext, meaning behind the lies
We really want to work with you: you are good for our reputation
You have a real talent: as long as people keep buying, we’ll keep selling
What’s your vision for this project: we need you to think you matter
So long as it’s not… Let’s try a new direction
You can still dream with one hand in the cookie jar

Create with one foot on the ground
Recognize the warning thoughts, signs you’re losing you
It’s hard to explain: you don’t see all the hard work
I want to be true to my passion: I don’t know what is inside, but it needs to come out
No one knows who I am: I’m not sure I’m showing my true self
So long as it’s not… I deserve to be known
You can still create with one foot on the ground

This morning’s wake up song
Let’s try a new direction
Clang, clank, slam

Note: While I didn’t want to say so before the poem, this piece is a reaction to some great advice about the writing and the creative process that I have picked up from people like Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Chuck Wendig, and Maureen Johnson.

I like to show all my poems to someone who is not a big fan of poetry to get their thoughts. This time, the reaction was “I have a feeling this is depressing but I don’t know why.” I think this is an excellent way to sum up something all artists and creators go through in regard to their own work.

I pointed out that the poem is depressing because it’s about trying to create in a world, a context, that’s not always conducive to creativity. But, I continued, it’s also hopeful. Each scenario has a “So long as it’s not”: a thing that makes it less survivable. The hope of the poem lies in which of these lines is missing from the last verse.

The only one of these “So long as it’s not”s that can truly stop you is an internal one.

It’s something you can control.

Reaction to TSWGO

Chances are you’ve heard of The Fault in Our Stars. The book was #1 on the NYT bestseller list for seven consecutive weeks and the movie grossed over $266 million worldwide. Also, it was advertised practically everywhere in the States.

It’s less likely you’ve read, or even heard of, the book by the girl to whom The Fault in Our Stars is dedicated.

While I love TFIOS and have already written poems about the many things its author, John Green, has done, I wanted to shine a spotlight on the story that in many ways allowed TFIOS to exist- the story of Esther Earl.

This Star Won’t Go Out

I first heard of her in a YouTube video
I know, cliché
More so when it wasn’t even her own

In the video, a man told his story of meeting her
A man who himself inspired hundreds of thousands
Inspired by a teenage girl to write a story
While not being completely hers
Was much less his
And that was the important part

But the story I’m interested is completely hers

Her handwriting, her notes to her parents
Telling them she knew it had to be hard to be them
To have a kid with cancer
And that the truth is icky

Her chats with her internet friends
A group of teenage girls
Who, long after she is gone, help moderate a project
that raises over a million dollars for charity

Her activism
Not for cancer charities
For the Harry Potter Alliance
Books and equality for all

Her hand-drawn smileys
Her declaration of intent
To cut her hair short and anglefied (because that’s a word)
And dye it orange with purple streaks
Her follow-through and attached photographic proof

Her book
Edited together after she died
By her parents
Who included her journals, letters, thoughts from friends
And set up a foundation
Not in her name but in the name of the hope she represented
That this light, this star
Will never go out

Note: Learn more about the book and the foundation here.

Reaction to @Mark_Sheppard’s diabetes.no campaign

When I decided to write a reaction poem about one of my favorite celebrities of the moment, Mark Sheppard, I ran into a problem. I realized that most of what I wanted to say was already in my poem I’m a Fan of a Fan inspired in part by Wil Wheaton.

So, while I still include some personal references to things I admire about him, I decided to shift the focus to the anti-diabetes campaign he is doing with his son called diabetes.no. I encourage anyone reading this to check it out. Not only is it a worthy cause but you also get a cool shirt. Win, win.

diabetes.no

I’ve seen what disease can do to children
And their parents.
Fractured marriages are not uncommon.
Cleanly severed ones are.
I’ll run the risk of double negatives
To tell you I’m in love.
Not with a character, or an idol,
An image, or even a man,
But with the hope
That there is a time
When teaching your nine-year-old
To give the finger
Is good parenting,
When tweeting your ex’s Facebook post
About your split
Shows awe-inspiring respect,
And when declaring you’ve never played a villain
Is still true after 42 episodes
As the King of Hell.
More importantly,
I’m in love with the idea
That building a place
Where kids forced into war
Can meet fellow soldiers,
And stop being soldiers,
Is just as important
As furnishing them with the weapons
They need to fight.