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

Advertisements

Aaj

Aaj

Today, I met her for the first time

As we sat around the fire

the young played and the old told stories

of other lovers meeting

we went around the fire

more stories, some songs

getting dark, time to go

Today, I took her to meet my mother

Sister showed her around the house

father, grandmother, brother all like her

I think they are happy

she hasn’t decided yet

Its fast for her, I’ll give her time

Today, she decided

I face her as the music plays

mother, sister, grandmother

white dresses

she made her decision, her final commitment

it was time for her to take this step

When reading this poem from an English or American perspective it can be seen as a simple love story. Boy meets girl at an innocent campfire get-together, their relationship grows and eventually they decide to marry. By employing familiar symbols we can understand the story—campfire stories, meeting the parents, white wedding dresses.

But some of these symbols, when seen from a different cultural perspective- can have widely different connotations. The title gives the clue as to what culture is involved here. “Aaj” is the Hindi word for “today.” In traditional Indian culture, it was not uncommon for a bride and groom to meet on their wedding day- many times as part of an arranged marriage. Integral in the Hindu wedding ceremony was a fire, around which both extended families sat singing songs, telling stories and playing music. The new couple walked around the fire to symbolize their upcoming journey together. To a reader familiar with this custom, mention of circling a fire would be enough to make the message clear. The couple are now married.

So where does the story go from here? The newlyweds often would move in with the groom’s extended family. Now the references to the sister showing the girl around symbolize more than a friendly tour. This is the bride being inducted into her new life. Hindu girls in this situation often faced the possibility of never seeing their family again. This new family was her family now. This gives new meaning to the groom’s giving the girl some time. He doesn’t have to do this, but wants her to feel comfortable in his home before claiming his rights as a husband.

Now the story takes a turn that only someone familiar with Indian culture would see. In India color symbolizes life: the more color, the more life. In this culture, when all the color is taken away what is left is white. White is the color of death, the color of mourning. When a person dies their body is placed on a pyre and their closest relation stands facing them. Now we understand exactly what the girl’s decision is. She only saw one way out of this arranged marriage. This was her final step.

Although much has changed in India today, the symbols and their connotations are still familiar to modern Indians. Reading the poem from this perspective reveals an entirely different story. Many people- from any culture- take their own perspective for granted. They don’t think to look at any situation from any view but their own. We can learn a lot about the world around us by looking at it from another angle.

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

Reaction to House of Cards (no spoilers)

Author’s note: While this is technically a reaction to House of Cards, it is more a reaction to the feeling I had while watching it than to anything in the actual story. Also, I never thought of rhyming as really my thing, but since this is the second rhyming poem I did this month I guess I’m doing a bit of an experiment.

Compounded Interest

A knight in rusty armor slowly grinding to a halt
A king of broken castles with his thrones now made of salt
A sword of rubber wielded by a child still on milk
A bed of weeds and plastic instead of down and silk

Where you’ve been is where you’re going, never doubt it’s true
All the power in the world won’t stop you from being you
You’ve buried all your treasures just to keep them far away
But when you dig them up all you find is dust and clay

Every cry of pain that’s uttered falls on your deaf ears
You dry the moisture off your shoulder like its water and not tears
You go on living as you are, as if you’ve never loved at all
As if you never reached for me to save you from this fall

But how can I hate you, though you’ve now become this way
Though all your promises are cracked and your words full of decay
You’ve left one standing, shining truth I never can deny
You’ve sold your soul for apathy, and I’m the reason why



Rose Tinted Glasses

Deep Blue was just a computer
Red, a Party of incomprehensible thinkers
I only saw yellow in my own fear
The need for everything was green’s solitary use
White was the race I was born into
Black and brown, the ones I was taught to judge

Every color of the rainbow
Useless blotches on a wooden palate
Rubbish dumped to the floor
About to be trodden on when your hand slipped underneath

Caught my sole, robbed my balance and breath
With violets that sank me, drowned me with royalty
Stars that burst orange and gold behind my eyes
Blinding me with shades of colors
I have no meanings for.


Author’s Note: While there are several paintings and artists who inspired this poem, it is more of a reaction to art itself. It can also have other meanings and connotations depending on the readers’ personality, state of mind, emotions, ect. As I have said before in this blog, this is one thing I love about art in general and poetry specifically.

I do, however, want to highlight some of the artists. One of them, Thomas Kinkade, most people have heard of. The others are great, but relatively unknown. Most of them I found by searching sites like Redbubble, fineartamerica, and Etsy.

One thing I love about the WordPress poetry community is that many of the poets seek out and support one another. I think checking out art sites, like the one listed above, shows this same solidarity to fellow artists.Several of my favorite finds from these searches (in alphabetical order) are Larisa Aukon, Megan Duncanson, Johnathan Harris, Devika Keskar, Christopher Pottruff, and Jane Small.

I encourage you to check out some or all of the links above. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments: people who help you trade your rose-tinted glasses for rainbow-saturated ones.

Reaction to Chase Holfelder

In the holiday season we are inundated with scores of Christmas carol covers. While I enjoyed listening to them, and have found some truly beautiful ones, it struck me how many of them are essentially the same.

And then I found a video by a YouTuber I discovered about 5 months ago, Chase Holfelder. Chase, besides having a great voice, brings a unique quality to his covers in that he takes songs originally written in major keys and sings them in minor.

This simple change can have some startling effects. This is nowhere more apparent than in this cover of a pop song. I recommend you listen to it, this Christmas carol cover, and this before reading my poem.

Major to Minor

When girls wanting fun
turns from a nerve-scraping
narcissistic
joy ride
into a heart-clenching
haunted
cry for help

When holiday cheer
takes into account
the acknowledgment
of a hard road ahead
without sullying
the season

When patriotism
and the hope
for a better land
are not opposites
but the cry of the same
mournful voice

A simple change creates
beauty that
brings me back
every time my restless soul
needs a soundtrack

Reaction to Falcon

I recently watched the Captain America sequel, The Winter Soldier, and was immediately impressed both with the character of Falcon and with the movie’s ability to make you believe and understand a character being so loyal to someone he just met. My reaction poem today is based on that relationship and on what I consider to be Falcon’s best line.

I Do What He Does, Only Slower

sometimes it only takes
one encounter, two minutes, five words
a run alongside the fountain,
a stranger showing up at your door
to assign someone to the spot in your head
reserved for best friends and heroes
people who say jump after you’re off the ground
who have tasted the same dust and dung as you

sometimes it only takes
a list of problems, a cry for help
a recognition of your willingness to open the door
to join a mission you won’t walk away from
even before you realize you can fly
to stand behind someone at their world’s end
because you know, even then, they are stronger than you

sometimes it even takes
giving up what makes you special
walking through the crowd, making do
with half an encounter, 30 seconds, a salute
to get the rest of the world to recognize a hero
who has been there all along