Keep Talkin’ Trash

‘He is just a piece of trash!’
I’ve heard you saying this lately.

‘She’s such a lying piece of trash.’
You’ve said it twice today.

Calling them trash.
Implying that they are garbage.
That they are somehow less than human.
Just a non-person.
Of no use to you.
Whose life has no real value.
In your privileged opinion.

Their life has the same value as yours.
Their life has the same potential as yours.
For growth and change.
The same potential to improve, repent.
The same potential to make mistakes.
To do good deeds.
To break the law.
To lie. To cheat.
To rationalize. To smooth things over.
To panic. To soothe.
To manipulate.
To present things in a favorable light.
To twist reality. To suit their selves.
To believe in things so deeply that they can see no other way.
To love to hate to hunger to thirst to cry to care to cut themselves off,
to close their minds, to open their hearts,
to build up temples of ideology, to construct castles in the clouds,
to grasp at straws,
and to cling to objects.

To laugh and sing.
To run and jump.
To fall and shatter.
To battle bravely.
And to succumb.

To live for a short time on this earth.

And then to die.
To be buried underground.
Or incinerated.
Just like trash, in fact.

Just like you.

 

 

***********

Listen to Oscar. He loves trash!

>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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Not Quite Woke

It was the first home game of the season. I was sitting in the bleachers right next to the band, right next to my sousaphone player. We were talking about the day, the upcoming competitions, the wonderful weather. 

And then the announcement came over the loudspeaker: ‘Please rise for our national anthem.’

At that moment my sousa player turned to me, as she hoisted her instrument onto her shoulder. She looked me straight in the eye, and commanded loudly enough for everyone around us to hear, ‘Please rise!’

I’m not sure if she was telling me to rise because she knew I didn’t want to, or telling me not to rise, because she knew I didn’t want to. 

Time seemed to stand still as my head began to spin. I hadn’t thought about this beforehand. Without even realizing I was moving, I rose to my feet and brought my hands behind my back. I was squeezing my left wrist with my right hand and scanning the crowd to see if anyone was sitting, or kneeling. 

I looked at my Sousa girl and I half-said half-asked ‘I should take a knee?’ just as they struck the first note. 

As my grip tightened, my eyes searched for someone, anyone to give me a sign, some sort of sign that they were as uncomfortable as I was in this moment. A sign that they understood that the things going on in our messed up world don’t stop when our kids are out on the field. A sign that they realize there are real issues that must be addressed. A sign that they know we are in the midst of something, a change that is coming, a revolution that is stirring. A sign that together we can be a small part of it all.

I kept searching for something. Anything. I felt like I was drifting alone and I needed someone to throw me a line.

And then I saw it. She was standing there with her hands in her pockets. They were not on her heart. She was not singing. She looked uncomfortable. I wasn’t the only one.

A few minutes later when she came up to sit next to me, she said ‘I heard you talking. Were you thinking of taking a knee?’

And the tears began to well up in my eyes and my body began to shake a little bit. 

Because I was thinking of doing it. And because I hadn’t done it.

‘I’m so mad at myself that I didn’t do it. I shouldn’t have stood up.’ I could feel the heat reddening my face.

‘You really have to be down on the field for it to make an impact.’ she said. At least I think that’s what she said. I couldn’t hear it over the sound of the deafening heart pounding hypocrisy in my head.

‘But I should’ve done it.’ I said. ‘I should have.’

For her. I should’ve done it for her. For her son. Her son whom I know and love. For his siblings. For the handful of other black and brown kids in the overwhelmingly white crowd. 

‘What if I did it?’ She said. ‘Imagine if I did it. That would really make people uncomfortable.’

‘And they should be! They should be uncomfortable!’ I said, as I sniffed the snot in my nose and wiped a tear from my eye. 

I had to pull myself together. I was a bit of a mess.

Was anyone else an uncomfortable mess? Was anyone else mad at themselves for standing? Did anyone else feel complicit? Was anyone else shaken?

I’m still shaken. I’m still tearful. And I’m sorry.

There’s another game next week. 

What will I do next week? 

*******
Wake Up, Rage Against the Machine 
*********

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Choked on The Wonder Of It All

Pistachio cupcake sitting on a dish.

Here’s the candle.
Blow it out!
Make a wish!

You can Wish for fortune
Wish for fame
Wish for happiness
Peace, personal gain.
Wish for a beach-book-blanket warm vacation .
A trip to some exotic destination.
Wish for a giant party-gala-ball.
Wish for a way 
to get away 
from it all.

But I don’t want to get away from this. 

I want to get closer, yes, that is my wish.

Closer to it all 
To feel it all
To see it all 
To smell it all 
And taste it all 
To hear it all 
And touch it all 
To Live it all,
Yes, Do it all 
Enjoy it all 
Imagine it all
Question it all 
So I can learn it all
And become it all.

I don’t want to wish it all away.
I don’t need an extra long vacation.

Every single day is my birthday.
Every single breath, a meditation.

Sure, I could wish for sunshine and no rain,
I could wish for perfect health, no pain, 
I could wish for comfort ease and grace,
A fat wallet, skinny ass, smooth face.

I could wish for so many other things, 
But what I want is 
all that this life brings. 

I want to get closer to it all
To feel it all
To see it all 
To smell it all 
And taste it all 
To hear it all 
And touch it all 
To live it all
Yes, Do it all 
Enjoy it all 
Imagine it all
Question it all 
So I can learn it all
And become it all.

The hard the soft
the good the bad the grind, 
The crazy busy stress, the peace of mind, 

The calm and cool of surprisingly easy days, 
The stupid shit that always seems to get in the way,
the beautiful the ugly the sweet the sour,
the minutes as they fly, the endless hour.

I want to feel it all
as it comes my way
Living moment to moment,
day to day.

Just a simple series of choices in my head,
That I’ll make over and over again until I’m dead.

And now, I have a choice,
To make a wish.
I’m wishing for another day of this. 

All of this. 
That’s all.
I wish to get closer
to it all.

*********

The earworm for this post is  Flickering Wall. Have a listen.

*******

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Play Ball

I don’t know much about football, don’t much care for competitive sports, but I’ve been to a lot of games. Shannon cheered for a few years and Maggie has been in the marching band for three. 

When I’m in the stands, I never really pay attention to the actual game. I watch my kids do their thing, and my attention is drawn more to people watching, observing human behavior.  

At one of the first Pee-Wee games I attended, I was watching people on the snack line, when I heard a collective gasp! Then the stands fell quiet, and everyone’s heads turned the same way. I followed their gaze to the field. 

The players were scattered about on their knees, the cheerleaders were on their knees.

I turned to my neighbor. 
What’s going on?
There’s a man down.
Huh?
Someone is hurt. Everyone takes a knee until they make sure he’s okay. 


Isn’t that wonderful, 
I thought. Everything stops. Everyone’s attention is on the injured person. A show of concern. Compassion. Respect. Solidarity. A reminder that this can be a dangerous game, and any one of these players can be the man down at any given time. 

This morning I read that Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the National Anthem.  She didn’t do it to disrespect the flag. She did it to show support for Colin Kaepernick. Colin did it to bring awareness to injustice.

Thee are so many conversations we can have about this. 

It’s unpatriotic. 

It’s disrespectful. 

It’s brave. 

It’s an expression of our Liberty. 

It spits on The Flag. 

It honors The Flag. 

Everyone takes a side. But it doesn’t matter what team you’re on. Those conversations aren’t important right now.  

There’s a man down. And when a man is down, the whole stadium takes a knee. Until that man is lifted up. 

Open your eyes and pay attention to the game. There are men down! 

Gasp!

As long as there are men down, we should all take a knee.

*********

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The Wisdom of Silly Stick Figures

When I walked into the house last night Maggie said ‘Mom! I have a video you have to watch.’ 

I asked her what it was. 

She said it was called World of Tomorrow.  

I immediately thought it was some social justice racial equality gender bending utopian dream type film. Either that, or a goofy 15 year old YouTuber with a huge tumblr following pulling juvenile pranks on their friends. That’s the sort of stuff she usually brings me. 
But it wasn’t. It was way worse than that. 

She said, ‘It’s a short film by the Beautiful Day Guy.’

Gasp! The Beautiful Day Guy! That’s Don Hertzfeldt.  He is the writer/illustrator of the animated film It’s Such a Beautiful Day. 

If you have never seen it, don’t! It was the most horrible awful disturbing film I have ever seen. It tells the story of a crudely drawn stick man through the voice of an unpolished narrator, and it was the most uncomfortable 70 minutes of my life. 

I’m sure it didn’t help that the stick man’s name was Bill, which was my dad’s name. My dad, who coincidentally drew silly stick men for me throughout my childhood. 

This silly little cartoon man dug his pointy little stick fingers into my heart and poked it full of tiny little holes. I cried for hours, perseverated for days, and swore I would never ever watch anything he did ever again. Ever. Not ever.

And now Maggie wanted me to watch his short film. Sigh.

I was feeling buzzed because I had just come from an amazing yoga class, so I thought I was in a decent enough frame of mind. I agreed to sit down with Maggie and the Netflix.  I watched the screen while she sat and stared at me, anticipating my reactions. 

From the start this one seemed sweeter. And a little bit lighter. A cute little child stick figure talking to her future clone. Time travel. Space robots. Museum exhibits. 

I laughed a little, sighed a little, and yes, I almost cried, a little. 

And then the clone said, ‘Now is the envy of all of the dead’.  

That is the line that stuck in my head. I woke up with it there this morning, so I rewatched the film. 

Her actual words are my new Desiderata.

‘Do not lose time on daily trivialities. 
Do not dwell on petty detail.
For all of these things melt away and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time.
You are alive and living now.
Now is the envy of all the dead.’

It’s not really about the world of tomorrow at all. It’s always about now. 

Once again, a stick figure grabs hold of my heart. My heart which is beating, now.

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Charley & the Chocolate Factory

Sometimes I get a whiff of it,
something that takes me back in time.
I close my eyes and breathe it in.
Sometimes it’s so sublime.

But yesterday, I smelled a smell
that brought me to my knees.
I was back in the park, near the subway station
under chocolate covered trees.

Do you remember that time, in the park?
behind the factory?
That time when I thought I had lost you for good?
Thought you weren’t coming back to me?

Sometimes I get a whiff of it,
something that takes me right back,
and we’re staring down those trains again,
we’re standing on that track.

You ever smell it? Do you?
Something that brings you to that line,
and you wonder if you’ll be all right
or if this will be the time…

Sometimes I get a whiff of something,
that is so strong, and so good.
It takes me right back to better days
there in the neighborhood.

The bittersweet scent of August
when the evening air smells cool
brings me back 100 years,
back to when we were in school.

The boys smelled like raw onions
and the girls like Sweet Honesty.
The gymnasium smelled like dirty socks
and the librarian smelled like tea.

The cafeteria smelled like Salisbury steak
and spilt milk and mushy peas.
The bathroom smelled like cardboard and piss,
and the dumpster smelled like disease.

The halls smell like industrial paint,
and the playground smelled like hot tar.
We’d sneak over that wrought iron fence and run,
but we never ran too far.

Sometimes I get a whiff of it,
something so good, so strong.
Something that takes me right back there
to the place where I belong.

The black girls smelled like shea butter,
the boriquas, like fried plantains.
The old lady next door smelled like mothballs,
and her basement smelled like rain.

The Indian girls smelled like curry and
the Cubans smelled like beans.
The crazy German guy down the street
smelled like bitterness and mean.

We ran past his house so quickly.
It smelled like gunpowder and booze.
and no one on the block was surprised at all
when they heard the awful news.

That night we played manhunt on our bikes,
hiding behind trees and cars.
We pedaled and pedaled for hours and hours
but we never went too far.

My mom smelled just like cupcakes
and a starchy ironed crease.
My grandmother smelled like Chantilly
and her hugs smelled just like peace.

Your mom smelled like garlic and oil
and a wet brown paper bag.
I smelled just like a teenage boy
and you, smelled like a fag.

So your father smelled like anger,
resentment, failure, sin,
underneath cigar smoke,
Old Spice, tonic and gin.

Your family smelled like misery
and a complete loss of hope.
Mine smelled like Pine Sol,
Tide and Ivory soap

My father smelled like hard work,
chocolate, menthol and hops.
He taught us how to drive a stick,
and how to smell the cops.

There was a vanilla air freshener
in my crappy old smoke filled car.
We drove and drove for hours and hours
but we never got very far.

We could smell the situation
and we learned to play the game.
We were certain we could smell danger
an hour before it came.

We could smell the adrenaline
when we got up to the edge.
We could almost smell the freedom
as we leaped off of that ledge.

The day he died you walked with me
through a house that smelled like bread.
My fingers smelled like copper
and the sitting room smelled like dread.

We stole all of the liquor
from his parents’ basement bar,
to take us away, somewhere, anywhere.
But we didn’t get very far.

The next few years smelled like brandy
cheap cigarettes and beer,
cherry blossoms, magnolias,
sugar, excitement and fear.

We sat in a room that smelled like skunkweed
and we called it paraquat.
It smelled of dirty laundry
and the things other people forgot.

Sometimes in the middle of a hot summer night
the air smelled heavy and thick,
and the sweetness filled our nostrils,
and we forgot that we were sick.

We ran toward the train tracks
that smelled like wood and stones and tar,
running away from the stench of it all.
We never got very far.

The air smelled like ash that time
I jumped right out onto the tracks.
I grabbed the rails, I heard the train,
and you pulled my dumb ass back.

The room smelled empty, antiseptic,
Like metal and porcelain,
like hours spent on hands and knees
scrubbing away the pain.

Like silence and medication
and psychedelic songs.
I thought I would get better someday.
But my thoughts, they smelled all wrong.

The years have passed us by now,
and look at where we are.
All this time and distance.
We never got very far.

Sometimes I get a whiff of it,
and it takes me back in time.
I close my eyes. I breathe it in.
Sometimes it’s so sublime.

But yesterday, I smelled a smell.
It brought me to my knees.
I was back in the park, near the subway station,
under chocolate covered trees.

 

 

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Sea

My peace, my love, my joy.

Soon
the sea
will take it all
And I
shall not
be sad.

Sitting in the boxy
hotel balcony
on the 7th floor,
overlooking the ocean.

I watch as the tide creeps in. 
Wave after wave,
inching closer and closer to the mural I sketched with my soles,
digging in deep just before the stars went out,
just before the sun came up,
just before the fishermen began to line the shore.

A sign of peace,
           a sign of love,
                      a sign of joy.

Soon it will be swept out to the sea,
and I will not be sad to see it go.

Even as the seed of it blossomed in my brain 
I knew it wouldn’t last.
How could I deny the roaring of the ocean?
As I stepped away to survey the scene;
my peace, my love, my joy;
I saw the spectators seated in their own balcony boxes,
Heard their whistles and applause,
I looked up at them, their smiling faces, and I waved with both hands, beaming.
Every single thing about that moment was sweetness.

So now I sit in this box and I breathe.
I rest calmly in the knowledge that everything is impermanent,
understanding that ultimately
all of my energy and all of my effort
will be stolen,
softly,
slowly,
by the ocean.

My peace, my love, my joy.
It will mingle with the salt and with the sea and become a part of everything. 

My peace, my love, my joy.
It will all be swept into the sea.
And I shall not be sad to see it so.

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