Category Archives: for children

Giant Redwoods, a poem

illustration muir woods 2

Giant Redwoods

(Statements in italics taken from Ethics, by Baruch de Spinoza)

Look farther and farther toward thin blue sky, until the green feathery tops of the trees are like the northern pole on some dream planet.  Put the anger back in its bottle. These trees are generous.  Hatred can never be good.

Your carsickness from the ride up the mountain begins to fade, leaving behind a breathless, weepy echo not unlike your first religious fervor.  Hatred is increased through return of hatred, but may be destroyed by love.

When have you not been afraid?  The random can be scrutinized for meaning, the puzzle solved, when surveyed long & carefully enough.  Anything may be accidentally the cause of either hope or fear.

These trees have plenty of time.  As a child, you stared at Jesus’ sad face for hours, wishing you could marry him  — wondering what it was that made him love you.  Could you sacrifice yourself for the sins of the world, if it was that simple & necessary? Cathedrals turn us small and vulnerable again, for reasons both blessed & cursed.  Devotion is love towards an object which astonishes us.

Vague, starry eyes like yours feel at home here; the air is weighty, burdensome & solemn. You’ve loved trees before; this is different.  These trees have plenty of time – more time than you.  If we love a thing which is like ourselves, we endeavor as much as possible to make it love us in return.

Your nerves are suddenly frozen, by the unaccustomed richness of perfect light.  Your guide is tall & slender, hesitant to speak.  Her mother has the tattooed forearm of a Polish Jew of a certain age.  The knowledge of good and evil is nothing but an idea of joy or sorrow.  Sorrow is [a hu]man’s passage from a greater to a less perfection.

These trees have plenty of time.  She touches your wrist, and for a moment, you, too, want to grow taller, leaving the surface of the earth behind forever.  Shyly, she picks up a tiny pinecone, smaller than a toy.  You both laugh when she tells you this is their seed.  Joy is [a hu]man’s passage from a less to a greater perfection.

These trees have plenty of time.  And all around, their wise, fallen, hollow bodies litter the ground like the bones of saints.  Childlike, you understand a wish to die here, never to leave this hush.  They’re only trees – your neck bent back as far as it will go; only trees, yet wondering if the giants can hear your thoughts.  Love is joy, with the accompanying idea of an external cause.  Love and desire may be excessive.  When the mind imagines its own weakness, it necessarily sorrows.

Is there anything we have less power over than our own tongues?  These trees have plenty of time, growing wise as the Buddha, in their silence.

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Oprah’s Closet, an essay

O_Magazine_cover

August 14, 2016

Oprah’s Closet, an essay on priorities

It’s Super Soul Sunday on OWN, Oprah’s personal TV network. She sits with an author on a self-help book & discusses how, she, Oprah stands inside her walk-in closet & decides it’s not making her happy anymore.

Assumption number one: we, the viewer, can stand inside our closet.

Assumption number two: we, the viewer, are far enough ahead in the game of “net worth” to be able to discuss whether or not our large walk-in closet makes us “happy.”

Oh, Oprah. And just as I was just about to feel really good about you & your legitimately valuable achievements again! I mean, come on. You name EVERYTHING after yourself, and then justify it by saying it’s inspiring others to reach what you define as their “full potential” or some shit.

What the fucking fuck? Seriously? You just snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. Who gives a fuck about whether their closet makes them “happy?” Oprah, when did you get lost?

Priorities. Resources. Allocation. Social goals. Civilization. Society. Government. All people are created equal, and deserve at least a level playing field. A level playing field. Let our society make sure that every child starts the game on a level playing field. What we agree upon as humane. HUMANE treatment for humanity. Imagine that, Oprah!

Forget your closet! Let no child go hungry; unwashed; unloved; uneducated. Let no child languish in the care of a family which cannot care for them. NO child. Not just yours. Not just some theoretical children, in the abstract. Real, live, actual, living children, sitting in their living rooms, none of which should be scary, or dirty, or smelly, or empty. We are all equally entitled to the resources of this particular planet. And any other that anybody reaches.

Ain’t nobody owns the moon. Or the sea. Or the stars. Or the air. Or the water. But they WOULD LIKE TO. Therein lies the problem.

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Pretzels & Chocolate, a poem

jim-valvis

PRETZELS & CHOCOLATE

(rented room, cigarettes)

I am eating pretzels
and they are hard
but splinter into salty crumbs

with the merest bite
they only satisfy
part of my tongue

(rented room, cigarettes)

so I pick up the chocolate
greedy for it to melt
against my palate

sucking the firm square
feeling it mold to me
the way I imagine

my body molds to yours

(rented room, cigarettes)

retaining the character of sweetness
to complement the salt
to balance my mouth

I am eating chocolate
thinking of us
together

(rented room, cigarettes)

illustration mockingbird mimus polyglottos

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How Art Thou Received? (a prayer for refugees)

How Art Thou Received? (a prayer for refugees)

Imagine: suddenly, without warning (because that is how war arrives) you are a war refugee! Simply running away from being murdered. And how are you received when you can finally stop running, when you are out of range of the guns, the bombs, the blood? No countries to take you. No one to feed you. You are a skeletal pawn in a skeletal game.

Embalmed corpses declare war on the living and fight for their “territory” against other embalmed corpses using armies of young people; embalmed corpses feeding on fresh, young blood.

I know something is very wrong, somewhere. It must be addressed, and addressed properly. Our prayer, our incantation, our spell to heal, must be more powerfully crafted, more distilled, more essential, than was the horrid spell we are trying to break: a tradition of might over right, strong but wrong, a spell of ignorance which has caused so much harm, and is trying to do more… powered by the love of power, the love of control over people.

The scarred parts of the heart can be replenished; the broken parts, glued; the weak parts, strengthened; the fear assuaged, the pain relieved. But the desire to change, to truly alchemize oneself, spin that straw into gold… the gold of the sun… the silver of the stars… the red planet… the North Star… primal navigation by looking not at the ground, but by looking up, to the sky… that kind of desire doesn’t visit often.

If you want to know where you are going, be sure your map is accurate, or at least doesn’t kill you. Migrating birds know this. Power & Liberation. Slave & free. Joy & Suffering. High & low.

Craving slaves, some are trying to roll us back to serfdom, only they can use our own science & technology to rape us! Serfdom: tied by birth to land. You are a pawn, a source of income; in thrall to your Lord and Master. Freeing serfs is always a struggle. Brute force arm-wrestles the human race, and brute force often pins people to the mat, but… you cannot keep people down for long. The oppressed will continue to spring up and defend their inalienable human rights. All people are created equal: including our ancestors, who existed long before the self-anointed first “private property” owners. Human beings are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, yes? The earth cannot belong to any one of us. Period. We own this planet. All of us.

 

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Suffering Jets, Bowling Litionists, and Peace Knicks, a fable

illustration suffering jets bowling litionists peace knicks

Suffering Jets, Bowling Litionists, and Peace Knicks, a fable

My mom’s always trying to teach me History.  She says it’s important for us kids to know all the bad stuff that happened in the olden days so we won’t be as stupid as all those olden people were.  My mom seems really mad at those olden people.  She says human beings could have lived in a “paradise-on-earth” if it wasn’t for a whole bunch of bad ideas they thought up and then were stupid enough to get stuck on.  Just as if they were GOOD ideas!  My mom thinks good ideas are real important.  I’m not so sure because I can’t always tell the difference between one of her “good” ideas and one of the olden people’s “bad” ideas, but I’d never tell her that because if I did I think she’d go nutsy-futsy just like Nadine Houck’s dad did, and then I’d be pretty much alone except for that mean bunch of kids living on that hill up from the lake.  They’re not mean so much as they are just pissed because nobody’s really around to care for them and make them read their schoolbooks every morning.

Anyway, my mom’s always trying to teach me History, and so I try to learn it.  Like today, she got started on the “god-damned East-West mutual suicide pact.”  She says that back when there were lots of olden people, (she says there were BILLIONS, but that nutso-futso and I don’t believe her), everybody actually KNEW what would happen if there was “an all-scale nuclear confrontation.”  Like, they made TV shows and movies about it, and people wrote all kinds of books and stuff, and they had big “world conferences” and all, and lots of people even made stuff for people to buy so that when the “all-scale nuclear confrontation” came, they’d have water to drink and canned peas and tuna fish and EVERYTHING.

And like people even built bomb shelters in their yards and stuff.  My mom says this is “evidence of the world-group insanity” of the early twenty-hundreds and that I should mark it WELL in my soul.  So anyways, all the olden people actually KNEW what could happen and all.  Which is real hard for me to believe sometimes. Like if my Mom and me actually KNEW that the roof of our house was going to fall in, and so we bought big steel umbrellas and helmets and stuff, and kept living right in the SAME actual house but all the time acting real worried about the roof caving in and talking like MAD about how to prevent it and all, but really not doing anything to brace the ceiling.  And EVEN having some guy show us pictures of what our blood would look like spread all over the floor.  But then we’d just buy bigger steel umbrellas and harder helmets but we STILL wouldn’t leave the house.  Damn, isn’t it hard to believe that those dumb olden people could actually ACT like that?

So anyway, the whole of Earth really, really KNEW that they were in a big pile of trouble.  But people did ALL sorts of stuff to “distract their lunatic sensibilities,” my mom says, and they’d do stuff like jump out of big airplanes to feel what it was like while all the time they just kept stocking up on the god-damned steel umbrellas and helmets.

My mom said that one time in the middle of the twentieth century and towards the 70’s some olden people actually and truly came to their senses and try to yell loud at all the “sleeping fools,” my mom says.  She says that she read all about them in college and always wondered why they quit yelling.  She says that groups of good people would get together all down in history, but that as soon as they had “achieved their one objective goal,” they would trickle down and eventually dry up.  She talks about the Suffering Jets and the Bowling Litionists and the New York Peace Knicks and that they all lost their momentum in the end.

Anyway, my mom says that HER theory of what in HELL happened to people is they had plenty of guilt, but no feeling of responsibility to go along with it.  Like they felt bad about their “sins of omission” and all, and they hung their heads about it, but what it REALLY was, was just “crocodile tears.”  Like they would say, “Gee, I feel SO guilty, but gee, if I felt guilty about every bad thing in the world I wouldn’t be able to SLEEP at night and my face would break out and I wouldn’t be having FUN and stuff.”  Like they had a mental maturity age “of about three,” my mom says.

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Lillie Mae Lovett, a prose poem

Image

Lillie Mae was the first person, other than her mother, Ella remembered being in love with.  She — Lillie Mae — chewed gum, had a gold front tooth, wore long, dark auburn wigs, bright and warm against her dark brown skin.  She — Ella — buried her nose in Lillie Mae’s neck, held up high in her arms.  Heard the muted snapping of the gum in Lillie Mae’s mouth.  Lillie Mae could get Ella, a picky eater, to eat when no one else could.  For Lillie Mae, Ella would open her jaws for the spoon.

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desiderata, in french, hopefully an OK translation, not by me

illustration desiderata in french

Desiderata

Aller tranquillement au milieu du bruit et la hâte et n’oubliez pas quelle paix il peut être dans le silence. Aussi loin que possible sans cession être en bons termes avec toutes les personnes. Parler de ta vérité calmement et clairement ; et écouter les autres, même le mat et l’ignorant ; ils ont aussi leur histoire. Éviter des personnes forts et agressifs, ils sont des déboires à l’esprit. Si vous comparez vous-même avec les autres, vous pouvez devenir vaniteux et amère ; pour toujours, il y aura une plus grande et la petite personnes que vous-même.
Profitez de vos réalisations ainsi que vos plans. Garder intéressés par votre propre carrière, si humble ; C’est une véritable possession dans les fortunes changeantes du temps. Faire preuve de prudence dans vos relations d’affaires; pour le monde est plein de fourberies. Mais cela laisse ne pas vous aveugler sur quel virtue est là; beaucoup de personnes recherchent de grands idéaux ; et partout la vie est pleine d’héroïsme.

Soyez vous-même. En particulier, ne pas feindre d’affection. Ni être cynique sur l’amour; pour face à l’aridité et le désenchantement, il est aussi vivace que l’herbe.

Prenez avec bonté le conseiller des années, remise gracieusement les choses de la jeunesse. Nourrir de force de l’esprit pour vous protéger d’infortune soudaine. Mais ne pas vous affliger avec dark imaginings. Beaucoup de craintes naissent de la fatigue et la solitude. Au-delà d’une discipline saine, soyez doux avec vous-même.

Vous êtes un enfant de l’univers, pas moins que les arbres et les étoiles ; vous avez le droit d’être ici. Et s’il est clair pour vous, sans doute, l’univers se déroule comme il se doit.

Par conséquent, être en paix avec Dieu, tout ce que vous lui faire concevez et quel que soit vos labeurs et aspirations, dans la bruyante confusion de la vie, maintenir la paix avec ton âme. Avec toutes ses trompe-l’œil, corvées et rêves brisés, c’est toujours un monde merveilleux. Être de bonne humeur. S’efforcer d’être heureux.

Max Ehrmann, (1927)

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