Keeping The Faith

Deep in the night,
In between bouts of hope and despair
When wondering if there will be a break in
The Clouds
or just a slight let up in the deluge–
I turn my eyes towards the heavens
and wonder how much They need to
fire us within the forge
before we’re ready enough
to be pounded,
into A Useful Tool;

(Not that there aren’t enough Tools to go around–)

To mix metaphors in mid-stream,
a wise woman once told me
(and now I often quote)
that sometimes you have to touch the bottom
of the pool,
way in the deep end,
lungs bursting for air,
so that your toes can find purchase,
and push off,
sending you kicking towards the surface;

I wonder,
these days,
what I’ll find waiting up there,
when I take my first big breath,
and how much,
and who,
I’ll have to fight
when I get my fingers to the edge of the pool.

Einstein On The Beach

Some nights the dog has nightmares and it keeps you awake,
because he hollers and thrashes and squeals
like a drunken twenty-one year old getting their first piece of ass
in the car parked outside your bedroom window on a
Tuesday night;
Sometimes the dog has nightmares and it keeps you awake
because he’s just one room over
from the kid that’s coughing and coughing
in his sleep
tossing and turning like a theoretical physicist
riding the waves of a chilly Atlantic Ocean
while contemplating the nature of a piece
of light;
Some night the dog has nightmares and it keeps you awake,
not because you’re laying in bed,
but because you’re scared to step over him,
relieving him of the sleep that he has earned
by his being,
That you are jealous of;
Some nights I want to pass out and forget that I’m who I am,
and chase cars, or cats
or go running in the night trying to catch that one last
scent of the black and white cat that’s falling off in the distance
into the sun
into the shallow sand
into the water
into the night
where soft paws meet soft air
and drift off to where nightmares and dreams and wakefulness
aren’t much more than a bad refrain
in the insomniac’s
meandering blog post,
between sips of beer
and incautious drops of tears.

Dry The Rain

It’s been one of the wettest winters on record in the Greater Los Angeles Area this year, and though the sun has stuck its head out to say hello, it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon.

The garage floods.  The local jogging track and soccer pitch remains mostly underwater.  The back doormat has little hope of ever drying out.  The lawn is green with clover and little yellow wildflowers.

We have large potholes growing where there were never any before.  There has been a shortage of galoshes for little kids. Duckboots have come sneaking out from the deep clothing collections of East Coast transplants.  People stare at my trench with outward envy.

The drought is over.  Again.

My wife looks at the overcast days with relish, smiles and declares “Oh my gawd, I LOVE this weather!  It reminds me of Oregon!”  It reminds me of my love-hate relationship with “rainy season.”

My shoulder (which I separated on a rainy day six years ago) aches most of the time now.  The doors and windows are often closed against the cold and wet.  The sun peeks out often enough that double rainbows rule the sky.  The sky remains clear of smog most days, so that if you stand in the right spot on certain streets you can see clear from the port of Long Beach to the Hollywood sign.

I have an excuse to loudly play every song that has to do with rain that I own.

The overcast days always make me think my time in New Haven, where it seemed to rain all the time–Summer, Spring, Winter or Fall.  Rain with high heat and humidity, Rain with with cold, or Freezing Rain, just to mix it up.

In Southern California, we get sudden “Oh, whoops, I forgot to check the weather report so I’m going to be late to work!” kind of rain.  In LA, we get “Oh, hi!  it’s God here, and you kids have been dry for so long, that here’s three year’s worth of Sky Water in two weeks–y’all should really work on that climate change thing so we don’t have to do this” kind of rain.  It comes in weird waves of sideways, and soft annoying sprinkles, and pretty puddle making spouts; we get sunny sky sprinkles, and big breaks of Summer Skies in winter followed by typhoon-worthy downdrafts that vanish to clear skies as soon as you’re properly dressed.

My dog and my sons sometime track mud inside.

I sometimes stand in the doorway and just watch and listen as it falls, coating the earth, overwhelming the ground so it runs off down the street, to the drains, and out to sea. I listen to it as it taps on the roof, and echoes on the heater and stove vents, pinging off of the aluminum.

The other day, after I dropped off the kids, I found a parking spot near a park we used to go to and sat in the car.  It had been raining for something like 3 days straight.  I was under-slept, over-tired, stressed out, and just emotionally drained.  My shoulder ached, and I was angry at something, and the rain was coming down in sheets.  I sat in the car and screamed, wailed and let the tears come down.

After a few minutes, I got myself under control, wiped my face and got out of the car.  It stopped raining and the cool wind pushed me forward.  I stepped in a puddle, rubbed my shoulder and walked towards the coffee shop, and a different view.

Cities In Dust

“African boys and girls
Set down your Nintendo joysticks right now
Unplug the television
And make way for an old vision
Which will now be a new vision…”

–Arrested Development, “Children Play With Earth

We went outside today.

Earlier this week, after a wonderful day, full of friends and excitement, a family that has been friends with my family for nigh on 4 years now, gifted us their  water table–one of those play stations made to Rube Goldberg a trickle of water to splashing fun and amazement for the under eight year old set.  Both the kids were over the top excited by the prospect of going out to the back patio of our rented bungalow and playing in the water:  pouring, splashing and dancing like staff-burdened nymphs of lore and mythology.

The kids went outside, and pounced on the water table.  While they were appropriately distracted, I put out a couple of chairs, a small table, and the pop-up awning.  We had lunch (or rather, I trotted between back porch and kitchen while the kids had lunch), and later, I sat and tried to read a well loved novel while they played.

They played outside.

They played outside in the dirt, in the water, and on the Mons Pubis patch of green that we call our back lawn.  They played outside, dug into the Earth, and filled the little table with dirt, and leaf; blossom, and rock; until the little blue table turned brown with silt, and dust, and lord knows what else; it filled with giggles and dust, and they built a hut, a city, a town of brown liquid, and steeples of mud.

They giggled.  They shrieked.  They laughed.  They smiled.  They ate, and (to my parental horror? Joy?) supped on the mud.  They played with Earth and Water and bathed in sunshine, and wind, and danced on concrete and stone for Mother Nature’s delight.

There is a wonderous permanence in how children play–all children–any children.  Go to a park, or playground, or field, or amusement park or backyard and watch (but don’t be creepy).  There is violence, and joy, and raw humanity in their play:  It embraces, and echoes nature–even if they seek to control it–the forces are ones we see in all the animals of God’s creation–rough, and tumble, and oral, and dirty, and fast, and visceral, and loud, unabashed, tentative and playful, personal; honest and raw.

The children build their kingdoms of dust, level them (sometimes at odds) rebuild them, better, or walk away, or forced away; or even better, they bring in others to include them on the game, expanding, embellishing, learning and creating…

My sons are asleep now, dreaming of what landscape, I can’t say.  The younger one twitches from time to time, his face impassive, an occasional soft laugh escaping his slumbering lips; the eldest one tossing and turning, calling out wordlessly, until he wakes, and sleep-drunk, stumbles to the bathroom.

“Daddy? Daddy…can you get me some water?” He asks walking to me, not fully awake, nor fully asleep.

“Sure, baby,” I answer, leaving my writing.  “Go crawl back into bed.”

I go get his cup, fill it halfway, make my way through the mine field of toys and hand it to him.  “Here, kiddo.”

“Thanks, Dad.”  He says, almost to someone else, as he takes the cup and gulps deep; his eyes never fully reaching wakefulness.

He hands me the cup with one hand, and grabbing my arm with the other, pulls me close, plants a kiss on my cheek and asks, “Can you stay here for a while and watch me, Dad?”

“Sure, for a little bit, son,” I whisper, trying not to rouse the other one from his slumber.  I softly pat the older kid’s back, and he grabs my elbow in a vice grip:  “I love you Daddy, don’t leave.”

I stand there, next to his bunk bed, patting his back until his grip lightens, releases and slides to his side like so much muddy water off a sun baked piece of plastic toy on an otherwise ordinary summer day.


The dog is snoring loudly from his spot in front of the kid’s bookshelf.  He stops momentarily, wakes, and looks around to me, trying to figure out why my fingers are click, click, clicking over the keys so damn late at night.  He licks his paws, loudly, until I tell him to stop, and then, he curls his head tightly into his thigh and goes back to snoring.

I sit here, click, click, clicking through links, and posts, and videos, reading, responding, browsing–avoiding.  I should be asleep, or at the least, washing the dishes, but I’m doing none, and neither, and wasting valuable time of anything else.

I contemplate my weight in recyclables–which I know makes no sense–but I wonder, were I made of metal, or plastic, or glass, how much I’d be worth if you crushed me down like so much aluminum foil and sold me to one of those places that pays for your used cans.  What would my value be, then?

These days I sometimes feel like that said same tin foil–a shiny side, and a dull side–a lame conductor of electricity, unable to do more than reflect the heat from another source–crinkly and malleable, able to take on the shape of whatever you fit me to; to line, to cover, and contain.

Leftovers.   Doggie bags.  Swans full of bread and the last tasty dregs of an expensive meal.

I remember watching Pee-Wee Herman’s TV show, way back in the day;  how he would get all giddy about finding a piece of tin foil.  He would straighten it out flat, and then haul out his impossibly gigantic ball of aluminum foil and add the piece to the ever growing shell of the shiny-dull boulder.

“Ha! Ha! That’s soooo cooool!” Pee-Wee would shout in that half high pitch, half growl dork voice before switching into his trademark high pitch Man-Boy tones.

He would wave and holler “See ya later Giant Foil Ball!” before rolling the unwieldy aluminum sphere back to it’s unseen hiding place–just off camera–before moving on with the show, and the next piece of artful non-sense.


I’ve been something close to radio silent
clinging onto hope beyond hope
That I’d find something akin to words
Or posture
that would breathe life into the space
that pretends to be my face,
my tongue,
my voice;
But I’ve found nothing
but a sticky SHIFT button
and a wall full of excuses
akin to nothing but my own in-ability
to be nakedly honest
about what my fingers want to type,
my heart wants to scream,
and my shoulders are willing to bear;

I play with my kids,
watch some TV,
make love to my wife,
clean, eat, shit, smile
cough, boo, cook,
read, apologize

I drink (sometimes too much)
walk the dog; act surprised,
re-arrange books on the shelf,
chase mice,
build invisible boxes around my gut
watch the clock,
listen to music,
wish for a future better,
love the world just at much,
as I hate its guts;

I hunt fictional animals
in an app
that lets me socialize
and exercise
at the same time,
because my liver is tired,
but my feet crave a hike;

But the truth is,
when the children are asleep,
the wife is asleep,
the world is asleep,
and all I have is the darkness,
the night,
the still and the keyboard,
I’ve got nothing left to share,
but alibis–

And now, at this moment,
I find that I’m fresh out of those, too.

Make You Better

There are only so many words a man can peck out on a keyboard before he begins to sound trite, even to himself.  There are only so many similes and metaphors and rondos that one can twist ink or graphite to; the numbers are finite, and singular, and…and…

I’ve had a cold for the last few days–nothing serious–just “that thing” that’s been going around. My littlest one had it for a week or so, and being the one that spends the most time with him, it seemed that I’d be the most likely candidate to catch it next; the cold obliged.

I spent most of today curled up on the couch, my son cuddled to me like the breathing ball of love that he is; YouTube videos for toddlers shining through the TV.  I spent most of the previous day curled up on my mom’s couch; my son bouncing around her house, playing with Gramma, giggling, shouting, singing, laughing at the cloud-covered Sun.

I spent the whole of last week feeling inadequate, wanting only to make my child feel better, make my wife less stressed, my eldest son feel joy–make me feel better.

My son feels better.

I wrote a letter last week, mailed it.  Wrote another one this week, and due to illness, it’s sitting waiting for the post.  There were stories read, thoughts had, hugs given, noses wiped, games played, sleep had, albeit, restless.

I’ve easily had a couple of gallons of coffee over the last few weeks, a liter of whiskey, and at least a foot of water in my (rented) garage.  I worked a couple of weeks, listened to a few days worth of audio books, captured about sixty-four Pokemon.  I’ve watched a few weeks worth of TV, put out about a dozen tweets, and visited with friends maybe three or four times.

I’ve put together a bunch of Ikea shelves, cleaned up some of the house, put together one bunk bed, and have washed dishes until I just can’t look at the sink anymore. I can change a child’s bed without fully waking up to do it.

I want to feel better.

I knew I was coming down with the cold when I started feeling sleepy at 9  p.m.  I’m never sleepy at 9 p.m.  Then the vivid, stress driven anxiety dreams, and talking in my sleep.  Waking up with that annoying tickle in the back of my throat.  The headache.  The fatigue.  Looking into the mirror and seeing a wreck.  My wife asking, “are you OK?”  My mom saying “I can hear it in your voice.” My oldest son suddenly being all cuddly–which might also mean he just want something, but I’m counting this towards me being sick–this time.

I haven’t written anything in a while.  Nothing complete, or worth sharing. I’ve started three or four different essays, but they’ve all stalled.  I got so far down the path of writing, and then stalled–my thoughts, my writing seemed tired.  The thoughts were coming too quick, the words not quick enough, and I couldn’t…couldn’t

I wanted to be better.

I’d started writing one thing about feeling inadequate about helping other people–how I honestly couldn’t do the things I wanted to towards helping those that needed help–even if that help was giving hope–just simple hope.  I started writing another thing about failing with words and failing with actions.  I started writing about the dogs that I’ve kept as pets over the years, and how they live to love, but never grow out of it–eternal loving toddlers–with fangs and claws, and the ability to wake themselves to battle with their own farts.

I wanted to be better.

I lay on the couch, feeling winded, lethargic; my head throbbing, and my joints feeling thick and stiff.  The little one crawled on stomach, and laid his head on my chest and, taking my hands in his little ones, wrapped my arms around him as he did the same to me.

“I’m sorry Daddy doesn’t feel good, baby.” I said.

“I hug you to make you better, Dad.” He said.

And for a moment, I did.

Midnight Radio (3)

The blackness of space is translucent.  It’s a window that allows light of all different wavelengths and frequencies to pass through it without impediment.  The light comes at you through the vast void so fast (or slow) that it can travel through time; piercing light that is decades, millennia old.

That blackness is neither window, or door; it’s just absence.

I’ve had the fortune of going out to the places where you can look through that great nothing (everything) and just staring, studying–losing myself–in the truly awesome:  the curve of the sky; the sharp brightness of the stars; the seemingly endless nature of the night time sky; the madness of contemplation of infinity.

I imagine that that blackness is silent; there is no air to let sound swim through waves and to my ear.  Pure, unrequited silence.

I’ve written myself into a corner.  I have nothing to say about silence.  Or space.  Or darkness or light.  I have no words.  I have only gravity–heavy weighted full force of gravity pulling my shoulders, and my gut, and my head and my chest, and my spirit.

I tire.

My dog stares at me from his bed, licks his lips, yawns, shifts his position in the little round sanctuary  and lays his head back on his paws.

The boys are in their room, strewn across their beds and floor, tangled in sheets and toys and they grow in their sleep.

My wife sleeps, wrapped around a pillow, fighting to stay asleep.

The radio is on.

‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Oh, I’m just holding on for tonight

I get up and mix a drink.  I had too much coffee earlier; I didn’t have enough sleep the night before and need to combat it and push fatigue down into nothingness.

The Translucent Blackness.

I find myself wanting to be sitting on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean, staring up at the infinite sky, contemplating…

Could I be a better father? Could I be a better husband?  A better friend?  A better patriot?  A better human?  A better man?  More patient, more Black, more successful? Could I be more accountable?  Fearless?  Cautious?  Callous?  Indifferent?  Fearful?  More alone?

Could I feel more alone?

I have words.  I am often filled up with words.  But I don’t have the right ones for anyone these days.  Child, wife, friends, myself.  I’m drowning in words–from others–and choking on my own.  Choking on words and phrases like:

The Translucent Blackness.

The clock says it’s a minute after midnight.  The dog needs to go out. I need sleep; I need to find a way to get rest when I just want to pop and overflow–preferably before the two and a half year old gets up.

I leave the radio on, albeit softly.  I want to see what it plays as I go outside, let the dog take a shit, and then try and contemplate things bigger than me.

Prescribing Joy: Wild Is The Wind (2)

My wife asked me to pen something for her guest series, Prescribing Joy; she wanted me to write an essay, thoughts, or a poem based around those so-called guilty pleasures that bring us joy and in which we find deep wells of happiness.

It took me a while.

I finally found some words to cobble together approaching thought.  Sadly, I found them at 2am on a Friday morning.  I emailed them to her, fell asleep, suffered through the next day by mainlining coffee and napping while wrapping myself around my 2 year old son while he watched YouTube videos.

My wife posted it on Friday, 5am, as is her custom; she prefaced it with sweet, honest words and not much other preamble.  She thought they were good enough to share, so I’ll do the same.

Roll over to Prescribing Joy: Wild Is The Wind (2) for a read.  Tell me what you think, there, here.  Then click through the series.  You should.  It’s a good prescription for finding joy.

Desireless (2)

[Read this out loud, if you can.  All the way through.  Don’t read the brackets out loud; just do what it says]

He crosses the floor, looks into the old shoe box and pulls out an old 45 record from his modest, but meaningful collection.  He slips it from its paper sheath, and smiles to himself as someone who has such a thing in a time when few people still have such things.

He calls over his shoulder to the sleeping figure on the couch, and he stands.  “You awake?”  He is only answered with a soft snore and the shifting of a body on the couch.

He pauses for a moment, flipping the black single over in his hands–ever vigilant and careful to not put his fingers anywhere but on the very edge.  He smiles to himself, takes two breaths and then steps to the record player.

Holding the record carefully in one hand, he lifts the lid of the player with the other, switches it on, and sighs.  He puts the album on the turntable, drops the needle on the record and then strides into the kitchen. [Open this in a separate window and press play now and continue reading]

It plays the first scratchy sounds of nothingness before the rhythmic tapping begins, and a few moments later, the song starts in earnest.  Robert Smith.  The Cure.

He opens the cabinet, pulls out a glass, puts it on the counter with a soft click; reaches for the freezer door, gets a couple of ice cubes, deposits them in his glass and absent minded, puts the half full tray on the counter.  He reaches up into the cabinet, pulls down a bottle of whiskey, pours three fingers of the stuff and puts the cap back on.

He sips it, feels the hot dragon blood of the liquid set fire to his mouth, his tongue, that one sensitive tooth in back and then his throat.  He swallows hard, holds his breath for a few moments (tick tick tick tick) and then lets it out slowly, evenly.

There is little other noise in the house, other than a few soft snores from the couch, the constant hum of a fan, and the click of ice cubes as he drinks (drip drip drip drip drip).  The music is the center of it all, driving, heavy, repetitive.

He finishes the drink, sip by sip by gulp.  Repeats the process of filling it: Ice cubes, whiskey, sip, burn, sigh swallow.

He walks back to the living room, moves her feet to one side, sits down, and then places them, gently on his his lap, closes his eyes and listens.  He listens, sips, listens, and attempts to clear his mind of thought, or for that matter, of care.

It’s all about something, he thinks to himself.  It’s all about something.

It was shaping up to be a much different Saturday evening than he’d imagined.  But that was par for the course, wasn’t it?

He sits and listens until the song plays out, the player arm mechanically, automatically raising and returning to ready position, the turntable slowly spinning to stop.  He rises, puts the song back on, and heads back to the kitchen, pours another.

He sits at the table, sipping fire water, listening to 10:15 Saturday Night and thinks of just what he was expecting of the night.  It’s all about something, right?  It should be about something.

He finishes his drink, sets it down on the dining room table with a soft clunk, stands and walks to the bedroom.  He kicks off his shoes, tears off his socks and flops onto the bed, which is wide, empty and cold.

“You coming to bed?”  He calls out to the dark room beyond.  There is no answer, but the soft stir of a body shifting on the couch, heavy breathing and echoes of a Saturday night.

As his eyes slide close, he drifts into numbness that can only come from the nothing of sleep.

He is stirred from sleep only once, by a distant, mechanical click; if he dreams, he won’t remember them in the morning.