Many years ago I did my college internship at a Suicide Prevention Hot Line. I went through a basic orientation and a training session prior to beginning my first all night solo shift. I was young, confident and fresh out of the gate—-Talking someone out of suicide ought to be a breeze. I quickly learned (after my first 3:00 am phone call) that I was in over my head. I immediately realized that the voice on the other end of the line belonged to a living breathing person who was suffering. Their pain was beyond my life experience. To this day, I’m not sure if I really helped anyone. I tried my best to be an empathetic and patient listener. I bore witness to unrestrained sobbing and screams of horror cried out into the phone’s receiver. There were stories of godless depression and anxiety beyond ones ability to remain fortified.
I had no rehearsed script, no prescription pad or the luxury of providing a client with a series of on going counseling sessions. I had just that moment to “try and reach” the person on the other end of the line. I did my best to listen attentively and to interject support. When appropriate, I’d provide input or referrals to community services. In spite of my lack of training and limited life experience, there we were, in the middle of the night fumbling with ideas of why it’s worth holding on for one more moment or for one more day.
And sometimes, by holding on for one moment longer than you’d think is possible, the suffering would pass——at least for a while or until the sun would rise once again.
I run my hand along the rough red brick wall. If you could touch truth, this is what it would feel like, if you could wear yesterday, it would fit like this. Brick buildings never age, unlike most things, they never grow old, they are the silent sentinels keeping watch at eternities gate. Time is in the raindrop that erodes away the mightiest of mountains one patient drop at a time—-We never seem to notice the passage of time until one day the mountain is gone.
Brick and mortar merges man’s creative life-force with natures unfaltering power to endure. ——Such walls keep some things out and other things in——-it all depends on what side of the wall you find yourself falling or standing——
I envision all of those perfect rust colored bricks meticulously hand laid, so even, so artfully composed——-the craftsman’s sweat droplets mixed in the slurry and forever embedded within the cured cement—–blood, sweat and tears, like long lost fossils hidden between the layers of time.
Long after another generation’s life-story has been told and then consigned to oblivion, these edifices remain as statues to a forgotten past—— bricks like memories, one stacked upon the other—— one timeless moment entombed within a dying eternity.————-Tell me this? Why the brevity of life, we’re here then gone, everything and everyone just passing through, my grip on the ephemeral is slipping, the impermanence of it all has me chasing tomorrows horizon on this lonely highway.
Skyscrapers are impressive because of their hight. But there is no romance in their architecture. Their birth pushed out into loveless cement forms and fitted together with the support of I-beams. The spaces we live in define our culture. Our cities are gray, cold and crowded with despair, boxes within boxes, where men while away their lives in cubicles, sucking recirculated air, no songbirds cooing outside the tinted windows, only the ever present monotonous hum of air conditioners—–there’s no place to hide from those harsh florissant lights, the computer screen is our window to the world, the feel of cool damp grass no longer beneath our feet——it’s a landscape of migraines, mind-games and lost virtues. All the symmetrical lines make the few remaining trees and plants seem out of place.
All the old buildings in my hometown are constructed of stubborn bricks. There is grandeur in those old buildings, the church with its pious stained-glass windows, the honorable courthouse and contemplative library. These buildings of stone reminds us of our need for safety, shelter and community. I feel holy when standing in the ancient brick church with it’s towering steeple—-it pierces the heavens like a hypodermic needle, injecting god’s blue sky with silent prayers.
The first time I saw rain, I asked my mother what it was, this water falling from the sky. And she said it’s rain. I thought a child’s thought, how wondrous, this thing called rain, water falling from the sky cleansing the streets and sweetly scenting the world. Who’d of thought up such a phenomenal thing?
The rain made all the old red bricks appear new again. Everyone was in a hurry to escape the rain, but I stayed outside to enjoy this spectacle of water falling from the sky. I stood there with hands outstretched, head tilted back, mouth open, tasting rain, feeling rain.
I once asked my mother about the tiny specks of light twinkling in the night sky. She said they are stars and that there are billions and billions of them—- they are like our sun, but millions of light years away. She said some of these stars have already burned themselves out and we are looking at light from their past. I thought a child’s thought, these things called stars are even more mysterious than rain. I sat on the porch staring up at the Milky Way galaxy—–Rain and stars, how unbelievable yet beautiful.
Maybe this is what Buddha contemplated while meditating under his Bodie Tree. At peace with oneself and the universe, walking the middle path of love between the yen and the yang——intertwined with everything yet separate…….Insignificant and small, yet omnipotent and omniscient———wandering between the birth and death of each moment———Nirvana——-
Soundtrack “If I Go, I’m Going” by Gregory Alan Isakov.
raindrops falling and disturbing still water
she smelled like fresh laundry and the newness of a morning sun
this ole heart is wearing worn and cracked work-boots
It’s the miles not the years
You fell in love with me
like a frozen statue
like a fallen hero
Mistaking love for things that never change
even our sun
will someday die
put on a sun dress
and I’ll wear flip flops
and we’ll get sunburns
while drinking beer at the beach
Internal wallpaper is how we decorate our lives
You were my star in this darkened theater
There is no poetry in Los Angeles, it’s got chicken scratch graffiti on concrete, where tattoos are mistaken for art, its train like cities that have no beginning or ending, just endless strip malls, fast-food joints—-with its smog hallowed sun. How can there be so much loneliness in these crowded places, we have become citizens of cloned hometowns, we’re generation X, or Y, or millennials,—–held together with Facebook velcro.
Nobody really knows what’s going on or what it’s all about. We’re all just running around trying to figure out what we should do, where we should go next, whom do we dare pretend to be. The clock is always ticking, all is uncertain. Before it’s all over we are desperate to discover our part in it all. Occasionally you’ll touch something and it will shock you, like the unforeseen bite of static electricity, or glimpsing a dead falling star. And for that instance your puny life takes on a speck of meaning—–one random piece of the puzzle falls into place.
Her love was like wisteria. At first it brought a subtle beauty to everything it attached itself to. But in time its clinging nature enveloped and entangled what had once been a free-swinging garden gate. Over time there was no way to gracefully enter or exist, the overgrown gate was forever intwined and frozen. It clawed over, across and on top of what once gave the garden its structure and form. In time its need to control and twist all it touched would cause the lattice to sag, to crack under the weight and finally give way. Such beauty strangles the life out all it once embellished. She was my weed strewn garden, she was everything I wanted, but the last thing I needed.
I’ve heard it said that writing is the loneliest of pursuits. It’s just you, a blank piece of paper and your thoughts. I don’t know how writers of pulp fiction feel about their craft, but I suspect that the poet is much more of a desperate soul. His ankle is tied to a huge rusty anchor and it is plunging him to the bottom of the sea. He’s headed to a place where there is no light, no sound, an inhospitable cold region. Poets aren’t depressed—-—no—they’re truth scavengers trapped in a world of forgers. If they were afflicted by depression they might find relief in a drug or in a support group. There is no clinical diagnoses or magic cure for being a poet. Please don’t be afraid, its not contagious.
My father and I share a common name—“Victor”. My dad was called Vic by his friends but I prefer Victor. As I’ve grown older I’ve seen parts of him rise to the surface in me. I was his only son and we tried to reach one another, but we were separate boats being pushed by opposing winds.
I went through a period when I was an adolescent where I’d have night terrors—-I was a sleepwalker pacing the floor in sheer terror, crying and screaming out at things no one could see but me. My dad would shake me, pat my cheek in an attempt to wake me, but I’d carry on in my neither world of monsters, demons and madness. This would go on for hours. He would ask me at breakfast if I remembered these fits. I never remembered these night events. But I’d have a faint memory of something that filled me with terror.
My dad use to say “You’ll find out someday”. And what he meant by that was, someday I’ll learn that life is cruel and bitter and hard and full of frustration and let downs. He would almost say it with a sense of glee. Like he couldn’t wait until this life beat every ounce of idealism and romanticism out of me. He’d just look at me after making this repetitive proclamation, shaking his head and giving me a snide little snicker.
I don’t know how, why or where, but somewhere along the way he surrendered his personal power. It’s always easier to give in, give up and throw your hands up and concede, but that just isn’t me. I take my name seriously, I’m a Victor, I’m born to take on all comers—bring it on—–I’ll go down swinging.
Don’t fear the inevitable, such as death. But rather, fear not taking action on the things you have the power to change, such is your life.
If love were a color, it would be green——like the traffic light that screams GO!—like the grass that’s always greener on the other-side, green like a twenty dollar bill earned the hard way—– leaving you one blistered heart, its in that sweet scent of sappy pine needles in early June, rare like a four leaf clover, it’s in her emerald flecked eyes, like the squirt from a lime after a shot of Cuervo——–but never the color of envy—–
My love is blue, like the deepest part of the ocean, like the sound of Muddy Water’s graveled voice singing “You Shook Me”, as wide open as a cloudless Summer sky, it’s the blue that flickers at the tip of a campfire flame, it’s in the bluish colored veins showing through her ivory skinned neck, a river of life rushing from her quaking heart, her body like a little factory producing beauty, it’s hiding within a cold azure tiki drink—-it’ll kick your ass like a stiff right hook to the soul.
Time is transparent, you can’t see it as it passes through you. I remember all the little things in my wake, the big things are chapters in a book I’ve reread a thousand times. I never tire of my memories, even though they can sometimes leave me sad and nostalgic, the fleetingness of time sifting though an hour glass, grains of sand like moments slipping by—-slipping away.
I once thought that if I talked faster, lived faster that I’d get more living out of life. But no, I got it all wrong, it’s exactly the opposite, the slower I live, the more of life I absorb. I also once thought that the harder I prayed, the more god would turn my wants and desires into reality. But, God doesn’t care about my hopes and dreams, what concerns him more, is how I walk through the fire, how I carry myself—–do I cower in fear? Do I hold another fire-walker’s sweaty palm? Do I piss on the coals? Is the heat an oven to melt sandwiches of gram-cracker, marshmallow and chocolate into S’mores? How do you make your way across the coals—–doing your tip toed river dance while passing through….Cause were all just passing through…..Dancing on the sharp edged blade between chance and fate…..
The world is overflowing with writers but it gives birth to few warrior poets. A writer will tell you the temperature of a room, the hues of a dying day, the silent movement of shadows on pavement, the changing phases of the moon or maybe describe the light cast during a particular time of day in autumn. A poet bypasses all this obvious crap, but instead shines a blinding light on the darkest corners of your soul—–cause deep down we’re all the same, we share a common misery, we suffer a shared sadness—–and once a poem takes you there, you’ll never come back the same.
You can fall out of love with someone and still get it back. But, once you fall “Out of like” with a person it’s gone forever———irretrievable——irreversible. We fall in love for crazy reasons. You may love someone for their hair, for the shape of their ass, or maybe its the car they drive. It may be the clothes they wear, or what they look like naked. Sometimes it’s the title attached to their name, their possessions, or the size of their bank account. Love’s a superficial and primal emotion that can lead to murder——-to madness—–to jealousy and pandemonium—–not to mention unintended pregnancies and failed marriages. Love makes fools of us all. The fruits of love is bedlam—–it decays ones ability to reason. You stumble around love drunk, saying and doing things you’ll regret in the morning.
Its possible to live with someone you no longer love, but living with someone you no longer like can drive you to homicidal fantasies. If you no longer love someone, you can still exist as roommates. You can divvy up expenses and household chores—–you can even share a pizza and a movie. But once you no longer like someone it becomes extremely painful to be in the same room, breathing the same air.
To be “In like” with someone is to be enamored with the way they carry themselves. It’s who they reveal themselves to be in a dark musty hotel room at 3:12 am on a rainy Tuesday—-after the buzz has worn off——- and the loud music is replaced by dark confessions——modesty and clothes lay tangled on the floor———all the piddly ass small talk gives way to restive honesty. There’s no place to hide once we’re stripped of our vanities.
Love is the illusion of what you hoped another person to be——a fleeting mirage composed of phony pleasantries, a facade concealing an alien beneath the mask. Authenticity is the rarest of human commodities.
Liking someone is how the other person makes you feel about yourself. I like how Maya Angelou put it “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” A friend helps you untangle who you thought you were from who you no longer want to be.
You’ll know a true friend cause they give you energy when you feel like giving up. Their presence makes you smile. They make you laugh at yourself——at the world——-at the futility and absurdity of it all. They’ll open your eyes and mind to unforseen possibilities? Their sadness makes you sad. They’ll turn an ordinary day into something extraordinary. If stranded on a desert island this is the person you’d choose to have by your side. They’re the one you want to share your time with, because time is all life really is. They make you feel alive? When you’re “In like” with someone, you want nothing to be different then the way they are.
We’re living in sandcastles waiting and watching as high tide slowly creeps ever closer. The waves are unrepentant, they crumble the walls you’ve built brick by brick over a lifetime.
I feel myself falling apart, cracking up, dissolving into mist. Age seems to have made me uncomfortable with all I once felt to be inevitable——I’ve come to believe anything is possible if I only open myself to it.
The things that once kept me in orbit around my identity have lost their gravity. My career, relationships, friendships, possessions and money have lost value. This isn’t a mid-life crisis, it’s more about wanting to see what’s behind the movie screen—-what’s real, what’s illusion, who really know’s me, who do I really know——-it’s not a depression—-it’s a compression. It’s life closing in on me———something is slipping away, time is running out——I’m teetering between shadow and substance. I’m calling this deaf-mute universe out. Is love a bluff? Is god a fairy-tale? Is truth attainable——-What becomes of us all?
Unimaginable things seep from beneath my consciousness. I drift through deserted cities. I float above dreamscapes of forgotten worlds. From the corner of my mind there arise the faces of lost lovers from past lives . There’s a sweet sadness to it all—–not knowing what becomes of us all.
I’ve decided to let go of all meaning and purpose and simply accept that—“What is “is”, and what ain’t, “ain’t”—That’s my hillbilly Zen koan. It’s the letting go of all the things I’ve fought and struggled to hold onto in a desperate desire to give “me” a connection to this odyssey called life——-the harder I’ve tried to grasp friendship and love, the more they’ve slipped away. The things that once made sense have fallen by the wayside, what once mattered no longer matters. I feel myself moving past, through and beyond all physical trappings.
I need a best friend, a girl to love and a faithful dog——I suppose one out of three ain’t bad.. Don’t people realize that we all crave appreciation, complements and a feeling of being special to someone. We all need to be held, loved and told how valued we are. If those closest to us fail to do these things, then who will? Yet we seldom do. It’s no wonder friends become estranged and lovers settle for tepid routine over burning passion.
I’m no longer gonna be the complementer, the conversation mover or the open ear to those that have nothing to offer me in return. Maybe that’s mean, vengeful and petty, but my time has grown to precious and my universe to small to make room for emotional hermits.
I once had a best friend who showed no interested in my writing or my music projects. It was a foreign land he choose not to visit. I’d wait for him to say something complementary or maybe offer an insightful comment about a line or two I’d written——- but he never did— How can you claim to be someones closest friend, and yet never book passage into their world. Our relationship became one dimensional. I’d listen to his stories and encourage him when he was down. I was inquisitive and attentive to his travails. I’d complement his victories, support his dreams and find ways to ease his worries. One day I stopped returning his phone calls. He left me several messages asking why I never returned his calls——go figure?
My simple recipe for a lasting friendship is simple, show an interest in their soul-hood, be attentive to their heart-fullness (two simple steps)———Amongst all the meaningless bullshit you may share; compassion is the duct tape that will hold your relationships together. Through all of life’s peril, it’s the simple gestures of empathy and kindness that keep the paths of companionship parallel.
I once had a lover who grew loveless. We tolerated one another, we’d forgotten how to please one another. If you truly love someone, you know the things that please them and conversely, you know the things that piss them off. My recipe for an enduring love affair is simple—— Do the things that please that person and don’t do the things that piss them off (two simple steps).
Deprived of vitamin L (love) all living things die. Studies have shown that babies who’ve been neglected fail to thrive. Without love they curl up into a little ball and silently pass away. Love is as essential to our survival as air and food. Babies need to be rocked, caressed and softly spoken to. They need to know that when they cry out someone will come to comfort them. It saddens me to know that there are adults who’ve given up on love. They’ve given up on affection—-they no longer reach out for someone to hold—–they’ve stopped calling out to be comforted. Inside they’re literally “dying” to be loved.
What are we waiting for? Life is brief and it’s later than we realize——Anything is possible if we only open ourselves to it——Kick down the door, dynamite the debris, let your light shine into someones lonely bubble———Love is the only passport needed to enter another’s world—-“Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel.” James Taylor.