Anathema

20 years into this century
and the West burns,

the land inflamed, unceasing.

It burns in the forests
and the fields,
it burns in the streets,
with fires small and great
all stretching out for the same air,
all feasting upon the same oxygen.

But empires thus
are built of bone
and of sweat,

and within the elements
of things closest to our hearts,
from the private
to the pestilent,
we wait
and we watch
with dilated eyes
the assault and decay.

To breathe! Only to breathe…

The body has a finite amount of blood.
The mind can only take so much.

They will not stop, you see.
They will never

stop.

This is the desolation.

Oh rise now the midnight daughter,
oh rise now the twilight son;
keep your blades sharp,
your torches dry,
your eyes up.

Under the roaming haze
under a descending sun;
late now, the domain of summer,
and the long dark
approaches.

There is but one bastion,
one shield,
one bulwark,
one fire in the night:

hold fast thy memory,
thy faith,
thy hope
and thy love.

You know
in your deep-heart
what is right.

All else is anathema,
all else is so much dust,
for there are no spells
with which to resurrect the dead.

In Memoriam: Patrick H Lee

artist: https://www.deviantart.com/pe-travers/art/Desolation-120816158

Note From Your Future Child

Listen,
you’ll try to get everything else right-
and by gods, you probably will;
but
if you would tell me a story,
then tell me a proper story-

one of the fire and the bone,

of the way the dust of the road
kicks up behind boots in the dry season;

tell me of scentsongs of rains on the field,
tell me of the planting and of the reaping;

tell me of where eternities sleep
beyond the edge of mountains made of thunder;

tell me of how a cold wind
fills the bellies of snapping sails;

tell me of the weaving of wave and rock,
and of the hushed embrace of the deep forest;

tell me what lies beyond;

tell me what they used to sing,
and why;

tell me of music;
wait, tell me why people dance;

tell me of love found
and lost
and found
and lost again;

tell me how he falls,
tell me how she keeps on;

tell me of long waiting,
of small courage,
of great vengeance,
of deep mercy;

tell me of the reaching horizon;

tell me how they made the map,
tell me of the thirst for new stars;

tell me of what hungers in darkness,
tell me of the death of hope;

and tell me
in the right hands
and in the right heart
what may rise from the ashes.

By gods, this world likes to hang its head and say,
“Those were the days.”

So,
do what you will with the easy parts,
but tell me a proper story.

epic_adventure_by_jjpeabody-d7vj0gr
artist: https://deviantart.com/jjpeabody

You Could Go Home

Or,

you could take a walk
into the oncoming twilight of an early June,

just before the magic hour saunters in,

when liquid light-gold flows in slow-motion
through green leaves,
in between dark branches.

Maybe someone is kindling common air to sacred flame
through the mouth of a trumpet.

Maybe the lilacs are sprayed up
against the brick walls.

Perhaps a lover
waits for you.

Maybe dance.
Maybe death.

Perhaps fame.
Perhaps fortune.

Or,

perhaps it’s just an early June,
and maybe

just the magic hour.

After the Rain
artist: https://snatti89.deviantart.com

The Problem is Not Your Demons

– It’s How You’re Handling Them

Rather than scroll past this for fear of it ruining your Friday mood, I urge you to take it as a moment of focus. So let’s talk about demons, and about how an absolute tragedy can give us a little bit of light. Are you ready to meet the real enemy? I guarantee it’s not who you think it is.

Three days after fashion icon Kate Spade’s suicide, and a mere day after the CDC’s report revealing a 30% increase in U.S. suicide rates over the last 17 years, beloved, brilliant, charming, curmudgeonly chef extraordinaire Anthony Bourdain takes his own life.

Not that you need reminding, but it’s been nearly 4 years since Robin Williams did the same.

Perhaps the most commonly-asked question when people such as these decide to end their lives, is “why?” We, from the outside, see genius. We see talent. We see creativity, heart, passion, wisdom, curiosity, success… we see a lot of things. What we don’t see is the internal process.

Too often we assume that people who create beautiful things are filled only with beautiful things. I assure you this is not always the case.

And to be clear, when I say “create”, I’m not referring to the stereotype of the tortured artist. In fact, I’m not referring to artists at all. Raising children, selling houses, teaching students, building a business- these are all creative acts in a sense, because to do them well requires concentrated effort, passion, and sacrifice. For all acts that require purpose of energy are a form of creation. This is one of the realities of nature that connects all people.

In fact, it’s often those parts of us- the poison, the darkness, the demons -that drive us to create in the first place. We create because too often it’s the only way to hold up a candle against the night. In doing so, many find a sense of peace- or at least of stability -in the sense that they’ve come to grips with existence, with the past, with the future. To be compassionate, not only towards others, but towards themselves. To be mindful of, and grateful for, the time we have right now.

But for many more, the struggle to find that balance becomes a focus of pressure itself. And so the brilliant singer extinguishes her own flame before her song is ever truly sung, simply because she views her failure to conquer her demons as an inexcusable flaw, one rendering her unworthy not only of success, but of salvation. And the mastermind chef and teacher cuts short his own life, believing that the joy he’s brought to millions isn’t justification enough for his existence.

This is why you cannot fight your demons. There’s no possible way I can over-stress this truth enough.

Listen. I know you’ve been told over and over again that you must “conquer” your fears, and “fight” your demons, and “win” over yourself. But there’s a sinister, hidden flaw nested in this advice that will lead- and has lead -many into the realm of self-defeat. To imply that you can conquer the darkness within, that you can single-handedly slay your own demons, is to imply that you are somehow broken or tainted, and that with enough force of will, you will stand victorious. That you will reach a state of “completion”.

This can be, as today’s news shows, a deadly fallacy to believe. For as with physical life, our consciousness, our memory, our internal processes are in constant states of change and evolution. Having anxiety, depression, fear, doubt, blame, and guilt trying to crush your success at every step is, like it or not, an intrinsic part of being human. Everything from modern society to modern food to modern technology is both a product of and problem for the human mind. Our minds arise from each of our unique collections of cells, our neurology, and without literally lobotomizing yourself or using some kind of magic to physically remove the problem areas, you’re more or less stuck with yourself. There is no “completed” version of You.

But hear me out- that’s not a bad thing. That’s not a bad thing in any way, no matter what you’ve done or been through. You are not a failure because you’ve failed to construct an idealized version of yourself, a Jesus or a Buddha who lives without flaw and without fear.

In fact, because of the way our brains map themselves as we progress through life, everything that makes you “You” is tied together. You are a complex and beautiful network of knowledge and memory and dreams and flaws. So without the problem areas, you wouldn’t be yourself. In other words, take away the demons, take away your soul.

So the real question, the real battle, then becomes “How do we deal with our demons?” How do we mitigate- and integrate -the things that strive to kill our spirit?

After observing many situations like Bourdain’s, including some tragedies of those I personally knew, and including some horrific things I’ve experienced, I’ve come to a radical understanding about the nature of our demons.

Have them over for dinner. Sit down, break bread, speak with them. Barter and trade with them. Strike deals with, and in doing so, subjugate them. But nicely. They have to decide to. You have to decide to. They are part of you, just as you are part of them. They are you. Yes, they may have arisen from incidents, or been given to you by others, but now they’re yours. You have to decide how best to befriend them and make them work for you.

Every piece of light and dark inside you has a purpose, but it’s up to you to define that purpose. When you accept that you have control over this process, and that it’s an act of compassion and of negotiation, you’re free to succeed as you see fit because you’ve thrown away the youthful notion that an intrinsic, and perhaps unwanted, part of you can be magically cut out and tossed aside.

And now, the real enemy: your ego. Disregard the assumption that “ego” means power, desire, or confidence. Your ego is a vestige of primal competition, of battle, of survival, of “choosing sides”. Your ego wants to fight your demons, because it’s the screaming part of your personality that stands up and shouts “I’M ME, AND I WILL FIGHT ANYTHING THAT THREATENS ME!” Sometimes, the ego is a necessary part of survival- especially after any form of trauma or failure. But these things beget fear, and fear feeds your ego. And when your ego becomes trained to feed on fear, your outer strength becomes the killer of your true, inner self. Your demons then run rampant, because the truth is that Ego has a loud voice but makes a poor warrior.

And still, your ego will fight you every step of the way on the journey to yourself, your success, and your freedom.

Along the way, it will throw every lie in the book at you- you’re a failure if you don’t “conquer yourself”, you’re “not worthy” because you’ve committed sins or have been defiled, you’re “not successful” because you haven’t attained someone else’s version of success, you “can’t do enough” or “can’t do anything right”; and perhaps the most vile, insidious, and downright sad lie you could ever let yourself believe: you don’t need anyone.

Whether for attainment of a goal or a desire to become a better person, not one single person on this planet has done so alone. You are not God, you are not a god; hell, you’re not even a demigod. You’re human, and we arose and succeeded through connection, support, negotiation, and community. We are, in fact, “wired for help”.

Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, once wrote:

“…for the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

To accept the lie from someone else, or from yourself, that your journey in life is a solitary battle of defiance against the world… well, that’ll kill you. You may not die in the literal sense. You may not take your own life. But a part of you- the part of light that shines from within, blinding not only your demons but those of others around you -will surely die. And so you become weaker, and the pack becomes weaker.

All because you believed that you’re broken,
that being broken is a bad thing,
and that you’re a failure for not fixing yourself.

So here’s the point, my beautiful people. Sit at the table with your demons, and talk it out. But be wary of this dinner at first. Demons have notoriously bad table manners. Some adjustment may be required on both your parts.

Take heart, though, and take note: this will be an ongoing conversation for the rest of your life. There will never be a point of completion. I believe you have the courage, and the compassion for yourself and those you love, to do so. The strength and elegance of character you desire, and the peace and success you want, are right now within your grasp.

Needing help from time to time does not make you weak; in fact, asking for help requires a much more graceful form of strength than does a brutish rebuking of the world, or a solitary march to war.

Talk to your demons. Question them. Learn from them. Own them. Ignore anyone who says you can kill them.

Give love. Accept love. Do both with wild abandon, and keep your eyes on the horizon. But keep distance, as well, from anyone who tells you to fire on all incoming ships.

Above all, remember this: even the best and brightest of us have defeated ourselves. As the winds and storms of life fill your sails, and you carve the waves of your own destiny…

…don’t forget who the real enemy is. Make that enemy your friend, and gather your crew.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
– ancient proverb

silvernote

if nothing else,
i’ve been faithful
to the nature true of the heart,
to the calling wild of the bone,

even to the song
that dances in the eye;

so if you’re reading this,
and nodding to yourself,

then you understand-
even if they’re truly gone,

there is always
a final
unresolved
grace note

after these perfect progressions,
after these imperfect improvisations,
after these harmonics resonant,

after this light
and this music

reference

just so you know,

when i use the word
“beautiful”,
i hate that i have to.

i really do.

i hate that everything else
is a just synonym for it;

i hate that it’s been cheapened,

because when i use it
(when i attach it to something),

it means spark
it means ray of light
it means dance

it means thunder
it means chord
it means symphony

it means snow
it means field
it means wave

it means night sky
it means breath
it means brushstroke

it means eye
it means mountain
it means tree

it means you;

it means what it used to.

Timestamp

I shake a bucket of grain and whistle through my lips
under the summer sky
and the horses thunder in from the south pasture.

I lose favor with a teacher
because I beat everyone’s score
including hers.

I grow up,
but really I don’t.

She tells me I’m weak.

My folks never hold hands.

My sister is popular,
and skillful, and still mostly humble.
My sister is successful.

I live in the shadows.
I love from the shadows.

My truck breaks down.

I am selfish.
I give up everything.

You take me in a night of rain and darkness
and the universe opens to our cries
and we enter the kingdom of heaven.

I am in hell.
I drink the flames.

I work overtime.
I work two jobs.
Life is a third.

I apologize to my grandmother as she’s dying
because she won’t live to see me get married,
I’m not even with anyone,
and she shushes me and says it’s ok,
yes she will.

Before he passes,
my grandfather agrees there is nothing after death.

Her eyes pass over me.

I lie in bed and listen to the storm.

I tattoo my body with text.
I tattoo my heart with your memory.

I drive down a dirt road.
I fish in the dark.
I sharpen my knife.
I am strong.
I am unbreakable.
I cry alone in the night.

There’s neon.
There’s drifting smoke.
There’s a hole where you should be.

I sell my soul.
I let my heart get ripped out and eaten.
I grow a new one.

He threatens me.
I don’t care.

I listen to windchimes.
I load 1,000 bales of hay.
I stare into the arm of the Milky Way.
I want you but I don’t know who you are yet.

She doesn’t understand.
They don’t understand.
I don’t understand.

You tell me you love me.
You mean it.

I drop out.
I write.
I tread upon paths of stars and faint imaginings.
I live.
I die.
I breathe.

My mother teaches us.
My father teaches us.
They still never hold hands.

You see my soul, undressed.
You tell me of its shape.

I dream of mountains and oceans and deserts.

I wander the museum at 9 years of age
and wonder why everyone else isn’t here.

You’re gone.

Light moves through the trees.

We try to tell each other of the light
we see in the other
and we don’t believe a goddamn word of it.

I watch people destroy the goodness we’re all born with.

You show me your demons.

I punish him because he deserves it.
Then I realize no one deserves it.

I watch children and dogs give freely
from hearts bigger than we’d ever admit.

My nostrils are filled with red dust
and I make money at brandings.

I sign a petition for equality.
I join no party.
I write for the paper and document campus protests.

On Saturday night
I break bottles against old brick and howl at the moon.
I am saved.
I am damned.

I abdicate my throne
and they don’t understand.
I’m late
because leaves and grass fill me
where shiny parades of nothing cannot.

My family wonders what I am.
I wonder what I am.

I wonder.
You wonder.

I’m not confident.
I don’t join the Master’s program.
I’m too confident.
My horse stumbles on deadfall and rolls backwards over me.

I sit in the pickup bed with my dog
and we watch the sun set.

I take you in a night of fire and thunder
and we burn and die and are reborn.

I write a research paper on biological science.
My life is a country song.

I am not practical.
I don’t want to be practical.
I should be practical.

I burst into flames.
I immolate the darkness.
I fan my wings and fly out of reach.

I am invective incarnate.

My fist makes a hole in the wall.

I bury my dog.
I bury my horse.
I bury my flame.
I bury my heart.

I run.
I hide.
I give my old saddle away.

I love.
I dream.
I shouldn’t dream.
But I do.

I love the way you dream.

I work too hard.
I don’t work enough.
I move too fast.
I don’t move fast enough.
I help too much.
I don’t help at all.
I love too hard.
I don’t love the right way.
I care too much.
I don’t care about the right things.

I don’t understand;
but I hope, I think
maybe,
you do.

I shake a bucket of grain and whistle through my lips
under the summer sky
and the horses thunder in from the south pasture.