When Childhood Seemed Innocent

We would play, for hours in May,

anticipating the summer day,

those opportunities ahead that contained

no worries, no stress, no school remained.

 

I remember our time spent on the court

the roundball, and later building a fort

we camped in the woods across the fields,

we lived for all the beauty that nature yields.

 

I remember thinking the sun would last

forever as we our own artist’s sketch cast,

running through the day light hours with ease

only needing to answer with occasional pleas.

 

I remember thinking that nothing really bothered

me in my neighborhood, love was always preferred.

I recall knowing there was a life away from mine,

saw it on the news, the fights, the police siren whine.

 

They were fighting in the streets all of everyone

throwing bricks and callous names toward anyone

who seemed to be indifferent to wanting to love

we couldn’t ever the hate we felt rise above.

 

I was ten years old when I first experienced ugliness

I received only confusion to be the answer nonetheless

I kept thinking about all the things I cared about

and suddenly my love for distraction became devout

 

In the meantime though the sidewalks began to fill

with all the hopes and dreams of those who will

eventually want to know the same things I do,

the same freedoms, the similar romances to woo.

 

Yet there in the quiet night of a sunset on strife

we can all realize we’re the sole cause of this life

Taking A Walk

In the morning,

I’ll walk a new route,

one filled with imagination,

with need, desire, passion,

dancing circles around naivete,

though there be shrewd,

their world will be skewed,

perhaps the occasional diatribe

might turn toward an energy

meant to run their lives toward survival.

Indeed, the top alarmists will exist,

those with quiet goals that receive everyone’s

attention because of their,

special skills,

yet it is the toilers, the middle roaders,

the quiet wall flowers,

they are the walkers, the eyes darting away,

the shy missed demeanors,

they are the souls we might

as well –

pay attention to,

when the kids, the children, return to school.

On Racism, Rhetoric, and Respect

A couple of weeks ago, as we were coming back onto the grid from a time in the forest, I tapped into the latest news to catch up on the political atmosphere of this bizarre period of American democracy. I entered the woods discontent with the current state of affairs, and found little had changed in the meantime. I thought I would write an essay about my thoughts, and came up with the immediate title. However for the last week or so I have struggled, as having earmarked three ideals, I wasn’t finding inspiration to speak to racism.

I am white, and in the past when writing to this reality in our lives, I have been told that part of my obstacle is that I have not experienced the direct discrimination of people of color in my own life, and of course, that is very true. At the same time, I feel comfortable in my knowledge of knowing it exists having witnessed account after account of friends, colleagues, strangers and certainly students being taught rejection and hate because of the color of their skin.

Over the past year, as I have watched this candidate in my own words raise the dead with a diatribe of racist and hateful remarks, I have been quite appalled by how society seems to buy into his rhetoric. As I have discussed it with my wife, I have been always clear to suggest that only a certain population is responding to the remarks, and not to worry, when the general election occurs, he will be buried by the opposing candidate’s prowess. Today, we all know the risks that exist with either candidate, so although my predictions remain true in my mind, it is increasingly difficult to find anything positive about this year’s election process.

However, on the initial point of racism, in recent days, the GOP candidate has clearly provided much inspiration toward why I am compelled to speak on the issue. Long before this week’s shakeup in the leadership of his campaign management we have endured the commentary, ‘my African-American’,’the Mexican judge’,’the terrorist born in the United States’, the refusal to accept an NAACP invitation to speak, the deceptive nature of speaking before primarily Caucasian audiences on the plight of African-American struggles, notwithstanding the building of a wall, disregard for the Latino community, ugliness shared toward women that fail to meet his standard.

This long list of misconstrued but certainly pointed commentary has been the basis for his ridiculous platform, and along the way, he has woken the dead, his supporters, and his growing base of popularity is chock full of white-supremacy, misogyny, discrimination, through the support of people in power who present a frightening testament of the explosive and hateful nature of a divisive society.

The absurd rhetoric of this campaign is frightening in its nature. I’ve spoken about the comparison to President Nixon’s ‘law and order’ campaign decades ago, and that has been familiar throughout this year’s candidate’s platform; however, there is far greater danger to what is being bandied about today. To suggest to a populace, ‘What the hell have you got to lose’ as reason to garner his vote, along with an incredulous speech that demeans and offends everything the African-American society has fought to represent in today’s modern society is a remarkable travesty. More than ever, today we have all the signs necessary to continue the road toward an open-minded populace rather than allow bigotry to garner a foundation in our nation’s leadership.

This commentary certainly represents no solution, only a desire to raise awareness in this the most destructive campaign season I have ever experienced in my adult life. Inside the oft-handed rhetoric delivered by both candidates, there is a growing sense of loss of integrity, loss of respect toward the human beings in our world that are in such need to be recognized. Just watch any media – clearly this is not that argument – outlet and witness the hostilities that immediately rise in any roundtable discussions of both candidate’s deficiencies.

We as a society need to wake up, and rather than let them guide us backward, continue to raise our own awareness and recognize the immediate danger of self-directed rhetoric that wreaks of hatred and bigotry. We’ve worked too hard to bury the tenets of Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, the list certainly goes on forever. We need to understand that though there are no true party politics happening in this election, we cannot no matter how much we disagree with the other option, allow this man to be elected as our next president.

Please raise your consciousness people, and do the right thing.

 

The Soft, Delicious, Natural Mystique of The Rains

If I can stand in the water pouring across my sky,

I feel the beauty of nature, yet this is peace,

I am soft with my notions today,

without pain, the quiet release is cleansing.

 

Yet, as these words do in a manner please me,

I am saddened by the reality of the south,

there is a certain mystery in how much is little,

how little is the reminder of our vulnerability.

 

I do pray for the suffering souls whose eyes glance

upward with confusion, praying for the rains

to allow their lives to continue forward beyond the

deluge of God’s mystery in this reckoning.

 

I will while slumber in the peaceful nature of my world

imagine an energy to save the hurting reminders of time.

The Chaos of Fear

If for a moment,

we might breathe,

long enough gasp

to listen to each other,

 

If for a day,

we might listen,

long enough dialogue

to know true beauty,

 

If for a week,

we might practice truth,

may our lives become whole,

might we rather delight in soul.

 

If for an eternity,

we listened to our moments,

the years that pass,

could offer solace to the present.

Altered States

I often wonder about altered states,

Not the actual practice,

Purpose, reason for leaving,

That desire to move beyond that which we call our reality,

I’m always howsoever lost in the moment

Of analysis,

Of a rational thought

A new justification when suddenly,

I’m there again,

Wandering,

Trying to find my way,

Wishing somehow this might be the solution,

Yet always my yet

To sacrifice the knowledge to accept

How simply my reality might be,

If not in a constant need

To separate my mind,

From the peril of memory

A Teenager’s Lament

There were days …

The anxiety began immediately,

Oak doors, passing peers,

Strangers smoking in the freak doors,

… and I was the new guy nobody knew

 

Suddenly walking amongst

New sets of rules,

Similar designs on the same models

Just different names, looks, new shadows

Walk into homeroom,

New guy, sophomore year, a couple of girls,

Friendly right away,

If only they knew the fear I felt inside,

… and never really knew why, just did

 

If I let any one of these people realize

Just how crazy my thinking really is

I’ll be ostracized right away,

Just smile man, just be kind, just –

Wow, these girls are so cute!

First encounter with a jock,

Turns out I knew him from the Y,

Kids across the city thrown together

Good family fun,

… and then to the freak doors to smoke.

 

Hang on to your heartbeat man,

The pounding will wake the dead,

Find a place to walk, to hang, a bench,

Walk the wood to the cafeteria, the creaking,

The passageway almost like a rite of …

I can laugh with the best of them,

How about I teach you how to cut class

… and then old habits crept in.

 

Junior year floating in with promise,

A girlfriend, she walked the halls with me,

I heard her name over the P.A. – I would smile,

A gymnast no less, and I’d glance around homeroom,

Yeah she is my sweetheart, and I think I love her,

… and every now and again I’d remember I’m seventeen.

 

Grades became important now, I understood,

Knew I could figure out these problems,

I was sort of smarter than I ever realized,

Likeable, trustworthy, part of the scene,

Wrote for the school paper, pounded some nails,

Took my drama to the stage, and watched the stars,

… and I wanted to be on stage, just didn’t have the guts.

 

New friends, new paths, new ideas,

My girlfriend and I well, we’re eighteen now,

She is probably bored with me by now,

Turns out I was right, alone again mid-semester.

Turns to drugs as a steady fallback,

Suddenly whole, new, set, of friends,

Needy friends, dependent friends, vicious …

Though there were the gems of course,

All of you listening know who you are,

… and the counsel suggested a fifth year.

 

There were all these options,

Storefront, alternative, THERAPY … GED,

Chose the latter and the diploma didn’t matter,

Stood outside during ceremony,

Proud of that for years,

I never did return, left the freak doors behind.

… and that lost soul continued out into the world.

 

I won’t be here tonight to celebrate with all of you,

There’s a quiet peace in that, along with certain loss,

But I wanted you to know,

I did, I do remember you – the grace, the integrity, the real,

So now today, I do practice what I so wanted from all of you,

Years ago, I was just too afraid to ask.

 

Today I try to notice it quickly with my own students,

A classroom filled, a stage of roles, a hallway teeming with teens.

I walk alone with a smile, so they’ll all feel welcome,

The manner by which each of you did try for me …

 

I do love the beauty in memory.

 

© Thom Amundsen

August 2016