Winter In Minnesota

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Something refreshing a pristine winter.

fresh sunlit  snow touch silent runner’s eye

layered across a landscape painted sky,

we might let troubles risen disappear

 

if in this moment, trees become statues

dignified pose, a carnival in ice.

shaded sphere of heat will nearby suffice

light up a runner’s path – dawn guided views

 

We seek knowledge of a heartiness here

Gitchi-Gami, shadows quiet weakness

Inside the brilliance of a lovely dress

soft upon the runners, sweeping past fear.

 

Trails are designed, hold favor to imprint

lasting lover’s scene, a stepping stone stint.

 

 

 

 

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Different Set of Eyes

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Yesterday morning, while sitting in a writing lab with a student, we both received notifications at the same time, about the Houston tragedy – Tragedy in Texas – and we talked for a minute or two of our sadness. We exchanged the usual, it keeps happening, oh that’s scary, terrible, any number of coined phrases that are now attached to school shootings. But then I turned to her and I asked her,

“How do you feel about that?” and I looked her directly in the eye.

She paused for a moment, and then replied, “I’m sorry, but the first thing I think about is White people,” and she tried to restrain a natural smile, not one of happiness but one of timid reality that she lives in every day. See this young woman is Latina, and her mindset does not comprehend such an acceptance of school shootings. She believes the ‘mental health’ attachment is just another way of protecting the White community.

I looked at her and said, “You’re right.” But I was just beginning to think about the reality of her words. I couldn’t get past it the rest of the day. In my class later on in the morning, when the subject came up, there she was again, and this time her response was that society just allows it to happen because they can wrap it around a ‘mental illness’ label. I wondered if the rest of our society might see it as clearly as she does. I thought about her world.

In her scope of reasoning she has other concerns. Number one, she lives in a world where ICE is constantly knocking on her door, her friend’s door, family, acquaintances who every day wake up wondering if this is the day – will someone today lose their rights and feel the anxiety of having their family, lifestyle ripped apart. Certainly, it is a different measure than the immediacy of a school shooting leaving the slain to disrupt the lives of their family and friends, but hers is a unique pain.

I honestly don’t believe there is a concern in her world that anyone she is close to would ever resort to bringing a weapon to school and gunning down anyone in their presence. But I do think she walks around school, with her observant insight, wondering what next. What will be the next offense that will bear down on her society.

I’ve thought about my conversation with this young woman for the last 24 hours. She has given me new insight into what it is each of us thinks about every day, what are our central concerns, who do we worry about, and rather, when we think of an emotional commitment, what end holds confidence in our survival? Where she might be in constant motion trying to balance her world, her education, her work life all in a genuine effort to survive in America as a Latina woman, I’m on the other hand thinking about what plans I have for the weekend, and how can I pace my grading through the end of school year.

I don’t worry about losing my family to an immigration sweep. I do worry about school shootings, and I am constantly confused by how it continues to occur and how our society is gradually hypnotized into this absurd level of acceptance. She on the other hand holds a very sharp and poignant answer that when the rest of us stop and think about it, reveals a posture in our society that seems easily put aside.

Perhaps we are erring when we simply call it mental health rather than privilege.


photo taken from Pinterest

I Was Walking

Alone in the city

an arctic mass of wind and ice

each step a crunch 

while eyes scanned the surroundings

I felt the wet perspiration

on my forehead, lips, cheeks

begin to freeze while I moved.

I glanced through open windows

to see lives at dinner time

each one comforting the other

with songs of reality,

melodies that transpired their lives

to become closer, more celebratory

than their same lives earlier that day.

I felt rather calm on this walk

alone in my thoughts,

some journey that meant I was coming

I was becoming

I could be less becoming

if I stood and stared.

Instead, my stroll became tranquil

a relaxing jaunt through my neighborhood

that place we seemed to belong

only because we chose to live

amongst all the realities 

that become together

a unified race to the end.

It is a gradual slide

with many highlights

to accentuate

the quiet stroll 

of the human condition.

Summer Notions

I stood soaking in the rain last night

Weeks of that dry relentless sunlight

Baking our naked soul, hot tarred street

Bodies over tanned, burned by the heat

~

The apartment feeling summer’s wrath

Long, windless, aching for some draught

Scorching relationships, angst abound

I hadn’t known quite how I’d be found

~

Last night we knew songs of the evening sky

Gave signs above, the heavens about to cry

Like a sudden storm blankets horizons

Our bodies need for refreshment beckons

~

Now in winter’s wrath no sunlit amber

As snows melt we will soon know our summer

Sitting on Ice

You know the feeling

Too cold to relax

Too easy to react

A sort of waiting for the moment

In hopes that no one can lament

Upon the urgency of leaving

~

The ice

Frozen in time

Sculptures of a paradigm

Simple words that when conveyed

May suddenly be easily splayed

Like dice

~

Hitting the wall

Every toss is a gamble

And we want to ramble

On down the line of life

Without any more strife

Throw me the ball

~

Still I remain

Wondering about the next hour

How far might I this time flounder

Trying desperately to only enjoy

A quiet reality of blessed joy

Yet I maintain

~

We are a common lot of human being

Gathered en masse awaiting our King

A Cold Reality

When I drive by the spot, I am immediately reminded of how painful the memory is; a moment in my life that I have never tried to discard, but only keep strong in my mind for the value of sentiment. To me, to speak of love is to know when everything I felt important in my life holds value. There are many times when I lose sight of what that is, and I simply plod on until the next time I can breathe and imagine how genuine a single truth is in my life. As I approach the anniversary of losing my cousin, Billy Grade, I am wracked with an aching void that I have either worked very hard to keep alive, or struggled to make sense of, always walking away with unanswered questions, often wondering with confusion whether forgetting was really acceptable.

The other night I was reminded that it is okay to remember, in fact, there is nothing I want to forget of the life of my cousin. I was driving home and as I descended into my neighborhood, I can call it that because I drift down a very long hill before I make my final turn to my home, I came upon my t-intersection and began a slide as my wheels engaged the black ice that had arisen from the arctic temperatures of a current cold snap. Whenever I come upon this intersection, I always imagine I could slide right up the little hill that the driveway on the other side offers. This would mean blowing right through a stop sign on a quiet road where in the summer you can often see children playing in the middle of the street, fully embracing a naive trust that drivers will always be aware of their presence. This night would be different.

As my tires grasped the icy road, I navigated to a stop at the proper juncture, and then noticed an Suv move unsuspectingly through the intersection at a moderate speed. I imagined what fortune to not have slid into the vehicle and become another statistic of a cold winter’s night, assuming only a fender bender and perhaps some forced commentary between both parties as we exchanged insurance cards. Neighbors creating a moment together as a result of inattentive driving. I was happy to not be a party to that outcome as the car continued up the hill. That’s when my heart took pause, and my eyes watched a young man on a saucer slide behind the car with a rope attached to the back end of the vehicle. In my amazement, I then noticed the tail door of the vehicle was open and I could see young bodies of teenagers sitting in the open vehicle with smiles as they watched their friend slide behind them, eager for their opportunity that surely lied ahead. The car came to a gradual stop, and the young man rode out the final few feet, stepping up with the saucer in his hand just shy of the rear bumper of the car, everyone in smiles but certainly aware of the witness in the vehicle facing the intersection.

I debated the moment, and suddenly realized this was how I lost my cousin Billy 41 years earlier on a hauntingly similar night. The moment felt so eery I would perhaps feel relieved to know that the time of night was probably almost exacting to this night. It was a Friday night, in December, during a seasonally cold snap that made the quiet roads of 53rd & Thomas Avenue in Minneapolis an inviting venue for skitching. I was in Wausau at the time, anticipating a family reunion in a couple of weeks where our Irish families would congregate and simply love one another. I looked at the car stopped, looked at the teenagers now fully aware of my long pause, and I drove into the intersection intent on speaking to the driver.

As I got out of my car, the young man with the saucer stood for a moment and then began to walk away. I yelled to him to come back and he kept walking. I yelled firmly and he turned and began to return. Meanwhile the driver had rolled down his window, and I glanced inside to see a half a dozen young and concerned faces wondering what this stranger had in mind. What happened then remains rather vague in my eyes except to say that I believe I was talking to my cousin as I spoke with an unbridled venom of how upset what I was witnessing made me. As I yelled at the driver I made sure the young man with the saucer was hearing my words, but as I recall, I couldn’t define the face of anyone in the car. I could only suggest they were all faceless images of the beautiful young man we had lost at such an early age during a time in my life, when the importance of the human condition had no real value to me except getting all of my material needs met and knowing I was truly loved by my family.

It was then I realized I was talking to Billy as I screamed at the innocent faces looking back at me with confusion, as I asked them to make good decisions … ‘Don’t be so stupid’ … as I heard myself reaching for any words I could to convince this young lot of teenagers that their actions would lead to a pain for their families no one should have to endure. I caught my breath and listened as the young driver said, “I’m sorry sir, I won’t do it again.” I wanted to reach out and hug him and every kid in the car, but instead I turned and walked back to my car.

For a moment my tires would not grab the ice, and I vainly tried to move away from the scene, conscious of another car that had pulled up nearby probably wondering what was happening. I took deep breaths, and slowly tapped the pedal of my car, and the wheels gradually began to move forward. I didn’t look back, only continued to my home more aware of myself and my pain than I had been in many years. As I pulled into my driveway, the tears came and remained in long sobs for quite some time as I walked into my home and reflected upon what I had just encountered.

This morning, after coffee, I came upon the intersection on my return home, and replayed the scene again, and found myself on 53rd & Thomas, for a moment, only to privately weep again.