Finding Streams

Go home and write

a page tonight

Let that page come out of you –

then it will be true                      -Langston Hughes


I ask them all to do it,

my students

wide eyed or sleepy

take these words and let them become yours,

tell us (me) about you,

what are you like?

what makes you tick?

pour out your life into a few lines on a piece of paper,

and then it will be true,

well, it is supposed to be because

that’s what I

the teacher

expect of you.

But is it me,

the teacher,

do I really know what I am asking,

do I get it,

asking her, him, them

to open up their lives

to my eyes on a piece of paper,

to share their soul and what they could believe,

much like the student

did living in Harlem,

going to an all white college

in the fifties,

and yet, that’s what he did,

his life over yours

over my own.

We all do have these lives we live,

no one really understands why,

just go forward,

have the better smile,

means more than the better ride,

well if it is sincere,

oh to be so genuine,

in a society like,

like this one,

we all still struggle to understand.


© Thom Amundsen 9/2020

The Mechanics of Time

A manner of words will carry weight

for the listener

far more likely than that speaker

for whom the end never arrives.

 

There is a wisdom in the quiet –

when will we ever understand difficulty

is far beyond

a matter of chosen explanation.

 

Might we sacrifice peace of mind

too often

rather than finding a way to live

accepting thoughtful compromise.

 

Certainly one cannot fathom

a notion of defense

would overcome the deceit apparent

is fraudulent dialogue.

 

A communication designed around time

and history,

once revered in a clocked day

become weeks of truth.

 

Days begin weeks become months

the years fly by,

and yet words once shared

do now become a travesty of time.

 

We are in the throes of this ‘human condition’

tossed about like pawns by our own volition.

© Thom Amundsen 8/2020

 

 

Misplace Design

We believe we are,

a contemporary to what once seemed

a regularity,

yet we cannot seem to get past

the truth.

 

Do you, we, can everyone

feel it in the moment,

when we least desire to be noticed,

that fear returns,

always knocking on our door.

 

This thing about love,

when least expected,

human beings crossed paths,

in the eyes of hate we fail

no longer knowing how to feel.

 

Pull back and reject that moment,

travel on,

find a newer horizon,

funny thing though,

there might appear on your doorstep.

 

A quiet tear will always remain when unrequited

certain love becomes contained in societal fare.


© Thom Amundsen 5/2020

inspired by Joy Williams – Front Porch – 2019

 

Silence is a Forest

Listen to the birds singing in spring
Hear the cello at home in between

Each memory
Each moment

A song we could create in melody
If only the world not live parody
Such is the mendacity of our time
When still is beauty yet sublime

Each moment
Each memory

If in the midst of a traveled rhyme
We shut out a neighbor is a crime,
Only preserve that moment, oh 9/11
Restoration, is love in sweet Heaven

Each memory
Each moment

Now in wood, in silence find our Zen
A patch of forest heart and soul then
Speaks fond of a once nostalgic liberty
We would may always grasp this reality

Oh to know the sound a certain bird will
Sweet a peace of mind, distant cello still


©️ Thom Amundsen 4/2020

Stepping Away

Many times in my life,

have I stepped away,

taken a breather,

had my hand forced …

yet, when does the time come when we can

honestly say,

the choice is my own

for me to decide

in some sort of even way,

not a hostile arrangement,

by any means,

so out of character,

would be defiance and doom and gloom.

 

Stepping away

would ask for only a settlement

in love, in passion, in pursuance

of those pieces of our lives,

our own peace,

our desire to understand

a world beyond

selfish need.

 

Reality is a dream,

we can see deep along a river path,

the blossoming of spring,

the lush imagination

allows us  to draw

our own own

sweet circumstance

the beauty of a fantasy,

the magic of our mind.

 

So we do step away,

on occasion within ourselves,

in other situations,

we ask for a pardon,

and yet,

the road away does seem to

carry the weight

of our own self-proclaimed tragedy,

with far less burdensome angst,

than

if we stay within the course

of simple travesty.

 

Outside, the sun had begun to shine,

an overbearing competition inside.


© Thom Amundsen 3/2020

Pieces of Me

Wish I could find

smallish memory

wrap them in twine

drop them in the sea

Then might my eyes

witness some effort

now questioning why

an absorbent support

Will their history

rather sink than float

farewell this century

shadowed life he wrote

Above water may I not abhor

Pain left living on the ocean floor

Once, In Sunlight

We did

in quiet observation,

attend of course

the eyes

windows that speak

well beyond the notice

of a fashion,

of a trend,

of an expectation.

 

Instead, just a glance

where both pain and joy

can reside,

can wait for the next opportunity

to speak aloud

in the framework

of sweet silence.

 

We are that coincidence

when two people

encounter one another

on a summer’s day,

in the heat,

the passionate embrace

of a spectacular

sunrise.

 

We look for the eyes

accentuate the why


© Thom Amundsen 2019

Days Beyond Surgery

Ok, so I will begin and acknowledge a heavy dose of narcotics did prevent me from writing for days. Tonight, I am sitting a week away from surgery and there has been a story I wanted to tell, just haven’t found the right words. This procedure I experienced has had a major impact on my life, more so than major heart surgery seven years ago.

When I first imagined this surgery I looked at it as rather simple, an in and out of the operating room and back to my world. I even planned to return to work two days later. Much to my chagrin my doctors and family both disagreed, and suggested I take the week off. As it turns out, they were all quite right, and tonight I’m sitting a week later preparing to return to my job after the weekend. What interests me the most though is how much I took rest seriously, rather than taking it for granted and soldiering forward, a preference of mine on previous occasions.

In my head, I figured this hospitalization would be routine. So what is it about this experience that has changed my thinking? I cannot think otherwise, beyond the notion I am aging, and now more than ever I need to actively take care of my body, and my state of mind.

This summer I experienced a great deal of lows, times where I felt exhausted, and seriously wondered how I might endure the next 30 years of my life. I certainly contemplated justifying my desire to not live out those years, imagining that people would be better off, after exhausting those I am closest to with all of my trivialities, my personal demons, my neediness. Those were dark moments in my life, I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, though I know we all have had our times. I chalked it to having too much time on my hands, and figured the school year would quickly bury all that vague ambivalence I walked around with every day. There are people I am close to that helped me work through some of those personal fears, and to them I will be forever grateful.

So, now I look at aging and my second major surgery in less than ten years. I am walking away from this one realizing there is a purpose to continuing to find care with my physical needs. This event in my life was not life-threatening, beyond perhaps complications down the road if I hadn’t gone through with it. So why am I so impacted? Only one reason.  I continue to have a purpose in my life.

I received excellent care when I was in the hospital. I’m always rather embarrassed to be in the hospital. I don’t want to be defined as somatic, or having needless medical care. When I really feel that I convince myself I’m taking someone’s bed that needs it more than I do. My diagnosing Doctor told me he disagreed on Friday morning. He said there wasn’t anything somatic about an enflamed gallbladder, and I did the right thing coming in. Suffice it to say walking around with pain for the last six weeks convinced me to be seen, and rather than finding a mass in my abdomen they found something tangible. They removed it, and now I go forward. But my perception is different.

The self-persecution seems much less relevant, and the need to live my life in as positive a manner as possible is now my goal as I move forward. Like I said earlier, my experience with the medical staff was incredible. They all were filled with compassion. In fact, I encountered three of my graduated students and I looked at them and their positive energy, and I truly believe they were brought into my life for a reason.

That reason at this writing is only to suggest we have a lot more ahead of us. All of us.

The Importance of Beauty

We live in a society of measure. Of mirrors and reflections and purposeful glances. We operate by sensing physicality alone, even when made aware of a far deeper context to what is beauty in our lives, in our society. This is an important subject to dwell upon in light of the ugliness we are experiencing in our own country, in the world itself. The idea of glamor far exceeds the recognition of beauty and how it operates in the well-being of ourselves, our friends and family, our planet.

I remember as a young child knowing what beauty was in an innocent mind. I watched Diana Ross on Ed Sullivan, I noticed the screaming young girls at the front of a stage at a concert for the Beatles. I was madly in love with Gidget or Marcia Brady of course. In all those examples I was focusing on their physical attributes, which gave me a foundation as young boy to know what defined beauty in my life. It wasn’t until I watched a dear friend perform her gymnastic composition on parallel bars that I began to know another definition. It wasn’t until I walked home with a school mate, though a couple years older than me, and striking in her glamorous demeanor that I noticed beauty in a different level.

In watching my friend perform I was struck by her commitment to what she loved at the time, an athletic prowess as a young woman, one that allowed her to become a state champion in her abilities. To me that wonderment of effort was beautiful to observe.

Later in life, listening to a friend of the family talk about what is important, as we crossed our familiar bridge on our way home from school, and descended a hill that held our neighborhood. She was teaching lessons as a 12th grader to a 9th grader, how important it was to love yourself before you could love others. In listening to her, I realized there was more than fashionable jeans, a chic style sweater, perfect hair to define the beauty inherent with my friend. She taught me about compassion and that began for me a different focus upon beauty in our lives.

One day as a twelve year old I was getting a ride from my sister to basketball practice. She asked me what was wrong as I slumped in the passenger seat. I told her I was lonely, didn’t know what to do about it. She stopped the car, turned to me and said you have to find a passion in your life. As a twelve year old, I blushed and imagined passion to be something sexual, and I couldn’t believe she was telling me this. She then explained the word passion is not simply about sex, it is about loving what you do, finding something that gives you the ability to believe in yourself because your energy is drawn completely to accentuating your own passion.

That lesson from my sister, the walk with my friend, the athletic prowess of my schoolmate, all of those pieces of my life gave me opportunity to recognize a more holistic approach to understanding beauty in my life.

Certainly as a young man, I was still drawn to the beauty of woman, the wonder of her elegance, in the summertime, the fascination of her stylistic manner of wardrobe on a cold winter’s day, how intriguing it was to know she would be cognizant of a look she wanted to have in the midst of a bustling society. I remember knowing a woman who I watched cross the street one day, wearing a striking rain jacket and green knee high rain boots.

Her image has stayed with me all my life, as did the day she and I were lounging in her apartment, and I commented on her jeans, and she gave me a smile and said she had been wearing them for eight days. I thought that was the coolest thing, her sweet comfort level with her own self image caused me to feel beauty about her person, well beyond a physical characteristic.

I think the deeper context of who we are is often easily forgotten about, put aside, neglected. I have a brother who in his elder life, now sits in an art museum and curates the lovers of a gallery in his home town. We had a chance to visit him one afternoon, and he was so in his element – he knew the history of all the works in the gallery, and his smile radiated as we walked through the rooms. I took his picture afterwards because I wanted to have a record of the beauty that shined from him internally. He looked to be a happy man.

Beauty for me holds a lot of different values. Seeing a band perform live, watching my students reach fruition on the stage with their efforts. Observing a student find their way in a classroom studying a subject they have never understood. Seeing students take chances and risks knowing one another beyond a superficial level. Watching my family evolve as I see my two children continue to strive for happiness in their lives rather than letting hardships discourage them. Having close friends dear to your heart that are there to support you, laugh at your whims, share dialogue and understanding for your own passions.

That word passion comes back every time I struggle. The passion to seek, the passion to address needs of concern, the passion to love. We are a vulnerable lot easily drawn to the pain in our lives rather than seeing the beauty of who we are and accentuating beauty in the lives of those around us. My hope is that the people around me, those I am closest to, can see beauty for what it truly is, to give meaning to what is important, beautiful and eternal in our lives.


© Thom Amundsen 2019