Sympathy v. Empathy – #1

Do me a favor.

The next time someone says,

          I’m struggling with something,

Don’t say,

          We all go through it.

Don’t paint over their wound.

It takes trust to admit, strength to say

          I’m hurting.

When you paint over their struggles with a broad brush dipped in the thick blandness of We,

The red of their struggle doubles down,

Its pigment sticks with them and to them and in them and nothing you ever do again will completely rid them of that red.

But when you say instead,

          Tell me.

When you ask,

          What did that feel like?

When you say,

          I’m so sorry. That must have hurt.

The red paint flows, slow at first but nonetheless

Away from their skin and their wound and their soul and into the river where it can go.

And when they see their red mixing into the color of We,

Let them assign meaning —

Or no.

Let them decide if their red matches anyone else’s red, or complements someone else’s hue.

It’s theirs.

Not we.

And not you.

New York

The relentless rhythm at which you run would’ve worn out the best timepieces that have been set spinning in your lifespan –
without a “yet,” you keep going.
Old isn’t even a word here – it’s just a well-used pair of shoes here.
The favorite ones you will never throw out —
toes comfortably stretched, leather polished to a shiny, protective slip on the inside –
the first thought when someone says the word.
The slip of your embrace resuscitates me with each step I take.
Pathways I have never walked feel like home –
And in my soul you are always my own.

Being Kind Again

I woke up this morning to Early Today showing angry mobs of people protesting in the streets. “We reject the president elect” was their mantra and battle cry. And my heart broke a little more than it did yesterday when I saw things like “I’m quitting Facebook because I can’t deal with all these Trump supporters” and “What am I going to tell my kids” or “I’m leaving until this is over. See you in 2020.” Not everyone can get a trophy in a presidential election. Nor should they.

I very much feel that elections like this one we just experienced achieved the PRECISE GOAL that it was destined to do: for us to wake up, get our own hands dirty in American dirt and talk to each other – especially those with whom we don’t agree. Look at the people around you and learn why they feel and think what they do or you will never understand their story – what brought them to this piece of ground that holds them up and what experiences shaped their belief system.

We can go through and classify humanity down to the nth degree by visible characteristics, but if you back way up and look at the world from space – it’s one blue marble. One planet that we’ve either been lucky enough to land on or entrusted with, depending on your spiritual view. There is no packing up and moving the human race – it’s this planet or oblivion. I want all of us to show the people around us that this country is WORTH believing in no matter who has been elected. Everyone who feels that this country took a wrong turn in electing Donald Trump has a RIGHT to feel that way, but that doesn’t give you the right to call people names and question their intelligence. My Grandma Ruth had a Cherokee Prayer posted in the cafe that said “O Great Spirit – grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.” How many miles have you logged in a Trump supporters shoes? What did you learn when you did? How will your actions change how you are an American?

Before the First Draft

The problem, she said, with being a writer is, it’s never done.
The line never ceases movement even when the end arrives –
The ripples created on the mind span an ocean so vast, so incomplete,
There’s no shore to find, no place to rest.
The noise reverberates;
The worst kind of one man band.
Knees clashing cymbals, feet kicking bass, hands fumbling an accordion as
A pen hisses, a worn bow against an out-of-tune violin.
Sure, said she, the noise comes —
Sometimes in spurts and sometimes in spasms,
Rarely fluid or as beautiful as one would hope,
A clash of Faulknerian breath in a symphony-grotesque container,
Twisting together. Cacophony of noise that resolves only to discord.
And only after that great pain, can the story begin…
Naked, sitting upright in the center of the hood.

Last line taken from the opening line of The Scummers by Lee Maynard with his full permission.

2013

That Fall Day

Sometimes, it just happens this way.
Fall slams on the trees,
the air chills, and I remember.
I remember running,
my feet pounding into the soft pavement,
the smell of my new leather jacket,
and catching up with her and running faster,
faces streamed in fearful tears.
The car, the lights, others,
nothing moving fast enough,
nothing tearing fast enough,
nothing ripping as fast as
the hole ripping through my heart.
—An abyss created.

I knew, you know.
I knew when I saw my mother’s face,
the nurses smoking on break,
the Father slipping quietly from your room,
You were leaving me,
Not then — but soon.

And I remember
searching for every word you ever said,
every expression, every move, every breath,
Trying to fill the hole in my soul.
I held my own as you drew your last,
trying to save you.

Then you died.

And I remember,
the entirety having one soul,
one prayer for your soul.
Your fingers were still curled around momma’s hand
when we all had to say goodbye,
and she sobbed “Daddy” as we all looked
for who to comfort first and who could comfort us.
A collective heart broke.
And I learned what only you could have taught me —
And I’ll always remember
The abyss never closes, life goes on, love never ceases,
and sometimes —— it just happens this way.