Start Writing, don’t stop rolling.

You want to be a writer but… what are the five things a writer does?

Then,

Intimidated by the great ones,

Scared of vulnerability.

You must start to write!

The great ones started writing one day, and refused to stop.

They found their way to vulnerability perhaps by writing about stuff that mattered.

Seth Godin always talks about working on things that matter.

You know why I hardly ever write stuff specific to my industry? You would think that matters, but I rarely write about it.

(If I did, the titles would look something like “Five Ways a Life Coach Can Help Blah, Blah.”)

Actually, I do write about stuff that pertains to the industry:

I write about stuff that happens while I live my life, to the full extent of my ability to embrace the epic nature of each day I see before me, sitting on a counter top like a knife, ready for me to dissect and slice, not for the science of it, but to cook, to eat a satisfying meal. To be filled with the goodness of life.

A coach embodies and models living the life you’re made to live, so instead of writing “Five Reasons a Coach Writes Poetry Blah, Blah,” I just do it.

Want to be a writer? Write, and keep writing.

Want to be alive? Start living, stop explaining the five things alive people do. The five things they do don’t matter if you don’t do them.

That’s why my coaching blog is full of poems: I’m full of living. It’s awesome.

Join me. Start living.

 

Pickets

Marcella uses the hand shears rather than a power weed-eater

so the white pickets won’t stain green.

At dawn she is up watering the roses, red and white ones

in front of pink shutters.

Now, the sun rises in the late July sky

to wick the water from the soil,

drawing it up with an invisible straw.

You can only be so meticulous, then, once in a while you have to act and pull a weed, even if it uproots something nearby.

Her muscles tense, she bends, digs, tugs. She is strong today. The roots come clean.

She looks at the sun. “Scorcher,” she mutters, and drags out the hose for another round.

 

Then

 

Marcella gets on the bus and goes downtown

and stands and links arms with her neighbors:

African-Americans or girls dressed in rainbows.

She passes out bottles of water, reminds them to hydrate,

there is a chance of bloodshed so she is ready with a medical kit

in a fanny-pack, to keep the blood from staining

the streets. And even

when the sun goes down she stands erect, waves her carefully-lettered picket sign,

feels the burn on her shoulders, revels in the blisters on her heels

waits to go limp in the arms of an officer and (hopefully) a gentleman,

who will take her down to the station and book her. Meanwhile,

Marcella worries only about

the roses at home, red and white and

the people on the street, black, and blue, and LGBTQ.

She is strong today, but– did they get to the root?

Have they gotten enough water? Are they thirsty still for justice?

 

Mercury Rising: Metz Wedding Poem

Knap an arrowhead from a piece of flint

sharp on each side leading up to the point

Wonderful but useless until the projectile is launched

properly: shot so that it goes twisting

through the air.

Distance is determined not by the clean-cutting edge at the front

but by the purity of the axial rotation all along its trajectory.

The razor edges jigging around each other in a tight spiral

the body, like a javelin, purchasing lift from the air itself.

A winged foot lent by Hermes takes you across borders you never thought to cross before.

You fly, you travel far. You hunt love and trade in love. You make ordinary love look shabby, and even mythical lovers sit and write songs about your love.

Trust the mythical lovers who watch in awe to write the songs.

We will do it. We will sing them back to you to Godspeed you ever higher.

What prey can you pray for,

of any value, I mean,

that can be hit at such a short distance that your rotation

is of no consequence?

None. Everything valuable is deep, underground, distant, far, high, lofty, up in the storm-clouds, awash in lightning, shrouded in thunder, in short: anything but near at hand.

So the dance is everything.

Therefore, yes, you are sharp, but if you had not launched with your feathers

skyward, spinning, thrice propelled, by string and song and wedding feast! If you had not, old poets would come along and say “Alas.”

Well, then. Here they are, those old poets. We know that if you had not,

This voyage would have been but a crooked flight, a glancing strike, a blunt trauma.

But you did begin as you should: with the flourish of Robin Hood. cloaked and pranking evil, the eye of a kestrel darting, instinct of a barn swallow dive-bombing, an essential arc, a primal aerodynamic path, a minimized drag, a fletching set at an angle to your longitudinal axis, we digress, we have all become rather excited researching the flight of arrows and we geeked out on it at 3 AM, because we now see, and by “we” I mean that the ancient poets and muses all have agreed with me, that because you began this way:

You will soar,

I say, we all say, you will soar high

and you will pierce even darkness, which, as we know, has not understood any of this.

May the flint strike and drive through even steel

sparking a fire,

so that you find your hearts kindled even far off in the distance, across many seas.

The future awaits. Stay sharp and dance together.

Hone yourselves, but above all, dance together.

For God’s sake, smile while you dance, you fools,

whirl about one another and be in love.

 

Making it Hard to Shoot People

The officer approaches my car.

I place my hands on the wheel. Don’t want to make a false move.

“Sir, were you aware of the art you just drove past?”

“Was there art? Sorry, I missed it, I was in too much of a hurry, I guess.”

“Well, sir, it’s not just a local ordinance, it’s a state law to come to a complete stop at the art.”

“Right, right.” What was it? A freaking miniature? An Orthodox icon? A Van Gogh reproduction painted on the head of a pin by some insomniac convict? Jeez. They should make it bigger. All the art should be so big you can’t miss it. Right?

“Well, I’d give you a citation but since I’m holding this book of poems, and my partner back there in the squad car is busy painting a watercolor, I’m going to go easy on you and give you a recitation instead.”

She reads me Maya Angelou. I am late for an appointment. Goddam. How long will this poem take? Maybe it would be faster if I just had the citation without the “re”.

“Sir, what’s the theme in that poem?”

Seriously? I wasn’t really paying attention. “Um, Black Lives Matter?”

The officer smiles, a bit condescendingly, I think. She thinks about my answer for a minute. A long minute. Finally: “More or less. That will do. Sir, please, slow down and pay attention to the art. It’s a grave matter of public health and safety. Next time, we’ll have to have you come in on weekends to paint the county courthouse pink with green polka dots.”

That doesn’t sound like it would even match! Maybe we should elect a new Art Commissioner. Crap. I’m too busy to vote. Never mind. Just get me out of here.

Chagrined, I arrive at my meeting twenty minutes late. Apologize.

“I blew past the art and got pulled over. I had to listen to poetry.”

Everyone shakes their head. They’ve done it too.

Dragon in my kitchen

Dragon comes in my kitchen, dips his tail in my bowl of guacamole, bites off the tip of his tail, crunchy. Double dips. Eats everything.

Pauses a minute to grow his tail back.

Goes to the fridge, pulls out bottles and jars. Mayo, ketchup, mustard, relish, soy sauce, barbecue, Grey Poupon. Begins mixology. A dash of this, a squirt of that, condiment cocktail. Grabs my olives. Good purple ones from Spain.

“Olives are not a condiment,” I say.

“You put them on sandwiches and in martinis,” he argues.

“Some people consider them a staple,” I say.

“So do I,” he says, and dumps the whole jar, pits and all, into his concoction.

“Why do you only eat condiments?” I ask, “and why in my kitchen? How did this occur? Where are you from?”

“One question at a time,” he says.

“Where are you from?”

“Which came first, the dragon or the egg?”

“All right, smart Alec, why do you only eat condiments?”

“I don’t. Just because that’s what I’m in the mood for today doesn’t extrapolate to my entire diet. Tomorrow, perhaps lamb, the following day, a kale smoothie.”

In the back of the fridge he finds a small jar of mint jelly. “Speaking of lamb,” he says, and scoops it up. Dumps it in his goo. Gives the whole sticky mess a swirl with a lone talon, tastes it.

“Needs salt,” he declares. I hand it to him.

What, am I supposed to stop him? He’s a fire breathing dragon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observable Things

These things are observable among many observable things:

A goose flying solo still thinks of herself as being in formation.

An oak tree leaning far out over the water still sees himself as integral to the forest.

A girl says, “Daddy, try to catch me,” and runs away for the joy and awe of seeing his long legs chew up space between them, his strong arms fill their void with her narrow body in embrace. To be held still. To be kissed, with whiskers.

All the other things which could be observed could also be written but that is enough for today.

Dandelions

The old growth gives way to young

In a space where there was a burn.

Clearings are no accident.

By natural law, species push ahead, overcome, find new spaces to flourish, travel on wind or beast; take hold again, fall apart, crumble well.

The way is clear and, as quickly as all that, obscured.

So seize your wings, find your trail.

You are never lost completely: only once in a while unsure of your direction.

NOW! TODAY!

Go back again to the place where the burn has left a scar.

Fly with me to the river, swim with me to the shore, climb cliffs, send up a signal, tendrils and vines. There will be room for us all to send our roots out across that meadow.

There is a home for every bloom and blossom;

Every dandelion connected to every other by this web underground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Immortal Jellyfish

There is a species of jellyfish whose cells get younger every day

A real-live, genuine-article Benjamin Button.

As far as anyone can tell, this means it lives forever.

Yes, that’s what they say.

Scientists, I mean. Not just anyone.

I wonder if there’s a species of sea turtle that likes to eat

really juicy and fresh jellyfish

Maybe those turtles don’t even know it yet

but one day, when these particular jellyfish

are good and young and finally ripe

 

*CHOMP*

 

They say the jellyfish may be immortal and I’m telling you

someday they are going to be tender young things indeed.

It sounds marvelous. One might even say… heavenly.

Alive, on the Road Not Taken

My dad posted Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken this week on Facebook, in honor of the poem’s 100th anniversary.

I did not realize this poem was so old; as with many things that occur before our own time this poem was lumped in with “old stuff” in my brain and is kind of like my parents in that sense. Of course I know they lived through the Vietnam War but not WWII. I’ve seen my kids do this lumping thing with movies, “hey, was that movie made when you were a kid, dad?” (Um, no, Casablanca is a little older than I am.) All they know is it predates their own birth. So we all do this. There are only “before” and “in my days”. Before, there was Casablanca, Frost, Shakespeare, Lincoln and the Magna Carta. “In my days” includes things like Hank Aaron passing Babe Ruth less than two months after I arrived, Nixon resigning less than six months into my stay on this blue and green orb, then, not soon enough, Vietnam evacuations. I don’t remember it, I just know it was in my days. Something I lived through, albeit unaware. Let’s call that a grey area, perhaps, I was young and it was my time but all grey until Reagan was shot. Then I begin to remember. After that it’s not old stuff, it’s really my stuff.

But my father loves this poem (I did not realize how much until now) and in fact he enjoys a fair number of poems. He even committed some French poetry to memory. Je mis mon kepi dans la cage et je suis sortie avec l’ouiseau sur la tete… I remember him reciting it, it’s so funny, you see, because he does all the voices, the birdie and the commander, too.

I’m reflecting on the difference that it made, this path my father took. A way leads to a way and you never end up going back to try the other. Frost says it with a sigh, but I wonder, could it be a sigh of contentment? Sure, the poem seems to speak of potential lost, but, many choices, ways and ways down the Way, is one so disappointed?

Dad chose Mom, then, with Mom, to go to Africa when I was in a vulnerable stage, then to move to an out of the way town in Iowa. He chose to become a nurse and care for people who were dying, many of them living with great regrets and bitterness, but he loved them. He chose to live in a town, not a city, in a forest outside the small town. He chose to love his neighbors. Sometimes they didn’t appreciate him, or his best friends. Some of his friends, people he chose, were losers. He did not fall into bad company; he chose them as friends, another way among many ways, to love them. He chose to burn wood to warm his cottage like some kindly pauper in a fairy tale. He sharpened his chainsaw and hauled timber with a two-wheeled hand cart. The more ways that he chose along his Way, the deeper he went into the jungles and along the ponds and beside still waters and tucked in among the trees in an orange cap and knee-patched jeans and steel-toed boots. The more he chose these things, the less he aspired to anything some would call “bigger”. His father lived in Texas, where bigger is better. He chose smaller, instead. He acquired love like a real estate mogul acquires land, with ease and without a second thought, and with interest compounding. He spends his money now to visit his grandchildren. Compounding love is all.

Or did he choose? Was the poem itself ever really about choice in the first place?  Maybe  we’re all reading it wrong. [the link above takes you to an interesting article on that question.] Oh well. This has become more about my father and less about Frost now, so we leave Frost at this crossroad to debate the meaning of his poem posthumously with living academics, and move on. If it’s true that Frost thought we really didn’t get to choose, and it was all the same, well, he never met my Dad.

When ways have led to other Ways, and we find we can’t go back and be someone we never were meant to be anyhow, (or when we find that the choices were intertwined with destiny) why would the sigh be anything other than one of peace, of having come so far only to find that, way back when, sometime after Casablanca and before the internet, we made a choice and it was good and had much laughter and a good wife and friends who we never would have met, if we hadn’t chosen to meet them, and so we kept choosing them every day, drifting back into history with the great poems, eventually to be lumped into “before”, but not quite yet, and even when those friends we knew die and we miss them so, we know they never would have been what they are to us without us having taken the Way we took.

Sigh, old men, but not with regret. Some of your laughter may already be in the grave in the silent mouths of friends gone before, but much of it follows you from points along the path where you made those choices to know and be known; you thought you had moved on, but the forks along your paths are tuned to a resonance that harmonizes with the chuckle in your throat which I can hear and will be able to hear so long as it is my time. You laughed when I said “are you waking up yet, Daddy?” and you still laugh when I amuse you, I can hear it in my ears whenever I have been humorous or clever. I can hear it in my heart when my son does the same. Because whenever I come to those forks myself I can hear you laugh, so, then; I weep with joy. Sigh, old women, your childbearing is done and your gardens can feature flowers instead of food. Instead of preserving for winters to come, you can paint pictures of desert sunrises because the sun keeps coming over that horizon as it travels on its own way. The earth herself makes no choices, she turns and turns, and “by turning, turning, she comes out right.” You have chosen a Way. I have heard the sigh, and no matter how you meant it, I interpreted it as one of peace with each decision, for that is how it appears to me, so therefore, I will follow it. My brother and my sister will follow it. You have shown us what is good: To love justice, to desire mercy and to walk humbly with your God. It’s all lumped in with the “old stuff” and that’s just fine with me in my days.

When the world is in possession of the Way, 

The galloping horses are led to fertilize the fields with their droppings. 

When the world has become Way-less, War horses breed themselves on the suburbs. 

There is no calamity like not knowing what is enough. There is no evil like covetousness. Only he who knows what is enough will always have enough. –Lao Tzu