Sunday, October 31, 2010

H is for Heirloom

The sun is setting on All Hallows’ Eve
And here on the suburban heath
I watch what happens when horror walks masked
Through half-lit streets up to front doors.

Harmless tricks on family yards and hearth stones,
Boys in warm red hunting caps,
Young girls in pink making hearts beat nearby,
Costumes, homemade haunted houses

And hearing hounds howl to the hunter’s moon
 The horror lies here but hidden.
Housed in offices, homes and certain heads;
A havoc of hopelessness and hurt

“How?” we ask from hill fortresses of bones
Suits can’t clean the bloody stained hands
When knowledge of dire hunger demands haste
And we hearken not to a “Help!”

Just heeding the hum of dull screens and honks
Of car horns and heckling hedonists
Within hectic lives pursuing happiness
The hawthorn bushes and hedgerows
Wither before the coming hour of doom
When we will be heaved into wealth’s hecatomb

Friday, October 29, 2010

Our Loss (Leavetakings II)

She was surrounded by those who love her
Her life stretched behind her like a red carpet
Leading onwards and upwards
It could have been much longer
But it got into her bones
It stole into her lungs
And robbed us of her
She was gone but not into the dark
She had left the shadowland
To live in fields of light and warmth unknown
Leaving us darkbound, black clad grievers
To ponder mourning

I know
And he knew
And son
“How did you mourn her?”
Someone so good, so pure
Yet so aware that she was not
Aware of the stained rags she wore
Yet still smiling upwards into the face of heaven
How do you mourn her?
When she is somewhere better
And you are left alone?
I don’t know how

I cried at the celebration of her life
That euphemism stuck to my tongue
Like the hot wax of the candles burning by her coffin
I cried because I miss her
Because I will not hear her warm sonorous voice again
Because she will not wake me up
By gently rubbing my back
I mourned the loss of her
I mourned the state of the world without her
I did not mourn for her
For what she might miss
She traded her ashes for gold

“I don’t know if I ever properly mourned her”
He said
Son to grandson
And I understood

Sunday, October 24, 2010

She of the Rainbow

I dreamed of her in shades of grey
Mixed jet and pearl and slate and cream
Upon my canvass her to stay
My rainbow shade; my eye’s fair gleam

I dreamed of her in black and white
Mixed paint to stain false memory
And thought I painted all that’s bright
Not seeing my poor mimicry

I dreamed she was all framed but free
In lands not green and blue alive
Imprisoned there alone was she
In my dark head I thought she’d thrive

I dreamed in sunsets of her grace
In reds and yellows that did fade
And did not catch upon her face
That gift of glory there was laid

I dreamed in palettes overbright
But never finding the right tone
Violet, orange, pink weren’t right
They all became a monochrome

I painted dreams and nightmares too
To try and find her somewhere there
To mirror that one and only who
That did my bleary eyes ensnare

But when she walked across my way
And broke the image in my view
I saw that all my shades of grey
Were not the rainbow’s truest hues

She lived more vivid than my dream
And glittered far against my clouds
And all I brushed to me did seem
Deluding ashen shadowed shrouds

Reality is where I’ll go
To see and draw just what I know
I will not try to bring down low
The hues above in the rainbow

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

B is for Breach

But not yours
Blue and then red
Betokening some demise
Bleeding its slow fulfillment

Bubbling in streams
Brewed in stinking
Brim filled

Boozers guzzling
Brews to forget the
Borrowed seconds
Built to one day
Burn out

Battle or
Break walls
But don’t let yourself succumb to
Beguiling fading substances
Blathering lies in your
Brooding fuzzy

By no means
Blot out the falling
Botched and jerking machine
Breaking down in slow-motion while
Bringing along its wretched
Bundle of

Blurs only obscure reality leading to
Bewilderment and a nervous stupor.
Beyond these patchwork therapies,
Betraying their half-willing slaves,
Bright lights or clean eyes
Behold the complex
Blend of pain and
Bliss in life

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Smiling Face (Leavetakings IV)

The green wall of the mountains hums
Silently with life under the grey-veiled sunlight.
I see the joy-valley of my youth rushing to greet me
The pinnacles in staggered rows to either side
Stand like an honor-guard for a returning monarch;
Their heads lost in the smoke
Of greedy clouds who stretch ravenous jaws
To devour the entire sky.

I see the falls that rush down past ferns and spruce
Down bounding grass hills and leaping grey cliffs
To meet the highway and pour their libations at my feet.
I see that mountain with the folds of stone
Like a discarded blanket
Or some ancient sea frozen in its undulation
And thrust up victoriously into the grey waves of the air;
Sea meeting sea

I go on to that dry valley where
Green irrigated fields form a stark patchwork
Against the thirsty straw-coloured hills
And then on to the lake that stretches its lazy legs
Down, down the valley
Tickling its distant toes in some forgotten river
Leaving its sleepy mass in the floor of the vale.

I enter into that city like one entering a forgotten dream
Still lost in the echoing well of the past
I drink deeply its draught but it brings no memory of the city;
Only the breeze of the dry air,
The smell of freshly picked sage
And a smiling face.

Her face
The one I came through all these meanderings of my past to reach
But not to touch
Only to see and to listen and to speak.

But the words and the time have been spent
And the ever-flowing inescapable waterfall of my journey
Has led me back to this city of exiles
Spread in a land with no peaks to watch over us
No falls splash and babble their welcome
No hints of the distant ocean reach this stagnant air
Diminutive parks form a stark patchwork
Against the cold iron and faceless sprawl of concrete
And the steel pinnacles here have too many unseeing eyes.

Yet I strove into past-lands
I spoke careful words and listened to subdued responses
I saw and heard beauty
Only to turn away again
Leaving that glorious sun-blessed, moon-kissed vale
Back in the shimmering fadings of memory
Unaware if I should be drawn there again
By a smiling face.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Broken Dreams in Otherside

When love’s façade breaks
And crumbles
Like a wall of shattering glass
Leaving a thousand tiny mirrors
And you find yourself
Looking amongst the settling dust
Deeper in
You begin to notice
That you played deceiver
As well as deceived
In this bleak charade
Dancing on the tips of fingers
And the blades of shoulders
With hearts and eyes locked
Beneath forgotten combinations

She or he
Was a fractured mirror for your
Secret desires
And the goals you’d deny
(Even to yourself)
To toe the line
To trip and fall
Down to Otherside
Lines that cannot be
But they can be
Again and again
Oh, and again
And when the crossing becomes
What then?

An awkward pause
An awakening after sickened slumber
A clearing of filmed and grimy eyes
And the tears
Shed for loss of property
When love’s façade breaks

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Things I’m Not Usually Thankful For

It is Canadian Thanksgiving today. In my family we usually go around the table before the big feast saying what we are thankful for. We usually all say the same things each year: We are thankful for our family, friends, the roof over our heads, being healthy, food, forgiveness, etc. This year I decided to go about it a little differently. I’m going to look at the things in my life I wouldn't normally be thankful for and try to see them as things that I can be thankful for.
I am thankful for…
  • The times that I’m sick because it makes me value the times that I’m healthy and it reminds me that I’m not dead
  • Mosquitoes because without them I might not have anything to do when I’m in Manitoba
  • Bad drivers because they make me look and feel like a pro
  • Bad haircuts because at least it’s not a mullet or a bowl cut
  • The fact that I spill liquids more than the average five-year-old because it makes every drink an experience in risk management
  • The overstuffed feeling after a turkey dinner because it reminds me that I’m a pig and should eat less
  • Television because all I have to do is flip through the channels for five minutes to get an ego boost
  • People who make me look stupid without even trying because without them I would have no motivation to learn
  • All the women who have rejected me because without them I might turn into an overconfident egomaniacal chauvinist
  • Pimples because: “Hey, I can’t look good everyday”
  • Rainy days because without them there would be no flowers (or Vancouver)
  • All the misconceptions I carry with me every day because it is always exciting and/or interesting when they fall apart
  • Prejudiced people who say stupid things because without them certain issues wouldn’t be faced and the smart prejudiced people (the ones who remain silent) could keep their views unchecked and uncontested
  • The times I embarrass myself publically because they usually make for good stories
  • Working dead-end, hard, unrewarding jobs because they make me take my education seriously
  • Meeting and talking to people who disagree passionately with me because without them my views would be weak and untried
  • Politicians because they remind me that even adults can act like children
  • Nightmares because it makes me appreciate waking up so much more
  • Vomiting because sometimes some of the stuff inside of you just needs to get out
  • Vanity because without it I would have hair down to my shoulders, a scraggly beard, a unibrow, and I’d wear hoodies all the time
  • City noise because it makes you appreciate the quiet of the country
  • Country silence because it makes you appreciate the noise of the city
  • Country music because it makes all the other genres sound so much better in comparison
  • Constipation because it reminds me that I’m not starving
  • Dandruff because at least I have hair
  • Expensive phone bills because it means I have friends I’m talking to (or at least very persistent relatives)
  • 24-hour news channels because they are constantly making themselves irrelevant
  • Losing things that I value because it reminds me that what I value shouldn’t be things
  • Funerals because they remind me to value the time I have and the people I have to share it with
  • Lonely times because it makes me value the people around me
  • Failing because it gives me a chance to start over from scratch
  • The times I act like a complete tool because hopefully I will realize it afterwards, or someone will point it out, and I will become a better person
  • And I am thankful for the people who will never read anything I write because it reminds me that there are even more important things in life than what I am particularly passionate about

Monday, October 4, 2010

Anger Issues

Have you ever talked to someone who has an opinion you don't share and they get angry because you don’t share it? Let’s flip this scenario: Have you ever become angry because someone didn’t share your beliefs/ideals/opinions/perspective/etc.?

            When I look carefully at the times that I have been on the angry side of this scenario it is usually because I am losing the argument… and I really want to win it. I lose sight of what really matters – the truth behind the argument – and focus instead on winning the argument. I become emotionally invested to a fault and lose all sense of perspective. When I’m in an argument I really want to win, I get very passionate about it and that passion can quickly turn to anger if my interlocutor belittles, ignores, makes fun, or degrades my beliefs. If that anger grows unchecked what was a friendly argument can quickly turn into a quarrel.

            What do I mean by differentiating quarrel and argument? The distinction isn’t mine, I picked it up from some logician (I can’t remember who right now). What I mean by it, though, is this: when two or more sides are arguing over a point (whether it be philosophical, political, legal, etc.) they are trying to get at the truth. When two or more parties quarrel then they are not concerned with finding the truth of the issue but they simply wish to win the argument. That is the real danger. If your motive when you come to a debate, conversation, discourse, or whatever, is simply to win then you have undermined yourself by focusing on the argument qua argument rather than focusing on what exactly is being argued. This loss of perspective harms the argument itself as the argument will now be skewed towards “which side is right?” rather than “let us find the truth.” Do you see the problem? If you are constantly asking “whose side is right?” you may incidentally get at the truth but only incidentally. For example, let us say that two sides argue over the color of X; Side A says X is blue and Side B says X is green. Now, being emotionally involved in an argument is good; it tends to make for stronger arguments, but that will do you no good if you are wrong. If A and B quarrel until they are blue in the face they will not get any closer to the truth if X is turquoise. If, however, they come at the issue from a diplomatic stance they could possibly get to the truth: Side A says “I believe very strongly that X is blue but I’m willing to admit the slight possibility that I am wrong,” and Side B says “I know that X is green, there is no denying it! But I have been wrong in the past.” Then they may possibly come to conclusion that they are both right about some things (as turquoise is a combination of blue and green) but the truth lies somewhere else.

           Now this is great to know but the tricky part is catching yourself in the act. It is essential to have the humility and the discipline to constantly check yourself in an argument. You need to constantly ask yourself questions: Did I say that in a combative tone? Was that a fair statement? Did I respect his side or belittle it? That makes me angry, why? Am I concerned with the truth more than losing the argument? And, the most important question of all: Do I value this person that I’m arguing with as a human being? This is important because one of the telltale signs that you are losing your rationality is that you begin to hate the person you are arguing with. If you suddenly desire to hurt (physically or emotionally) your opponent, then you have lost the personal battle. You need to take some time and cool down, and come back to the argument at another time when you can think about it rationally and (dare I say it?) lovingly. If the person disappears and all you hear are words clanging violently against your ears then the argument is over and a quarrel has begun.

            Now don’t get the wrong opinion of me: I am not the master of rationality; genially meeting every opponent and taking criticism and abuse with grace and serenity. That is not me. I’m not there yet. I’m writing this because I know this is something I struggle with and this is something I see other people struggling with as well. This is something we all must face to grow as human beings. We must look at our irrational selves and subdue them, gently.

I say gently because there are those who would take this too far and demand strict, militant rationality; a society where emotional displays are looked down upon, art isn’t valued, and feelings don’t matter. This is not what I’m preaching. I am calling for moderation and like any personal correction we can take the issue too far and end up worse off than we were at the beginning. Your rational mind will only take you so far. Without feelings and emotions you will become a cold, cynical, skeptical, prude. Feelings are important but they must not master our rationality. This has all been said before; by Plato and C.S. Lewis, and thousands in between but I feel like it needs to be said again. Our society seems to have forgotten its past and now it oscillates wildly from position to position.  We rebound from extreme to extreme like ricocheting bullets in a room with no air. What we all have to realize is that we all have our inherent weaknesses and strengths (often they are one and the same). We must constantly examine ourselves to be sure we are not favoring our strengths too much or our weaknesses too little.

            In the case of arguments, everyone has their anger issues. Anger issues are those opinions, debates, beliefs, positions, doctrines or dogma that we easily get into quarrels over. If you are talking to someone about something and they have the opposite opinion and this makes you angry; you have discovered your anger issue. Most of us have many, for some of us every issue becomes an anger issue. When you become obsessed with winning arguments and defeating opponents then you have probably turned everything into an anger issue. The key is admitting you have anger issues and discovering what they are. If you don’t believe you have anger issues then you probably just haven’t been pushed hard enough. Parents often bring out the anger issues in us as they will talk about anything and everything with us. Next time your Mom or Dad makes you mad ask yourself why you are mad. If your answer is simply “Well Mom said this” or “Dad did that” then you need to go deeper: “Why did I get so angry when Mom said that?” or “Why did I get so angry when Dad did that thing?” Perhaps your parents just proved to you that they are, like you, human and therefore prone to errors. On the other hand, you may have just discovered an anger issue.

            What I’ve noticed, (and what made me want to write this), is that there are a lot of anger issues out there in the public. You can go to politics and see anger issues all over the place. Also, you can see politicians forgetting their rationality so that they can win an argument: Politicians are constantly dividing issues of ‘left’ and ‘right’ when many of their constituents are ‘center’.  However, you need not stop at politicians. Social and cultural issues tend to be the hot-button issues when it comes to what sets people off. For example: I am fairly aware of what is going on in the abortion debate in Canada. I keep up with it as a concerned citizen and because it just happens to be one of my anger issues. When I argue around the topic of abortion I often struggle to subordinate my passions to my reason and, as I’ve seen from witnessing the debate, I’m not the only one who struggles to maintain rationality. People on both sides of the debate get furious over what the other side has to say. Pro-life people are furious at the use of euphemism to describe what they call murder and Pro-choice people are furious at any attempt to limit a woman’s rights over her own body. However, the sides are not arguing; they are quarreling. They haven’t even come to talk about the same thing. Pro-life people want to talk about the potential of a fetus and a “baby’s” right to live while Pro-choice people want to talk about women’s health and her right to decide what happens to and in her body. The sides of this argument are talking about two different (although related) things. And whenever someone voices a strong opinion on one side they are likely to be met with hostility, anger and even threats by the other side. Neither side has established common ground, or even admitted the possibility that their side could have it wrong. And perhaps, in this case, one side is absolutely right while the other side is absolutely wrong, but those debates – debates where there is no room for compromise – are always anger issues.

Anger issues are everywhere today. Perhaps, people are more prone to anger now than they have ever been before – if so that is very telling about our society – or perhaps we have always been exposed to anger’s control. And control is the right word; we have all heard the phrase ‘to be consumed with anger’. Anger is something that grows like a fire and, like fire, the larger it gets the harder it is to control. Maybe there are more anger issues now because we are less willing to compromise. (I find it interesting that the word compromise usually has a negative connotation in western society.)

Whether it has gotten worse in modern times or has always been this way, anger is something we all need to deal with. Far too often people allow their irrational selves to control them and it is evident in how they argue over issues that matter to them. You begin to lose your rationality where you stop caring about finding truth and start caring about other things: “I hope I win this argument; he just made me look stupid; I can’t believe she would have the nerve to say that; She is wrong and I’m right; How can I turn his argument on its head?; What from his personal life can I use to undermine his position?; How can I make her look bad?; He just insulted all I hold dear;” when you focus on these things you have begun to lose your grip on rationality, where you end up is in anger and confusion. Anger issues should always be dealt with carefully, politely and with constant self-questioning. If you go into a debate knowing that you have already won – then you have lost. If you do not stop to question yourself how will you be able to answer a question from one who is not yourself?

Fyodor Lewis

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ambivalence on the Heath

(I wrote this last year. It is about the times when you do what is comfortable and easy instead of what you know to be right; and it's about getting past those times.)

When dark the paths of evening grow
And pale the light remains
The lands lay still apart from crows
Their hollow calls disdain

Those watchers and those walkers still
Upon the roads below
Who fight and strive to go at will
Beyond the heath plateau.

And I amongst those strivers stay;
A shadow in the moors,
Lonely wandering from the way
To open secret doors.

I find within a comfort spot;
A place to rest my head
And there I stay - it seems my lot
To rest until I'm dead.

It's safer here beneath this roof
Than walking the long road
And maybe I will see some proof
That lifts my heavy load.

Until that day I'll rest and wait
As my short time grows dim
And in me grows a rising hate
For life upon the rim.

The rim of all that it should be;
Of pain and struggles more.
I've settled for a tiny fee.
I'm all that I abhor.

And when the loathing grows too much
I'll set out once again
Before I turn a wraith; no touch
Will warm this hollow man.

And on the path once more I'll see
The struggles and survive.
I'll learn that it takes more for me
To feel and act alive.

As I do march through this long night,
By light of guiding Star,
I slowly see dawn's pale new light
Now glowing from afar.

From there, beyond the fresh green lands,
I see the shining sea
The sun does rise with open hands
And warmly welcomes me.