POEM: An Exercise in Everyday Absurdity [Prose Poem]

At an optician’s office, I was being sold a scratch-proof coating for my new eyeglasses. I usually summarily reject last-minute add-ons designed to squeeze additional profit out of the consumer, assuming they are all like rust-proofing, extended warranties, and muffler-nut re-torqueing plans — which is to say, needlessly complicated ways to toss away money.

But this guy was compelling. Well, in part he was compelling, and in part I tend to drop things [phones, glasses, remote-controls, toaster pastries, etc.] with great regularity. So, when I was offered this space-age scratch-proof coating, a coating that I was promised could survive being tumbled around in a cement mixer, I was sold.

Then, as this salesman was packing up my glasses, he said, “Here is your special cleaning cloth. Make sure you use this cloth — and ONLY this cloth — when cleaning your glasses.”

To which I replied, “Uh, why…, exactly?”

“Because you’ll scratch the coating,” he said patronizingly, as one might to a child or an adult one suspected a court of law had deemed mentally incompetent to dress himself.

“So this ‘scratch-proof’ coating, the one that’s supposed to survive a five-story fall and sidewalk bounce, the one that nearly doubles the cost of the glasses, that coating can’t survive whatever grit might remain lodged in a freshly-laundered cotton T-shirt?”

“Exactly! Now you’re getting it. So, just make sure you only use the special cloth, okay?” he said in a manner that I feared would end in the tousling of my hair.

Do you know why I believe this salesman was so good at his job? Most people would get severe cognitive dissonance-induced headaches from trying to maintain this matrix of logically-inconsistent information in one brain. This individual was unplagued by such difficulties. That allowed him to not only maintain a straight face while being challenged on the issue, but to truly believe that it is those who have trouble reconciling these conflicting pieces of information that are defective.

This might sound like a rant, but it’s not. I’m convinced that it is people such as he who will inherit the earth, and I’m in awe of their special gift.

POEM: Piscine Metaphysics [Prose Poem]

Looking at the water’s surface, seeing the reflection on display, a fuzzy and easily perturbed version of the trees beside and clouds above, I feel the watery world is less real than my own.

Then I consider the fish. At best, the fish sees those trees and clouds as a hazy and rippling representation, dim or, perhaps, shimmering. On the other hand, I suspect the fish sees the yellowed bases of the cat’s tail stalks and the rumpled car that a teenager drove into the lake twenty years ago in high-definition clarity, though I cannot see those things even with my nose to the water.

As my intraspecific conceit can only stretch so far, I’m left with the reassuring (or disconcerting) realization that all of it is equally real (or none of it is real at all.)

POEM: Kindred Spirits [Prose Poem]

Sitting with my wife at the breakfast table this morning, I was struck by the realization that human beings and seedless watermelons have something important in common. We were both robbed of our evolutionary raison d’être, and, in both cases, the culprit was humanity (the OTHER “damned dirty ape.”)

But, at least, humans have gotten a chance to choose their new [and, hopefully, improved] reason for being. Seedless watermelons have not been so lucky.

POEM: Hyperqueryitis

When I was a young boy, earlier than I can remember, I caught hyperqueryitis — a permanent affliction denoted by a propensity to ask “too many damned questions” — or so it was explained to me.

The condition can become exacerbated by certain common treatments — all of which are popular replies of the adult human being, such as:

-“… because it just is, that’s why!”

-“… because it’s always been that way!”

-“… we’ll get there when we get there and not a moment sooner!”

Side-effects may include: the use of words such as: propensity, affliction, and exacerbate; as well as a marked tendency to make up one’s own words.

POEM: Wounded Beasts and Where They Find You [Prose Poem]

The bleeding beast crawls into the tall grass. It shakes those shafts of tall grass, but the erratic waggle is lost in the wind shimmy.

The wounded creature seeks its hiding place like a manic kid chooses one during hide-n-go-seek. It’s not so much about never being found as it is about achieving maximum impact upon one’s reveal.

The kid wants to cause a gasp — maybe a dot where his victim peed himself, a tiny bit.

The beast wants the hunter’s knees to buckle, dropping him to the ground where he’ll try to butt-scoot away, either having dropped his rifle or holding it with such strained white-knuckle intensity that it’s of no use.

That way the beast can use its final burst of strength to lunge onto the hunter, using its bodyweight to pin him to the ground, so it can work him over like a fighter who’s got his opponent on the ropes.

I’ve been told that Cape Buffalo is the worst beast to have to follow into the elephant grass. Its bovine nature belies the savagery of its Death throes. It will not stop until either: it’s physically unable to move; or, there is no solid material left of the hunter’s body (whichever comes first.)

For those of us who never go beyond following uninjured bunnies into knee-high grass, it’s impossible to know what it’s like to track a wounded animal into the tall grass.

POEM: Will 2021 Be the Year…

One has to love the irrational exuberance of people who believe they’ve reached the finish line, the end of the worst possible 366-day period imaginable, as if the world will reset at midnight, as if waking up on January first will be waking up from a year long dream that was usually a nightmare, but was, at its best, a bizarre and incoherent (but emotionally-charged) dream.

I can’t help but wonder if 2021 will be the year in which…

–a ferry sinks in tropical waters, struck by an iceberg

–the virus will mutate on the eve of my vaccination day

–the drone of Brood X will get on last nerves, triggering a tsunami of riots

–a tsunami of water will wash away beachfront property

–there will be a plague of frogs [did we have one of those? I lost track.]

–aliens will land

–AI will make its move

–someone will misplace a thermonuclear warhead

It’s not that I’m a pessimist, I just don’t think Lady Fortuna will acknowledge Auld Lang Syne as stop sign, or as a bump in the road.

POEM: An Angelic Take on Time

“We, who move through this world, have varied gifts,” said the angelic figure who saw the world without time.

She could hold infinite temporal cross-sections in her mind at once. Though she usually focused on one time at a time as you and i might focus our vision on a bird sitting on a lamp post — knowing that one can shift one’s visual attention at will.

Her mind snaps from mundane moments to the nearest frenetic second —  be it tragic or festive. Just as your eye would snap from the bird on the lamp post to a furry canine shape, trotting into one’s periphery; her mind snapped to the “good part” of the story.

While you may think yourself either alive or dead, to her you are a Schrödinger’s cat of both alive and dead, but her mind always wants to snap to the second of transformation.

Ethereal Hoarder [Prose Poem]

Straight out of college, my first job involved strolling into the homes of strangers. This is when I learned about hoarding. Turns out, you don’t have to venture into many American homes before you stumble into a full-blown hoarder’s lair. I don’t mean a messy home. There’s no moderated middle for hoarders. If it’s not floor-to-ceiling chaos, you’re just a slob — not really a hoarder. [Oddly enough, “hoarder’ sounds less offensive than slob, but it’s worse… much worse.]

The occupant of the first hoarder-labyrinth I sidled into was an old lady who’d busted her hip slipping on a glossy magazine from an avalanche that had collapsed into the narrow, navigable canyons of her living room.

At the time, I couldn’t understand the impulse to hoard. I’ve never clung to used up material objects. For me, books are the closest thing to a precious, inanimate object, but they’re like soup bones — once one has sucked the marrow out of them, they just take up space and gather dust. [With precious few exceptions that are uniquely-shaped and -sized for a task like opening a beer bottle or clubbing an intruder.]

Still, if I’m to be honest, I’m an ethereal hoarder. All that page-extracted marrow is clogging up my mental attic. I don’t know that I even have narrow, navigable canyons at this point. Too often, it’s a soul-crushing slog to schlep one of the few fine pieces out from storage. It may sound like a good problem to have until one realizes that a lot of it is rubbish, rubble, and remnants — no more useful than the broken-hip lady’s twelve-year-old newspapers, twenty-three year old Good Housekeeping magazines, or eight-track tape polka music collection.

POEM: Rainy Day Rambling Brain

Sitting on the balcony, watching the rain, I see spreading concentric rings ping into each other in the puddles below. The expanding rings of big drops swamp those of the smaller droplets. More evenly-matched pairings of waves becomes something new — not pure chaos, but much more complex than either of their parents. The analogy to the workings of my mind is intuitively felt — if not intellectually understood.

A pigeon struts along the ledge of concrete slab on a building under construction next door. The slab intends to become a balcony like the one on which I’m sitting.

I want to think that only a winged creature could walk so confidently on that ledge, but I remember reading that skyscraper construction companies in New York City hired lots of men from a certain Western tribe known for fearlessness vis-à-vis heights.

But were they fearless?

Sooner or later, fearless creatures become careless creatures — at least among humans.

The chipmunk bobbing at the twiggy, distal end of a branch seems fearless to me, but I also feel that I’d see a lot more sidewalk-splattered chipmunks if the little beast didn’t have some kind of feeling about the precariousness of its situation. Maybe, I anthropomorphize.

And one puddle reaches a tipping point, pouring into another…

POEM: What Is this Thing Called Beauty?

We see beauty in nature, but we see more in nature reigned in — kept in check by the hand of man. Why should a fresh-cut patch of grass please the eye more than its shaggy state of nature?

What soul doesn’t sore at the sight of a Japanese garden? It’s nature, but micromanaged in the slightest details of distance, shape, light, and order. Not a leaflet out of place. Gravel pads equidistantly furrowed with great precision. A bonsai tree could be called grotesque in its gnarled, shriveled deformation, but — instead — the bonsai has a universal visual appeal. Is it because they are stunted and deformed in precisely the manner man has chosen?

We see beauty in the human form, as well — but too rarely in our own. We like them depilated — plucked to the point that not a hair stands out of place. Biology tells us our eyes should seek the figure capable of staying strong while chasing prey across the savanna or gathering nuts and berries through wastelands where those foods are sparse. But our eyes covet those leaner than that — that leanness expresses our beloved ordered angularity.

Pure nature is frisson-laden — ever uncontrollable, unpredictable, and disordered. Its beauty is never separated from the fear it inspires.

Manicured nature offers a pleasing feel of dominion — an illusion of control that puts the mind at ease.