Ignored

We sit together in a dark room
You and I
Apart, yet together
Male and female
The last two alive
We know nothing of each other
Save we both, miraculously, survived the end of our race
We sit in silence for some time
Minutes, days, months, unsure
We embrace, kiss, make love
Still knowing nothing
Not even seeing the other
In this pitch dark
Perhaps it’s better this way
Why spoil fantasy with reality

What does Heaven smell like, Dad?
I bet it smells like bubblegum
My son has lots of questions about Heaven
Each time he asks, my responses seem hollow
I try to tell him about other major religions
And that one point of view is not the only
But my responses never seem to address his need to believe
My cold, logical, steadfast clinging to scientific dogma
That I’ll trust only what we can prove
Leaves me feeling this chasm between son and self
That I’d like to bridge, but unsure how

Hello
Extend hand
No reaction
Stone face
I’m here
See me
Nothing
Ignored
As if
of no importance
The pain is real

I am
CEO
President
Insignificant
Meaningless
Everything
Nothing
Always changing
Always the same
Who you’ve always wanted
To hold close
To avoid

Son, you’re not perfect
You’re selfish
Uncaring
You snatch toys from your sister
Ignoring her cries
You insist I buy two Slurpees at the theme park
so you won’t touch her germs
You’re difficult, demanding, at times disrespectful
You watch more TV than you probably should
But you know what
I don’t care about any of that
Sure, I hope you can grow
I want you to pursue the path to self-actualization
to be all you can be
But that doesn’t matter to me
You mean more to me than I can easily put on paper
You’re a life, you came from me
And you remind me of me

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A post for one’s followers

Why do we post?
Is it to boast?
We share, we bare
Our selves, our souls
With total strangers
In search of likes
Waiting on others
To tell us we matter
That our mundane acts
Deserve attention
And when the emojis
don’t come, when only 8
In a world of 7 billion
Care, what then?
Time to get offline
Get outside
Meet face to face
Where virtual likes
Are replaced
By actual life

Life, Death, and Everything

When I look up at the stars,
I feel a mix of emotions.
I feel big, universal.
I feel small, unimportant.
I feel connected to the energy.
I feel disconnected from everything that matters.

I lay in bed
On a quiet night
Window cracked
Curtain drawn
I gaze up
and glance a single star
Twinkling back
It speaks to me
Of possibility
Tell me
What does it say to you?

We are all going to die, eventually.
Those who meant the most to us
Friends, lovers, children, parents
Will either leave us, or we will leave them.
Forever.
This makes me immensely sad.
What do I want to tell my loved ones before I go?
Only that I love you.
Exactly as you are.
Your faults and your strengths.
You don’t need to change for me — you are perfect as is.
Even if you make mistakes.
Especially if you make mistakes.
I love you, still.
I want you to be happy.
I want you to grow.
I want you to love and be loved.
To know others and be known by others.
To experience life.  To explore.
To take a risk.
To take time for rest.
To slow down.
But to keep pushing forward.
To leave a legacy.
Even one with occasional mishaps or sidetracks.

How can I be bothered to pay the gas bill
When I glimpse the heavens above?
The majesty of those distant stars
Their billions-year journey
Compared to the utter pettiness of our
Earthly concerns
Yet these mundane matters are all we have
We’re a product of the journey
But our time is too short to comprehend
The processes that brought us here
How can we review 14 billion years of history
In a mere 100
And lucky if that
We’ll never fully understand
And that is what saddens me the most

 

Black Sunday

On a cold January morn
In the Bronx
Six firemen jumped
From a fourth floor window
Two to their death
Four to severe injuries
Breaking nearly every bone
Just minutes before
They’d drank coffee in the firehouse kitchen
Spoke of their mortgages or sons’ soccer games
In the chaos of fighting the fire
They had no time for goodbyes
No moment to call their wives
Or children
And yell “I love you”
with some final assurance or advice
Just…gone

This remote option
Of unexpectedly and suddenly
departing this world
Hangs over us all

Yingying Zhang stepped into a stranger’s car
Expecting he would drive her to sign an apartment lease
Instead she was kidnapped and murdered
Tracy Tam covered a shift for a friend at Bronx Lebanon Hospital
When a former employee began shooting — within 10 minutes she was dead

So if you love them
Tell them — better, show them
Do what you must today
Don’t wait
You may be swept away by circumstance
Before you have the chance

 

Yearbook

Sister called
Asking if I want your yearbooks
A small picture of you
Smiling, happy
Crazy about boys
Taking careful notes in class
I wanted to know more about you
But I’ve lost that chance
I cherish the stories you told me when I was a boy
About your childhood, your own school days
Now you’re gone and I’m alone
Missing you
Yes I want your yearbook
But only because it reminds me of you
What I really want
Is time with you
And the close friendship that time together builds

Mom, I thank you and I love you
You left us too soon
I didn’t make it easy on you while you were here
Always teasing you for sending money to Oral Roberts

Even in your last moments
You were taking care of sis and me
Making sure I would drive your car

I hope I can be as selfless as you
When my time comes

Unexpectedly

The greatest adventures begin unexpectedly
A simple question in a subway station
A chance encounter on a remote mountaintop
Or digitally, life condensed into a profile

Tonight, I send this advice to my future self:  never forget the magic that can spring from others, and ourselves, at any time with little coaxing.

Always engage.  Always try.  Say hello.  Press send.  Have courage to ask.  Adventure awaits.

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Eating Meat

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We celebrated my wife’s high school reunion at a restaurant known for grilled lamb.  The lambs lived in a small pen out back.  My wife warned me we should not let our son see the lambs.  He would quickly discern that we had killed them for food.  But I did let him see them.  And he insisted to watch the butcher kill one.  This affected both of us.  My son knew it wasn’t right.  He cried:  he couldn’t understand.  And now I believe his reaction was correct.

Something feels wrong
The butcher slit the lamb’s neck
I watched her struggle
heard her squeal
We served her as lunch
We could have eaten greens
And let her live
We could have preserved life
Instead we took it
By eating that lamb I was proclaiming,
“It is more important that I eat meat,
when I already have numerous healthy and tasty  alternatives,
than that an animal should live.”
Animals feel pain
They have brains, some simple emotions
How can killing them be right?

Being stranded on a remote island without other sources of food is an extreme case where killing an animal for food could be warranted.  We kill animals for a range of reasons.  To make a belt, or a purse, or shoes.  Do I really mean to say, “I value my clothes, my comfort, more highly than other creatures’ lives”?

This culture of killing animals feels wrong, it must be wrong.  I know this by how I respond when I watch an animal’s death:  I feel sad, repulsed, and I begin to cry.

Giving up meat is difficult:  I frequent KFC and McDonald’s.  Am I so confident in my decision that I will suffer inconvenience?  Thought without action is pointless.  For humans and animals aren’t that different, and if we allow cruelty to one, aren’t we more likely to allow cruelty to the other?  And if we take a stand to protect one, aren’t we just as likely to protect the other?

Taxing the Joints

My knees ache
Sitting too long
Indoors
While grey clouds swell overhead
I long to be outside
Walking in a cool breeze
Photographing nature
Uncovering mysteries
But I’m at my desk doing taxes
Running down how much I paid
for electricity last year
I’m tempted to make up some numbers
Some innocent-looking ones
to fill the blank lines on the form
So I can get on with living
But fudging the numbers
Would spoil the walk
And so I sit
Knees aching
Writing this verse instead
If you don’t like it
You may request a refund

The central problem

The main problem is I’m dying
We all are
And there’s nothing we can do
We will leave behind
Ones we love
Our hobbies, belongings, thoughts
Hopes, Dreams
Everything we ever said, felt, did, or cared about
Reduced to ash

One day, forced to quit this great game
To hand over the bat, ball, glove
and even uniform to another player

This is the contract of life:
You will enjoy the wonder of existence
But only briefly
You will study, grow wise
Be irresponsible, go crazy
You will fret over frivolous things
Like in which restaurant to dine
Or where to vacation
You may experience the birth of a child
And marvel at this complex biology
we don’t fully understand

You may create a great work of art
A novel, a painting, a film
But this will not save you
It may help others remember you
But you certainly won’t know
For neurons don’t fire in the grave

Perhaps all the irrational behaviors in the world
Stem from our inability to cope with our ultimate death
If I cheat you
What does it matter?
We’ll both die eventually
At the end of the game
All scores are reset to 0