Unless you lose yourself to this,
It will ever elude you… Oh,
there are too many who are great
of mind and small
and the breadth of their world
is the gamut of their village
or less – their cul-de-sac
But no judgment.
Even the least of us can turn
manure into fertile soil into plump tomatoes…
the smallest, least alluring dregs and details add up,
more often than not,
to the most
The summer my grandfather fell off the roof and broke both his wrists,
was the first time I’d ever seen him have to ask
But even in two casts from wrist to elbow — and beyond —
his mind worked
to keep him independent.
He invented holding sticks he could use as hands
in most every situation.
remained intact. He didn’t have to wait for both tibias
and fibulas to heal.
Many who pass this way are intent on mistaking
a soft underbelly for failing,
convinced that leathery,
are the only fitting emblems of the tough.
Because once I lock onto a question and can’t seem to let go till I get an answer that makes me feel a little less like an idiot than before… the question of why I actually threw my biggest eggs in the technology basket keeps coming up. And I think I know.
And I think that poetry actually had a lot to do with it.
For me, poetry is very much about what is. It’s about processing the stuff that’s right in front of me, or that’s hidden from sight that (to me) needs to be teased out into the open.
Conversely, technology for me is all about what will be. It’s about building out ideas for things that never really existed in that exact form before. Someone may have made something similar, but nobody can code something exactly like you can.
It’s a heady thing, to be able to create something brand spankin’ new, when all the world around you seems intractably unjust and illogical. To have a very binary thought process that is all about yes/no, on/off, instead of laced with vagueries and subject to interpretation… it’s quite the relief.
I guess I just needed a break from the rumination that’s part and parcel of poetry.
The place where I went wrong with the tech, was thinking I’d be building something that other people would find every bit as incredibly fascinating and useful as I did. I assumed there’d be eager adoption of my coding creations, and that others would see the merit in them. Because the things I design and build are thoroughly thought-out, and they’re based on decades of industrial-strength technical experience. So, why wouldn’t everyone just flock to the things I’ve built.
Why they don’t, is a whole other discussion, but I’ve come to realize that – even if they did – I’m not sure I’m the sort of person who wants to continuously promote and support my creations. I sorta kinda like to bring them into being and then let them go. I mean, really let them go. Completely forget about them, as I move on to my next fascination. And that, my friends, isn’t even a good practice for open source software.
So, as it turns out, the way I build tech is very similar to how I write poetry. Come up with an idea, write it, build it out, be happy with it, and let it go. And because tech needs more than that, if I’m putting it out to other people, it makes no sense for me to put every single sizeable egg in a tech basket. Of course, if I only use what I build myself, I can do what I please without answering to anyone, but that’s antithetical to the high tech innovation mission, which needs adoption.
So, meh. Whatever. I’m tired of thinking about this. I have my answer about why tech appeals to me so much, and I have an answer about why I’m supremely ill-suited to driving innovation with my technical creations. I can let it go, now, and just go about my business.
Quit clinging to the wrong ambition, and settle back into words.
Because those matter to me more than any line of code ever did.
I was thinking that I could put all my eggs in the high tech basket and have it, well, work out over the long run. I was thinking that I could “brand” myself a “technologist” and then play on that stage, where I’ve been professionally active for, like, 30 years.
I was thinking that I could embrace the machine with all its ghosts, that I could cultivate deeper understanding and appreciation in others for what technology is truly capable of. I was thinking that I could help make sense of it. And whatnot.
The only problem is, technology is a middling servant and a horrible taskmaster. Just horrible. Awful. And all the promises the global big tech people make are essentially on par with the promises a philandering husband makes to his lawfully wedded wife, as he sleeps his way back and forth across the country (especially in Vegas, because prostitution is legal there, and you know what they say about things staying in Vegas)… leaving a whole generation of bastard spawn in his wake.
You really can’t believe anything they say. Really can’t.
So, lesson learned. I got into high tech because I saw the amazing possibility of being able to publish independently, and that’s what I’ve been doing, lo these many years.
I saw the possibility of simple elegance, of doing a lot with very little. Unfortunately, I’ve seen precious little of that.
And along the way, although I have written some poetry that I’m happy with, my output has been spotty at best, completely absent at worst. Every now and then, I’ll come across a collection of works I did, some years ago, and I’ll print them out and dust them off. But my approach has been almost… haphazard. As though it were an afterthought, versus a real-deal thing that actually deserved my full devotion and attention.
But now, being sufficiently burned out (and burned) by the big tech thing, and realizing how very, very, very much I miss actual etymologically meaninful literacy (which is what I strive for), and being utterly dismayed by the increasing dearth of, well, something I’d consider literature (versus artful propaganda), it’s time to return.
I’ve unearthed my works from 2003, 2006-2009, 2012, 2018… and I’m taking another look. Because if they were good enough to keep around back them, I’m guessing there may be something there for me now. If not, good-bye and good riddance, but I’ve always been pretty diligent about ditching the shite before it goes out to the world.
Speaking of big tech betrayals, I’m probably just going to blog here, and put all my poetry on another domain on my own server with my own content management system (“CMS”), which I wrote myself in response to the ultra-wasteful and irresponsible database-driven CMSes proliferating in the world. (Make it stop… tho’ I know they never will.) I’m sick to death of WordPress, and every new “update” they do makes it slower and less intuitive for someone like me. How depressing. But I’ll probably still blog here, since they have nice integrations with social media and I have like 68 followers – woo hoo – that I don’t have over at the other domain.
Enough talk. Let me go get that other domain and start setting it up.
And let me post another piece I’ve been working on.
So, that book Strange Bedfellows… The one I wrote way back when, after having the whole story play out to me in a dream ’round about 1993… I think about it frequently. And especially recently, as we all go through this COVID-19 business, quarantine, social distance, work from home, shift our ways… and we watch what’s happening in the world as a result.
Less pollution. Apparently, you can see the Himalayas in India for the first time in 30 years, thanks to the lack of pollution. Overall pollution has dropped dramatically, based on the mappings of the globe. 70,000 endangered sea turtles were able to lay their eggs on deserted beaches. And goats have taken over a Welsh town.
Looking around, it would appear that some things, at least, are healing. Even as hundreds of people die each day from COVID-19, we’re seeing some positive effects of everyone just staying home.
And as I look around at the changes that are happening, and I think about the potential for things to really, really change in the future, I can’t help but think about Paul and Christina in Strange Bedfellows. They’re very emblematic of the kinds of people who are running around today, doing as they please, meeting all their own needs (even at the expense of others), and not giving a thought to the larger consequences for anyone other than themselves.
Hell, they don’t even think about the consequences to themselves, since as far as they’re concerned, they’re totally entitled to whatever they can get their hands on.
They remind me of, well, everyone these days.
And like all of us who are feeling the burn from this pandemic… pollution… environmental destruction… economic peril… social crises… you name it… at some point they get pushed to the brink of potential personal destruction. Everything they have is threatened — their status, their reputations, their hard-earned standard of living — and they have to act. For them, their choice is clear. They know what they have to do, and they do it.
Of course, it’s far simpler for them to act to get out of their tight spot, than it is for all of us to do something about ours. All they have to do is get that corpse out of their apartment. Well, yeah, maybe that’s not so simple, but you know what I mean. Getting a dead body out of your bedroom is a much more doable task, than completely altering the way you live your life, earn your money, participate in your community, etc. , in hopes of keeping the planet alive and sustainably viable.
But we do share an awful lot in common with Paul and Christina.
And a lot of us are feeling a huge burden of responsibility to do something to right our listing ship… while we still can.
Here’s the lesson, though: We can make all the changes we want in the short term, but unless we make the kinds of changes that we can keep going, and unless we put the proper supports in place for our changes to really stick, we’re just not going to have a lasting positive impact. We may think we can, but we won’t.
Paul and Christina succeeded in getting themselves out of that tight spot. They followed the instructions they were given. They did as they were told. They change their lives, they made different choices, they wore different clothes.
What they didn’t do, is build a life around themselves that could actually sustain their decisions. They still lived in the same place. They still worked the same jobs. They were still surrounded by the same people they’d been around before. None of their immediate or extended circle shared their newfound commitment to Doing Right. No one in their community was their to keep them on the straight and narrow. They went it alone. They did it all by their lonesome.
And what happened? Eventually, it all unraveled. Not immediately. Not dramatically. Just a little bit at a time. One choice at a time. One slip-up at a time. They gradually melted back into their old ways, as the nightmares faded and the shock and horror of finding that corpse in their bed wore off.
That, to me, is the lesson of Strange Bedfellows. It’s Not that we shouldn’t take advantage of other people (although we really shouldn’t). It’s Not that we shouldn’t work for companies that place profits before people (although it would be nice if we didn’t feel like we had to). It’s Not that we should be respectful to indigenous elders and follow their guidance (though I recommend it). It’s that if you intend to make a permanent change, you have to make it possible for that change to be permanent.
If you don’t… well, what’s the point in changing at all?
To the alchemist’s eye, water = emotion, and so it is that our moments can be marked by the rise and fall of feeling, a steady stream of anger-eager-joy-hope-faith devotion to emotion.
Days that pass without touching the interior of our mortal casings are deadlier than disasters. Moments that come and go unremembered, unmarked by impact on our souls, are the ones we most regret, when we consciously number our final breaths.
So let’s trade the customary tiny grains of rock, sifting down a narrow hole to peak beneath their ingress, for a steady liquid stream — drain water, drip drops. Let the pool beneath rise and w i d e n.
It doesn’t matter
whether or not you agree with her, or you
think everything she said
is in good taste.
She told the truth
in a series of extended thoughts you actually
have to follow
past a second or two.
Just figuring out if you’re offended by what she said
is a worthy exercise. As is
googling it, or searching YouTube to find
the full 19-minute-plus version
from the damage-controlling peanut gallery.
Everybody’s got something to say about what
Said / we said / they said.
When the rain starts again, comes the relief. The relief of being loosed
from months of being careful-so-careful about how long
you let the water run at the tap
or linger in the shower.
When the rain starts at last in November,
you can forgive the desertlike stinginess of September,
thumb your nose at the fiery threats
You can smile at the sight of reclaimed waste
water spraying its broad horizontal arcs
through vertical winter showers.
And the cows look, well…
When the frogs start their horny chirping,
you all are.
I. Through the day, you are in it, whether
sucking down piping hot coffee
at seven a.m., or moving
your bowels at 7:30, or
thing — anything at all that’s sweet and filling —
in the midmorning hours.
In the walk of the woman
in front of you
in the hall, whose heavy hips
still sway with onetime
it reminds you.
You are in it.
II. Don’t run and hide. Don’t
bury your fingertips in a keyboard and
glue your eyes to the screen, groping
at the mouse to flick the screen saver out
of sight again. Don’t
pretend to work. You can’t, so long as
your lively mind wanders back to last night —
You are not
We’ll find you
where life cascades through
a gorge cut deep into the bedrock
of daily subsistence. We’ll find you
tumbling through memories
of her —
Don’t pretend to be here.
You live close to my bones, you
with your soft eyes that can
hard in a turn,
your solid arms with their sure
embrace around my heart,
every bit of you, from ten solid
toes to strong-wide shoulders
forging through life
with your iron will — you
inhabit me in the nearest,
dearest of places, shedding light
on my most secret marrow,
in red cells and white, the flow
with every beat of my heart
What must be done,
Must Be Done.
I can procrastinate all I like, plumb
the depths of my lazy rationalizations
all I care to, excuse
my inaction with a chock-full
But what must be done,
Must Be Done.
It’s not like I didn’t know
it needed doing.
It’s not like
I could have gotten out of the commit-
signed up for.
Duty calls — but I called first.