To Level Up

In order to understand any problem
one must have empathy.
One must imagine themselves
in the shoes of another.

Humanize the enemy.
The spree killer.
The deserter.
The terrorist.

With love and family and fear.
Somewhere something went wrong.
With that deer in the headlights blank stare,
the ability to feel the other’s loss lost.

…………………………….

To be the shooter

…………………………….

You think it will never stop. That you will never come out of the box. That life has put you in. That you will never have a true friend. Will never be loved fully. Think that if you ask for help that you will be condemned. You never felt joy. There is no comedy. There is no laughter. You always saw humanity as a disease. You feel if every human was dead it would free the earth from the cancer we feed, inside of all of us. Inside you, you are the only one who understands. Who ever will get IT. Getting it is the everything. The only thing you ever got. Thinking too much, was the only thing you ever thought. Having always had a hard time. Never fitting in. Never getting picked for the team. Never being seen. INVISIBLE. You feel it will only get harder. Hard times getting harder.

You now see an entire generation of spree shooters, like you. Rising up. Imagine if only, we tried to understand you. We would not.
You imagine a game where you are the winner. Have all the power. Gaining rank with each kill. Just like the heroes you seek to fulfill. Others like you, who sought the thrill of the slaughter. Emulating with each calculated kill. You level up. You visualize where you will start. Will it be from the parking lot, or while inside. Where you will take the first shot? Where will you be stopped? Will you take the last shot?

If we could only understand, your plan?

An entire generation of spree killers like fireflies.
Out of nowhere, lighting up and blowing out.
Where do they go after they act out?
Their brain matter spilled.

In the afterlife, are they sitting in a circle talking about their lives?
Why they chose the path they did?
Choosing targets instead of choosing life.
Are they finding redemption or are they plotting reincarnation?
To steal more life.

…………………………….

Target everyone

…………………………….

For we all could be killers and lovers, at once.
Know now, the human heart has unlimited potential.
Genocidal hate filled triggers.
To forgive all with the blink of an eye.
Love all sinners.
To be someone’s final or first hope.

Somewhere, another shooter
Is prepping.
Is practicing.
Is buying more ammo.

Laser targeting bodies with red dots.
Counting bodies, not sheep to go to sleep.
Somewhere, there is love for him.
A love for his generation.
A love that could change all outcomes.

In a culture they seek to kill.
We seek to thrive.
For our children to survive.

Let us find empathy for all.
Let us not target anyone with isolation.
Label or condemn.

Stare deeply into their eyes and say, “Hello.”

To level up.
To complete the game.
We must realize we are all the same.

sandy_hook

Dribbling Genetics

Claire_Hoops

Photo by Dana King

I don’t like sports, never have.
I played them because that’s what boys did.
My father was a coach
so I did not have much of a choice.
To show up. To participate.
The only lessons I learned on a court.

For years I watched him take bleachers full of kids
and bring them to their feet. Run them ragged
and make their sneakers squeak, with each
new blow of his whistle.
Dribbling to find themselves.
As I did.
I realized I was not skilled.
Not like my brothers and friends.
I would not gain any respect with any ball.
I was a bench warmer who dreaded it all.

Only six years old to join a team.
To feel your place in the space between
bodies struggling to find reason.
As all jockey for position.

As I tried to jump into the heavens, three inches high.
As I dreamed of Jordan and his six foot gazelle glide.

Proud to see my nephews inherited my dad’s gifts.
They were ballers and made all the teams.
They led by example, became champs, broke records,
while collecting trophies which now plaster their museum bedroom walls.
I still can’t imagine being the best at anything
for the adjective “athlete” was never in the cards for me.

Now a father, life is my coach.
Yesterday, I took my eight year old
to buy her first basketball.
She made the team and is ready to train.
On her own, she is passionate for the game.
To play in a basketball league.
To play hoops, to make baskets, to run the drills.
She seems to be another natural.

Yesterday, I summoned my father as I taught her to play HORSE.
We passed, we ran, we dribbled together as I spoke of
the legends of the ball whose blood she shares.

Coming home, I heard myself passionately say,
“You are a natural athlete.”
She quickly responded, “Daddy, daddy look at that moth.”

I laughed thinking, she has no idea what talents she’s got.
Somehow, sports dribbled a generation.
From a little boy who could not.
To my little girl who is already connecting the dots.
Daddy, “Look at that moth. Look at that moth.”
Pointing her finger at the beautiful spectacle of nature
that I did not see above me, while deep in thought.

Save Me a Seat

Angela_Dana

Cancer is a killer. When you first hear the verdict most collapse in horror. Then time begins to really mean something. Emotionally it is equal to genocide, war, spree killings to the ones who live with it and the ones who support those who do. To cancer survivors, cancer is a connection. It is like our own personal VFW that we can huddle inside a bubble at the bar, sharing a drink. Speaking our truths. About our hopes and dreams, fears. Our transitioning. What it has done to us and what we have become in the meantime.

If you have the same type of cancer, say a brain tumor or the same treatment, brain radiation, then that bond becomes even closer. We can share so closely that it is as if we are holding each other’s hands through space and time even after one passes to the other side. To the great void. The unknown.

I had that experience with a friend who passed recently. I would visit her and give her organic veggies donated to her. I enlisted for this delivery because we shared our cancer connection. I wanted to learn her story as much as tell her mine. To let her know that there is strength in our doubt and fears. That cancer treatment is our own right of passage. If we let it, we become wiser through our letting go. Letting go. That is the true lesson.

As we let go we see more. Feel more. Understand that it was all a shamanic dance. That we had partners along the way. That we taught the dance. We stumbled. We fell but we continued on. How you flow. How you show your joy is through your own rhythm. The way you beat. beat. beat the disease until it takes you into the water’s breeze to meet your maker. The big bang, father, mother, creator, universal speaker. That vibrates the frequency of all of creation.

Angela. I looked into your eyes. I saw your wise loving cries for another chance. I believed you would beat it. There were days when you truly glowed. I saw you light up the room. You were as radiant as sunlight in the golden hour as you graced us with your presence. I thank you for our time. Our short minutes where we prepped each other’s minds. For the infinite. My cancer buddy, I will see you on the other side. Save me a seat at the bar. In space time, I know we are not very far away from chatting again.

Sacred Space

sage

We make our sacred space. We burn sage and hope dark spirits
are not watching. We don’t know if they are there but we’d rather
prepare. We prepare for flow. The way the light and air move through
our front door into out back. Is there logic in the structure. Consciousness in our selection of pattern and color. Something larger than us. Something watching us. Giving us its blessing. Understanding the meaning of “Good fences, make good neighbors.”

We dream big. Of having a home where our little ones can play safely.
Not feeling watched. Our backyard their forest. Their passage way to wilderness. Their Alaska. Their tropical island where imagination is the only boarding ticket. In our twilight we see a swimming pool and a cabin. A meditation garden. A playground built to last till they leave the house for college. We see a fish pond and a butterfly garden. We see a sacred space. Where we can stare at the stars as one. One family under our Sun. Embracing each other as we are spun from one year to the next.

We are one mile behind ten miles of strip malls. In the center of everything. Two miles to all big box stores. We are on a road off the beaten track. A no stop light road. Hidden on our cul de sac. You would think we’d feel safe but we put up a fence to protect our backs. Keeping out wolves who might live in the heart all neighbors. Will we find peace with this wall between homes.  

We pretend we are settlers keeping out the darkness. So there is no attack. On our privacy. On our trees which have been cut back without consent. With this fence our space is ours alone, now we are free to roam. Never to think again of any prying eyes of insanity that might bloom.

With our fence we project a laser beam of red light. Our physical boundaries refined. We will hold hands and burn sage. We will make a spiritual act of reclaiming psychic territory. To turn another page. We will bless this place. Sacred space make us…. Free of hatred. Free of judgement. Full of grace. Full of forgiveness.  For good fences, make good neighbors.

A Face within a Face

2nd_craniotomy

I remember faces blurred into one.
As I lie there on the bed. Pumped full
of meds. Pain killers, killing time.
Killing reality. Smudging both together.
A portrait of the living and the dead dancing.

The conversations were always similar.
Somehow. Someone trying to have
some sort of sympathy for the situation.
For what it must have felt like.
Now, I’m sure we will all share this moment in time
together. The roles will change.
The lesson will always be the same.

Helpless in the E.R. glued to a mattress.
Naked bottoms in hospital pajamas.
Battling those cold white sheets
that never cover legs or feet.
Incapable. To itch any itch.
To switch the TV channel.
To make a phone call.
Unable to remember
any phone numbers at all.
Hands unable to reach anything
on that table so far away,
one foot from the bed,
seemed an eternity.

I see all of you. Painted as one portrait,
on one large canvas. A face within a face.
Infinite in your shared light you displaced
in that room. Hovering over space.
As you looked into my eyes you saw
me battling for life.
Not knowing the outcome.

I think of your time, visiting me in my room.
For sitting with me watching me become
collected then unglued. Being there for
my wife in case I needed you, to call the nurse.
I can’t remember any names. I can’t thank all of
you in person, ever. But as a collective you are one.

So many cards and flowers delivered,
that I don’t remember.
I’m sure they made our lives a little better.
So many casseroles and salad bowls,
keeping my family fed and loved.
At that time as I lay on that bed. With
the catheter in my “manhood”, as I bled
urine out into an ocean of plastic bags.

That fucking bed alarm going off if I moved at all.
With my body slowing slumping further
into the hump of that medieval hospital bed.
Never able to sit upright long enough.
Not able to support my torso with my weakened arms.
Needles injected into any vein willing and open.
Arms, hands with tubes taped down my leg.
Skull wrapped in cloth and tape.

I don’t remember any faces. I don’t remember
any conversations with the pain meds upped and fed.
To kill the throbbing feeling, I do remember.
Like being hit over and over on the head.
I thought it must have been a baseball bat or a car wreck
that did all of that. Pain.

Even as vague as all of this. I thank you
for what you did so many years later, I feel you ALL there.
Helping my wife and family. Cards written that prayed,
hoped and wished for a quick recovery, that I never
read.

From your light that you fed into my darkness.
Through your actions, I proudly honor the duty to deliver,
visit and pray for the quick recovery of all
lives and families we are now honored to know.
I promise to bestow them with the same glow of light and love
into their lives as you did in mine. And if they don’t
remember, I will know it made all the difference.

Let It Last

rockwell_fear

Be quiet. They don’t know. Shhhh! Let them believe a little longer.
You didn’t know? They still believe in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
It’s true. None of the kids let them know any different at school.

This morning, I turned down the radio. NPR is talking about three hundred
children stolen from a school in Africa. The kids are
strapped in behind my seat singing Princess songs.
Let it Go. Let it Go. I turned off the radio.

I think of them right now. Tucked in bed. Their
dreams must be filled with candy corn and cartoons.
Playing on the playground at school. Maybe reliving
a fall or two.

As the adults prepare for tomorrow. They don’t know.
The chores we do in the background. Keeping the boat
afloat. They don’t know how I battle with dust and dead
ants. How I’ve turned chores into an existential
examination between the macro and the micro.
I am the father. Cast through DNA.
The role I play is protector. Shhhh! Let them sleep.

The clock is ticking by as the days fly by. Each day the
cat hair layers the fresh ground. Just mopped. Just
vacuumed. It piles deep. The crazy ants we keep
away through the poison we spray. Time is on a different
scale to them.

At their size they seem to be dirt. They continue
to trace the same paths into our home from the earth,
to find solace. Only to die in huge piles. Stepping on each
other’s body moving closer to their final trial. Their goal,
a spec of food from a cookie. Old cat food in the bowl the
cats think is always empty which is always half full.

As our children lie in bed tonight, so many functions give and take.
Electricity bills come as hot water fills another tank.
This will be the home where they will remember sharing
a room. Being in school together. Learning to
ride bikes with their daddy. The love their mother gave
them that no father ever could. For she is the Easter Bunny,
Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, all in one. All summer, playing
in their own yard. Playing tag and doing cartwheels till called in.
Proudly decorating the dinner table and windows for everyone for every holiday.

This memory is as half gone as it will be half full in theirs.
Decades from now, this home will fill them full of happiness
knowing they helped paint the walls when these concrete
blocks needed another coat to grow old with them.

This fleeting innocence resides now. So fast. Let it last.
Let us grasp it today. Let us let this innocence stay.
I pray for them tonight. Please help me protect them
and keep them safe as the world trumpets chaos.
Let their dreams be filled with cotton candy and unicorns.
Guided by a family that loves them more
than they will ever know. Flawed as we are we try so.

Set the Cadence

running-barefoot_12401_600x450

straighten neck.
focus breathe.
become unplugged.
when i run, i run.
when i walk, i walk.
never wobble.

there is a soccer field next door.
if i want to run i have a straight line.
100 meters i can time.
running is body and mind,
distance and time.
no gadgets needed to make it work.
no tires to pump.
no dues to pay.
running is moving meditation.
always free.
continual destinations.

taking you back.
from man to monkey
knuckles dragging.
upright sprinting.
opposable thumbs holding spears.
setting the cadence of life.
train to fight.
controlling fear.
always keep feet moving forward.
as the road rises up to meet you.
feel the fog of life fall away.

one mile, no sweat.
two mile, better yet.
body and mind.
space and time.
feel your heart beat
through your neck.
feel your mid-foot strike and glide.
feel the movement.
free your mind.

Mr. Somebody

Mr_Somebody

do you exist.
can you prove it.
can anyone.
is this the only life we live.
are we vibrating strings
from what physics gives.
one note to multiple lives.

wave after wave
as gravity fades.
pushing us outward
from our big bang.

don’t want to live.
quit making choices.
stay in bed and sleep.
even in your dreams
entropy creeps.

each yes or no.
each maybe.
creates divergence.
the more chaotic
the system grows.

all these paths live on
together from birth till deaths.

somewhere there, you are
living another life.
somewhere you are
cancer free.
somewhere you
have the health you need.

somewhere there, surrounded by love.
creating your family
never alone again.
seeing beauty.
never to feel empty.

somewhere there, you waited
for years to meet your love.
served time for your crime.
enlisted to fight the war.
found something worth fighting for.

waited in an office cubicle.
waited on the same bar stool.
to make a choice.
to hear a voice.

somewhere, you studied hard.
you looked to the heavens.
you made it to Mars.
you engineered the future.

somewhere, you were able to
follow through with a promise.
somewhere, you are not a nobody.

somewhere, your download
is being studied and archived.
people are tuning in to your realities.
from your choices.
many lives were fed.
many lives were bled.

can’t decide
what choice to give.
flip a coin.
make a move.
let your lives live.

I am Average

Muslim protesters

I am your average
minority lesbian woman
who loves her family.
Works hard.
Pulls her own weight.

I’m looking for fair pay.
I’m looking for immigration
reform in anyway.
So I can see my parents
before they die.

I want to marry the partner I love.
I want equality in every way.
Not just a little bit.
No crumbs from
the new Jim Crow.
I pay taxes.
I feed many mouths.

I don’t want to be sort of equal.
We are currently experiencing a sequel
for the soul of equality in America.
Now, many say if you
don’t love it, leave it, go away.
Go back to your home country.
You’re not needed here anyway.
It is the red scare, all over.
I see the hate the communists now ‘bear’
down on anyone who speaks out.
I see gays being beaten
on the global news, where we
can view what might be coming.

But I am. We are. Here.
And I am not just the voice
I speak through today.
For I this voice is trapped in
a straight white man’s body.
Who believes in my needs.
Who wants me to have a choice.
Who wants my voice to be heard.

I speak for all who thought
Roe v. Wade was history.
That the Voting Rights Act
was a distant victory.
That we were all progressing towards
a time where we could be seen as one.

I speak through him,
so you know that we all vote.
No matter what skin tone or body
I might inhabit when I emote.

I’m straight. I’m male.
I’m female. I’m gay. I’m transgender.
I’m everything at once because
I’m proud to say…
America made me that way.
Melted all together.
From the same simmering pot of diversity
that made us what we are.

I see your pain as mine.
I feel all suffering.
I speak to stop it.
For all that is divine and holy.
In order to form a more perfect matrimony,
insure Justice, insure domestic tranquility.
We seek the sublime.

Losing Touch

breathing_deeply

breath. focus on third eye. as i was taught, push tongue to roof of month. inhale deeply from belly. let it out. repeat. s l o w l y. body becomes like jelly. breath. mind begins to drift. thinks of sounds that move adrift. in the mix. in the home. in the mind. noise is everywhere. real and imagined. bring mind back to breathe.

i have not been the person writing. i have been a person deprived through expression. an online profile getting a fix. looking for approval from friends in the mix. that i don’t know. never will. wall photos and data flows. please like my update and i’ll get by. leave me a comment and i’ll get high. just knowing that there is someone to connect with. i might never know you but to hell with it. it’s all we’ve got. this new paradigm. once thought of as the sublime. to know we exist, together.

breath. a storm breaks out above my eyes. white lightning bugs pop and crackle like flies. a cloud of consciousness becomes unraveled. breath. back to breathe. we live attached. i don’t know your name or number. it’s stored on some computer. somewhere. an app records it. all i used to once know it, now backed up. now not even knowing my home phone number. never writing letters on paper. always typing on things. through touch we’ve lost touch. i thank people via emails that don’t get read. thank you for reading now. reading means something somehow.

breath. there’s a world outside my window. seasons sprung. Floridians have begun hibernation through the Summer fun. as life cooks on in concrete strip malls. the passing of the marching ants of all that is human. returning Amazon shipments to UPS. popping into Publix for a fix. going to endless kid’s birthday parties in the mix. cakes are baked. kids learn to skate. kids learn to hate. screaming at you in the morning for waking them from bed. not liking the oatmeal they are fed. as you dream of putting them back to bed.

breath. sometimes i need a break. a day to do nothing. not to think of chores. of civil wars. not to think of more. of what i could have done. of what life has in store. what legacy i can leave behind for folks to respect or deplore. am i respected by my family now. will the world live on in its insanity. to share its vanity. what if. what if. we made the right choices and corrected our ways. we know what is a need and what is a want. we are taught this from birth. but most continue to grab. grab for more. store. store for more. feel. feel for more. never to abstain. creating more. more pain. i try to reframe the moments between breathe.

breath. i’ve done nothing. been sleeping. breath. no need to wake up. mind says, get up, at least eat lunch. always something. hairballs from my cats float by. i’m breathing debris from all. molecules from every human to have ever lived. every dinosaur to have died and saturated soil to make crude oil live. i’m breathing you. you’re breathing me. do you understand. breath. breath deeply in