Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts

01 January, 2019

from Record of a Pair of Well-Worn Traveling Boots - On (Not) Finding Los Angeles

[16 December 2018: Eastbound, somewhere home side of Winslow]

The train passed into mountain time overnight. Now we're in the high desert part of Arizona, rolling towards New Mexico, closer to home. 

People are starting to wake up and file into the observation car. The view is gorgeous; the sun started to just peak out, a little west of Winslow. I've been awake off and on since about 3:30, which means I slept pretty well for train travel. I travel coach because while the idea of a sleeper car appeals, the cost ends up being the same as flying and is more difficult to justify. The cheapskate in my skull gets in my way more and more as I age, but it's really only for large amounts. He's perfectly willing to nickel and dime all day, especially when it involves books. And since I stopped drinking, the cheap bastard in my skull is willing to embrace the odd and more than occasional cappuccino. But I can't seem to get the idea of a sleeper car, even though my primary argument for train travel is that it's more civilized than air and more genteel than the grey dog over long distances.

I qualify that, of course.  I take the bus from Louisville to Cincinnati on the regular. But if there was a train, I'd probably take that, even if it costs a bit more and tell the cheap bastard in my head to go to hell.

Although I made my goal of being more open and social during my time in LA, I did not really get to find the bones of Los Angeles. I understand that this ontological distinction probably marks me as a rube, or, at the very least, an provincial hack. But it does seem to be a city where there is so much of everything that finding the real Los Angeles is a bit challenging. 

All great cities operate on a philosophy like 3 Card Monte. It's not about finding what's real; it's about never really finding it. Louisville isn't any different. The basic idea of a Tourist Economy is a simple one: distract them with glitter so no one sees the gloom. GPS makes this easier, as entire neighborhoods can be erased without having to start one bulldozer. After all, the powers-that-be don't want total strangers to go and see where the old bones show through.

But that's not what I want to see when I'm out in LA. I want to see the old bones of Los Angeles. I think I catch glimpses of it, in the same way you catch glimpses of nipple during a burlesque show. It's difficult to tell, though, if what I see are the bones or the statistically acceptable brutality of a city that is so expensive to live in that it's losing 100 people a week.

I stopped trying to count the number of homeless folks and camps I saw, just riding around between class and my motel in Culver City. In most cases, they are tucked away, or on public land that has no other use -- which is a good thing, because if it did have use, those people would be pushed off. The camps one block from the train station right on the sidewalk, are probably the most brazen. An entire litle corner just on Alameda had a small community of three tents, and a man was flying nearby. Just far enough away from Union Station not to make it in any of the brochures or website or prime time television show. The homeless in LA are like the palm trees. They're like the excessive number of cars on the 405. They're like random movie star sightings at restaurants that are all ambience and with no street parking.  They're like these small towns rolling outside the windows of the observation car -- a passing curiosity quickly forgotten when the next scene is pulled in our vision.

Barreling through the sunrise
desert dust perma-frost in all directions
like the rolling empty corn fields
stretched ahead on the other side of the river.





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13 April, 2018

Most days I want to disappear, but physics hasn’t caught up with me yet ( a draft)


Mick Parsons Poetry

The centrifugal force required for a total reality shift
has yet to be proven mathematically outside Schrödinger’s Box.

The street is shaking, but no connection has been made
between the rukus and the fallen cake in the oven.

Missiles will fall any day now. Or not.
The ogre with his pinky on the button is taciturn

like the stories of tired old Brahman
who do not believe cockroaches carry the souls of evil men.

Waiting on illumination is a time waster for fidgety types.

Prayers like breath fall from my lips on these days
when there is no wisdom found in all the same old oracles.

Some afternoons I dream of South Dakota and of compasses without direction.
People are so used to the flood waters that no one measures anymore.

The river is full of toxic ash. Bloated bodies that failed evolutionary regression
are coughed up at the base of bridges, get caught in steam boat paddles.

We’ve told all the ghost stories there are to tell.
Now all we have are these tales we tell as we live them

hoping the audience doesn’t judge when the ending goes awry
and the moral is not an uplifting one.

In the end, it is the shaking that does us in.


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30 March, 2018

Darkness as the absence, not the opposite of light (For Smiley) - A Draft

Mick Parsons Poetry

 My father, I think,
wanted to be a deliberate man.

On days when the boil in my blood near overflows
I imagine what the sensation must feel like.

These ill-humors do no one any good.

Do I blame the rain? Should I pray for the sun?
Would Heaven part for the prayers
of yet another more sinner?

Ghosts of a stern religious past
cast my lot in with theirs –
resigned, at last, to darkness.

At least there is no rain.

I think of my father.
I hope for the sun.

The floor is dirty
and dishes to be done
and obligations to fulfill
between now and moonrise

when all our dead fathers rattle their chains
and bade us revenge
this murder most foul.

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02 March, 2018

Something like the face of (draft)


Ignore the monsters in the shadows.

Life is not like your childhood cartoons,
and that is not a cape on your back.

The stories in the papers are all true –
in as much as any of them can be.
But don’t imagine for one moment
those monsters are the real evil.

Go looking for monsters to kill
and they will all have the same face:
something like the face of your father,
something like the face of your mother.

The beasts you should fight --
if that really was a cape on your back --

wear expensive suits
and sit in the front pew on Sunday,

smiling while you pray penitent prayers
knowing they have made you afraid of the dark.
when real evil sleeps in the sun.



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24 February, 2018

Every day is a title fight: the last round

Everyday is a title fight, Mick Parsons
I haven't felt like blogging lately, at least in the vein that I normally do in this space. That's not to say I haven't been writing, because I have. And it's also not to say that there's lack of things to  expound upon and I haven't developed a case of apathy for the general state of the world. But I am aware that just having a blog, a slightly above average vocabulary, and a need to string words together just to feel like I'm not wasting space on the planet are not enough to drive me to comb through all of the comb-worthy things happening in the world to lay out my opinion on them. 

This could have something to do with the fact that I just turned 45, or with the fact that I recently got my 90 day chip from AA. 

AA, disease, Dante, sponsor, Virgil
From Inferno, Canto 29, engraving by Gustav Dore'
Part of the process, other than being able to sit in a room of other People Like Me and say "Hi, my name's Mick and I'm an alcoholic" is examining both the impacts and causal relationship of drinking in your life. It's taken me forever -- 90 days, actually -- to get a sponsor I trust enough to let be my sponsor... which is to say, I found someone whose experience and opinions I trust so that I can release myself into the life-long process called sobriety. 

My sponsor is the Virgil to my Dante in this journey. And yes, being in the process of maintaining my sobriety feels more like a circle of hell than a ring of paradise these days. Even though I've been really productive lately in my professional life and doing a pretty okay job of keeping my house in order, the fact it there isn't a day that I don't obsess over drinking... even if I'm just obsessing over not drinking.  

When you're not in recovery, or if you're not one of the 10% of the population with this particular allergy to alcohol, it sounds absurd. I know that. I also know it sounds equally absurd that as I am engaged in the process of my sobriety, I know that relapse is built into the disease. 

As Virgil says... my sponsor, that is ... it's never a question of IF we will relapse. It's a question of when. 

In last two weeks, two people I care about very much, people in my recovery community, have relapsed. They both struggle hard with their addictions... for them it's drugs and not booze, but the disease is fundamentally the same. The most recent of them relapsed on his 90th day of sobriety. It's hard for me not to think about that in terms of the dumb luck that's kept me sober for 90 days. Dumb luck or faith, depending on what day it is, how I feel, and how I feel about myself. Today it feels like dumb luck. Tomorrow, with any luck, I'll still be sober and feel differently about it.

Part of being sober means I feel things differently... which is to say more. One of the reasons I drink is that I get really worn out on feeling things. Working in homeless outreach and seeing what people go through, or what they put themselves through, or what they have no control over, hurts my heart. It makes me angry when politicians and some so-called religious folk dismiss, ignore, and erase the suffering of people. School shootings make me scared for my friends who are teachers, for kids, and for their parents. That people place the need to own a death machine over the lives of children enrages me. That Kentucky's governor can only dismiss violence by blaming video games, only to commit economic violence upon teachers and students in the name of a balanced budget deepens my mistrust of governments, of institutions, and of people in positions of power. 

There's so much to write about, but I'm not convinced that being one more blogger in the blogosphere makes a damn bit of difference. I'm not sure this is a time for bloggers. But I know it is a time for poets and artists. That's one arena where the fight is and that's where I'm going to be... and yes, some of it will get posted here. It's not like I'm going anywhere. I'm just shifting my process and step work to something more productive.

I've written before that everyday is a title fight. And it is. I've written before about fighting my demons, and I'm sure I'll write more. But no one talks about the fact that we end up fighting our angels, too. And contrary to popular belief, angels and demons aren't always on opposing sides. Sometimes they tag team. And sometimes faith wins. Other times it's dumb luck. Because we're just people, and flawed, though, it's sometimes damn hard to tell the difference.


But the fight goes on, anyway.

024.Jacob Wrestles with the Angel.jpg
By Gustav Dore'





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16 February, 2018

2 Poems: of journeys and nightmares (draft)

Mick Parsons, poetry, journey, prayer, peace, grace, love

Everything feels more


Better men than me have walked this way.

If there is forgiveness to be had
first I must drop this old, bloody dagger.

Late winter bird songs 
no longer hold any secrets for me,

and the dog refuses to translate.

Erase the ash from your forehead
and be made whole.

There is no room for your squeamish social mores here.
These visions are not prophetic,

and the cat playing at your feet
is not a sign of contrition.

The dog interrupts my prayers to go outside
and chase down starlings

because dogs know instinctively
that grace does not come from over-thinking.

It makes each step a pain, like dancing on broken glass


I never thought I deserved it.

Even now, in the light of a day like this,
the first whisper of Spring,
it is difficult to accept 
the inherent grace of this hour.

There are mornings –most mornings, still –
I open my eyes and marvel I am not dead
(though my dreams would tell me different)

and I reach for you, amazed in my desperation,
that my mind simply didn’t conjure you
as a defense against this bottomless hole in my chest.

Sweet mirage, warm and soft,
let me drink deep from your waters
as you wipe away these tears.

Let me pray as you breathe life back into me
from your own sacred lips.

This journey wears on me.
The clay packed in my heels is ageless
and makes each step a pain, like dancing on broken glass.

Take your hands, remove these shards
and I shall be healed.

Soothe my nightmares and remind me
one more time
I am allowed to embrace the grace
that has placed me in your arms.

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09 June, 2017

Letters from Trumplandia 12: Job Application - Real Life (Poem Draft)




Name:                                      Mick Parsons
Current Occupation:               Me
Education:
1.      Three wizards
2.      Four wood nymphs
3.      A pirate-killing siren
4.      A band of pirates
5.      One mad prophet
6.      Various and sundry outlaws, cutthroats, and saints

Career Objective:                    Keep all the pieces of my soul in one place
Salary Expectations:                Coffee. Beans. Beer. One Granny Smith  apple a day.
Hobbies and Interests:           
Omnidirectional pathless cartography; gardening; self-recrimination; reading
Are you legally permitted to work in the United States?
                                                My permit is tucked in my left boot.
References:


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25 May, 2017

Exile Verse #2: desgracia



I knew the message was clear. In the dream
a hungry tribal pig climbed into my bed
sank its carnivorous teeth into my wrist
and dragged me under.

I knew by the painted markings and hollow eyes
from what parts my harbinger hailed. We’d met before
when neither of us was lean or tired or branded.

It knows my terrible secret:
on my own, I am not particularly brave.

I battle the inevitable exile
send poems to defend my father’s good name.

It’s only in those moments of pure uncertainty and terror
when ecstasy takes over and I find my own power.

Thinking back, I try to remember
when I was thusly marked.
Remembering is hard.
The maps have all disappeared.

I reject every advantage.
I flaunt the politest of instructions.
I laugh at the kindest admonishments
and mock civilized law.

Heaven embraces the fool society will not suffer.
But there is no Heaven here.
The black birds tell me it is too soon.

I know this world will grind me to dust.
If there truly is Grace, I hope I keep my heart intact.

If I am to be destitute let there be a grand symphony of words.

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21 April, 2017

Letting loose the Gonzo: the baboon formerly known as a civilized man

GonzoFest 2017 was a wonderful experience, in spite of the fact that I remembered everything I needed but somehow managed to forget my copies of the poems I'd prepared to perform. 

It's true I was nervous. I wasn't sure how large the audience would be. Then again, I've performed in front of audiences ranging between one and 100 or more, in venues ranging from open mics to Moth Story Slam stages, to bars full of drunk post-punk Gen Xers and newly non-bearded hispters looking for a new craft brew experience. I've read in front of church marms and firebrand preachers and people who, in another world, might be considered saints, as well as some others who embrace the truth that we are all sinners.

But lately, I've taken a different approach to taking the stage. Regardless of whether I'm performing with a music soundtrack or reading poems, whether they are written to be performed or written to be read (and yes, there's a difference), I've decided that it's better to be confident than it is to be humble. I've known some fine poets who stand up and exude supreme calm and supreme humility, and supreme confidence. When I'm being honest, though, I'm not that calm patrician poet who can charm the audience and let the words roll forth like thunder.

Poetry, for me, is lightening. Poetry is an epic baptismal flood. Poetry is a god damn holy fire. And while I hold some poets in high regards who can carry the day with gravitas and civilized restraint, the fact is that there as many different kinds of poets as their poems. 

And while I have tried to become something like a member of civilized society, the fact is that somewhere along the way, I lost the part of me that might have been able to embrace a completely socialized life. It's not even that I was ever NOT socially awkward. But the fact is, somewhere underneath all of it, there was something else. 

Poetry -- and the arts in general -- do help civilizations be more cultured, kind, and heartfelt. However, when poetry -- and the arts in general -- takes hold of a person, it's more akin to demon possession. There's very little surety in art. You're constantly bombarded with different ideas and different people and different cultural pushes, all of which act to influence you, your art, and your vision. To be an artist is to be comfortable in uncertainty and to be willing to embrace mysteries. It means following your own bad advice sometimes, if only so you can make it out on the other side and write about it.

I was lucky at GonzoFest because I was able to ask my wife to run home and get them. But when it was time to take the stage, I knew there was no room uncertainty.  I was rattled. I was entirely too sober. And I was worried that my first live performance using a music track would fall as flat like a flat-earther's science test score. 

But since I've come to terms some of the more unsavory parts of my character, I've found it easier to let go of my nerves. You take in enough demons and you end up becoming one... or partially one. 

The part of me I lost, the part of me I never found, the part of me that, was maybe never there to begin
with, filled up with poetry.  Or, at least, with something that may feed my need to write and chase poetry like a rabid baboon.


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04 October, 2016

Notes from the Bunker #4: There's more than one way to baptize a cat

 What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn't have any doubt - it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn't want to go anywhere else.  - Hal Boyle

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.  - Heraclitus, the weeping philosopher

Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time? ― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha


 There's something comforting about having to start over. At least, there must be -- since I tend to do just that, in some form or another, over and over again.

In my latest regeneration, I'm working as a waiter/grunt for a local catering company. That's my paying gig, anyway. I'm still at work on other projects like my podcasts (The Kentucky Muck Podcast and the up coming Alidade: an audio map), my poetry, and some new short stories. I'm applying to go back to school -- not to study English*, or Creative Writing**, or God help us Rhetoric and Composition***, but to work on plying my skills elsewhere where the machine isn't so broken and the culture not so apathetic.  But for now, the Parsons/Hay household needs more than one salary and "unemployment insurance" that does not insure any kind life above bare sustenance. And while I have spent the better part of six months looking for work using the skills and experience honed over the last 13 years, I am back to working with the one thing I have always been able to count on -- my back.

When it come to work, I'm not a snob. All work is noble and deserves respect. I've held enough jobs in enough fields^ that I know there isn't any difference between the respectability of "white collar" and "blue collar" work. When I was a janitor and when I was a college instructor, I saw work in fundamentally the same way:

Work is a massive and inevitable inconvenience that I seem unable to shake off.

 As I mentioned in a previous video update, my motivations for working have less to do with me than with wanting to be a good husband. I don't mind work, of any kind, as long as I have a reason. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that staying alive should be enough of a reason. You're thinking that I wanting to contribute to society should be enough. You're thinking that not wanting to be a bum should be enough.

Clearly you don't know me at all. But that's ok. Read enough of me and you'll figure it out.

Some might see my exit from 13 years of higher education experience into a field where I have
hardly any experience at some sort of decline. People who view life in this way -- as some mountain to climb, a la Sisyphus -- might see this as tumbling to the bottom only to have to try and roll the rock up to some unattainable pinnacle.

Embracing that kind of metaphor can be tiring, and I have too much to do that. Once I let go of the fundamental illusion  of "until" and "someday", life ceased to be a mountain and it became a river. Sometime it ebbs. Sometimes it flows. Sometimes, over the course of years, it changes course. But the current always knows where it's going. I doubt I'm going to retire from the line of work I'm currently in. But I know why I'm doing it, and I'm grateful to have the work. I may not be able to avoid the inconvenience of it just yet. But I can follow the current.


____________________________________________________
*Not Again.
**Writers learn to write by writing. And failing. And more writing.
***Hell, no.
^I can honestly say the only kind of job I haven't had yet is a nightwatchman. But I'm young. There's time.

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20 September, 2016

Notes from the Bunker #2: Return of the Baboon

Ain't no money in poetry, 'cause that's what set the poet free. Well I've had all the freedom I can stand. - Guy Clark

I am like a night raven in the house. - Psalms 101:8 (DR)

He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man. - Dr. Johnson


The best lessons are the ones you have learn over and over.

Most of the problems I encounter are entirely self-created. This is true for the majority of people. At the onset, the previous statement is not considered to be an especially sexy one in this day and age of the perpetual victim, the labeled and disregarded, the self-disenfranchised, and the botched afterbirth of an aborted american dream.*

It's true that the machinations of the dominant culture in these, the days final days of American Empire, are constructed on a model similar to the kind of economic Social Darwinism that grand designers like Milton Friedman, Henry Kissinger, JP Morgan and John D. Rockefeller saw as the only way to yoke the possibilities that absolute democracy present. The cards are stacked against the very myth our civilization ** insists on pushing on its people --

that hard work alone will create the success we believe we are entitled to simply because we are Americans.

This being true, however, does not remove from an individual the responsibility for learning how to act in, react to, and walk through the world. 

One of the fundamental mistakes people -- usually the young, the inexperienced, or the naively optimistic (I've been all three, sometimes simultaneously) --  make at this point is to generalize and make some outrageous claim like 

IF EVERYONE JUST DID _____________________ THEN WE WOULD ALL BE ______________! 

While it's always fun to play the Socio-economic Edition of Mad Libs, it's not especially useful. The
problem is that while we're all in this together, every single person has to figure out their own path to where ever it is they want to go. The truth is that the truth really is a pathless land.*** If you're walking in someone else's tracks all the time, you're trusting someone else's instincts to get you through. 

My first mistake in ensuring my or my family's survival is signing away my self-sovereignty. I do this for a lot of reasons that are all well and good, and for a few reasons that are simply reactions to some deeply-embedded issues tied to my father's death and my sometimes tendency to look for father figures when I don't need one. On some level, I will never be sure Dad would be proud of me because I can't hear it from him. 

When I feel my lowest, when I feel powerless, when I feel like an absolute failure, it is almost always when I allow myself to fall prey to that old issue.  When I doubt myself, I chain myself to an image of manhood that does not address the angels and the devils in my nature. 

And when I walk through the world honestly and with power, I bring all of myself and I lumber through this world like a mad baboon. It's impossible for me to exist in the world without embracing my limitations and failings as much as I embrace my successes.When I ignore those things, a giant hole opens in my soul that swallows all of me. When this happens, I'm no good for anyone.




 
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______________________________________________________________________________
* It may have been true once. Maybe. I tend to think that the "American Dream" is like "Tastes Great, Less Filling." It's one more commodity we have been sold to keep our noses pointed to the ground.
**I use that term loosely, as the United States demonstrates more each day that it is not anywhere near civilized. I blame this on the failure of memory. More on that another time.
*** Jiddu Krishnamurti

04 April, 2016

Poem Draft: Baptism in the Nose Bleeds


Hope rises expectant on Opening Day.
Last season’s transgressions are forgiven.
For a moment, we are wide-eyed.
For a moment, we are in love with the scent of a well-oiled leather mitt.
For a moment we are eager to knock off old dirt
and silence everything
except the welcome canticles of beer and hotdog vendors.
For a moment we shut out the prognostications of cynical game announcers.
For a moment unbelievers pray the Yankees don’t buy another pennant
and the faithful prepare to have their faith justified
or risk persecution by the All-Star Break.
For a moment all our digital distractions disappear –
politicians and their polished shit soliloquys are shushed
and all the noble rivalries rise to the surface.
You judge your friends by whether they watch the Cubs or the White Sox
and if they know Tom Seaver’s number
and if they embrace the dream of seeing Pete Rose in Cooperstown.
For a moment
the day, the hour, the minute, and the weight of all the ages past
rest upon whether that first pitch and the sound of the ball hitting the bat.


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