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Showing posts from 2017

empathy

I watched in disbelief as women in sub-saharan Africa
spend four hours each day getting water into their village.
I then switched off my reason and my empathic self,
got back to my life and drove two hours to work.

A Meditation on Aging...

I saw him stumble and reach out for my hand
one so sure-footed that others had always reached out for his.
I heard him panting and gasping for breath
one so strong that it had appeared he never rested.
I felt him grasp tightly, my arm for balance
one so independent that he had seemed to need no help
I saw him tear up as he reflected on of his life
one so driven that he’d seldom looked back
I heard him talk about the feelings and hurt
one so formidable that we’d never considered his pain
I felt him turning spiritual and philosophical
one so practical that he had appeared only to see the material.

He thinks today’s is the last suit he’ll ever buy
a man who seldom acknowledged endings
He recapped simple instructions as we drove
a man who knows how to do everything
He said things that are obvious and apparent
a man who had little patience with chit-chat.
He thanked me today for a suit I bought him
a man who bought me every suit I’ve ever owned
He wondered aloud why people are mean
a man …

the Eulogy

The priest said that she was a wonderful person. One who had kept the family together.
What did he say at my father’s funeral? After divorce and suicide had delivered him there.

Oh!

Our civilization has arrived at this station
we alight and look around
to find
buildings filling with our mothers and fathers
hospitals filling with grandparents and relatives
who are wandering the wilderness of old age
as insecurity’s companions
grey-matter greying
tendons aging
joints decaying
eyes watering
as they shuffle their way through long days of weakness
oft-despairing
always lonely
Minds firm, bodies infirm
bodies firm, minds infirm

Oh Medicine! see what we’ve done…
pushed on the boundaries of our mortality
bought a decade maybe two back from death’s timetable
So around us we find
aging children of super-aged parents
the infirm caring for the infirm
One tired generation at home
another fragile generation in old-homes

Oh Medicine! see what we’ve done…
Sandwich generations are the norm
no longer the exception
The joy of four generations at the Thanksgiving table
tempered by weightier burdens of inter-generational responsibility.

Oh people! see where we’ve come…
to a worl…

Spontaneous words...

Ten years from now I don’t know where
you’ll be
or
I’ll be
Ten years ago you were
a little girl running around the house with short hair!

I do hope to see you doing well in your life, Inshallah (God-Willing)

Remember
when you make tough decisions
you can always tell me
let me know how things are going
I promise I will never say I told you so
because I hope to teach you everything I know by the time you are eighteen
After that its for you to do for yourself
for you to figure out
its between you and God.

..But know
that I will always support you unconditionally
always be ready to help you.

The thing about life my dear is this decision...
when to use your heart and when to use your brain
Sometimes you have to rationalize and
other times you have to see with your heart.
The tough job is to figure out
what to lead with, and
what mix of heart and mind to use.

Our Child, America

I stepped up to the cashier put my candy on the counter looked up to meet his unsure but friendly smile You remember me? You took me to Wendy’s for ice-cream …and we talked? he inquired childlike. Yes of course, I remember. You were working with a lady on getting government benefits medicare, medicaid and housing how did it work out? I make too much money, he says they say I make too much money! his eyes disbelieving his voice appealing I make $1500 a month, and I don’t understand, because I’m barely above the poverty line, he volunteers innocently. Adam’s a young white man barely made it through high school has no parental guidance or support seemingly normal and street-smart unwise, immature, insecure. A boy-like man functional in a transactional world only by his wits and ability to hide vulnerabilties disabilites within a veneer of grooming and behavior of sealed lips and servitude which he puts on before work, each day so he can namelessly serve the function the world asks of him without entering into our c…

A whitescape

It snowed today
just enough
for snowflakes to balance
on tree limbs and twigs
to accent one aspect of every branch
like shadows in white.
As evening falls
over the limestone landscape
a gentle wind courses
teasing delicately arranged flakes
out of their formation
into another beautiful journey.
Wind gusts
sweep and swirl
streams of white powder
like unruly locks
of old wispy hair. 
Irresistible
this theatre
even for the shy moon
Peeling back the cumulus and the nimbus
she peers below
her glance gracing
both whitescape and snowflake
conjuring an alchemy,
a luminescence
that radiates
through the night
into my soul,
as I sit inside my bay window.

ESTATE PLANNING...

A thoughtful mind once discerned
race is the child of racism, not the father
Similarly, I note,
age is the child of aging, not the mother.

For decades now I have visited my independently-dwelling single mother every week. To a sporadic inquisitive stranger  she volunteers this, “My kids love me, but not quite enough to have me in their home”. To anyone asking about her missing husband she’d say, “he died a long time ago”…but she seldom mentions how he left without asking.
…And so I visited her yesterday. Mother is a frail 82 years old, who’s healthy mind oscillates between the intimidating tyranny of her forty-something years and an insecure, vulnerable octogenarian. Determined to be an equal and therefore unrelenting one minute, she is suddenly capitulating, submissive and feeble the very next. While it is an interesting case study intellectually and emotionally to see how a human being goes back to ‘weakness’ after ‘strength’ as the scripture describes aging, her experience come…

Time is on your side....for now

My friend was not a patient man
but he waited for me…
As I raced out of my office
late
cursed at the traffic
ran up the front steps of his church.
There
below crisscrossing beams of colored light
near the watchful eyes of Jesus on his cross
under a canopy of stained glass and polished beams
amidst the tabernacle and the chalice
on the wrong side of the Templon
he waited
for me
in an urn too small
for the man I knew.
He
was not rushing today
having rendered time irrelevant
Me
I was still rushing around
thinking heaven and hell irrelevant.
In the contrast between
my furious heartbeat and his
I discerned this
his parting
missive:
Be patient
slow down
time is on your side,

for now.

Integrity

Let not good intentions alone satisfy you,
 
for intention without action is delusory.
Let your deeds be rooted in intention,
for action without intention is illusory.

RIP Rukia Aunty

Rukia aunty
ours yesterday
gone today
your legacy
‘that’ smile
a beautiful lightness of spirit
a wicked sense of humor
irreverent
warm
funny
I miss u
the imbalance in my world
more acute
this afternoon
as you departed
on wings of light
the same light that nourished
your spirit
played across your face
when u teased my kids
talked of tennis
and your basketball days
I’m glad we met last weekend
and
I look forward to next time
inshallah.
Love you
Rukia aunty.

The Return

“Unto Me is your return”
God assures.
..And in a moment
when the worry
for our future
of that future beyond which there is no more future
breaks through
the constrictions
of the here and now
Grandma
travelled to Mecca.
Dressed in Ihram
her husband at her side.
Together
they journeyed out
toward God
actors bound
for a heavenly play
delivered
to a stage
a theatre
for a dress rehearsal 
of the passage between
this our world and the next.
With practice complete
lessons learned
Grandma returned
to us.
My thoughts yesterday asked aloud
if that rehearsal had been sufficient for this, for today?
Joining us
in the prayer hall
she waited in the corner
patient
uncomplaining
within her confines
Attired in the same Ihram
worn to that earlier dress rehearsal
so long ago.
Ready to ship out
to God
once again
this time
in a plywood box…
We prayed
together
as best we were able
I choked as she was
loaded into a transport
bound for her destined
two cubic meters of earth.
The theatre of her finality
tranquil
remote
a hillside of grass and headsto…

Snowflake

Perfection a snowflake descending the first time
Yet beautiful but bruised projected by a snow blower.
Immaculate a human joining humanity the first time
Yet angelic but bedeviled by life’s long exposure.

PTSD

PTSD is debilitating, I’ve heard them all surmise
yet we send our kids into war, what a surprise.
with nary a thought or consideration weighty
we’ve built guns and planned wars so many lately.

Why Obama, Why Trump

Our route is littered with towns from Illinois to New Jersey rundown broken spirits crumbled people-less homes like homeless people. Committed to despair by man’s inattention and time’s impatience. Paint peeling on white picked fences with rotten posts. Rusty tractors decaying in gardens amidst wildflowers. Signs reading ‘for sale’, really saying ‘abandoned’. Here its seems life is stripped down to its essence: survival. This dilapidation of America real evident indisputable sad revocable? unplanned is a crisis. You ask why Trump won the election The answer self-evident in this scape of rural America. Just as you had asked years ago why Obama had won? and I walked with you thru inner-city Paterson with it’s discarded human forms huddled in doorways, Adult bars the only businesses open for commerce, Fearful people moving quickly to comfort scared kids looking out of keyholes at immortality degeneracy decline decay. There too, the Signs that read ‘for sale’, really mean ‘abandoned’. That breakdown of America’s fabric its promise its contract… T…

Wisdom?

The world  is now neither  worse nor evil It  is  your eye jaundiced of age, judgmental, seeing less interpreting more. Ask  your grandchildren about  a like or dislike and they will make a choice … easily. Ask  yourself the same and  you will  choose conditionally, include context, deliberate.
Is this wisdom this wavering this  uncertainty this  caution? Or is it wisdom to  dive headlong into the river knowing  that there is a  current yet knowing  nothing more?
For  who knows what  victories  themselves reveal  to unfettered commitment and  experience elude?
And who knows which  failures spawn celebration and  experience implicate?

The Pip squeak

I was driving to work in the early morning. The car’s headlamps struggled to illuminate the country road as its wound its way past scattered fields and dormant churches. It funny how the road bends but the twin beams of light emanating from my car don’t. As these beams of light zig-zag over barns and surprised animals, sleeping willows and picket fences I start to see the first raindrops gracing my windshield, first lazily and then more affirmatively as if announcing their own arrival. All the while as my car and I bob and weave over low-water crossings and by red barns we are watched by a silent canopy of low-hanging fog that isn’t sure if it wants to touch the earth or just us watch from afar.
It feels like we are alone, my car and I but its Monday morning and seven and a half hours past midnight. If I look ahead of me there are cars and when I look behind there are cars. An unintended convoy, we snake through the country under the cover of the overhanging fog. As I round the fami…

Minding the Gaps

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