I deal with a mental illness of extremes. An illness of war and peace. I wrote this poem about the sinner and saint living in me. I am in a period now where I don’t really know what faith means anymore. I feel it is neither bad nor good. Wrong nor right. I still love this poem even where I am at now. I am proud of what I write and I always will be.
“Life? ‘Course I’ll live it.
Let me have breath, Just to my death,
And I’ll live it.” – Maya Angelou
* * *
You tear at the corners, rip it open, just to see what color the stuffing is. White, but every kind. Ghost white, snow, ivory, old lace, vanilla.
This lustful life –
Your cheeks are packed full of orange and yellow sweet potatoes. You’re gunna choke, but manage to wash all the mess down with bitter wine – so sour and slick with tang.
Manic Mondays and Tuesdays, that bleed blood red and purple into the rest of the week. There’s so much color and texture, that your eyelids are sore to the touch the next morning.
You rub them at your alarm. Your head aches, from your temples, down your spine. Time unfolds like helix coils, unzipped. Tap your tongue to the top of your mouth, then glide past every segregated tooth.
Coals from last night’s bonfire glow in the mid-morning light. With a rubber hose, you wash them black and run through the sizzling steam. You want every part of your jacket to smell like that.
There is a wall of muffled sound: Trains screeching as they slide to a stop, cars humming on the freeway, doors opening and shutting, honking, talking, rustling, music playing.
You write poetry.
Speak a native language.
Play an instrument.
Use public transportation.
Listen to music.
Talk friends out of suicide.
Watch the sun set.
Eat home cooked meals.
Wrestle with Faith.
Believe in God.
All while you live, this lustful life.
What makes someone worth following?
This question was posed to me (and a group of other men) one night at an event we call “Bourbon and Cigars.” The meeting has become a ritual, something we can count on; a weekly rhythm for men to gather and discuss life over spirits and smokes.
Who do you follow?
This was another question that succeeded the first. The men around the fire were silent for a long time; looking off into the distance to the sun setting over the West Side of Cincinnati.
“My father,” one man said after quite some time. We spoke about parents; about the roles of fathers versus mothers, if we, as men, were looking more for male leadership in our lives over female leadership. We spoke about the difference between people we look up to and those who we believe are worth following.
I thought about my dad. How I followed him as a child. How he taught me what he knew. I thought about his patience, his level-headedness; how I felt safe when he was around.
When I became a man, the image of my dad was tainted. My parents divorced. Now they don’t even speak to one another. My dad can’t even say my mom’s name. This question of who I follow caused my stomach to turn a bit.
I didn’t give my answer right away. Instead, I thought about how I don’t particularly want to follow anyone at the moment. Being a follower has almost become a bad word in our culture. We should be self starters! We should be completely independent! We should be free from any power over us! I am my own man, I thought. An army of one.
After battling in my own head, I thought about my mentor. How I met him when I was in grade school and did in fact follow his lead throughout middle and high school. What made him worth following?
Well, he is committed to service:
My mentor has been involved in the ministry of Young Life for over 20 years. He made a commitment when he was in college to mentor high school kids and share life with them and tell them his truth; how he found peace in the Gospel of Jesus. He has devoted his life to helping others; his impact is undeniable. He has reached thousands of young men and women through his humble service.
The Bourbon and Cigar crew talked then about imperfection; how it’s hard to follow anyone because we are all so broken. I said that the people worth following will undoubtedly screw up, but what makes them worth following is how they respond after.
There are two men in particular I’ve seen in my life that are worth following; my mentor and my grandfather. I thought about both of them and came to a realization – I have never seen either of them screw up. I do admit, I have put them on somewhat of a pedestal, but truthfully, they have been uncommonly consistent in their pursuit to live uprightly.
My mentor is steadfast and reliable. His “yes” means yes and his “no” means no. I am also certain he loves me. My grandpa was positive and uplifting every single time I saw him. His words were seasoned with love. His actions were compassion (the noun felt better there for some reason). I knew he loved me. He also loved his wife well.
(Aside) I don’t see many men that love their wives well. I don’t see men who inspire me with how they serve their wives.
So these were the themes that surfaced through the conversation around the fire. In my opinion, the people worth following are the ones who serve others, serve their families, and as a result, serve whole communities.
Also, people worth following, love well. There should be no question in your mind, that the person you are following, loves you.
I am a flat, graphite sketch
on a interdimensional being’s
I look to my right and left
and the being is shouting
at me about depth.
Depth? I ask. Like, what
in the hell is that? Then I
skip away feeling heavy.
I know the being is there,
but I can’t see it/him/her.
The being is blue-silver.
I pray to the being every
night, even though it/him/her
recently erased some of my friends.
I’m not super scared of getting
erased – mostly because, what
does that feel like, ya know?
My world is screens and planes.
The being’s world is cubes and shadows.
Maybe I wanna see stuff like that.
“Everyone gets erased at some point,”
the other 2Ds tell me. I wonder sometimes
about the thickness of this page.
If I am a drawing, is there a drawer?
Woah! Creation ideas abound in two
I am a bunch of curvy
and straight lines. The being is
Maybe I will never understand
the ways of the being. Maybe
I’m too thin to take all that in.
Father, what have we done? We made black feel too black. We made pale feel too red-headed. We made the bright feel psychotic. We made the motivated feel like a disorder. We made them all feel outside of your love.
Bring the water to my lips again
The molecules are more focused in the glass
Than they are in the water
And the table has even more
And then there’s the floor
On the foundation rests the house
And that house sits on the ground
Which is as dense as the earth is wide
He pulls the molecules aside
Bring the water to my lips again
Loosely fitting pieces
Sit atop magma and rock
The ground sits on top of the shelf
And I sit on top of it all by myself
Oh, where does the earth rest?
And how does space sound?
Maybe the earth is a glass
To the beginning, alas!
Bring the water to my lips again
“A glass can only spill
What it contains”