Scent: The Shape of Future Opportunities and Outlooks

I’m thinking today will be awesome.
To accept the day’s gifts awaiting,
I pump myself up with espresso drips
Hoping to generate real energy
Not Sudafed jet-blasted edgy movements
But motivated intention powered from within.

I look into skiing Colorado Rocky mountains
With teens this weekend.
More expensive for those
Who fail to plan way ahead
And for the ignorant.
But what are you going to do?

High achieving young adults
Riding various social strata
Need the opportunity to
At least know how to
Make it down a mountain.
Doesn’t have to be pretty
Or expert level
But can you make it down,
Manage to meet up with everyone else
Still standing, mostly dry
With all limbs intact, smiling?

By Mid 30s
Heavied and fat rolled
By a sedentary lifestyle
Compressed down to
Wobbly uncoordinated muscles
From relentless pressure
To bill more hours but also
By a losing attitude that since
Obesity is hereditary
Any efforts to counter the trend
Must be pointless and
Therefore not worth the effort
Made skiing a one-time disaster.

Among a more agile group
Some not particularly advanced,
Skiing down later afternoon,
An impossibility.
We waited as you
Begin moving only to
Fall down completely and wholly
A few feet later
Over and over again.
No choice but to get up, soaked.
The scent of defeat wafting up
From your lathered, shaking thighs
That couldn’t hold you up.
Not even 40 then
Lacking enough strength to
Flex into a wide snowplow wedge
To get down.

We watched
Like viewing a crumpled car accident
You can’t turn your gaze away from
And is horrible to look at.
No one could ski for you.

“I’m done with this.
Maybe ski patrol can
Give me a ride back down.”

Embroiled in rescuing those
Involved in a true bloody emergency
Ski patrol assistance wasn’t available.

“I’ll just walk down the mountain then.”

Late day sun rays fading
With evening’s approach
Standing sideways high up on a mountain
We all weighed this.
Walking downhill in footwear fitted for skis
While carrying long slats over one shoulder
Poles resting on the other
Seemed overly slow, awkward
A bad idea compared to just skiing down.

But how?

At a loss, sis-in-law’s uncle
A burly, hard charging engineer man
Standing about 5″10
Ended up “carrying” your 6″1 self down
The way he once skied with
His kids when small and super young
By having you stand right behind him
Placing your skis inside of
The sculpted wedge his own made
And letting him do the work downhill.

“Never again” you said
And slept almost the whole next day.
Never to venture up and out
On a winter mountaintop
Crisp air, snow dusted trees
Doing something active, different.
Not a crime, of course,
But too bad.

Well, I want better for the kids.

Scent

Replacement: Thinking “Things” Will Stand In for Happiness

Sun’s warmth
A welcome smile to break
The smooth unlined monotony of
Bleak January days

Restless in recovery mode
With its snail paced inching
I scan horizons
Wondering where to step next
What handholds to erect,
To own,
That will punctuate
Steroid inhaled days with
Staccato joy exclamations,
Moments to look forward to
So vital to “hanging on”.

Work prospects.
A free fall into calendar squares
Left blank and empty.
No real interest
To appease corporate desires
By being the front line “face”
Out in the field so people have
Positive experiences with brands.
Hasn’t seemed worth the drive,
Pay rate or type of engagement lately.
If not this,
What work seems more worthwhile?

There’s plenty Good to done at home
To serve as distracting
Replacements for living
An inspired life
While waiting to be well.
I just don’t feel like doing them
Walls and porches scraped, repainted
Bathroom updates,
Decluttering, cleaning.
But, family descends for graduation.
So these things must get done.
Sectors of homemaking
I fall short on.
Oh, for the love of
High end apartment rental living.

I marvel at you being gone so long
Touring Australia chasing “The Boss”
Boarding flight after flight
to Sydney, to Perth, to Adelaide,
To Melbourne, back to Sydney
To watch the same concert
Over and over again
In crowded ear drum busting events?
A type of vacation rigor
Utterly baffling to me.

Though not opposed
My soul remains unbitten
By any genuine travel bug as I
Still abide by creature comforts
In softly lit familiar hobbit holes
Regular workouts
Simple but ample second breakfasts
Routine tea sipping
Early turn in times in dark quietude
With a meaty book…

Still, I wonder if easy travel
Experiences will fulfill me
Window shopping Caribbean resorts
Blinding white beach properties
Non-motorized water sports
5 restaurants, 6 pools onsite
And all food and drink you can eat
Included.

Will being among large, hairy folks
Downing margarita after daiquiri
Sitting bloated under sandy umbrellas
Or waiting in a queue for
My turn to water ski or sail
Or to balance a third dessert
On my coffee cup’s saucer
Bring a greater sense of
Meaning and delight into my life?

I’m not so sure
But will let you know
How I decide seize life more fully
When in a better mood.

Replacement

Invitation: Bored by a Topic that Continues to Reappear–When Will it End?

When divvying up
Invitations to enter and
Stay in my life
I try to be considerate
Appreciative that you
Thought of me,
When I remember.

The purple and black flowers
So artfully angled on a
Diamond shaped note
Playful, very out-of-the-box
May catch my eye
Causing me a second and third look

But there is a wisdom from
Knowing you that
Distance gives.

The insults, the criticism
The games played
The rug pulled out from underneath
The family and friends wreckage that
Going out on a limb for you caused.

I came to understand
The ramifications of being with
Someone with an unfillable hole of
Discontent
Cropping up sooner or later
Ugly, demanding.

Despite your section of words,
In the end,
You require a two-dimensional
Adoring, unquestioning fan to
Admire, agree with and
Applaud you only
So that you can be
Sufficiently reassured that
You are “OK” inside.

Your mother taught you well
To hate and doubt yourself.
I am sorry and can even relate
To those feelings but
I cannot fix that.
No one can.
And, last I checked,
Two-dimensional people
Don’t actually exist.

Despite what you
Have convinced yourself of
You weren’t and aren’t seeking
An equal partner.
There is a big difference
Between a fan and a partner.

I came to realize
You had little interest
In what I think or
That I think.

I got a degree of entertainment
Those last days when
I was able to just lay the phone down
Go do something else,
Return and find you
An hour later
Still going
Still spewing about the
Minutia of your own life
Onto my own palate
With no idea
Or care, for that matter,
That I, in the fact,
Had left the building.

So when an RVSP
So seldom handed out to me
To a most flashy party
Landed in my inbox,
I struggled, considered
Weighed the water markings
But checked the
“Unable to attend” box.

I must indeed still feel torn
Some unreasonable
Residual guilt about this leave taking.
This topic keeps
Appearing in the swirl of
Cooled coffee cups
An annoyance to be sure,
A sheepish fear
That I might be boring
Saying the same things
Over and over
And a sincere wish that
All this would just
Disappear.

Invitation

Automatic: Chinese New Year Motions

Chinese New Year
Big celebratory event with
Astronomical ticket price
Gives you the chance to see
Vibrant, less familiar kinds of
Performances–body twisting
Contortionists, aerialists, stilt walkers
And people you rarely
See around in the bustle of
Everyday life.

Except maybe a wealthy
Spiked heeled version
Spotted, an elusive sleek leopard
Slinking among racks of
Coyote fur lined $1000 winter coats,
While working Neiman Marcus events
As foreign to me too as
African languages utilizing
Tongue clicking
Fascinating, mysterious.

The utter lack of ever
Seeing anyone else
Who looks like me
Is a ragged drag
A small splinter on a thumb
On a hand attached to an arm
Moving smoothly enough
Through common motions
Automatic and every day
Most other people also make.

Now and then, though
This pricked protrusion
Catches on a surface
Makes me stop
An emptiness
A longing
For any positive, normal
Visual cues that reflect me.

Not dressed up in
Stringed instrumentals, wishing trees
Golden dragon dances and
Cuisine so “creatively” fused
Beyond recognition that
We who grew up with
Our family’s own versions
Are left mystified
At the ridiculous pomp
Staring up us
At small plated establishments
Thinking, “What the fuck is this?”
While reaching for a tall glass of water
To wash down overly salted, fried
“Croquetted” bullshit
We have to wade through
Just to be sociable.

But rather, I’d like to see
Versions of myself
Grocery shopping, in jeans
Taking their kids to school
Attending plays and concerts
Getting their hair cut
Riding the bus
Speaking English, of course.

Today, the city’s Lucky Enough
Celebrate, partly to
Soothe liberal ideas that
Their attendance here today affirms
They are “aware”, urban people.

Still feeling lackluster
I’ll don getup and go to a smaller,
Hopefully more intimate affair.
People will likely assume
I must be Chinese since I’m there,
But I’m still going because
I’ve never been to anything like this
In this city. And,
Like anyone else
I’m curious.

Automatic

Successful: Basking in Others’ Achievements

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Yesterday I was genuinely
Happy for the grand opening
Of your studio
Packed and hopping
With enthusiastic supporters.
Treated to live music,
Catered savories and sweets
While holding a wine glass
What’s not to like?

Even though I myself
Had failed miserably
Making a living this way,
I was able to be content
Basking in your shadow
Having trained with you
A few years back,
Congratulations.

In high school
Some people were widely liked
Because they were
Actually nice to everyone
Large and small
Familiar and strange
A difficult feat for teens
Trying themselves
To navigate through
Wicked social politics
Of young adults who still believe
The world lies before their feet.

These people were popular
In a”Good way”
And often remain so later.
The rightfully popular
Are known for things like their
Relationship building abilities
A soft, tricky skill
Not taught in any training program,
Clinic or class
But vital to growing
This kind of “auxiliary” business.

img_3108

“Let’s have coffee together
To catch up.
And, if you ever want
To jump in on a class
Please text me and
You can just hop in for free.”

img_3109

Having wholly and completely
Left teaching Pilates–
Too much begging and pleading
To please please take lessons with me
While getting silky polite runaround
Or being outright
Blown off and late cancelled upon
I stiffened my vertebrae
Bone by bone and
Moved on to what turned out to be
Other and numerous
Infected career sprints.

A few years later
Removed from Pilates and
Deep into the particular fixings
Of my own life now
Richer, rounder
More confident from baby step
Successes of my own,
My cup is fairly full.

So at the end, I smile
While I wait for you to finish
Chatting with a client
To hug you and say goodbye.

Successful

Filter: Pausing Before Speaking

We are people who love the
Purity and spontaneity of
Self expression
The freedom to say and do what we like.
This view
The luxury behind the American Way.

Is saying just how you feel
Right when it comes to mind
Always most prudent?

Sometimes, even while engrossed
In something enjoyable
Note taking on Iron Islands culture,
A sparked connecting of dots
An unbidden thought
And then an over mixed
Water colored awareness
Seep,
Bleeding into and
Muddying a set, bright image.

My mind, saturated, runs with
A downward trend.

There is value
In the art of waiting.
For allowing fumes
Of sour poison to dissipate
To detoxify through a
Reconsidered filtration.

There can be reason to
Stay your hand.
To leave your verbal whip
Coiled, idle
Or drop the handle entirely
If possible,
While you wait
For cloudy intensity to lift

Instead of throwing
An arm overhead and back
In the heat of the moment
To release the metal tip’s lash
Onto the tender back
Of the unsuspecting.

Because, there is almost always
An irredeemable price to pay
In the beheaded aftermath,
An insoluble wreckage.
While retrieving a severed
Head from a spike is possible,
Duct taping back onto the limp body
Does not restore life.

Furthermore, the isssue
If even still relevant
Will still be there
Waiting for you to address,
To meet head on
When you return
Fresher faced and
Rosier cheeked
From your mental vacation,

I promise you.

Filter

Devastation: Writing Content Reconsidered

Daily writing prompts
Over half a year now.
A telling journey
An unlocking of insight into
My heart.

I’m spellbound
Soothed
Grateful
For this self access massage.
A developed pause,
A step aside, away
From the din and rush of life’s
Relentless current.

Part of me revels in
The submerge.
My texture, shape, size and feel,
A naval revolution
Complete with intricate exams to
Classify
Categorize
Contextualize
A single moment
An arc of emotion
A dream or wish
A projection into the future or
A glance back.

Writing enables calm analysis
Robust mental flexion
Constructed order
Amid otherwise
Diffuse internal nebula.

And, working to hone artistry
Feels good.

Part of me shudders though.
Raw ore uncoverings lately,
Sooty, rank
Worry stains deepened,
Named.
Pieced anger,
Devastation counted out
Coin by coin.
Frustration demarcated,
Reviewed.

Do I want to be here
Under infrared so intense
That the heat burns me with
A touch of insanity?
Should I stay
Safer, lighter
And leave ragged edges alone by
Focusing on the good
The easier and positive?

When I’m deep in a space
So dicey and grooved
Does anyone
Including me
Even want to stomach
Such angstful material?
Is this healthy
Creative expression

Or, is what I’m doing
Akin to an exhibitionist
Obsessed with the scent,
Publicly stripping off underwear,
And asking others to inhale?

Why?

I’m like a small monkey
Parting each and every hair to
Probe underlying roots and
Expose follicles to find
Hidden fleas, tics.
So captivated
Hardly looking up
Stopping only to eat.

Devastation

Oversight: Musings of the Broken Hearted From the “Toss” Pile

Early morning unfoldings
To anger and sadness
Is a challenging way
To gain consciousness.
My emotions swing on
A terrible vine in motion
From one extreme
To the other
When I think about you.
I don’t want to be this way.

The other day I tried on
Successful, “winning” ways
Paired with an open heart,
Not just going through
Motions to appear nice

But to feel kind too, inside
Even though pain and longing
Seep up and in
Causing butterflied axe tears
To cut through
And weaken my soul
And understanding of
What Is.

I tried once again
To cross another bridge
To be the first one to reach out
And be kind.

A quick text.

Amid wounded insides,
The move required effort and was
A tight fit
Like squeezing into a set
Of handsome, well made ski pants
My mom, size 00, gave me.
I found breathing difficult but
Cinched up with resolve to try,
I could stretch the material and
Close the metal clasp.

Days pass, no response.

I think you made an
Oversight in how
You appear
To have decided
To set up your life.

Professional organizers help us
Corral overwhelming
Piles of life’s clutter
By having us sort, 3 ways–

“Toss” what you haven’t used,
No longer have a need for
And that which
Does not add beauty
Or value to your current life.

“Donate” more of the same
Type of items which are
In good condition
That nonprofits will take
So that others may use, and

“Keep” those things
You determine you still love.

Somewhere, somehow
You appear to have
Designated me to the
“Toss” pile and
I don’t know why.
No argument or disagreeable event
Between us
Created this gaping rift.

We grew up together
We rode horses, baked
Played hours of board and card games,
Had sleepovers
And lived across the street.
Summers of hospital volunteering
Math courses, horse shows
“Soaps”, lemonade.
What free childhood fun that was.

Time passed, it always does
And our maps diverged.
We both moved away
Acquired spouses
Donned different careers
Had disparate lifestyles
And financial outlooks.
Still, there was always a coming together.
We were at each other’s major life events
Graduations, weddings, babies…

So there was expectation
On my part
And maybe wrongly
That we would be
Friends for life,
Unconditionally.

Maybe the nature of our friendship
Might change
Now and then, lighter contact
But I still thought
Something,
Anything.

Being able to find you
Had always been important to me
Since good, true
Lifetime friends
Are rare and precious gems
Almost impossible to find
Especially for such a
Jagged, untrusting and
Verbally hobbled
Bird like me.

I do not often remember
Or am not always able
To express appreciation
As often as I should.
This remains my flaw
I have grown to understand
And seek to lessen.

And so even though we had
Less and less in common,
I missed you.

Attempting to ride various prongs,
I sent holiday, birthday
And/or mother’s day cards,
Facebook and text messages,
“I’m thinking of you and
Would love to hear how you are doing,”
In hopes to keep
Some semblance of connection.

I have been
Miserably unsuccessful.
My inboxes are filled with
No response.

Little by little
I heard less and less from you.

“I have little kids. You know how it is.”

I had young children as well
Coupled with a largely absent
Dysfunctional spouse
So I really pulled “double duty” childcare.

“My daughter has a mental disability.
That takes up a lot of my time.
You only have a physical disability
So you wouldn’t understand.
Mental challenges are
A lot harder.”

Until that trickle of your sporadic presence,
A belated, cursory birthday wish via Facebook,
Became nothing at all this year.

Now, I’m up against a wall of silence
Smooth, impregnable, unscalable
Baffling in its completeness and
Resolve.

I did not anticipate or
Ever foresee that
The price
Of my losing meaning to you
Would be so high
Or that this could even happen
And am left
At the side of an unpaved road,
Hit
Doubled over
Breathless.

Oversight

Privacy: Letting Parents Age Gracefully

A New year spurs us to rethink
The mechanics on how to
Live a more inspired life
How to be our best,
Most healthy, creative and generous selves
Open up to new and old friends,

Setting foot in different places–
More museum exhibits, art openings,
Movie screenings and free lectures,
Running more races backed by alpine training
To expand strangely weak lung capacity,
Update headshot photos,
Draw more…
Read more
Do more Good,
Be a more present parent
Eat new and nutritious foods
Curtail drinking entirely
Or at least drink more wisely.

So many endeavors to venture
Fresh, original challenges
Unique to my tormented soul
To learn from,
Growth.

Other new, less sparkly threads
Dangle up ahead.
A coming apart
The gradual fraying of old
Well established roles
When parents age,
Something different
A dreaded opening
To upcoming unpredictable scenes
And shifts in family dynamics
Surely to follow.

This awareness
A crusted jar
Discovered at the back of the fridge
Likely containing mold,
The beginnings of fermented rot
Has a lid that must be cracked to
Assess the taste of things,
Inevitable

Weekly phone calls
Parents, mid 70’s now
Aging fairly well,
Slender, active with lives
Still high on international travel,
Golf, socializing
But also with bodies
Starting to break down, to
Give out from underneath them
An undeniable peeling away of an outer,
Most prime layer.

Self made folks,
They came to the US over 40 years ago
With $200, a camera
And medical residencies
Awaiting in NYC’s inner cities.

They left behind
Family
Community
Language
To work and climb,
To “success” themselves
With an intensity reserved for
Aspiring immigrants with set plans.

They assembled an American Dream so golden,
Portraits worthy of
Self help and motivational books
That sketch examples to
Hold up to others about
What is possible,
To provide unparalleled access to
Opportunity for themselves and their children.

Now, resting,
Relaxing in refined leisure,
There are certain things
Money and success cannot buy.
Such a cliche
But there’s knowing,
And there’s knowing
For the confusion can be great
And lifelong.

After all,
Money really is able to buy
A whole lot in this world
A semblance of and varying degrees
Of happiness,
Options.

Still, the hands of money
Remain tied, impotent,
Bankrupt to the
Forces of time passage.
No one can be forever healthy,
Forever mentally sharp.
Colors start to fade away
No matter what your bottom line is.

Now, words of pain
Start to creep,
Ever so slightly, out.
A passing mention.
Stiff fingers unable
To bend in the mornings.
A knee giving out
Making prolonged walking
On uneven surfaces newly challenging
But, still pitched to us as,
“No big deal”.

Now, sporadic references
To long term care insurance
Hover across dinner tables.

Now, as adult kids,
We are unsure about what
Lies before our eyes.

Are people getting more cranky,
Inflexible and difficult to deal with,
So much so that they are not
Connecting with grandkids as well?

Do short term memory lapses
Seem more frequent?
Are the gaps to known things
Larger than normal “Senior moments”?

If so,
What might the cause(es) be?

And if so,
How can preventative intervention,
If any exists,
Even work if people
Not only eschew help
But also deny need in the first place?

If issues remain unacknowledged
How do the rest of us
Proceed
Protect
Assist
Correct
While allowing
Privacy and dignity?

Is establishing a healthy, safe
And realistic balance between
Help and self determination
For the ailing
Even possible?
And for how long?

Questions unanswered.
Many remain unasked thus far
Because we don’t yet know
What or how to ask
But will need asking one day.

Deep breathes before the submerge
Under cold water.
A frigid rush into murkiness.
As we begin to make our way
Through newly forming tides.
Blurry vision
Flailing limbs
To propel our unwilling bodies
Forward into uncharted minutes.

Privacy

Exposure: Lives of Children in Poorer Countries

Arms resting on
The hot tub’s edge
At the gym
Steam rises
Dissolving golden browned skin
Peeling now
In lizard heyday exuberance
Marking a finality to the trip’s end.

Envious, I eye the healthy
Swimming laps, nearby
While I, listless, am still unable
And must wait for my own
Active lifestyle to resume.
At least I’m back in the building.

The heated balm
Brings me back to
Faraway warm nights.

Our family’s last night together,
Mexican beachside dining,
Under thatched awnings,
Another dinner experience that
Takes up a broad swath of our night.

Ceviche again
Plenty of chips, salsa
And margaritas to start but
No water to drink as
A luscious, weakening sun
Dips, first, down into the water
Then disappears completely
Over the horizon
To bring cool darkness
As if the world just ended.

To pass time, younger cousins
Fill up on soda.
Ma begins to buckle under the
Packed punch of a Cosmopolitan
On an empty stomach.

More waiting for
Appetizers that never materialize.
We spot the horse man we hired
Earlier that day, leading his mounts.
Finished, he is surely
Heading back to his own
11 “bambinos” waiting at home.
Bored, the kids run down to the shore
For another chance to pet horses.
Feeling unwell
I stay behind at the table.

In Mexico,
Many vendors traverse beaches
Carrying blankets, hats, sunglasses, jewelry
To tempt vacationers like us
To open wallets and buy.
They are allowed to approach
And try to sell to
Diners held captive
By their seaside tables.

A tween boy hawking small toys
We have no need for
Approaches our table.
He assesses our non-interest
And moves on.

Entrees finally arrive but
At random, different points
Causing odd timing lapses
Where half of the table digs in
While the other half waits and waits
Empty handed.
By the time the rest get served
Other people are finished.
With water so scarce,
Everyone leaves thirsty.

While finishing and waiting for the Cuenta”
Kids leave the table to
Go play on the beach.
The waiter catches my eye,
Points to Cousin’s empty seat
And asks if, “it’s OK”?
I smile and nod yes.

A slender, smaller kid,
Cousin has never been
A voracious eater.
Full on chips, soda and on an
Excess of vacation group dynamics
He leaves a plate overflowing with
Cheeseburger and fries.

Immigrants who have actually
Known hunger in earlier life,
Grandparents shake their heads
In disbelief.
The waste
The pickiness of privilege
The waywardness of overly lenient parenting.
We discuss bringing leftovers home.

But before anyone knows,
The tween boy
Who had been selling toys
Materializes from nowhere.
He sets down his box,
Sits in the empty seat at our table
And begins to eat this food.

My kids, older, know this is
An awkward deviation from
What they know as “Normal”,
But say nothing and instead,
Glance at me for cues.
Ma, shocked,
Pokes me and whispers,
“What does that boy think he’s doing?
Why is he eating our food!?”

“He’s hungry,” I said.
“It’s OK. Let him eat.”

This boy,
A child and working so late
Wending his way among strangers,
Must need to earn money badly.

This boy,
Eyeing other people’s
Half eaten plates with desire
Strong enough
To set aside notions of pride
To sit with unfamiliar folks
And eat their leftovers,
Must possess a hunger
Raw, alive and enormous
To which, heretofore,
Most of us
Have not had exposure.

We all,
Glazed and tanned on foreign sun,
Shiny with seafood, alcohol and
Other sweetened tropical drinks,
Sunset cruises, horse rides,
Day tours and
In-home private chef visits,
Have
And have had more than enough.

While I had not initially
Understood the nature
Of the waiter’s question,
I’m happy to have said
“Yes”, anyway in the end,
Enabling a hungry kid to eat.

Exposure