Excerpt from “A Trail of Crumbs” poetry collection, due in late 2019.
A Ghazal is a Persian poetry form using couplets that share a rhyme and a refrain. Each line must share the same meter. The writer must also reference the author’s own name and express longing in the last couplet. Written as the boy became a teen. Baton Rouge, 2008.
For my brother.
My brother, not a small one anymore not a shy boy, Little dude hangs loose while days grow into years on the sly, boy
There’s the mean one and the teasing one, with three big sisters You say “Jo's the fun one” and we’ve had some good times, boy
Do you remember when you were a baby and we’d dance to “Ob la di Ob la da” - dip low when they’d sing high, boy?
Fresh from high school now you got not much to say That’s when we drive and play music to describe what’s inside, boy
Not to be seen as young, not to be seen as young, this strong scent Of Ax masks childhood deeper by the night, boy
Your frame the same since you were a babe now gains mass and size Big tough guy hugs hard to come by now, boy
I didn’t know at the time that acting on stage would be so crazy. Be crazy. Crazy.
“Run around the room screaming,” the director told me. I stood there a 16-year old, having just recited a monologue from Romeo & Juliet. I spoke as a mummy, tightly bound, wrapped in the concept of my own perfection as a “good actor.” Whatever that was. But I controlled the experience, and when I was done my auditioners from their seats behind the table across from where I stood at the front of the room, looked at each other. They were silent. Then one said, “run around the room, behind us in a big circle around to the front, screaming. And keep doing that until we tell you to stop.”
I did it. Flushed, humiliated, fully silly and totally out of control. Could they see the wrapping of my mummy cloth streaming behind me as I streaked around losing face, losing my cool? Crazy acting.
I screamed at first like a lost heron had stolen my voice, crowing some wild croaking. Then around the second or third lap I was an angry banshee, and as I grew tired, a keening, wailing mother in grief screamed out of me. The screams I didn’t recognize, yet they were all me. And I stopped. And they were pleased.
Panting, sweaty, hot, feeling not cute and lovely as I had been, but ugly, undone, uncool. I was not me. I was more than me. I was beyond me, beyond what had ever been possible for me before.
I could not know then, now 20 years ago, that his would be a career for me. Who knew this day would lead to a lifelong process of screaming and running in what became my way of learning? Learning what might break me free from safety and ego, would unleash me wild and true to my audience and more significantly, to myself? As perfect as I had tried to be entering the Shakespearean stage, I had no idea what perfection truly was.
I still do not know. No lifelong quest could give me the sense of rightness in my efforts to be good, or good enough. Would I have been able to predict, as I whirled around the room in a blur, sure I had colossally bombed the audition, letting go of “good acting” would be the metaphor for all creativity in my life? It’s true that because I was ultimately cast in the play, some part of me believed I had indeed found my way to perfect after all. As if screaming and running burned off the layers of control, somehow graduating me from trying to be perfect. Humbly I tell you now I seem to still think one day I will.
One tree-sitting man, all upright spine sprung into the air as the back of a chair standing at attention to the table, all folded-knees under the generous canvas of robes, all chest spread for the exertion of eternal Motionlessness
One hand a lotus its petals a closed paddle of fingers overlapping leaves layer over layer, lines of fingers cupping the world in his palm
One hand the setting for a single ring, an agreement between thumb and forefinger pointed towards the sun
One ring against his forehead funneling an image trapped in the back chamber of his mind, a thought wandering as a stray child, as a movie playing in an empty theater
One tree shades sitting man, an umbrella, an arena
One tree green speech holding forth of leaves a trumpet to nature, a plethora of no- words filling the man’s ear
One tree seated for man, a throne, a twine of roots keeping the earth steady
One image, one thought of his life, his woman, conjures to his placidity, to his peace the sickening ghost of separation. Vital-full love, his blood Remembers her smile as the birth of bitterest pain
To one image, he prays his body could be greater, that the spinning night would unfold into him like a napkin spilling out its contents, this one man falls into the vision of hips undulating like the movement of water, dancing over a tidal wave kept to her time across the miles of water, water
One man’s heart breaks his vow of silence when it goes wa-bum, wa-bum
One man prays to survive for one year off of the air and sun and the dreams of his Love under this tree, and failing that, prays the human dream of death to catch the glint of metal flashing the sun, to die for a moment in ecstasy, to be lifted from this ragged frame and taken in as a single breath into her graceful form, living there forever as her nourishment and her inspiration
Thus, one man prays to become great and one tree bent as a caretaker of man’s destiny eases its cradle of branches to nurture its lock on man’s long contemplation
One tree, arms and head lowing, shepherds man back in toward the sound of nothing, nothing
Ever have one of those nights in sickness A torment of monsters Dancing their agony to you while you sleep?
You can't really call it sleep so much as a project In which you have no choice Nowhere else to go But strapped to this bed with your mind glued open to a 100 cut scenes of the movies of your past
This constant highway of undead familiars steal from you Minute by minute as 10:30 turns into 10:31 And 2:10 feels like when am I going to get some sleep please dear God Wistful for last nights' pastel rolling scape where the soul rested in deep unknowing
And when morning finally comes to greet you Among the shards of rest You can feel your senses again A small hole of reality in the pine against the sky
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