I know my time here's short though could go on for years. Don't want to be the sort always running from smiles to tears. A marathon without pacing, the twenty-six-mile dash, my life's been about chasing some dream one gone in a flash. And that’s why just today I finally took a rest. Here beneath this duvet, lying warm upon my chest. Then from the corner of my eye, even closed to any sight, I saw that dream run by and sleep again lost the fight. So I rose and wrote, you see, instead of lying there in bed. The race won't end for me until one day when I’m dead. Don’t gasp or weep or scream, it’s all okay, my friend. I’ll become star of a new dream, one I pray with my dreamed-for end.
There were all those nights where I wish I could save you, even when you didn’t need to be saved. And there were all those nights where I wished you’d save me when 2:00 AM wasn’t the only darkness in which I lay. All those nights seemed endless when I tossed and moaned for worry you didn’t need my saving. Then came all those nights when I didn’t know if I could be saved anymore. I try forgetting all those nights when you said you’d never speak to me again. I recall all those nights when we talked until morning, each in our own heads and own beds. And then came that morning when we awakened to a truth we never saw in all that dark. We didn’t need to save each other. We just needed admitting each other's love.
Did you know, for so long,
it was impossible for me to dream?
My body and mind would churn
upon the bed until darkness
swallowed my consciousness.
And then I would awaken,
as if I blinked and night
suddenly spit me out into morning.
Nowhere in that between-time
did that dream world
reveal itself, only near-sleep’s
breath and breath, oblivion
of a seeming-second’s length,
then emergence from lonely nowhere
to abandoned somewhere.
That was, until I discovered
my problem wasn’t so much
tossing in bed worrying about
the impossibilities of
my dreaming life. Rather,
it was all that useless dreaming
of my waking life’s impossibilities.
Like… you know. And now you know.
Day 15, the Ides of April, halfway point of my poem a Day marathon. Today called for a “dream” poem. Sleep and dreaming, actually the lack of same, used to be way up there on my list of themes. Not so much anymore. Thank goodness.
No woman could compare to you
as you lie here in my arms,
unafraid, soft, constant,
after I turn out the lights.
In the dark, we are both perfect,
not puffy here, saggy there,
bent weary by age and the tools
with which life writes history
upon our once smooth bodies.
No, you are still perfect to me,
still my muse of fire that would
ascend the brightest heaven
of invention., my beloved invention.
And while none can compare to you,
I wonder if you still might compare
to the you I hold so dear each night.
The you who will never return
the thoughtful touch, never reach
for me as I pull you closer,
The one who probably won’t compare
to the imagined lover who lies
there at the head of my bed
wrapped in cool percale or winter flannel,
waiting all day for my nightly embrace.
You will always be the dream
I never had, but always felt,
the one who heard the poetry
I wrote for you every night
in whispers penned loud
as a lover’s cry here
on this silent sheet of white.
Someday, I hope either you
or this pillow my call will answer.
Sorry I’ve been gone so long. It’s been a long, hard road to 2020. I hope to return to being the prolific and thoughtful writer you once might have enjoyed. The guy who would write poems like this…only better. Welcome back, my friend. Love you.
She’s not sure even she knows
Why she thinks of him still.
And she just can’t stop it,
Even though she’s tried not thinking at all.
Why she thinks of him still.
She’ll only whisper in the dark.
Even though she’s tried not thinking at all,
It’s his voice she hears there beside her.
She’ll only whisper in the dark.
What she never admitted out loud.
It’s his voice she hears there beside her.
Whispering what she wished he’d said.
What she never admitted out loud,
She’s not sure even she knows.
Whispering what she wished he’d said,
And she just can’t stop it.
An old friend suggested I join her and some of her other friends in creating a special form of poem called a pantoum. It is built on four-line stanzas that repeat certain lines that occurred earlier in the poem. In my present state of creative malaise (AKA paralysis), I thought it would tear my brain in two. But I tried and all it tore was my heart.
I’m certain right now we all can’t agree
that things around here surely aren’t okay.
Online attacks, shootings, guys taking a knee,
we’re messed up in a state of disarray.
I’ve seen a lot in my decades of life,
stuff that made us crazy, yet always great.
Our history reveals days full of strife,
yet we’ve survived those times of raw hate.
But right now I’m scared of what might yet come
from the Us versus Then, Win or Die throng
that shouts down compromise like it’s dumb,
“If you aren’t leaning our way you’re dead wrong.”
Dead wrong or just dead by uncivil fray,
this new United States of Disarray.
Day 14 of my NaPoWriMo poem-a-day challenge. Supposed to be a “state” poem. Fuck that. Just know that I HATE politics, having worked closely outside and inside that disgusting sausage factory. So I always make it a point to not take sides. I’m just pointing out right from wrong. Right now, too many people are just behaviorally wrong. Let’s at least try, for our nation’s (and world’s) sake, to step back, take off our myriad hats, and work together to restore this to being a nation OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people…ALL of the people. I pray we can do that before I die and my granddaughters miss out on what I was lucky enough to share (at least I believe I shared to the best of my being) in my lifetime.
This stuff is killing me, keeping me awake at night and spinning my already hideous gyre of depression into a deep-dive death spiral. It’s crippling me. If some day soon, you notice I don’t visit you anymore (as I’ve seen myself approaching more and more lately) you’ll know all of this strife has become just too much for me and I can’t be me anymore. Today’s poem was not that me.
They tell you that falling is easy,
it’s getting back up again that’s hard.
But when the fall is such a long one
that you haven’t found the bottom yet,
or it hasn’t found you,
that can be as hard on your mind
as the concrete covered in shattered dreams,
broken promises and slashed hopes
you’ll eventually find at the bottom
on your virtual (or actual) corpus.
That’s because there are shards
of all those things stuck to the walls
past which you fall. All the history
that you can see and consider,
awake, asleep, eyes opened or closed.
Funny thing is, after the fall,
you can use all those things to climb
your way back up as far as you can
before your next fall.
After the fall, there’s always another,
but that means you crawled away
from the previous one. Come here,
take my hand and I’ll show you.
Aren’t all these broken things pretty
flashing by when the moonlight’s right?
Day 6 of my poem-a-day challenge. This is the “After _______” poem.
It’s difficult to do what I do,
dressing and posing,
undraping and artistically exposing,
this gilt image I have of you.
Of course this reality doesn’t exist
not in anyplace but my mind.
Even there I know never, ever would I be your kind,
but the heart and art are just too hard to resist.
So I write these icons of you sometimes,
even though they give only me a thrill.
The Madonna’s not some sexual hill
I’ll ever surmount with my limp rhymes.
Scandalous words, I must admit,
but they keep me warm at night,
when prayers and meditation cannot fight
these feelings I should never permit.
And so here I am, naked again it seems,
casting words from my body to yours.
Your Iconographer, fallen to old scurrilous lures,
become the Pornographer of his new dreams.
I know. A really jinky rhyme scheme to go along with a possibly kinky theme. But these days I only go with whatever flow I can get from this bloodless stone in my chest, this husk of a soul with which I’m left, and hope that I won’t hate myself too much when it’s done. And because I don’t feel so lost while I’m writing, no matter if it’s iconography or pornography, I hope it never is.
By the way, my art history teacher from 40-odd years ago taught me that true icons are said to be “written,” not painted of otherwise artistically crafted. So…yeah.
Finally, after all the miles, the training, beatings I took as a kid, the beatings I handed out as I got bigger, I was here.
After all the amateur bouts for nothing but experience, the prelims for little more than bus money, the sparring, the body shots I’d take on purpose, the headshots I didn’t, the blood, the sweat, the loss of old friends, the making of new enemies, I was here.
Vegas, the big one, the championship of something more than a gym, a city, a state, some little pissant boxing fed, to the bigger ones, to this.
And now it’s all up to me. I’ve never been more fit, more excited, more ready for anything in my life. All the kid’s daydreams, the dreams I made, the dreams I had, the dreams I’d shattered, I’d seen it all on the way up. I saw it again before I left home.
“Daddy, you going to beat that guy?” my son Dakota said to me, breaking into the last little bit of positive thought meditation I had before I took my flight to Vegas.
“You know it, Ko. You and I worked really hard to get ready for this one, right?” I said. I’d kept Ko and his mother with me in my last weeks of training, even though old Eddie Marcin, my trainer, said it was bad business for a championship fight.
“You need to an absolute animal when you step into that ring, Jose,” he said. “That means on the bleeding edge of want, want for the belt, want for the fame, the money, want for your woman, your kid, want to put that guy on the canvas, but most of all, want to do anything to get out of there alive with your hand raised. Having your family here takes away some of that want, as far as I’m concerned.”
“C’mon, Eddie, you know I’ve never been sharper or fitter. I beat a guy better than this chump champ in five rounds at our last fight,” I said. Just as I saw it in my meditation, in my last dream before the bout.”
“You and that dreamy shit. I never had a fighter just sit and do nothing for a half hour like you do. Like you was taking a freaking nap or something, right there in the gym.”
“I’ve been doing it my whole life, since Mrs. Ito taught it to me back at Maria Regina in Gardena. It kept me from becoming a gang banger, kept me clean, kept me focused and kept me in touch with who I am and where I want to go. I’ve seen it all ahead of me along the way. And now I’m here. And you try telling me there’s no power in what you call napping?” We’d had this argument before. I think he was just trying to fire me up.
“Yeah, well now I want you to take a real nap if you can. I want you fresh as an eager virgin when you hit the ring,” Eddie said. He left the hotel room with the rest of the guys. And that left me alone with my thoughts again.
It started out as a meditation, but I must’ve fallen asleep, because this was as vivid a dream or whatever the hell it was as I’d had during all my training for the belt.
I felt myself sitting in the forest, like we were in Yosemite or someplace. With my eyes closed, I could hear Maria and Ko calling me. But I couldn’t open my eyes. It was like they were swollen shut, like I got stung by a bee or something.
But Maria and Ko were coming closer to me, so I just went with it. I mean the sun was warm on my face, I felt a great peace and I could hear what sounded like a roaring waterfall nearby.
“Jose, please be careful with this man,” I heard Maria say. “I never worry about you in the ring, but this is something different. Just make sure you come home tomorrow, okay?”
“Not a problem, honey. This is my dream, right? And I’ve been making dreams come true all my life.”
“I’m not worried, daddy,” Ko said. “I’m even giving you this for luck. Just to keep you safe and bring you home.”
And just as I could feel his hand touch mine…the dream ended. I was suddenly in a state of confusion because my dreams always have an ending. That’s when I heard the phone ringing next to me on the nightstand. The screen said Maria and Ko.
“Hello,” I said with must have sounded like fat, mushy lips.
“Hi, Daddy. You all ready?” I heard Ko say on the other end.
“You bet, Champ. Tomorrow we’ll be both be champions, right?”
“Jose?” I heard Maria say, “I couldn’t keep him from calling you. I’m sorry, I know you’re probably resting.”
“It’s okay, honey. Just had a little nap and now I’m ready to go. Even dreamed about you guys.”
“You did?” It was Ko again. “Was it a good dream?”
“Sure was. In fact, you were just about to give me a good luck charm in it when the phone rang.”
“Really? ‘Cause I did give you one. It’s in the pocket of your gear bag. Didn’t you find it yet?” Ko said, sounding a little disappointed.
“Oh, sorry Ko. Old Eddie, he took all that stuff and kept it with the other things I’ll need for tomorrow. I’ll look for it when I get to the arena. Under the brightest lights, little man!”
“Yeah! Well, what I gave you was just to keep you safe and bring you home.” Ko said.
“Jose? I’ll let you go and get ready now, baby. Be careful. And know we love you anyway you come home tomorrow, Champion or not. But you will be champion when you get home. I know you will,” Maria said.
“Thanks, sweetness. You and Ko just wait and I’ll bring you home the fanciest belt, and a check for about nine million to buy us an ever bigger house to come home to,” I said.
“Don’t want a bigger house. Just you. Buena suerte, mi amor,” Maria said. And then they were gone.
By the time Eddie, me and the boys got to the arena, all hell was breaking loose. I had all I could do to make sure my cup, as well as my sweet-ass trunks with Maria and Dakota embroidered in gold script, were each on in the right direction. But I was focussed, man. When they made the introductions, all I could see was that want Eddie talked about. I was on the bleeding edge of it and I was going to make sure I sliced this dude up and was the one whose hand was raised and walked out of that ring to go home the champion.
That guy across the ring, I didn’t even give him a name in training for him, he came at me like a bull, but I met him with enough jabs and counterpunches to keep him off me. We felt it each other out for three rounds and then I began to execute the plan I’d seen in my meditations. It was going as I planned. But my waking dreams never envisioned that sweaty slick spot on the canvas. My foot slipped just a bit, my guard dropped and that son of a bitch caught me a shot right between the eyes. I dropped to my knee and he caught me another one.
Now the whole world felt like a dream and I knew he’d hurt me, could feel my eyes swelling and blood dripping into them. What was it Tyson always said: “Everybody has a plan until you punch him in the mouth?” I got it in the eyes. But this wasn’t going to keep me from the sight I’d seen in my mind for twenty years. I’d seen my hand raised and that’s what was going to happen.
I came out the next round knowing I’d have to drop the guy fast before the ref stopped the fight because of my bleeding or I went blind from the swelling. The swelling, just like in my dream. I managed to step outside a couple of his jabs, each time popping him in the side of the head, a left hook and then a straight right, which I countered with a right uppercut to the button. And then it was his turn to go down on his ass.
But not for the count.
“Jose, man, you better get to this guy soon. I dunno if I can keep your cut together much more and, shit, your eyes are swelling fast,” my cut man Bobby Delaware said.
“You got him figured out, Jose. That punch he got you with was a fluke,” Eddie screamed above the crowd’s roar like it was a waterfall. “Now finish him. I don’t know how much longer you got, either. But I know it’s enough. Now put that sumbitch down!”
Bobby’s use of the chilled steel press on my brows had helped a little and even I knew this was probably my last shot at this guy before the ref called the TKO on me. SO went right at him. Threw everything I had at him while taking more shots to the body and head than I ever had in two and a half minutes. But with about thirty seconds left in the round, I caught him on the temple with a straight and hard a right as I’d ever thrown. And down he went like a sack of wet clothes.
And stayed down. They took him away in an ambulance. Me, they stitched up in the dressing room. Good doc in Vegas. I’d see the plastic surgeon on Monday.
I was the one who had his hand raised, who had his eyes closed, who heard the waterfall, who had done everything I’d seen in my dream, except for one thing. I reached into my gear bag and found something hard and in the corner of the pocket. When I pulled it out I saw it was one of Dakota’s Hot Wheel toys. The ambulance. I put it on the shelf and the last thing I remembered was seeing it there with the bloodstains from my hands from wiping my eyes. And then everything went black.
My dream had come true. Everything, like that last dream. Except for the abrupt wakeup. This was an abrupt sleep.
They took me home the next day in an ambulance, but I came home, safe for the most part.
This is my sixth and last story of this winter’s Six Weeks, Six Senses project from Sarah Salecky. This themed story is about the “sixth sense” some of us have. Maybe it’s instinct. Or maybe, like Jose, it’s the ability to meditate and dream of his future. And then make those dreams happen. The photo prompts were a young man (with some seriously knobby knuckles), a B&W scene of a club or arena full of people and bright lights shining from the ceiling and finally, a toy ambulance sitting on a white shelf with red smudges.
No, I never did do Week Four, but I’m working on it..from the neck up.
I hope to smile as I sit up
in bed from another night of sleep.
Real sleep, not the toss and turn,
the clusters of one-eyed
the bedclothes-shifting kick-flips
of the nocturnal 5000-meter
medley swimmer in the sheets.
I won’t be sad when
I sink to the bottom five minutes
after I dove under the covers,
as long as I don’t awaken
with a gasp and snort of a man
who really DID sink to the bottom
of a pool on his way to swimming out of
That guy doesn’t smile when dawn
slaps him like a walrus flipper
with that long arousal called
But that smile’s just a dream,
and we who don’t sleep
the good sleep tend not to dream.
And dreaming would be a dream come true.
Then dawn would break open
with a smile for me..and you…