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Tesserae

I am built of tiny things
bits of stone and glass and wood and bone
each one a moment

I am drunk
and high
and sober as clear water
I broil my skin red in the Judean desert
as my toes freeze blue in the Sierra snow
I kiss Ellen under Corinthian sequoias
and Luann in the spray of Pacific surf
I walk barefoot across summer hills
through grass as tawny as a lion
I feel the thrum of my tires
as I cycle along fog-shrouded curves
In Paris I am lost in place and language
In London I give directions to tourists
I play Berlioz in a stone cathedral
I paint a sunset at a winery
I cook a meal that isn’t very good
I grieve a brother lost
I smile and hold my wife’s hand

These are tesserae of my life
not frozen in time but freed of it
not layers of the past but cut from a shattered present

I lay each one down
be it clumsily or with care
to form my greater whole

You see the mosaic
I am the mosaic
unfinished
incomplete
in progress

Moment by moment
bit by bit
I am built of tiny things


My Left Hand

I am right-handed, and I live in a right-handed world.

It’s the hand with which most of us write. It’s the hand we use to salute, take an oath, and offer in greeting. It’s the side on which we seat our most trusted allies. It’s the hand we deem dexterous, while the left hand we label sinister.

It’s not surprising that our left hands get short shrift. We right-handers often think of them as the clumsy, oafish sibling to our dominant hand. We use these “lesser” appendages to write joking notes in a purposefully childlike script, and to deliver less-than-flattering compliments.

I do not look at my left hand this way.

My left hand is pretty damned amazing. It’s stronger than my right. It can hold something rock-steady while my right hand tinkers away for hours. Having been a musician, I can tell you that my left hand has just as much dexterity as does my right, perhaps more. Oh, sure, my right hand is quite adept at making squiggly lines on a sheet of paper, but can it play Beethoven or manage the tricky fingerings of a Hindemith sonata? On a keyboard (piano or computer), they each match the other for adroitness.

When I’m working a project, which hand always gets injured? Not the left hand, despite being the one (literally) doing the heavy lifting. (Exception to this rule: when cooking, the left is always the injured party, but that’s only because the right hand is the one holding the knife.)

While my left hand cannot throw worth a damn, it can catch like a boss; throw me a baseball, a Frisbee, an apple, or a set of car keys, and my right hand will fumble it, bobble it, mistime the grip, while my left hand will bring it home every time.

My left hand is my support, my brace, my counter-balance. It is the lifter of sacks and the grabber of railings. It is dependable, fearless, powerful, perseverant, uncomplaining. Above all, it is modest, content to let its partner take the glory; it seeks neither praise nor the limelight.

So, let us raise a glass with and to our non-dominant hands. Let us recognize that it is the disparity between right and left that creates their synergistic whole, a partnership that has conquered the world. Let us admit that our non-dominant hands are as important, in their way, as their mirror images.

It is their differences that make them strong.

As with many things.

k

I Do Not Believe

I do not believe

. . . that all cops are bastards

. . . that all pharmacists want us sick

. . . that all lawyers are heartless

. . . that all Republicans are stupid

. . . that all Democrats are socialists

. . . that all conservatives are evil

. . . that all progressives are anarchists

. . . that all Blacks are criminals

. . . that all Whites are racists

. . . that all Arabs are terrorists

. . . that all Hispanics are gangsters

. . . that all men are pigs

. . . that all women are bitches

The world is greyer than this

Much, much greyer than this

On these points

And a million other ways

Thinking so

Denies

Everything

Cicada Song

You are tired 

Your heart 
wrung out 
lies limp 
spent 
exhausted 

Your mind 
fuzzed by events 
shackled by twin weights 
   of isolation 
   of jailed desires 
is rendered senseless 
numb

The parade of days 
a monotony 
   of toil 
   of grief 
   of sameness 

The calendar 
arbitrary divisor of time 
paints illusions 
   of separation 
   of change 
where none truly exist 

New year! 
Flip the page! 
It’s supposed to be different! 

Yet, it isn’t 

It’s the same 

But step back 

Look beyond 
   your home 
   your street 
   your life 

The world spins quickly 
and is slow to move 
but like a tide in flood 
   inexorable 
   imperceptible 
it does change 

Is changing

And soon 
like cicadas 
after years-long entombment 
we will emerge 
to breathe the windborne breeze 
to see the rising sun 
to sing in our multitudes 
   of love 
   of life 
   of our many futures 

Our hearts will be renewed 
our minds refreshed 
our lives rejoined 

Be patient 
Be calm 
Be hopeful 

Practice your song

k

Natalia and Jess

Natalia has been with me for over forty-five years; Jess, over fifty.

Natalia and Jess have been my constant companions. They have accompanied me on journeys around the country and to foreign lands, accruing enough miles to circumnavigate the globe, twice. They’ve been there for every important event of my adult life. When I have needed them, in every instance, they have performed to the best of their ability.

I love them both dearly, and I want nothing for them but the best and fullest that life can offer.

Which is why it’s time for them to go.

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Summing it Up

As the last four years enter the realm of memory, one image is strong in my mind:

=================

Guardian of Forever : TIME HAS RESUMED ITS SHAPE. ALL IS AS IT WAS BEFORE. MANY SUCH JOURNEYS ARE POSSIBLE. LET ME BE YOUR GATEWAY.

Lt. Uhura : Captain, the Enterprise is up there. They’re asking if we want to beam up.

Capt. Kirk : [softly]  Let’s get the Hell out of here.

=================

Indeed, Captain.

k

I Miss the GOP

We’ve had a few tense weeks here, and not because of current events. Short version: My wife had a cancer scare, but thankfully it was only a scare.

The past eight weeks, and especially the last two weeks, were filled with appointments and waiting and procedures and more waiting and biopsies and even more waiting. As you can probably imagine, during that waiting, all that downtime when the “What if?” scenarios bounce around your head like a ping-pong ball at a championship match, we desperately needed something to occupy our brains.

My wife (the one in greatest need of distraction) found her solace in Blue Bloods. It’s a show we’ve never watched before, and she now had eleven seasons (!!) to binge on.

And binge, she did (with me at her side, for much of it).

For those unfamiliar with Blue Bloods, it follows a family of Irish Catholic police officers in New York City. Gramps (Len Cariou) is retired, Dad (Tom Selleck) is the police commissioner, and the boys (Donnie Wahlberg and Will Estes) are cops. My wife was there primarily for Tom Selleck as the gruff but gentle patriarch. For my part, I was there solely for Bridget Moynahan, who plays the daughter, an Assistant DA for the city.

The shows are simple. There’s an A plot and a B plot in each episode. The family always gets together for Sunday dinner. There is ongoing character development, but for the most part, it’s purely episodic. It’s a dependable show. Dependably good. Dependably homey. Dependably entertaining.

During one episode’s Sunday dinner scene, I turned to my wife and said, “One thing I like about this show: they’re all Republicans.”

She looked at me like I had suggested they were all rabid dogs, a look that said, “Are you crazy? That’s impossible. I like these people!”

Given recent events, this reaction can be forgiven, but I stand by my opinion. Law enforcement skews strongly toward the GOP. Catholics lean conservative. Taken with the characters’ commentary about political and social issues (e.g., stop and frisk, personal responsibility, etc.), it was clear that this family had a strong conservative viewpoint. Doing the math, it was clear to me that the characters would probably vote Republican.

This deduction, however, was not offered up as an insult. As I said, I liked that aspect of the show. As a staunch liberal, a guy whose father campaigned for Adlai Stevenson (twice!), you might think it odd that I like watching a show about a family of Republicans, but it’s not odd. Not odd at all.

Why? Because these characters are old-school GOP, like the Republicans of my youth. Conservative? Yes. Tough on crime? You bet. Fiscally tight-fisted? Damned straight. But they are also capable of compassion, of seeing the gradients between black and white, of taking into account mitigating circumstances, and (above all) the necessity to compromise. They care for people as people, seeing the world not just as cops and robbers, heroes and zeroes.

In short, they are not of the rabid Jim Jordan GOP, nor the morally relativistic Lindsey Graham GOP. The Blue Bloods family is more akin to the Eisenhower GOP.

And I miss that GOP.

I miss the GOP with whom you could actually debate, the GOP that wasn’t blind to the massive common ground between the extremes. I miss the GOP that understood that politics is ideology but governing is compromise. I miss the GOP that was willing to give something up, to negotiate in good faith, in order to advance what they saw as the greater good.

Yes, polarization exists on both sides, these days, but if there’s one party that owns the centrist, moderate ground, well, it ain’t today’s GOP. Today’s GOP has been moving off that part of the field for over a decade, and in the past four years, they ceded it completely. Today’s GOP is all about power and money and control and is nothing about governing. Today’s GOP is the party of the Big Lie, conspiracy theories, and slavering devotion to Dear Leader. And sadly, of sedition.

I know there are some exceptions to this new norm in the GOP, and I feel for them. They are grossly outnumbered by the wild-eyed cohort that has shifted the GOP so far to the right. These few, these moderate few, are trapped between the mob their party has built and the abyss that now exists between our parties’ ideologies.

I miss the GOP, and I suspect perhaps some of these politicians do, as well.

k

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