this compulsion to write

Writing-Poetry-20170723

I’ve often heard of poets describing their creative “gift” as more of a burden. I can relate to this, as I don’t feel as if my day has started until I’ve written a haiku. I haven’t kept an exact count, but I believe I’ve gone 5 years or more without missing a single day.

Sometimes I write a lot, much of it passing observations that would need some thoughtful editing if I ever thought about publishing them. Smart phones with note-taking and voice recording apps have made it easy to capture words in a matter of seconds. Sometimes, however, I’m in a rush to get to work, and hours have gone by without a moment to reflect. My fear is that when I finally set aside some time to quiet my mind, the words will have left me.

wondering if today
will be the day
I stop writing

So yes, even though words come easily to me most of the time, there’s always the dread that Old Faithful will run dry. For this reason, I write with a sense of urgency, as if one day I might have nothing to say.

new moon —
a night
without words

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dream sequence – part 66

33_poplar

Minutes before the alarm rang this morning, I dreamed that I was living at the house I was raised in back in Farmingdale, NY. Also with me were my wife Mary and my dog Tito. The dream began with Tito furiously barking at someone or something in front of the house, rousing us from a deep sleep.

While Mary settled Tito down, I went to the front door. A large crowd had gathered in and around our driveway: neighbors, policemen and news reporters. They were murmuring about some sort of crime, possibly a murder. Having been asleep only moments earlier, I had no idea what was going on.

Seeing me at the front door, a reporter ran up with microphone in hand. “Sir, I’d like to ask you a few questions about the neighborhood. I understand you grew up here.”

“I can’t talk right now,” I said, “I’m not wearing any pants.”

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river of dreams

Riverview_chairs_20170529

Mary and I closed on a vacation house on Cape Cod today. The current plan is to eventually make this our primary residence, but that will have to wait a few years. For now, it will be our getaway, our retreat.

The closing itself was casual and relaxed, almost anti-climactic. Lots of signatures, handshakes, smiles and sighs. It was very different from the dream I had only a few hours earlier.

In my dream, instead of a small table in the noisy lobby of the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, we were in a big conference room in a sprawling office building. We had trouble finding the place, and we were late. Our agent was also late, as was the seller and her agent. None of this was the case in reality, but such was the pseudo-reality of my dream. The only people seated at the table in the conference room were strangers to me, and none of them paid any attention to me when I walked in all flustered.

I finally caught the eye of one sympathetic soul who confirmed that I was indeed in the right place. At that point I tried to text Mary.

Except that I didn’t have a phone. I had some sort of larger-than-necessary hand-held device with a keyboard that was really too awkward to be of much practical use. I quickly pinned a key on the keyboard, and in the process of trying to free it, all of the keys went flying in the air. That got everyone’s attention.

As if on cue, Mary came in, as did our agent. The seller came in with her agent moments later. My cell phone (apparently I did have one of those after all) rang with the same obnoxious ringtone it has in reality, silencing the room.

To break the ice, the man who was apparently my lawyer reached forward to shake my hand and introduce himself. Without a shred of irony, he complimented me for the classic Dilbert tie I was wearing.

Thankfully it was only a dream. Reality, as it turns out, is much better.

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dream sequence – part 65

Tengachaya_Station

To borrow from a classic Robyn Hitchcock album title, I often dream of trains. Recurring themes include waiting for a train that never arrives, missing the train, getting on the wrong train, or getting off at the wrong stop. In last night’s dream, the latter occurred, so I tried get off at the next stop and board the same train in the opposite direction. I wish I had a dollar for every time this happened in the ten years I spent commuting into and out of Boston. Given that my subconscious clearly wanted to have some fun with me, however, it wasn’t quite that easy.

For one, only a single car was able to exit at the platform. Fortunately I was riding on that car, but that’s where my good fortune ended. The station was dark and cramped, and when I exited to the street level, it was a muddy back alley that abutted a very active junkyard. There was no evidence of a subway entrance anywhere, but the first order of business was to avoid getting run over by speeding tow trucks.

When I got to what resembled a city street, I tried doubling back to where I thought a station entrance might be. The street was dark and deserted, the sounds of the junkyard fading away with each step. I turned toward a nondescript office building located where I surmised a subway station might be. Leaning against the lobby doors, I was surprised to find them unlocked. Walking into an well-lit hallway, I saw a sign that clearly read “elevator to subway”. Bingo!

Taking the elevator one floor down, I exited to find myself in the lobby of an upscale hotel in Naples, Florida. It was sunny out, and my wife was there. She was expecting me.

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haiku and politics

sign_guy_geeze

Haiku is a medium of observation, therefore by definition it is neutral in terms of politics. Its role is not to pontificate, but rather to record. In this sense, it’s a lot like photography: the act of capturing a static image without prejudice, and without an accompanying narrative.

And yet the camera and the haiku are in the hands of individual humans, each of whom possesses a world view and a sense of what is and isn’t worthy of recording. With spring threatening to visit New England any day now, I want to write about daffodils and the Red Sox, but I find myself unable to refrain from reacting to the omnipresent news. Before I’ve shaved in the morning, I’ve weighed in on (or incited) one or more Twitter wars. The overcast sky becomes a metaphor for a bleak future; and the dirty snow a prefab description of every corrupt politician in Washington. In short, I turn into a political haiku poet shortly after I wake up each morning.

Political haiku have a long history that parallels that of haiku itself. Matsuo Basho, commonly considered to be the first Japanese haiku master, wrote:

summer grasses
all that remains
of soldiers’ dreams

At first glance, this poem is a meditation on nature, but it quickly expands to become a commentary on the transience of humanity, hastened by war. Basho lived during the Edo period, a time marked by war and a feudal form of government. While the great master embarked on many journeys in his lifetime, searching for inspiration from nature, even he wasn’t able to escape the politics of his era.

Truth be told, I’d love to write about anything else, but the persistent 24-hour news cycle has become the proverbial gum on my shoe — unless I throw out the shoe, I end up tracking it everywhere. Sometimes I force myself to focus on a specific word prompt or diversionary subject matter (thank you, baseball season!), but I find that my most genuine observations flow from an immediate response to the world around me. If I can’t escape it, I’ll just have to document it.

today’s forecast —
a world
of mud

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dream sequence – part 64

carnegie_mellon

I was visiting an old girlfriend, which I knew from the outset was probably a bad idea. I tried to keep our conversation light.

“Do you think you’re going to stay here in Pittsburgh?” I asked.

“Not if I can’t find an affordable apartment,” she replied. “Besides, there’s nothing tying me down here. I might as well move back to Albany.”

That’s where I was living. She had left to pursue another relationship, among other things, but the relationship had run its course, and those “other things” weren’t enough to keep her there. I decided that we needed to get out of the apartment.

We were on a bus, and she had morphed into my youngest brother, except that in my dream he was my youngest son’s age, nearly 30 years younger. He asked to borrow one of my guns. [As an editorial note, I have never owned a gun]

He fired two shots into the air and shouted, “I’m having a really hard time finding an affordable apartment in this city!”

The bus driver slammed on his brakes, pulled the bus over to the curb, turned off the engine and ran out the front door with the keys. We ran out too, covering several blocks at a rate that wouldn’t have been possible outside of a dream. I berated my brother throughout our escape.

“You’re going to get us arrested, or worse!”

We stopped in a large, cavernous college hall, where some sort of lecture was going on. We decided to sit in and catch our breath. No one seemed to notice or care.

 

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dream sequence – part 63

weeds2-706500

We had just purchased a new home — actually a big old one — and were making our initial walk-through before moving in. We weren’t alone. There were still people living in the house.

Finding the stragglers proved a bit problematic. We could hear voices, as well as a very vocal cat, but every time we entered a room we thought to be the source of the sound, we found it empty, while the noises persisted. We started to wonder if there was a secret room in the house with all walls but no doors. It was driving us crazy.

Outside, my father was weeding the garden — or at least trying to. I kept finding dandelions where he had supposedly already weeded, so I followed behind him pulling up one he had missed.

He wasn’t happy. “I already did that spot,” he said. Not wishing to argue, I said “This one must have been hiding from you.”

When I woke up, neither the dandelions nor our unwelcome house guests had been completely weeded out.

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