The Calmly Calculated Whip of the Lion Tamer

Defeat one desire with another

like a flickering torch

in the caverns of your mind

illuminating a fog that lingers there

among the hidden hills that bow

to a lonely mountain

Castles in the depths of despair

must be defeated

with swords of truth and sacrifice

name them

blood oozing, like a raging river

upon the ruins of your ego’s altar

Mercedes Benz competitors

make you feel like a thief

in your Rolls Royce league of your own

traveling to islands in the sea

where pirates sailed

in ships of romance

You have gone your own way

like a letter to a loved one

and few will forgive you for it

their storms rage with irrational anger

against the stronghold lighthouse of your mind

bearing their emotional waves

with the calmly calculated whip

of the lion tamer.

Just as Wild

These train tracks

don’t lead to the station anymore

they aren’t traveled

except by me

they follow a river

looping high into the mountains

Above

ordinary destinations

rusted trestles

bridge

great divides

as I step between the ties

avoiding empty air

where white water rages

beneath me

blocking out nature’s sound

I move through geologic time

reconnecting

to what my grandfather knew

overgrown paths

make this once known land

a mystery

Cut through the wilderness

and wild again

Now

only the animals know it

as I

walk into their midst

just as wild.

Potheads and Police on the City Golf Course

The city golf course is full of hot music and delight, surrounded by suburban homes, where men grill beef on their barbecues and golf carts cut through the fairways against regulations, fueled by beer and marijuana. Slang gets thrown around, like a common language while unrefereed betting and arguing emerge, punctuated by cheers from unlikely great shots.

I teed it up and drove my ball down the par 5. A single in front of me turned around to give me a piece of his mind. I gave him a smile and his demeanor changed.

“You know… I played this course so I wouldn’t get rushed,” he said.

“Same here.”

“Would you like to play through?”

“Sure. Do you get out here to play golf very often?” I asked.

“This is my second round of golf in five years. I had a couple of kids.”

“Really? And you didn’t get out for five years?”

“When you get married, you realize how selfish you were.”

“Strange, my married friends all tell me the same thing. Well, I’ll probably bump into you later; it’s slow up ahead. Have a good round.”

“You too.” And he smiled. His emaciated faced looked like it had stared at a computer screen for 12 hours a day for 5 years. There were dark circles under his eyes and whenever I saw someone who was on track with their life, it always made me feel good where I was. I played the next couple of holes with perfection. Perfection is a non-thinking activity that requires focused feeling without caring too much.

I walked between million-dollar homes and wondered at what the people did to live there. Suddenly, my contemplation was interrupted by a little salesman.

“Would you like to buy some golf balls?”

“What are your rates?”

“Three for a dollar.”

“Deal.” I handed him the bill. He reminded me of me.

Next hole, I ran into two kids who were 19 or 20.

“Do you mind if I join you guys?” I asked.

“Why not.” The charismatic one lit a duby and smiled through yellow teeth.

“What’s your name?”

“Tyler.”

“My name’s Andy. What yours?”

“Jerome.”

“Jerome. Are you kidding; that’s the wrong century?”

“Okay; my name’s Alex.”

“You owe me five bucks,” Tyler said.

“Do not; we tied that hole. It carries over to the next.”

They argued back and forth as they became higher than kites. Strangely, their golf games improved; the drugs really helped. Then Tyler swung on the 7th and hooked his shot towards a million-dollar home. Breaking glass made me cringe and Tyler yelped with excitement. “That’s not a free drop; pay up.”

“Are you kidding?”

Then an old man in a pink bathrobe ran out into the summer heat.

“Which one of you cocksuckers smashed my window?”

Tyler and Alex pointed at each other.

“Well, I’ve called the police.”

“Did you see it?” He asked me.

“Ummm,” I said.

“What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?”

“We’ll sort this out,” Alex said. “Don’t worry.”

“Okay, but I’ll need to get your phone number.”

“Sure, it’s 206—.”

“Okay, I’ll dial it. Mutt Cuts Services. You sons-of-bitches; just wait, the police will be here in two minutes.”

“Run,” Alex said.

I got into my truck just as the troopers pulled up. Their sirens wailed as they drove onto the city golf course. It was an unforgettable round.

THE END

I guess he was different…

Fat

with a smile of superiority

the big man walks with style

rosy cheeks

purple lips

and grinning

he can’t help it

he’s luckier

far more often

than once in awhile

his power comes from words

strung together with electricity

typed in invisible ink

and screaming

Cause of death

insanity

written off

by fame

using power

nobody else

will ever claim

Some say it was the devil

others

cocaine

I guess he was different

and he knew it.

Mr. Soft Serve and the Sundance Suicide

I was running from a lot of things—things people thought about running from and never did, or if they never thought of running, it was a feeling they couldn’t quite place, an unhappiness that couldn’t be given away. Each summer brought new possibilities with lingering obligations and a real chance to run, but those who might run, always talked themselves out of it. What meaning was there in it? It wasn’t a race. There were no awards. And there was nowhere to go. Even if they made it to some destination, any changes that lingered would get erased by the job or people who couldn’t run, and these types of thoughts weighed on my running legs. Suicide was a big part of my life; I couldn’t stop thinking about killing who I was, but every time I thought about these glorious deaths, I became afraid of wiping my ego clean, not being able to return to society, never being able to reenter acceptance, and being an outcast forever, rather than an in-betweener who had rich fantasies that comforted him while doing paperwork.

The office was a comfortable killer of people who endlessly pretended. Death was something I looked forward to, a kind of reset, or an end to it all.

And even with these thoughts that frequently emerged on dates, and often worked against me, especially with well-adjusted women, I decided to drive my truck across the desert. I started early on a dewy morning, even though I knew I’d forgotten things. And the byways and lakes were full of weekend water-skiers—people I didn’t have anything in common with.

I didn’t drink, or do drugs, gamble, fight, or hook-up with maladjusted women. I was a church-going man who had taken the following types of phrases to heart during his teen years, “Don’t drink or chew or go out with girls who do.” And as I grew older and read more propaganda, I could see the artificial lines drawn in the sand. None of that mattered anymore; it was a real encounter with something real, or nothing at all.

I was hungry and there wasn’t going to be a place to eat for 50 miles. So, I stopped at a biker bar in my polo shirt and cargo shorts, the epitome of a beta male.

I was scowled at by a cook with more visible hair on his chest than on his head.

“Do you have hamburgers?” I asked.

“One hamburger,” he said.

Any questions got placed as an order.

“Coke, fries, and fruit,” I said.

“We don’t have fruit.”

“Okay.” I sat down to wait on the bar stool and some bikers entered. I could feel myself being looked at; maybe it’s the way a fly feels before it’s about to get squashed.

“Jackson, what’s this?”

“What do you think it is?”

“Looks like soft serve ice cream to me.” I tried not to look at his eyes; they belonged to a tiger who had been behind bars for too long. “If you want to give something up, meet me in the bathroom,” he said.

I was becoming younger, like my innocence was retreating into itself and I ate my hamburger without tasting it and left as quickly as possible. At twilight, the sun looked like a giant egg, plopping into a frying pan as it danced on the horizon. And when it sunk for good, the night left me feeling alone, until I noticed half-a-dozen headlamps riding behind me and the hellish hogs charged past with rumbling rebellion as I released my breath, like I had been holding onto my life, and when I felt the danger had past, one light lit me up from behind. It was Mr. soft serve, as far as I could tell and there wasn’t a friendly soul within 25 miles. He rode up on my left and pointed something at me. I pressed down on the gas and flack went through my windshield. I could hear him screaming, “Pull your fine ass over,” and I had no intention. My truck went up the center lane at over 100 miles per hour, climbing the mountain with a dead drop on the right-hand-side. He shifted and moved to the outside. And without thinking, I cut close to the edge, and Mr. soft serve flew into oblivion like a ghost from hell. It was suicide, I told myself. I didn’t kill him. I couldn’t face that. On the outside, I took a man’s life, and on the inside, life was more tolerable because of it. It was the half-accepting fantasy I told myself at work which allowed me to cope with reality, and now I was dangerous. I pictured disagreeable people at the office on lonely canyon roads where the rules of the highway kept them in their lanes, until I would cross over.

THE END

Moving Out of My Parent’s House on Independence Day

I have this fear that lingers like fate; I’ve seen the cruelty of the world and I want to die in my bed, sleeping peacefully, at home, away from prying eyes, and people who wish to explain me. I haven’t always felt this way, but it became a gradual realization, after living with my parents, my sister, her husband, their four dogs, in a confined space. My brother-in-law decided to remodel our kitchen and my mother started giving him directions.

“Should the light switches really go there?” My mother asked.

“Marilyn, you need to make up your mind because it’s slowing me down,” Jon said.

“You don’t respect me.”

“I’m redoing your kitchen.”

And on and on it went. Our living room was full of boards, paint, nails, drills, miscellaneous man stuff, while my brother-in-law screwed things down and cut stuff up. The house was chaos and anger and stress, so much so, I was surprised that the bunny rabbits continued to eat clover in the front lawn. Just outside, the once chaotic world was where I wanted to be, but I didn’t know how to be there. It was a step I had never taken, that I knew I needed to take.

And my father was in a whole different way. He retired last year to heal-up from his engineering job and he sat, day after day, cooking like a frog in his leather chair, with wrinkles and black eyes and chambray shirt and tired face, the picture of sick anxiety. He had nowhere to go and it was his house. The sense of freedom I craved was not in his reach and I realized my next steps were uniquely my own.

My sister was stoic, as she climbed the ladder of higher education. She was a reader of many books that taught civilized young women how to be killers in business. She spoke of brands and YouTube channels and blogs that allowed those with a marketing mind to defeat their jobs and move to places in the country, off the grid, where they sold merchandise, and enjoyed quiet fame.

I’ve experienced many things in my life without doing anything, which my brother-in-law reminded me of, constantly. I don’t think this will change as it fits my personal philosophy. I have no gray hairs or worries and the problems I encounter, usually get taken-on by others; not that I force my problems onto them, just that they are natural problem-solvers and their hairs are gray and their immune systems are weak, and I’m feeling like I might live forever.

Anyway, my brother-in-law turned off the water. I could no longer take a shower. I had that sticky feeling of lying in my own filth for 3 days.

“You could go jump in the river,” my mother suggested.

“You’re joking, right?”

“This would be a great time to move out.” I wondered if this was her plan, to move me out of the house at 29. Nothing else had worked and my parents were very indirect about things, so much so, that conversations that should’ve happened were swept under the rug for at least three or four years.

So, I decided to call local apartments, knowing I hated to live near people, but now being willing to spend 1,500 dollars to get away from my family.

“Yes, I was wondering if you have a 1-bedroom apartment available?”

“Yes, we do. What sort of amenities do you require?”

“I don’t know, sink, shower, laundry?”

“There was laughing on the other end of the receiver. “Of course, we have those,” she said. Her voice reminded me of people who like to be in charge and my greatest fear was that I was going to pay her half of my paycheck to tell me what to do.

“Let me think about it,” I said, “and I’ll get back to you.”

Meanwhile… my dad had a few drinks and was feeling better. He kept it a secret, even though everybody knew. There are many traps we fall into and the worst are those we can’t share with anyone else, but I could tell it was doing him some good; so, he was in the mood to have one of our rare talks.

“You know…” he said, “there are two guys on the bike trail that I spot every day. One wears flip-flops and board shorts; he’s going nowhere. The other wears Levi’s and he’s deep in thought. You can tell he’s working something out; he has plans.”

I looked at my dad; he had worn Levi’s for the last 30 years.

“Really?” I said, “You can tell all that by how he dresses?”

“Sure,” my dad said. He looked at my relaxed demeanor. I was wearing board shorts and flip-flops.

It was okay; I was okay; the house and the people in it were not. So, I decided to move out. It happened in a second; not with a plan or deep contemplation, but with effortless action. One day I was there and the next day, I was half-way into my apartment.

When my sister found out, the color left her face. “Budd, you’ll get lonely. When I was alone, I started eating too much.”

My dad was flabbergasted. I was still wearing flip-flops and board shorts and I walked out of there for good, like I was going to play golf or something, and for some reason, it was the 4th of July, Independence Day, and I was free; it was a revolution without a war and I had won, in my own special way. I escaped a system that didn’t serve me, and the more often I am able to do this, the better my life becomes.

Of course, after my stint of independence, I moved back in with my parents for a further 2 years, to the horror of my long-suffering mother.

THE END

Planted for a Purpose

As we stretch ourselves

towards the sky

we dare not

wither and die

We will twist and bend

away from darkness

lest we be starved

from the light

And weeds will rise up

and strangle us

because of weak emotions

poisonous roots

give immunity

to our pain

while our fruit

glistens

under the sun

even as rusty machines

plow up

potential soil

threatening our aliveness

above the dirt

We get picked and eaten

spit out

and spread out

trampled on

and this cycle

is not to be hated

or loved

So, why do we stretch for the truth?

lest we stop growing

we pray to die

because death is new beginnings

carried by the wind

and planted

for a purpose.

Laughing Through Change

Before our death

we live many lifetimes

Hiking up mountains

with Hispanic friends

with so much faith

we could move them

Then, there are times

when we are all alone

and the peace atop the snowcapped glacier

is dangerous

with one false step

in slippery tennis shoes

hell awaits

as a philosophic atheist

but tomorrow

brings new beliefs

in all things

nobody can see

possibly a friend

as I sit on a lake bench

alone

and a golden retriever sniffs my leg

“You look lonely,” an old man says

betraying his inner demons

while I read my bible

I know life is better with god

but sometimes he feels far away

and those who deny him

claim to be searching for reality

because the truth can’t be that simple

or cruel

my bicycle keeps moving

under the hot sun

while my parents sit in the shade

not talking

how great, this life can be

I’ve already lived several lifetimes

eating cherries in my room

playing golf

like I might fall off the edge of the world

spending time

in twilight

before the next great change of my life

bosses who are always angry

because they can’t change me, even though I change

evolving

out of my environment

a whale turning into a cow

enjoying

the pleasures of eating

no longer

understood

frightening

to those who need that

Ha, ha…

I keep laughing

through change

excited for all things

to come.

Beware!

Beware!

They will want to drink you

in

to fill their empty hearts

and dizzying heads

Beware!

the most dangerous

sleep alone

and stare at the stars

without big ideas

Beware!

Of lovers

who need more love than they can give

A soul takes years to fill

the overflowing one

is rare

it feeds itself

when it has done things in the right way

Beware!

Most people quench their emptiness

with holes that leak

into hidden darkness

You are but a distraction

an amusement

to them

as you dance on hot coals

with calloused feet

and cool contemplation

Beware!

of ravenous

souls

that compare themselves

with other wolves

wanting what they can’t have

devouring

without mercy

smiling

afterward

through perfect teeth

Beware!

Those who think they understand

and need to explain

everything

what they don’t know

they don’t care to know

and what they can’t control

they hate

Beware!

Of this life

that takes you

in competitive circles

until you become dizzy

needing things that don’t matter

When you find peace

you will know it

Suddenly,

all things

fall away

and you are left

with your unrelenting

pleasure

’til the end of your days.

The Laughing Lighthouse

As beauty fades

and we no longer have the desire to repent

and the places we knew

close

and the people who smiled at us

die

and the shadows of ourselves

no longer show up

under the sun

lost photographs

and memories

are all that we have left

and I don’t know about you

but I will walk

where I have always been

and do

what I have always done

unapologetic

for what little time

I have left

Big waves

bigger than me

wash out

to a horizon

where a lighthouse

looks at time

with a twinkle in her eye

and fire in her belly

laughing at a good life

where the hills of Catalina

and the harbors there

hold heaven in their hands

before natural rhythms

are released

under a lonely moon

and we are carried

to the deep.