A POEM A DAY

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: spoken word

19/30: THE MARATHON OF BEING ALIVE

Eyes above the treeline, I measure my breath
with each step on the concrete. When I look
down at my feet, I’m too focused on where I am,
not where I am going, where I’m supposed to be.
The air in my lungs lunge out of me like exhaust.
I trust my blood
running and flowing like
my desire to cross
the imaginary finish line of the next traffic light.
I am astonished at the way the body moves
and how each day I show up for myself,
I continue the marathon
of being alive.


17/30: RIGHT NOW

Try not to panic when you hear the word pandemic
Or at least, try not to think of panic.
The connotation of that word
like an incantation I cannot escape.
How much time has passed since the last
time you were afraid? I watched
the whole world spend a year in fear
and fighting to stay alive.
What will I say of this time?
This morning, I drove south
through a grey sky to take
my wife to her second vaccine
appointment. Listening to NPR,
we hear a story about gospel soul singer
Elizabeth King, who started singing again
after she survived a drunk driving car accident
She sang the songs her mother sang to her
songs left behind before her long journey home
back to God. The music of her voice
harmonized with the sound of morning rain.
Looking ahead, I listen with both
hands on the steering wheel,
the gold wedding band on my finger
shines brighter than the sun.
I’m in love with right now
with nothing left to fear.

15/30: DAYLIGHT AND GOOD NEWS

David Lynch said
Fix your hearts or die.
In a dream of mine,
I am reminded just how human I am
the second I wake up and am no longer
flawless or fearless.
The business of living goes on.  
The sky leaves a legacy of light
painted across day and night.
Sitting on the front porch,
I close my eyes and listen to
the wind in the trees.
Broken isn’t a word I’d use to describe me.
If I break, I’m breaking like daylight
and good news.

14/30: MEMORY & MEANING

Time is measured by experience. Experience is the story we tell until it is stored in our memory. How many stories have we told that remind us just how old we are? Stories are time. We’re running out of stories. I tell a story, and something comes alive. A detail crackles into a spark. Reading is a conjuring. The voice in my head arcs and bends. When I read, I search for meaning because meaning is what summons my memory. In understanding the language of right now, I almost ways turn back to my memories. Who empowered the past to cast such a long shadow? All of us did. Thinking is time-travel to a certain extent. Not quite a spell but how can it not be magic? How many of us have traveled back to the past with nothing more than our words? Neruda wrote: Love is so short, forgetting is long. He wasn’t wrong.

13/30: – HOUSTON, WE HAVE A POEM

Written for the 51st Anniversary of the Apollo 13 Mission

On the radio,
I hear the voice of a man
who was meant to land on the Moon
but never did.

It is the 51st anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission
Commander Jim Lovell speaks
with both his feet on the Earth
He remembers the sound of an explosion
though he didn’t know, nor did the crew,
that an oxygen tank just blew
after igniting in the middle of space
Over 200,000 miles from home.
If there was ever a reason to scream
into the black void of space-time-eternity,
this was surely it.

Everything went wrong at the right time.
Yet what struck me like a shooting star
was not the immediate sense of doom
but instead what
Commander Lovell said
That he had to stay positive
if he wanted to survive
Positivity is what makes a team work
200,000 miles away from home

3 men lost the moon
lost water, lost light
lost all supplies of life
A miracle didn’t save them
Teamwork did
positivity
became the gravity
and isn’t staying positive
another form of faith?

I didn’t know this before
but I now I do
NASA named the Apollo 13 spacecraft
Odyssey
An epic poem
about one man’s faith
in returning home.

12/30: – WATCHING THE WEST WING WITH MY WIFE

For Adela, 4 months into our marriage

After a long day,
we watch reruns of The West Wing
And make up songs about each other during
the theme song. This episode, it’s your turn.
Next episode, it’s mine. We spent the day
as lawyers, and finished it as two people
in love. I smile at you in the soft light inside
our very first house together. By the time
I finish this poem, the episode is over
and the next one begins. Season 3,
Episode 6. Jed and Abby
bicker over a disappointing homily,
something about the misunderstood
meaning of Ephesians 5:21-33. Adela,
the faithful catholic she is, laughs
from across the room. I Google
the bible verse and smirk to myself.
The words read like a neon sign:

Husbands, love your wives…

11/30:  A WITNESS

            It is difficult
to get the news from poems
                        yet men die miserably every day
                                                for lack
of what is found there.

Asphodel, That Greeny Flower [excerpt], William Carlos Williams

April 11, 2021
The President wants Gun Control but not everyone
wants Guns Controlled. Murder is still police brutality.
Another black man was murdered in Minnesota. His name was Daunte Wright.
A Black and Latinx Army Lieutenant was pepper sprayed. His name was Caron Nazario.
Coronavirus has a vaccine but not everyone wants to be vaccinated.
The world holds its breath every time it reads a headline. I’ve never been
to Myanmar but a military coup is killing its people. DMX died days ago.
A year into the pandemic, over half a million have died. A five year old
child arrives at the southern border with nothing but a number and a name.
The State of Georgia rewrote its laws to make it harder for black and brown
people to vote. Texas is doing the same thing. Amazon workers demand a union
but not everyone wants their labor organized. A new COVID variant has
once again entered the blood stream of society. If the media is a monster,
its because we feed it. No matter what happens, don’t fall for the click bait.
There’s too many days ahead to stop paying attention now. I want
some small piece of news to be found in this poem. Let it serve as
the reminder I need: If I wish to write, I must first witness.

10/30:  ON SAYING I LOVE YOU TO YOUR FRIENDS BEFORE THE CALL ENDS

I end every phone call to my brothers and my best friends with
I love you.
No qualification, no hesitations, no reservations.
It’s a natural cadence, no need to pretend.
Seconds—it takes seconds to say I love you before a call ends.
I do it quick, and its got all the rhythm of a natural law.
I do admit, my heart jumps a bit when I say it.
There was a time when I didn’t tell my friends
I loved them. My masculinity taught me to be silent.
The shame of my youth is that I listened.
My brothers raised me then. They were boys too.
Boys raising each other. We said I love you
mainly as penance, the price my mom made us pay
for fighting each other. You’re brothers, for crying out loud!
It made sense—instead of salting the wound,
we used love as the salve. How the words
leave my mouth now! Declaration
is documentation. Tell you friends that you love them.
It deserves to be heard. Preserve the record.
What do you have to lose by speaking the truth?
Toxic masculinity leaves little room for evolution.
A text message, on the other hand, is very different.
I will write the words, but I prefer to give my voice to
the verb. I know the power of a spoken word. A phone call is a stage.
On the other end of the line is an audience that knows
the stories behind your name. Before the call ends
like a sentence you wish you could re-write, speak up.
This is what I’ve learned to do.
I end every phone call to my brothers and my best friends with
I love you.
Life has its rules. This one is mine.

9/30: THE UNIVERSE DOESN’T WANT ME TO RAKE MY LEAVES, I THINK

The amount of leaves in my front yard
has to be a cosmic message about
the passage of time and what happens
when we aren’t paying attention,
or at least a graduate thesis
on the ghost of gravity
pulling the invisible strings from
Somewhere High Up Above
the sprawling Oak trees that line
my little street.
Or maybe it’s a divine display of
the Inevitable, meant to remind me
that the changing of seasons requires a
kind of a blind faith. I know these leaves
have to go somewhere, but they’ll
never go back home, no matter the proximity
to its roots. A rotten truth. I used to think the soil kept
its secrets—but the ground keeps only
what it wants to. Maybe I’m thinking too much.
I can’t be the only one who has steadfast beliefs
in the trees,  or in the things
one cannot possibly conceive. What seems like
a thousand leaves fall and each one of them
is a setting sun, taking its light back from the sky
and spinning gracefully through the very air
I breathe, the same air in my lungs used
to read between the lines of some daily poem the universe wrote,
hoping I was paying attention to the smallest of details— Like the blue jay, for example,
that swooped into the afternoon shade
of the tree as a black cat unwinds in its fallen
leaves beneath—and I see the lesson in plain view.

1/30: Spirit of My Silence

I wrote more e-mails than poems in the last year.
Now, before the first day of April,
My wife runs her fingers through my hair
Like a rosary
and the spirit of my silence
leaves my body like a phantom
Outside my window,
A single wind chime makes the kind of music
With its body
that I’ve been searching for my whole life

Listen here.

Every sound on Sidney street is a revival
of more reasons to live
Light pools somewhere and everywhere
Stairways to forgiveness
I forget the fate of human kind for one second
A Houston sun cracks every tree
free from darkness
Laughter falls like pollen
The sidewalk
asks me to read another poem
by Ross Gay
and before the end of the day,
I am alight and awestruck
at my luck
at my love
blasting from the speakers
the sound system of spring
a karaoke of divine timing
I mean so many things when I say
I am looking for joy
today and always
The latest and last map of my heart starts with
my 4 year old niece coming to visit me,
Jessi demands we sit outside and take in
the beautiful view
Outside my front door
Where the black cats I’ve come to love run
Faster than the neighborhood
Children can rake the leaves
of their youth
Come on, let’s go.
And so we do
And so it goes
A blue-jay swoops and the train whizzes
Into action
Tejano music grooves
fuses with the smoke
from oak or mesquite
I want to speak the commotion
into a sentence or a lyric
And tell you this is all I know.
The locomotion is a promise made
for giving my attention
to something else besides my e-mail.
This poem is an engine
loud enough
to drown the things I lost
and remind me what I found
I invite the wind of a moment
Into my home
The horizon is a stone’s throw away
from who I was yesterday
By now, I know what I’m here on earth for:

The consequence of living is clear
Time rewinds every time a poem appears.