Monday, September 27, 2010

150 Words: Victor

Victor likes to imagine himself as a victim.  It gives him some pleasure to think of himself enduring great pain and hardship…especially if he’s suffering for the sake of others. 

He knows that it’s not a healthy way to think but he indulges it anyway; it is, he rationalizes, a gentler madness.

Once he wanted to be a hero…heroes save the day and get the girl.

Once he wanted to be a leader…leaders pave the way and make safe the future for those who trust and follow him.

Once he wanted to be a lover…lovers heal the world with their bountiful hearts of love, agape and erotic and sweetly romantic, and everyone loves them just for being.

But now Victor…cognizant of the irony given his name…wants to be a victim, imagining that being a victim will, in turn, make him a lover, a leader, a hero.  It’s a gentler madness.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Four Crushes (The Songs Remember When)

When I was a boy I was shy, aloof, fat, anxious, and impatient with my peer group…not the best combination for social success in the emotional cesspool that high school could be. I was also cursed and blessed with a vivid imagination, a facility for written expression, and a yearning poet’s heart that, in ways both naively expansive and painfully insular, wanted to love and be loved.

Not surprisingly I had crushes that both elevated and devastated my foolish romantic’s heart and soul. Each one had its own soundtrack...songs forever identified with specific people.

Back in those days…the halcyon days padding the halls of Louis Pasteur Junior High and Alexander Hamilton High School (Los Angeles liked to dedicate their schools to dead white men…a function of the times they were built rather than any overt racism…to the point where a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to change the name of another school to honor Marilyn Monroe rather than James Monroe, a seemingly reasonable notion to me given where we lived, was shot down with vehement disdain by the powers that be)…back in those childhood days I carried torches that warmed and seared me to the core.

From the perspective of age I look back and see that some of my crushes from that time…four of them in particular…added more color to the tapestry of my life than I had previously consciously acknowledged.

Those four…two older, two among my peers…linger with me in ways I would never be arrogant enough as to believe that I linger with them.

They all seemed to like me. They all saw me as harmless. They all loomed in my head with more vividness than the reality of our acquaintance should have allowed for. They still do.

One died suddenly while I was still in the process of becoming a man.

One I willingly surrendered my virginity to in an act that meant much more to me than it did to them.

One shared what turned out to be final goodbyes with me on the last day of our High School life in the parking lot of Hamilton early one morning after having spent the previous hours indulging a last gasp of childhood at Disneyland, the place where childhood never ends.

One never saw my crush because I was too scared to really let it show…it was, of course, a time when I imagined that rejection would literally kill me… and because they had a crush of their own that was not me.

Those four…one gone, two hopefully living well out in our sweet old world somewhere, one in the circle of my acquaintance once and again…none of them knowing what an indelible impact they made on my journey from then to now…linger in my soul, memory making the music of their souls ever sweeter in the golden realm of affectionate nostalgia.

It was and is a gentler, sweeter madness...the songs, like my heart, remember when...and I thank them all for that.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

150 Words: Magdalena's Angel

I was dancing with Magdalena’s angel…dancing in the graceful gold of harvest moonlight…dancing in the world unencumbered by shyness or artifice.

She lifted my face to hers, her dark eyes smiling, and nodded lovingly…she held me close, told me that I was a fool, that I just needed some faith.

I closed my eyes, head on her shoulder…she smelled like jasmine and sweet honey…and believed her because believing is all you can do when you’re dancing with an angel.

She smiled patiently, called me a silly man, and lifted us into the nighttime sky.

I was dancing with Magdalena’s angel…dancing over verdant fields and majestic rises…dancing in the arms of heaven, in the gaze of the gracious universe.

She laughed warmly, called me a good man, and took us over the horizon to greet the waking sun.

I was dancing with Magdalena’s angel…dancing in the light of another welcoming dawn.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


echoes ring up from his valley...he is screaming,
screaming at the top of his lungs,
screaming for all the gray world to hear,
screaming because it keeps the tears at bay.

(Hey, somebody calls down into his valley,
what are you doing down there?

I was screaming for help, he said, red-faced and tired,
isn't that why you came?

Nah, somebody said, didn't hear a thing, pal,
I was just passin' by...

Oh, he said, okay.

You want somebody to hear ya,
ya gotta make some noise...)

echoes ring up from his valley,
echoes ring down from his former hilltop,
he thinks he is screaming,
somebody knows he's barely whispering...

the clouds are gathering on the near horizon
and he is swallowed by pride and defeat
and he is screaming in plaintive whispers,
screaming for all the blessed world to hear...