Fall 2012

Location

Azusa Pacific University
801 E. Alosta Ave
United States
34° 7' 49.7496" N, 117° 53' 29.7636" W

I. First-light

 

Eyes fly open and I light up a cigarette.

Check to see…yep, still there.  I slowly unfurl

My cramped wings, the slow rustle of feathers

Is the only sound heard in this desolate place.  The air

Around them trembles as my wings fully fan out.

A movement–

Ash and dust fall to the ground as my wings crumble

With the slightest gesture of the stale air that

Sweeps them off their familiar spots on my shoulder blades.

I quickly turn around to salvage the remains, pick up

The dead, but where did they go? Where? Where?

An oboe’s lilting melody alone haphazardly

Falls and rhombuses its way to my ears,

Its angular rhythm scatters the ash at my feet.

My fingers grope for something, anything,

But are left as they started, smelling of cigarettes.

The smell reminds me and I pull out another,

Light up, and inhale the

 

II. Courage

 

The Dutch warrior plants his feet

And prepares for the imminent assault.

The clouds hover ominously overhead,

Dark charcoals and grays swirl together,

Furious at their very existence.  A low rumbling

Thunder rocks the earth at his feet, shakes

Into his ears.  Smoke flies from his lips

In utter defiance as he stands still as stone, waiting.

Waiting.

And it starts to rain.

It rains, and it rains, and the rain gets colder and colder,

Sinks its teeth into his bare skin and refuses to let go.

Why does he have to endure such bitter misery?

The rain continues to crash to the earth, violently

Attacking he who it most abhors. 

Shield in hand, he does not cover his head–

He does not need it, he can stand the icy rain.

Puddles start forming on the soil, at his feet.

He feels a chill, but he won’t let up, no.

Smoke continues to wing its way from his lips.

How does the fire stay lit?

He guards it with his shield, careful

Not to ever actually use the shield to stave off

The deluge.  Thunder pounds the earth,

Lightning crackles nearby.  He can feel its heat,

That white hot heat, but it does not phase him.

For a moment he has the idea that the smoke is

A crutch, a shield of sorts.  The rain continues

To strike him effortlessly and violently.

All of a sudden the clouds burst overhead

And the rain has taken on new life, new searing life.

He grits his teeth but the onslaught is

Beginning to be unbearable.

He stands and he waits. 

And he waits in the tireless rain.

And he waits.

And he slowly begins to raise

 

III. Sukuinushi (Japanese for “savior”)

 

What is a sukuinushi?  To save all or to save one?

Do we really need saving in the first place? 

What is it we are being saved from?

If ash is predicated on the existence of smoke,

And both disappear almost as soon as given life,

Then where does that leave us with our ideologies

And our belief systems and our sukuinushi?

God, who in your pity made a child

To slaughter on a tree, is that our sukuinushi?

How do I understand that in the present?

How can I?  It seems wherever I turn I find that

Sukuinushi fostering those who are

Cruel as only children can be, for they

Filter oppression through the lens of justice.

Justice, ay, there’s the rub.

Easily abused, it flirts between the poles

Of outward cruelty and passive aggressive rot.

Always at the claws of those in power,

The scepter of justice brings pain to many

And vengeance to some and peace to very few.

And, surely, the Jesus sukuinushi is not the only

One exploited.  Exploitation is the lifeblood of us.

It seems, then, that we really are in need of a

Sukuinushi that will save

 

IV. The Passing

 

She waits alone now, lies still in her king size bed,

Unable to fall asleep.  Her eyes and brain hurt from

Just                        too               much.

Too many certificates to sign, too many letters to write,

Too much to clean up, too much to move from places in the house

That are too high for her to reach.

What is it like to lose a part of you after 60 years?

“‘Til death do us part,” but what about after we part?

What then?  What is left?

60 years is an eternity and a wisp of smoke…

Dressed in black, the living honor the dead by making

Themselves more like death, what is it

 

V. Creative Writing: Poetry

 

Shutters closed tightly

Slowly pry open–

Radiant light pulls in as little letters in Baskerville font

Awaken from their slumber on the surface of

The shutter.  They yawn and stretch their arms,

Greeting the light for the first time as if expecting it all along.

Line up in neat and numberless rows and take their leave

With a slight bow off the shutter, destined to meet and know and see

Other letters that they together may form words that express

Beliefs that tear down and raise up fortified pillars assembled

Of blocks of stone laden with ideologies, only to at some future

Time be realized as not of stone but of glass, shattered with the

Precise tap of a chisel of various letters and words.

 

Intermission 

 

Tales like fox-tails pepper my mind and I find

That clothed the wind still hurts, and it hurts like hell.

 

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We are sorry to inform you–

We are sorry to–

We are sorry. 

Your flight is delayed from 8:45 PM to 10:03 PM.  This means you will arrive in Portland at 12:23 AM.  We hope you will understand.  If you would like there are snacks (re: pretzels, size: mini) at the front desk for your pleasure.

What is it like in a country where God is dead? Is God really dead there?  I doubt it.  But I also wonder what they call God, they who say God is dead in Japan.  Three mustached men in their 50’s sit next to me.  They come neatly packaged, replete with glasses, Gatorade, and little friendly phrases they must really like saying.  I think they have their neat remarks to keep everyone else at a comfortable distance.  True independents.  I wonder what they call God.  Everyone has to call God something. 

 

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Worlds collide with worlds in my world.

In my world our world, red splatters the floor and

I find that I’m struggling to breathe in the

Stale wind.  We built ourselves, blood on blood.

If only we saw what we saw.  Look and see (                        )

 

IV. The Passing

 

like? To honor the dead.

A celebration seems a mockery and an excuse.

What else, what else…a solemn observance?

Too inhuman.  Animals observe.

…a remembrance of a life passed? That’s nice.

Then, does remembering lead to celebration?

Well, actually, I think it does much of the time.

Fine.  A celebration, then.

I could feel the chilled crispy air breathe

Its rain on my skin as I walked out of the church

on a Beaverton afternoon.  As I am wont to do

In times like this, I lit up.  Nicotine consoled

Me but mostly just made me dizzy.

The Fourth, I thought, is not The Third, and it is not

The Second.  The Second is burnt up

And is just like the ash I flick off the end of

My cigarette. The Second will be spread somewhere not

For the ash’s sake but for the sake of those doing the

Scattering.  Somehow that is a nice thought for us,

That ashes once flesh can then be

A part of this earth for as long as it draws

Deep smoke-ridden breaths

Until, eventually, it too will become ash, ash and dust.

Does it really just disappear?

The Second lays his fingerprints on me in death,

Whether I want them or not. 

Passion, commitment, self-sacrifice…

A sukuinushi, in a way.

These virtues–as well as the vices, but, really,

I choose to think on the virtues–

Shadow my footsteps as I walk on the path

I will make for myself.  I suppose it is all about

Finding that path, though… curious thing, paths.

You never know where you might be swept off to.

Just make sure you are the one sweeping.

A mess of fingerprints from a gentle giant,

And I decide that I do, in fact, want them and

That I will, in fact, cherish them.

 

But cherish is such a trite word.  Cherish, cherish…

Something you find on a hallmark card.

What, then, is more fitting and less vapid?

Nothing really comes to mind.  Cherish will have to do.

In that case, rewind 6 lines.  I will (I promise) cherish them.

 

III. Sukuinushi

 

us.  What then, is it ourselves that save us?

God, I hope not.  It must be something bigger.

A vast landscape of selves, maybe.

Propped up like trees in an orchard.

Or maybe not.

For now I choose to rest in meditation and prayer

Believing that peace will find me in these things.

Repetition seems like a useful medium, something

Integral to the human experience.

Gertrude was on to something.

I must see what I see.  Seeing is not predicated on seeing

But in order to live we must see what we see.

That includes sukuinushi, whether found

Under the fist-sized stone in the dusty golden hills

Or behind the precarious waterfall that drips

Interminably on the sheer granite surface.

Wherever it is, we–I–must see sukuinushi.

 

II. Courage

 

the shield over his head.  And the rain suddenly

Does not smart so much.  Indeed, within

Sight is a space of land the sky and earth

Do not seem to loathe with their entire nature.

He has been there before.  He does not care for it

As much.  It does not offer the life, the true living

Life–however painful–that the rain offers.

The rain lets you know you are alive.  It makes you

Face life or lose it.  But he knows that in that space

Is a slight chance for life out of the rain, out of the biting cold.

The chance is so so small, though–and it does not satisfy like the rain,

No, it never does–but there is yet the chance.

Tears mixed with rain drops cascade down his face

And he makes his way over to the space,

For the first time feeling like maybe it would be worth it.

 

I.  First-light

 

smoke that shoots down my throat to create

A war between health and pollution

In which

I am satisfied to exist.

I am not trying to be the most holy;

What’s the use, anyway? What once lifted me up

Out of the smoke is now scattered at my feet.

No, I am not trying to be the most holy,

I am merely trying to be sound.

For is not life a series of virtues and vices

Competing and striving towards one goal: purpose?

Therefore, history does not define me–us–but,

Rather,

I and the we define it,

And isn’t that beautiful?

And so smoke will continue to invade my inner

Space and the dust and ash will collect around my feet and

I will not apologize for being human.

 

Epilogue

 

The radiance of life that hums so sweetly

Is not absolutely predicated

On a pair of wings.

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