The Imperfect Vessel I Call Me

I do not close my eyes so that I can see better:
I close my eyes so that what I do see does not interfere with what I am trying to understand.

I do not close my mouth so that I can hear better;
I close my mouth so that the next words I do speak are spoken with more clarity.

I do not close my heart to protect it from what might break it;
I close my heart to break it from what prevents me from sharing it.

I do not hide my emotions because I am afraid of my insecurities;
I hide my emotions because I am afraid of yours.

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Passed Members

I visited the deceased last night,
While lying in my master bed;
A pain shot down my left side –
For a moment, I was surely dead.

I saw my father and my brother;
Grandparents, aunts and uncles, too;
They said, “Joe, you are not welcomed here,
There’s still too much for you to do.”

“Your wife requires your loving support,
Your son still needs your guiding hand;
You must will your heart to beat again,
And upon your feet you must now stand.”

I regained consciousness holding my cell phone;
9-1-1 already dialed;
The voice said, “They’re almost there,
Hang tough for a little while.”

One night in the ICU;
One stent in my artery;
One more chance to live life again
Thanks to passed members of my family.

When the Dam Breaks

It has been about eight years now since I have come out of the poetry closet and started sharing my poems with the world – okay, TRYING to share my poems with the world; the world just isn’t that interested in receiving them. And, really, that’s okay.

And, yes, I understand, that with my addictive behavior, once I stepped out of this closet, my poems did not just trickle out, like from a garden hose, but came shooting out, like from a fire hose. Almost daily, and, sometimes, multiple times a day, I would post yet another poem. But hey, they have been building up inside of me, secretively, for over 50 years. When the dam breaks, the water does not trickle.

So, I realize I have created my new world order. I understand that it is my behavior that has changed your behavior. I am responsible for the fact that many of you now cannot help yourself from saying, anytime I am with you and something happens, unusual or routinely, “Hey, I guess Joe will now write a poem about that.” The closet I lived in was built by those kinds of walls, so I recognize them easily. I just don’t allow them to hold me in any more.

People do not intend to build the walls of one another’s closets, but that is what we do. Whether being gay and afraid to show it; or, sensing we should have been born the other gender but being afraid to live it; or, liking to dance but having no rhythm; or, liking to sing but being tone deaf; or, liking to collect stamps; or, play with dolls; or, dressing up; or writing poems. It is the reactions of those around us, often unintended and seemingly harmless, that construct our walls of secrecy.

Now, my closet did not hold a secret that others find offensive or amoral, but it did imprison a part of me that makes me whole and it was an enclosure of which I was always aware. I struggled for years with wondering whether or not I wanted to come out of this closet. Being a poet, or poet-wannabe, just did not mesh with the way the rest of me fit into this world. I knew it had the potential of making people see me differently – not always in a positive light. I knew it had the potential to create the not real flattering remark, “I guess Joe will now write a poem about that.” But, finally, at fifty years old, I tore down my closet walls and freed my soul of the burden of secrecy.

Not really that big of a deal.

But you know what it did do? It allowed me some empathy into what people that live in those much more controversial closets have to go through. Poetry, in reality, is a very small part of who I am. I can’t imagine what that closet must be like that imprisons the most significant parts of its prisoner. I can’t imagine the pain, fear and torment of having your heart and soul living in a closet with only a small façade of you being all that you feel safe to show. The horror of that closet is terrifying to me. And, the courage it takes to open those doors simply overpowers me.

And, I understand, why, when the closet walls are broken down, the water does not trickle.

To many, people coming out of a closet, no matter which closet that might be, seem flamboyant, over-zealous and in-our-face. But, try to imagine how you would feel when first coming out of a small, dark room that has held you captive for all of your life. You, too, would probably raise your hands high and shout out, “I am free, I am free. God almighty, I am free, at last!”

Some of you reading this may still be enclosed in one closet or another. I hope, one day, you find the courage to break down those walls, no matter how trivial or how controversial the subject of your prison may be. And, when you do, if I should ever unintentionally belittle your accomplishment or demean your passion in a thoughtless attempt at humor, feel free to let me know. The last thing I want to do is to be responsible for reconstructing walls that you so courageously broke down.

Just be aware, there will be some who love you now who will no longer love the you that steps out of that closet. But then, just like you were not being you, their love was not being love. And others, please be aware, when someone you love opens up a closet door that you, up until then, were never allowed inside of, you will be met with the force of a firehose, because …

… when the dam breaks, water does not trickle.

Right For Me

I suffer in silence,
But shout out songs of joy;
I must disguise my shyness
In the work that I employ.

I close my eyes to hatred,
Look for love in everything;
I don’t believe that life is fated,
Even you could be a King.

I judge not my neighbor;
I embrace diversity;
I run not from labor,
It helps make a stronger me.

These words that I share,
I hope are spoken true,
But I am well aware
This way might not be right for you.

Today

Today is good for a date with destiny
Today is as good as any other day could be
Come sail with me
Out to the sea
Of our destiny

Today is a good day to make a change
No better day could our God arrange
It won’t be strange
To rearrange
Embracing change

Today is a good day to take a risk
Stand up to wrongs and shake your fist
We can resist
Staying pacifists
Thrilling a risk

Today is a good day to leave your home
Go out into this big world and roam
Don’t stay alone
Just come along
Leaving your home

Today is a good day to be alive
There are no promises tomorrow will arrive
So, hit your stride
Do more than survive
Time to come alive

Today

Biased Vantage Points

Our vantage points are biased;
We only know what we’ve been taught;
The freedoms that we enjoy today,
By many lives have been bought.

Platforms are polarized;
We’ve forgotten how to compromise;
So, it should come as no surprise,
Our citizens are fractionalized.

We often argue in violent agreement,
Or meekly oppose when things go wrong;
The majority just grows weaker,
While only a few keep going strong.

Some applaud while others curse;
For some, it’s better – for others, worse;
Last place sometimes looks like first,
When driving forward while in reverse.

The magnets are broken in our compass,
But the sun still sets out in the west;
It’s easier to accept the world’s shortcomings,
When you know you gave it your very best.

My Birthday Poem

I was put upon the roller coaster
In nineteen fifty-eight;
There have been ups and downs with lots of loops,
The ride’s been really great.

I’ve passed twists and turns along the way,
Almost ending on a couple of curves;
But, around obstacles sitting on the tracks
My car has been able to swerve.

How much track still lies ahead
Is a total mystery,
But I’ll be riding with my hands held high
And screaming like a wild banshee.