Watching the Friday Night Fights with Dad

Dad watched the fights every Friday night
I learned that to be close to Dad
You watched the fights with him
We never talked directly to each other
Only through the televised action
On our old black and white Philco

Dad’s eyes never left the set
Occasionally he’d make fists
With his large calloused workingman’s hands
And throw a calculated punch here and there
I did the same
My smaller writer’s hands mimicking his jabs

Boxing seemed brutal
Downright Neanderthal
But somehow you knew–
Fighting was a real part of life
Completely inescapable
And any life situation could be the ring

As a seven-year old
I had no idea
That life was an endless boxing match
Not limited to Friday nights
Usually not a spectator sports
And most often, you had to be your own referee

The Miracle of Life

life–it seems to happen
while we’re waiting for a train
walking the dog
drinking a glass of wine
thinking about tomorrow’s meeting
saying our prayers at night
sitting half asleep on the sofa
planting flowers in the garden
saying goodbye to a friend
changing a dirty diaper
and even as we take our last breath
and give into a new life

yes, life is a miracle
but fully within our reach
even though only for a fleeting moment

In Their Prime

I walked along the river in Kent
Thinking, wondering
Why it happened here, of all places
Four Kent State students died here
Why not Columbia or Berkeley
Student demonstrations were more intense there
Why Kent State University, May 4, 1970

Then I realized–
It could happen anywhere
It’s not just about protesting a war
It’s about young people dying
In the prime of their lives
At the hands of others
Especially other young people

How’s your memory?
Jackson, Mississippi, May 14-15, 1970
Hot Springs, Arkansas, April 5, 1982
Iowa City, Iowa, November 1, 1991
West Lafayette, Indiana, October 16, 1996
Closer to home…Cleveland, Ohio, May 9, 2003
Blacksburg, Virginia, April 16, 2007
DeKalb, Illinois, February 14, 2008

Our Work Can’t Save Us

I think of work
That which pays us
Promises to sustain us
And yet, milks our life energy
Leaving us empty and dry

I think of careers
And how we entrust ourselves to them
To being something in particular
Somebody who matters
Because of the work we do

I’ve given up on work
As anything special
As anything that will save us
Or prevent the inevitable
Whose work it is to take us away

Look up close
Use a microscope if you must
To see what work is really about
For those you work for, and for yourself
When I look I see little that really matters

It’s a disease
Incurable for most
This thing we call work
It saps away the real us
Leaving us empty and forever wanting

I think of work
How I’ve spent my life
There’s no stopping the sadness
That descends and lingers
Until it takes us, and we can then rest

What we do in life should really matter
It should be about more than money
Or healthcare benefits when we’re old
These things aren’t enough
They can’t save us, or prevent the inevitable

I think of work, and wonder why
There isn’t something deeper in my life
That helps me see
Work only leads to more work
And never the freedom we all seek

When Hope Returns

Sorrow, the name you wear
When darkness falls
Covering your sunshine
Holding your happiness at bay

Loneliness, the face you share
When parts of you disappear
Like some lost ghost
Filling your soul with emptiness

Despair, last words you speak
When all else fails
Leaving you close to the edge
That narrow path your life walks

Then, for no reason
Except nothing else is left
Hope reappears
Taking away all that cries inside you