Yo, I’m next to my couch,
The wrong place to be tonight,
As I’m sitting in a mangled lotus pose,
Or whatever it’s called when you meditate,
The bowl is ringing,
My eyes are closed,
The crackling fire music is playing,
I’m so far gone that I can smell the fire…

RING!!!!

Damn, I forgot to turn off the phone…

One friend,
Then another,
Followed by another, and
Finally a fourth
Each calling with a dilemma, and issue,
Kind of a social ball for pushing me to walk away
From my mental siesta
As it seemed that I was the one, the Neo
Who could help each of them
Soothe,
Smooth, or
Groove to a beat that would relieve them
Of the ills of the moment.

They should have been on my couch,
Checkbook in hand, but
I couldn’t charge these guys,
I’m no counselor,
Friend, not a therapist,
Although, if they wanted to throw me a few dollars…

I’d refuse,

Because these are my buds,
If I can help them (one guy),
Listen to them (another guy),
Talk another through a virtual learning problem (a different guy),
Or give the last one a platform to make excuses for falling behind on his own challenge,
I don’t mind.
These are my guys, my friends
I’ve got their backs,
They’ve got mine.

Whether it be
Detroit style,
Philly style,
Wilmington style, or
Pittsburgh style,
We all speak the same language.

Now, if I could just get them to say, “y’all” with the eloquence of the Goat herder,
And not call when I’m meditating…

I’m a big believer in vulnerability,
Trust, compassion,
Hard work,
Earning your way,
All that stuff that might be considered
Old fashioned or New Age
Depending on your upbringing.

But I’ll be the first to acknowledge
That people I let in my circle
Better understand certain basic rules
Similar to

1. Don’t talk in the car.
2. Never use the same payphone twice.
3. Just because you have one, doesn’t mean you have to be one.

Just saying,
There is too much going on for people to be worrying
About math problems,
The only ones mattering now are those related to bills.
Teachers and assignments are secondary
To understanding how to think,
How to cope,
How to be responsible for us all.

A fancy car,
Access to internet connections,
SAT scores,
None of that matters to me.

Vulnerability, trust, compassion, hard work,
Earning your way
Those are the things that do.
Status, where I’m concerned, is everything there.

So know,
I won’t be vulnerable to people I don’t trust.
I won’t work hard for friendships
With those who can’t earn their way into my circle,
Which is fine, because I’m at ease with social distancing,
Running my own routes,
Finding peace swimming alone.

As Marlow said, “The game is the game.”

And I only play with people I trust.

(Inspired by old and new friends…and maturity? Eff that…)

As the tropics flare up,
So too do the cosmos,
My life has been a rolling thunder
Of cosmic collisions
Over the last two weeks.

First, as I broke ranks and did some volunteering,
I asked a young man if he knew
A teacher friend of mine who worked in his school.
It was a long and sort of lost friend
Who I rarely see anymore,
But when I do, it’s right back to the old days.

Twenty minutes after finishing with my shift
I ran into my friend in a grocery store,
A place of nourishment,
The place where nutrients are gotten
To feed a body and in this case, since I was hunting for oatmeal,
To feed my soul, as overnight oats have become
A life-changing food for me.

We spent almost no time reminiscing,
Mostly we talked about getting older,
Exercising,
The difficulty of CrossFit, yoga, and running.
I walked away from our chance meeting
Smiling all over
Because my friend is such a good soul.

I’d never burn our friendship
In her “No Regrets” can.

Fast forward to yesterday,
I’m deep-diving into my work Google Drive
And cleaning out the clutter,
The digital delirium that I have no use for.
There were files with photos,
Pictures of a past job,
The Rising Juniors Program
That consumed nearly a decade of my time,
Brining me an eternity of learning.
I thought long and hard about those photos,
Wanting to cast away pictures that only interfere with my present,
But are so important to my past.
The three seconds I waited
With my finger hovering above the delete button
Felt as long as the ten years it has been since my teacher friend and I
Worked there last.
In the end, I kept the photos, even though, copies are all over
My cyber landscape.

Later that night, I happened upon a blog comment on a poem I wrote,
Having just finished a dinner of PBJs,
School is wearing my ass out,
I was not prepared for the gut punch I was about to receive.
You see, there are some people who are the only ones to
Know certain things about us,
They are the ones who we get very close to and when they are gone,
It leaves a spot of regret, the kind of feelings that should be burned
In my friend’s metaphorical smokey motivational activity.

Still hungry after reading the comment,
I headed upstairs, opened the fridge, and
Took out some Swiss, Provolone, and shredded Cheddar.
With a couple of pieces of bread,
I had my very own three-cheese sandwich.
It didn’t taste as good as the last one I had,
Some twelve or so years ago
After visiting an animal rescue farm
Which, coincidently, I tried to find last Saturday
As I rode my bike on the back roads of Chester County,
But man, the memories were rich.
The heat of the dorms, the constant struggles, the fun of word games.
I hoped that the comment was from who I thought it was
For Facebook, word of mouth, and simple gut intuition
Had failed me at locating my old friend,
One I owe an apology
And one I have sincerely missed staying in touch with.

So I went to bed,
Woke at four,
Fought the ache out of my legs,
And shook the doubt from my mind
To meet my latest bunch of friends for a run.
We trudged up the hill just a block from the optimistic tree
And the recently shuttered Sunrise Cafe
Only to stop for traffic under the giant clock in town and hear,

“GO, HANCOCK.”

My old teacher friend drove by,
Everyone was wondering why a woman would call my last name,
So I explained, but it was strange to me that the RJP was colliding this way
It was as if in this summer of renewal
Where peace has finally taken over my psyche
That the cosmos was taking the slack out of the rope,

“Yes, up rope,” I thought. Safe, secure, and supported for a challenge.
We ran through the night,
Coming out of the woods into the first rays of light.
We saw a few people, but we could only ask, “Where’s Pete?”
My guess was with his sandaled feet up on a table somewhere
Stuffing his skinny ass with any food he could find.
It felt good to be running with my new mates,
Living in the memories of my old mates, and
Realizing that there are many ways through life,
Through Philly,
Through Kennett Square,
Through our relationships, and they are all important,
So it’s up to us
Not to eff them up.

I’m a fan of this phenomena,
The cosmic collisions, that is.
They refresh me, restore, reactivate waning energy.
I know more is coming,
It’s there,
Big boob housekeepers wielding knives in the kitchen,
Similarly shaped inflatable dolls,
Spiritual reckonings in trendy coffee shops,
Foot shuffling and farting, perhaps these are a
Trade-off for the overnight oats and three-cheese sandwiches.

It’s hard to explain,
I want this vibe to continue.
Just gotta stay out of the way and survive people.

The Talking Heads sang,
“You might find yourself living in a shotgun blast.
Right now, I’d have to say that’s about where I am,
Definitely not the same as it ever was
Because for the first time in a long time in this lifetime,
There’s a lot going on
And I want to be in the fray.

Back in my yute,
I was everywhere,
Hanging with anyone,
Living the dream,
With an idea of what being an adult was supposed to be,
Which became more like a rifle bullet to me
Than a shotgun.
Duty, responsibility, marriage, kids,
That was the way, right?

Gone were the nights at the bar
Talking the crazy stuff,
Living those scenes crafted
In a Springsteen song.
Gone were the jobs that allowed for golf,
Contributed to meager means, and
Were so easily let go of.

Gone were the times of going out
To some far off area
And shooting up some cans
With a .22 or a shotgun,
My favorite was a twenty gauge.
I preferred the cans to animals
Because I couldn’t stomach the death,
Yet I never realized the slow burn
I was living by taking on some Huxstable-Keaton styled life.

Years went by in this foreign land,
Kids came, friends distant and fading,
And all I got was the kickback from a life
That brought little in the way
Of challenge, distraction, or satisfaction.

Not now…

The change has been slow,
But it’s happening.
First, the whole family thing exploded like a hollow point,
Thankfully, missing the true mark,
Although, the rehab was hard.
It paid off, though, and now healing is complete,
Stronger than ever.
It feels like I am in the old and familiar shotgun blast
With friends who get what life is about,
Not too concerned with themselves,
Not too concerned with me,
Just living, laughing, letting go of whatever
That thirty-forty something life was, the
Distorted expectations, warped beliefs in parenting, or the
Hollow bedrocks of being an adult.

I love hearing my friends tell their stories of agave inspired personalities,
Spouses unwilling to share the good liquids,
Or the fragility of men drinking beer from snifters,
Because I know those things, too.
I can laugh with them because I am really laughing at me.
It’s great being vulnerable in that way,
Especially when it’s okay to be there. That’s how friendships should be.

So, there I am, shotgun blasting.
A twenty-gauge, enough to raise the hairs on my neck,
Not so much as to put a hole in my confidence.

Finally.

Communication,
So easy to do,
So easy to misinterpret,
Words flow sharing ideas,
Words spew infectiously with their multiple meanings,
Communication.

Stories,
So lively to the soul,
So able to illuminate who people are,
Their tales of moral misgivings,
Their tales of emoji enunciations,
Stories.

Tables,
Gathering places of friendly banter
Gathering places of unfortunate terminations
The surfaces allowing people to hang
The surfaces allowing people to be dismissed
Tables.

Spotlights,
Directed light to focus attention
Directed light bringing unwanted focus
Illumination to bring out our spots,
Illumination to expose our thoughts,
Spotlights.

Communication,
Effecting change,
Stories,
Entertaining change,
Tables,
Enabling change,
Spotlights,
Exposing change.

Which is not where we always want to be,
Sometimes it’s better to be on the side,
Listening, a quiet communication skill,
Soaking in the stories people share
While sitting around the table,
Far out of the spotlight where anonymity,
Indifference, or passive participation
Allows change to take root.

We talk,
We share,
We laugh,
We take turns,
And I, for one, am changing
Able to be open,
Appreciative of my new friends,
Accepting of time in the spotlight,
Given I can get out of it quickly.

Maybe that seems a shock,
Perhaps a poetic lie,
In my reality, I’m quite shy,
Maybe inconveniently unconfident,
Mostly engaged, but
Thankful for the mornings,
The communication,
The stories,
The table talk,
Although, I prefer others take the spotlight,
Especially when they have to explain
Their laundry habits…☕️

Part 1

It started off badly,
An alarm at four AM
Giving the alert
That it was time for a run.
Commitment was not fully in place
And without school,
There was no reason to go
Other than the chance
To shoot the shiitake with
The troublesome ones in the group.

There were issues getting there, though.
An empty tray of donuts with a smattering of crumbs
Rested on the counter…
A pit bull with a sheepish grin
Sat curled up on the couch,
One eye looking to the kitchen with the right amount
Of pride and doubt.
There was a minor medical emergency
That nearly stopped progress
For sometimes gravity and smooth muscles
Will not be stopped.
Finally, after all the obstacles,
After all the doubt,
After all the negative self-talk,
The run began.

Let it be known,
People like things to be
The way people like them.
Some are decimal people,
Keeping track of minutia.
Others are into whole numbers
Quite happy in the macro world.
Still, there are a few,
Who without much effort
Pick and choose what to ponder in detail,
What to gorge on in quantity,
And what to not give an eff about.

Being one of those is the place of a Libra
Balanced, committed to the center, able to understand all,
The perfect place to know hanky panky
While respecting the laws of decency and morality,
Kind of what the intimacy box is suggesting,
Just sayin’…

So the trek through the dark
Under the threat of a major snowstorm
Unlike any seen before,
Or at least since the one last week,
Progressed at an easy pace where the conversations
Where more important than the pace of the herd.
The speed perfect, as several, author included,
Complained of dead legs,
Questioning the necessity of liking children, and
The general-specific insanity each of us brings to the group.

The author, a misfit of declining patience
With a conflicting bouquet of acceptance
Wrestled with the idea of ranting about a host of topics
When while chugging up a hill
A moment of clarity from an old high school experience
Resurrected a warmth that raised his soul
(Not really, poetic license.)
Truthfully, the run couldn’t end soon enough
For a rhyme challenged hack.
Coffee was calling.

Part 2

Running in winter is something,
Sure it’s cold and dark,
But it takes away the intensity of running in the heat.
Don’t think, though, summer running is worse,
Those workouts when the sweat is dripping
Have their own level of satisfaction,
It just isn’t as good as it is now.
Coming in from its run, the herd found their seats,
There’s the first table, one where everyone tries to cram around,
And this morning,
The author, found the group too crowded,
His patience for socializing untouched by the bouquet of acceptance,
And the outer reaches of hanging out
To be more comfortable.

Talk is talk,
Pace, distance, races (not the cultural kinds, running…duh),
Safe stuff, predictable, appropriate.
Eff that, isn’t it more interesting to make fun of hotel amenities,
Trying to make sense of social mores, or
Just laughing at the stupidity of being?
Out there at the second table,
There world was irreverent,
Taken to the gutter where jokes about epidemics
Were accepted in the same way that talk of potential homicidal inclinations
Could be mixed with comedians drinking coffee,
In cars nonetheless, what a great effing idea,
Someone should do that,
What would it be called,
It doesn’t matter, nobody remembers the names of shows anyway.

So that went on for awhile until the 9-5ers had to go.
Then acceptance and social responsibility eased into the conversation
And (no sarcasm here) enlightenment touched the renegade author
Who was working through the adrenaline
Of being stirred up, more upset about the loss of half a lifetime of poetry
At the hands of the worst words that can be used for an ex,
Than thoughts of lost covenants with God or Yahweh
Or whoever makes the marital rules.
Special thoughts were shared, suggestions offered, and a peace that good
Does exist in people.
Of course, this moment passed as well,
The conversation darted back to the absence of snow,
Which had called another day off from school,
Making the author think,
How poxy we had all become.

Still, looking back, this two-part episode
Is super important,
The exercise,
The fellowship,
The outright skirting the edge of acceptability,
The precision runners,
The WTF runners,
Those preparing to rake embers in the after-life
All have a place at either table.
Everyone makes four AM bearable.

Yo, brother,
How does Snot Boogie feel?
Not good I suppose,
Although, I understand his demise.
Expecting too much, that’s the crime,
Unfortunately, met with the absolute social justice.

I understand, brother,
How Snot Boogie felt
As the blows reigned down on his charlatan craps game.
Too bad he could not recover
From a couple of misguided beers
Bringing the nuptials from a nearly lunar kegger.

#Bliss…