There was a character in a James Bond movie,
He felt no pain,
It was a great source of anguish for the guy,
He hurt all the time.

Death has a way of sobering up a day,
Just something about it,
Such a great source of pain,
The loss so much for some.

I’ve had my share of loss,
Sudden, life-altering deaths,
Family, friends, each layering on scars
Somehow shielding my soul from death.

I’ve grown to accept that death will come,
Grabbing someone,
Maybe another relative, maybe a friend,
I hope neither. Me, either.

I worry that I’m that character,
Not able to feel the sadness when people die,
Maybe because the ache from my family’s loses
Have jaded my outlook on grief.

Move on, go forward,
“Get busy living, Red.”
Too sober some might think, although,
Others might realize I’m drunk with life.

So how is it, that I don’t belly up to the grieving bar,
I don’t know, not cold-hearted, just accepting of the end,
Saddened by the losses, not saddled by death.
My time will come and I hope people say a toast and move on.

That would be enough,
No grieving,
Accepting,
Simple.

Clarity,
Induced by bags of sand
Lifted in a metronomic meditation
Built in forty second bursts,
Comes quickly
To a harried mind
Living in the muck
Of do-gooders
Who have failed
The ones they’ve helped.

To keep stepping
While the mind tempts muscles
With rest and promises of make up days
Is exactly what aggravates accountability,
Leaving those needing help
Right where they are.

Better to battle the mind with heart,
Letting each beat pound some sense,
Sense developed from discipline,
Determination, and shown
Through confidence, swagger, chutzpah
Into a soul, which is so much better than
Walking away, taking leave, quitting…
Unless, course, the latter is the truest option.

Clarity,
When quads ache and breathing is labored,
Sees life’s journey in black and white.
The choices are clear,
Get busy
Or
Quit.

Give me the grinders,
Give me the strength to persevere,
Let me compete.

Busy.

Perspective is perplexing,
Music is relaxing,
Plenty of coffee is “Ex-laxing”
And I’m sitting in a convection oven office
Trying to make sense of
Moods,
Mayhem,
Mental incarceration, and
Any other mmm-mmm bad
Thing that might surf through my brain.

Take perspective,
A walk in the reality of one,
Since we all see things differently,
Through our lens,
In our time, with our emotional makeup,
Under the stresses of our lives.
It’s easy to see how we can be so confused
By the way we are supposed to be
Because the rules are made by those seeing
In way unique to them, foreign to us.

In these days of Rrrrrr,
Political discourse, career apathy,
Self-inflicted physical beatdowns,
The rundown nature of getting on
Tends to taint my outlook on how things are going.
Music soothes, takes on that edge,
With just a little hit on the boombox bong
I melted away without the need for psychoactive properties
Given a little bass, some familiar words, and
I zoomed away from the manstrating mood I found myself in.

Today, Joe Walsh’s, Life’s Been Good To Me, played, it’s
A teenage anthem that never fails to raise my spirit.
Coming through beat up desktop speakers, Joe helped me leave now
Allowing me to drift back to a community gathering where
Big Pioneer speakers added the soundtrack
For a night of shenanigans that
Started a summer adventure
Where for a few weeks
I’d understand the importance
Of patience, pacing, and accepting the impermanence of life.

Maybe the song was the inspiration
For my nostalgic trip back to York County.
Maybe it was the river of coffee that I’d been drinking
Due to the absence of anything stronger
During working hours.
Interestingly, the java didn’t loosen my bowels,
It relaxed my thoughts, allowing those good memories
To flood my present and wash away
The stodgy way of thinking I woke up with.
Perspective, music, and coffee. Ahh…

As the machine keeps going
What is there to look forward to?
The first day of school?
Puberty?
Graduation?
College?
Jobs?
Marriage?
Grandkids?
Death?

Maybe all of those,
But who really can live
Only looking towards the milestones of life.
They are bumps on life’s continuum
That are nothing more the tally marks
On prison walls.

What then?
Small town identities…
Schools…
Of what,
For what,
Whosie what.

Schools offer sanctuaries
For souls needing identities.
Far beyond the academics
Are the social structures
Where kids find like minds
Testing the norms of friendships,
Creating the balance between group identities and stereotypes
Battling the war of tolerance and tribal acceptance,
Schools bring disparate people together
Letting them get to know that we are not so different
If only we see acceptance of our differences and
The need to learn how differences encourage growth,
That we are not some Internet logarithm,
Predictable, patterned, and programmable.

Schools are temples for learning.
Learning is necessary for growth.
Growth brings people together.

Small town schools are more than academic factories.
They are places where clubs allow for greater exposure
To stuff that might be more interesting
Than the latest standardized test
Or article proclaiming the rigorous machinations of education.
They are places were extracurricular activities like band and sports
Promote fellowship through accomplishments
Of a different sort than an A+ and GPAs can ever understand.

Schools are not factories or machines.
They are places with a heart,
If only the richness of the non-book stuff
Is viewed with a proper perspective.

Yet no one ever really gets mad at the mushrooms,
They kind of just exist.
There is the steam rising from the blockhouses
Cooking the soil and killing the bacteria
That will cause blotch to ravage the fungus,
There is the steam rising from the soil
That stinks to high heaven,
And there are the trucks that drag mud all over the place,
But the mushrooms are sacred,
They are the life of this little town,
For without the shiitakes, the portobellos, and the other varieties being developed
People would have no reason to be in Taylorville.

Except for the schools,
The venerable Taylor High School with it’s connections to the one-percenters,
The middle school, a palace built in the farthest regions of the district,
And three elementary schools, teaching the same ages,
But very different in their reputations and demographics.
The schools of Taylorville bring everyone together,
For better or worse,
As kids grow up with the same kids
So parents see the same parents
They get to know each other,
Sometimes as friends, other times just through sight recognition,
Their grayness and wrinkles sprouting just as the mushrooms in the hot soil.

“And sink their bones to Davey Jones, hooray!” John Hagen, Anchors Aweigh

Playing the game,
That’s the thing,
Or so philosophers say.

It’s not the winning or the losing
It is the battle, the bruising,
The thrill of figuring out how to compete.

Few understand,
Few care,
As they see the world as wins or losses.

Sports have not cornered this mentality
Politics, dating, test scores, college applications
Each has a stake in the competitive heart

The one that beats with pride when scores are right
And bleeds to death when things don’t work out
That’s just the way things are.

Perhaps it all gets to be too much
When people invest so much in energy in the outcome.
Maybe I’m a loser for thinking as such.

“And sink their bones to Davey Jones, hooray!” John Hagen, Anchors Aweigh

That counting down thing,
Only five seconds in totality,
Sure does a number on the reptilian brain.

Who knew a commitment to calm
Would lay waste to the hardship
Wallowing deep down inside.

A simple trick really,
One full of distraction,
So necessary to letting things go.

Let the stress arrive,
I’ll give it two steps or five seconds
Whichever is faster.

“The elephants are dancing on the graves of squeeling mice.” Cream, Anyone for Tennis

I wake up.
I sit in class.
I take notes.
I finish assignments.
I go home,
Do hours of homework, and
Go to sleep.

Then I wake up a do it again.

Why?

How does this stuff matter?

Obviously, it doesn’t
Because we learn the same stuff
Year after year.
After year.
After year.
Maybe that’s why I don’t care.
Maybe that’s why I don’t try.

I get it.

My choice.

It’s just school.