What Ever

Photo 46132158 © SaknakornDreamstime.com


What a word that is, in the proper context: a dismissive losing of connection.

“This is not addressing the real problem, I’m not engaged, my interest is not even present, you are irrelevant, you swung and missed, you can’t help and yet here you are still trying to help.” You could say all that, but why do that when one word will do: “Whatever.”

Actually, it’s said as two words: What ever.

Whatever you say, boss, or friend, or whoever. You’re going to do what you want to do, or what you think is right, whatever I say, so get on with it. What ever. What ever made you think I wanted or needed this conversation? What ever. What ever indeed.

“It’s amazing how much power one word can have — how much can be said inside three little syllables,” he said.

“Whatever,” she sighed and looked away.

It comes in waves

The dog up and died; he up and died —
After 20 years he still grieves.

I have always choked up a little bit when we get to that line in “Mr. Bojangles,” and I knew that after three-quarters of a lifetime, I had experienced the love of a dog as deep as that about Jerry Jeff Walker wrote.

I was a basket case again for a little while the other day. I took a walk along the way Willow and I used to walk, and I broke down sitting on the bench we often shared in her field. I would sit down on the north end of the bench and drape my arm over the back, she would climb onto the south end, and we would watch the world go by for a while.

Will there come a time when I can walk that way without welling up? Ask me again in 20 years.

I am grateful to have learned to be conscious of the great pleasures as they are happening, thankful for remembering, “Savor this moment. You will never pass this way again,” because I have 12 years of memories of a puppy turned dog turned cherished companion.

They are moments to be held in gratitude and sweet memory, moments that are painful at first when we reach the point when they are gone forever, but the memories comfort and counteract the sorrow. We love, and the memory of love drives back the darkness.

It’s only a week, I tell myself, and I’m still adjusting to life with only one canine friend, just as Red is, just as Dejah is adjusting to being an “only child.” The occasional wave of grief is as overpowering as the occasional wave of love for that sweet beast used to be; she made me smile right down to the bone.

And you know what, those smiles have lingered in my bones and wrapped themselves around me these past few days. As much as it hurts, I am so glad to have had a dozen years together with that dawg. The sadness isn’t half as deep as the happiness was, and I know in the end that the happy will continue longer than the ache.

The lesson of the splattered tater

I killed the potato. Killed it good. That potato was obliterated.

In preparing for a concealed-carry class, we figured we should have a physical sense of how to handle a handgun, not just head knowledge, and a friend agreed to teach Red and me the basics before we took the class.

As part of that training, he had us do some target practice. The goal was to hit a potato he had placed on a log about 15 feet away.

After four or five carefully aimed shots, I finally blew up the potato. Two things had a profound impact on me.

The first was how fast a bullet travels. Each of my misses instantly kicked up debris on the river bank 50 yards past the potato.

The second was the power of the strike. That potato exploded. Imagining that kind of power against a living creature gave me a chill.

I thought of the potato as I watched the opening scenes of the new Disney-Plus and Marvel Studios TV show, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

The Falcon, a flying Avenger, is tasked with rescuing a soldier who has been captured by evildoers. The prisoner is being transported in a helicopter. As the Falcon approaches the scene, he is accosted by a number of bad guys, beginning with four people dressed in some sort of high-tech gliding suit.

One by one, the Falcon kills the four attackers. Then he causes two helicopters to crash, killing everyone on board. At the last minute before the last copter crosses the border into a country where the terrorists can’t be touched without sparking an international furor, Falcon zips through the helicopter, grabbing the prisoner and saving the day. I’m pretty sure I recall the last helicopter also crashing with everyone on board.

And in reciting what I recall of the scene, I’m pretty sure I left out more than a handful of other deaths. I wasn’t interested in watching a second time.

I didn’t enjoy watching this depiction of death and destruction. In comic-book film tradition, little actual blood was shown during all the bloodshed, but after my experience with shooting the potato to pieces, I felt the impact of each blow, each fiery explosion, each body shattered against cliffs.

Fights have always been part of comic-book stories, but once upon a time they usually showed superheroes knocking supervillains and other bad guys senseless — as in, they were going to wake up in jail. Spider-Man and Superman and the Fantastic Four and even Batman tried not to kill their adversaries. They didn’t ring up body counts like the one rolled up in the opening 5-10 minutes of Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

I think kids who revel in the faux deaths of video games and “action” movies need to have the experience of shooting a potato. It puts what they’re seeing on screen into a bit of perspective, helps them understand the reality of such a scene, and maybe gives them pause if they ever happen to be wielding a real gun.

From ether to planet

Here are the heroes of time immemorial
Locked in the struggle that lasts for all time;
Here are the questions and some of the answers
Waiting for someone to call them by name,
Here in the vault tucked away in Elysian,
Here in the hearts of the beings named poets,
Not asking, but asking, and serving as pages
To carry the message from on beyond here.
Here are they all, all the words and the music,
Raging and loving and seeking and found
Until they come pouring and flowing on pages
To find immortality or flash in the pan.
Alone and forgotten, familiar and beloved,
The words sing in silence till spoken aloud.
The words sing in silence till spoken aloud.

A poem is a dance of rhythm and words;
The melody’s added to make it a song.
Is it less of a song if you hold back the tune?
I guess that’s the question the rappers have answered
For better or worse, and the talking plods on.

Rhythm — then words — or melody first;
Does the dancing come first, or was it the last?
Capture the wind and the rustling of branches,
Capture the moanings of joy and of sorrow,
Add then the beat and now you are singing
What we call a song, at its deepest a sob.

Am I writing one poem or a series of short ones?
It’s not mine to question while all the words flow.
Just lay down what’s coming from ether to planet
And worry details when the moment has passed.
Yes, it’s a communion of ghosts and of spirits;
I cannot explain where it’s all coming from.
I’m just the receiver of what’s pouring forward,
I’m just a poor poet encased in a trance
That clears away quickly as soon as I’m conscious
And my unconscious subconscious drives me away —
“Get out of here, man, if you don’t want to play!
I’ll find some poor soul who is ready for me,
More ready than your questions allow you to be!”
… And the wind chimes dance in the breeze …

I do love letting the words fly —
Here in the morning, here in this chair,
Coffee cup on my belly, the muse in the air,
Such as she is, trying hard with this sod —
Any transcription issues are on me, not on her.
Sometimes the music is lost in translation,
But sometimes the song saunters through clear as air.

The sideways wisdom

I reach through the fog in search of something to say, some profundity to help my fellow human make progress along the way and fend off disaster, or if not disaster at least fend off inconvenience or a wrong turn.

But when you declare, “I shall write pith today, I shall crack the code, I shall show my fellow human the light,” it doesn’t come.

The miraculous wisdom creeps up on you sideways, catches you from the corner of your eye when you’re looking at the horizon, taps you on the shoulder, and says, “You know what? Here’s what you need right here.”

And you sigh and say, “Of course. I knew it all along, but I couldn’t have told you until just this moment.”

The immortal part of man

I am reading Farnham’s Freehold, a somewhat dated Robert A. Heinlein novel about a family thrown 1,000 years into the future by a thermonuclear bomb. I was attracted to the book by this quote a friend posted on Facebook:

“The last books in the world, so it seemed. He felt sudden grief that the abstract knowledge of the deaths of millions had not given him. Somehow the burning of millions of books felt more brutally obscene than the killing of people. All men must die, it was their single common heritage. But a book need never die and should not be killed; books were the immortal part of man. Book burners — to rape a defenseless, friendly book. Books had always been his best friends. In a hundred public libraries, they had taught him. From a thousand news stands they had warmed his loneliness. He suddenly felt that if he had not been able to save some books, it would hardly be worthwhile to live.”

The choice that unblocks the soul

Writer’s block is too many “what ifs.” Not “I don’t know what to write,” but “there are so many ways this could go, which way do I want to go? I want to try them all, but I have to pick one, and which way is the best?”

So many potential twists and turns, so many choices. What if I choose wrong?

Just pick one.


Embrace the choice.

And the words will flow again.

It’s not just a writer’s thing. Dwelling on the “what ifs” can paralyze a soul. So many choices, so many potential twists and turns.

Choose, and embrace the choice, and life will move on.