06 August 2017

Dandelion (for my mother's 92nd)

Once again I strive to meet 
A familial expectation.
Though in this smokey Northwest air
I shan’t risk inhalation.

Why I should be here not there
Confounds the mind and soul,
Shattering past illusions of
A life in my control.

The Hamilton reunion did
Require our extracting;
Our journey spanned the daylight hours
For two spent interacting.

For I felt the need to honorThose flying from out East,
Along with those who hosted,
With whom visits had decreased.

Such efforts beg the question:
How keep we justifying
Activities depleting
As somehow fortifying.

What does it mean to stand before
An aging grey relation
Who we have known since the days
That followed their gestation?

When TV sets were black-and-white,
When hi-fis had one speaker,
We said, “No, thank you” not “I’m good,”
And the “Jordan” was a “sneaker.”

It means that I came from somewhere,
A place I can rely on,
With roots that grow as deep
As the most stubborn dandelion.

And from this stem we flower;
May the wind convey our seed
To those who never did deserve
To live in such great need.

And the gift I have to offer,
Seeing value in the other,
Was one of many I received
By grace of my dear mother.

26 July 2017

My intern supervisor's last day

Today I honor a mentor
And colleague in the field,
Who, pulling back the curtain,
Caused much to be revealed.

Though she perhaps Millennial
And I a Baby Boomer,
I found myself congruent
With her gutsy brand of humor.

I gained much from her insight
Into the childhood mind.
She honored my experience;
Thus we became aligned.

She demonstrated interest
In how my life was going,
Connecting us on the level 
Of two seekers who are growing.

But the winds of change were blowing,
To each our lives enrich.
My calling pulled me elsewhere;
She’s now a Kraljevich.

The fruit of their sweet union
Emoting from the womb,
Bringing her to question
What she once did assume.

May you take this dance of life,
As would a ballerina.
Blessed I’ve been to have this time
With CompaƱera Christina!

04 March 2017

Monica Birthday Verse

Dancing around Toby
Questions and assumptions haunt us
When we turn sixty-five.
Should we just coast to save on fuel
Or rip into overdrive?
Is what remains all borrowed time
Or is it ours to lend?
Is what has brought us greatest wealth
What we’re most free to spend?
Are we just finding who we are,
Peeling off the mask?
Too many questions, I suppose;
But it never hurts to ask.
See all the places you have gone
Since sixty you became:
Hawaii, Cleveland, San Marten
And places I shan’t name.
For we have learned how marriages
With the firmest of foundations
Are built on solemn promises
And separate vacations.
So I thank you for the chance to lean
Yet stand up on my own;
With you to occupy my heart
I need never feel alone.

23 December 2016

Comments following Christmas Verse

When one reader of this asked "who is the tyrant king?", I replied:

As Bob Dylan sang once:

"They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings
Steal a little and they throw you in jail.
Steal a lot and they make you king."

I am drawing a parallel, as did Ariel Dorfman in his New York Times Op Ed last week, between Chile in the early 1970s and the U.S. today. I am stating an opinion, also an historical observation, that civil disobedience will be required to protect us from the policies and appointees of our president-elect.

When that reader rejoined, "do you see the irony between calling for civil disobedience and wishing for peace on earth?", I replied with perhaps more length than was called for:

I'm glad you asked me that question, and hope you were not anticipating
a brief response. Irony? Yes. Also contradiction. My poem does not call for a coup, but rather pays tribute to poets and singers who stood up against powerful forces. While I specifically refer to the coup of 9/11/1973 when General Pinochet overthrew the elected Allende government in Chile (with backing from the U.S.), I could just as well be appreciating all who have risked standing up to oppressive systems in any time or place.

Whether it be family systems or the system of the human family, dysfunction cannot be addressed until it is stood up to. Civil rights were not legislated top-down but, as with any systemic change, bottom-up. Before last semester, I thought about my privilege maybe 10-20% of the time. Now I think about it 80-90%. As a white, middle-class, U.S.-born, Christian male, I didn't have to notice what my sibling humans, targeted in those areas, were experiencing. But I can no longer know peace within myself without standing with them. The society tells me that I, as Agent, can be assured of having my needs met, my pain minimized, if I will simply agree to numb myself to injustice done to others. Speaking for myself, the deal's off. Some might have called it a pact with the devil. If enough of us refuse to continue in our role in perpetuating the system—which for most of us means remaining silent—will it not, just as in the family, be compelled to change?

Paul's epistle advises us to pray without ceasing. Where does one see that? The Abbey, perhaps? The closest I have come to seeing a community praying with minimal interruption was Thanksgiving week when my wife, step-son, and I drove to Standing Rock Reservation to support the Native Water Protectors. If you would like to read my account, visit http://jeffrysteele.blogspot.com. I don't have to tell you about the crimes committed against Native peoples to pave the way for our unearned privilege. I do know I wasn't taught about it in school.

From here on, I will be seeking more effective means to leverage my privilege for the betterment of targeted people and the planet. It has been 30 years since I was last arrested for civil disobedience. I cannot predict whether returning to that will make sense for me, but I am preparing myself to step out of my Agent comfort zone in more than a few ways. For one, I expect to have more conversations with those I share Agent rank about how they feel about the price for their privilege.

As we approach the celebration of Jesus' birth, He enters my heart as a child with uncompromisable expectations for love between living creatures. His unwillingness to compromise got Him killed much as it did Martin Luther King, Archbishop Romero, and countless others. The tyrant king is not one man. It is the complicity with tyranny that dwells within each of us. The president-elect is an archetype, from my perspective, of the abusive parent. I believe that how we respond to him varies depending on how fully we have faced, felt, and resolved abuse experiences in our lives.

I will not live to see the peace I want for this earth. But I can die peacefully in knowing that I stood with others to contribute a modicum to it.

Christmas Verse - click to see images