06 August 2020

20 Quatrains for Mom's 95th

A common counseling practice,
When reviewing our excesses,
Is to scan our early childhood
For the source of our distresses—

Such as our earliest memory
Regarding sex or money,
Why that which makes me feel morose
Is that which you find funny.

We each have process addictions,
Unveiled when we take stock,
Which is why my wife would ask my
Earliest memory of Bach.

In fact I can remember
When first I was afflicted:
For as in many families ‘twas
My mom got me addicted,

Playing that First Cello Suite
With her bow and D-string,
Denying the long-term effects
It might have on her offspring.

This exposure may have started
At the tender age of six,
Finding me at 65
Still desperate for each fix.

Both my parents in this way
May well be implicated—
Despite impracticalities,
Outright facilitated

My pursuit of the aesthetic.
The world became my cactus;
I had the notion everyone
Would love to hear me practice.

But this felt out of balance,
performative, some say,
With self-involvement lingering
On this page for display.

Yet my mother also nurtured gifts
Ill-suited to the stage;
Modeling compassion
And principled outrage,

The leveraging of privilege,
Holding space for others’ pain—
A quest which sent me back to school—
Calisthenics for the brain.

Even if she supported that
Just so we could talk shop,
The end-effect was humbling,
Baring pretense I could drop;

I came a slight bit closer
To living in the world,
With movements yet imperfect,
My sails hastily furled.

But music makes my ordered place
To where I may retreat
From the emotional chaos
Of those who feel defeat.

And when I start accounting
For all they failed to get
The less I take for granted
What’s so easy to forget:

That my mom was there for me
Through things both large and small,
Discerning how to offer help
When first-born hit a wall.

Likely most important,
However much we know,
Is to keep alive the memory
Of what it is to grow.

For this my mother models
Right up through today,
Digging in her garden,
Painting like Monet.

Remaining forward-thinking
While chronicling the past,
She celebrates the present,
A first who shall be last.

More than ever we now need
To hold our elders dear;
For she is the one who leads us
To face changes without fear.

23 April 2020


Written for my clients/families to accompany our agency's lockdown gift box:

The world since we last saw you
Has been a little strange,
Our weekly time of hanging out
One of many things to change.

We’re told to be so guarded
About something we can’t see,
What we touch or what we breathe.
We have no guarantee

That we won’t get infected
Or infect someone else,
And no one really knows for sure
How anybody tells.

A curse cast from the Dark Side?
Or is it consequential
Of corners cut, of facts ignored
Becoming monumental?

Yet some of you are saying,
In spite of all this worry,
That good things are resulting
From not being in a hurry,

From families having time to spend
Playing with each other,
Sometimes easing conflicts
‘Tween a sister and a brother.

But if that turns out not the case
At least you still have us,
To summon on the phone just when
You feel the urge to cuss.

We will put our heads together,
Though not all in one room,
To offer our best thinking
And smile at you through zoom.

You are the ones we wish for,
The ones we want to thrive.
We hope this box gives comfort
Till we once again go live!

04 March 2020

For Monica on her 68th

Desperately we cling to reason
in this profane election season—
all our relations put on edge
while the planet nears the ledge.
I see your years now may be quartered—
when back through time we are transported—
it was the month if not the hour
that marked the rise of Eisenhower,
who in his final speech as president
identified the forces resident
that would long outlast his tenure,
intent on having wars forever.
From that time since you have been standing
up for justice and demanding
that those who barely have a voice
be heard and offered equal choice.
It’s because you never compromised
that you and I have harmonized.
Ever waging the good fight,
you shall remain my shining light!

13 February 2020

Appreciating Re-evaluation Counseling

This letter to the editor may have arrived too late for publication, so I'd at least like to share it here:
I found Jay Efran's "In Search of New Ideas" [Psychotherapy Networker Jan/Feb 2020] helpful and fascinating, and I appreciated his inclusion of Re-evaluation Counseling. But to someone who practiced RC for much of the period between 1985 and 2015, his description represents only one facet of a multi-faceted practice. Yes I agree—as a licensed therapist who has also sampled a variety of modalities—that the "discharge" process could not be consistently counted on for healing of a distress recording. But there were many affecting factors—the experience of the counselor, the client's stage of change, the quality of supervision—much as in any other therapy. I see my current job as psychotherapist as motivating clients to act on their thinking instead of their feelings. In RC settings I witnessed at least as much, if not more, progress toward that goal as in any other therapeutic setting. To attend an RC workshop was more than "exchanging time." There were cutting-edge insights presented including how oppression is experienced by different constituencies, healing trauma, and how to be the change you want to see in the world. Whether Harvey Jackins' insistence on operating outside the "mental health system" was out of stubbornness or out of necessity, I experienced him as a brilliant and compassionate innovator. I would be half the counselor I am today had I not begun with RC.

21 December 2019

Tome Poem #3

Written to accompany a Christmas gift of Revolutionary Love by Rabbi Michael Lerner...

Our waitress may be rapid-tongued,
though cheerful (for the tip).
Perspiring cooks flip pancakes
where we begin our trip.
Photos line the fake wood grain,
a century of pride.
Generations building war planes,
gaining victories for our side.
Next we crowd the airport gate,
discerning social clues
for how it is we must behave
to keep what we could lose.
And then I board the aircraft
with my stepson and my wife
and ponder how it was these things
became our way of life—
how we became entitled
through happenstance of birth
to eat three squares, to travel thus
on not-yet-ravaged earth.

We may think we choose our actions
on principles well-founded,
but more likely rationalize them
off of those we’ve been surrounded.
Once we judged the white folk
who viewed slavery as the norm.
But aren’t we just as oblivious,
as willing to conform?
No barrel for the plastic,
fuel burned without compunction—
maintaining time-worn patterns
of disposal and consumption.
As though this weren’t all finite,
that it is somehow ok
for each species to be downsized
till we join them in the clay.
For the globe that’s market-driven
has no human at the wheel—
sees nothing past the bottom line,
a reality surreal.

Though ‘tis the season to be jolly
and seek comfort from the weather,
there is so much to grieve alone,
seems time we grieve together.
From that grief may we find courage
to stand up for each other,
extend the line who we define
as sister or as brother.
The community thanksgiving,
instead of once per year,
may soon be happening daily—
if we can still the fear.

Aren't we now beyond protections
that may be bought or hoarded?
Will it be by what we give away
that we end up rewarded?
What worth my private comforts,
on which I have been leaning,
if a life based on self-interest
is one devoid of meaning?
Will climate and extinction
be the classless equalizer,
intervention on a system
strung out on some tranquilizer?
For, regardless if we see it,
we are still slave and master.
Just ask who stitched your clothing
or survived the last disaster.

What we’ve been sold, if truth be told,
Ne’er sat right with me.
And on reflection I believe
the same would hold for thee.
For we each have common interest
that we’ve long been kept from knowing,
to keep us all divided,
which keeps this system going.
Supremacy and racism
are means to someone’s end.
That someone is your master
charading as your friend.
This master has more money
than all of us combined.
We may have far more people,
but our people are resigned,
weary and discouraged
in need of clear direction.

Of necessities these souls may lack
the greatest is connection.
And so I humbly petition
recipients of this gift
to consider how this author’s thoughts
might bring about a shift
in those with whom you interact,
ideally when in-person,
illuminate the darkness,
by drawing back the curtain.
These times can leave one feeling
it only can get worse.
Why bother organizing?
Why bother writing verse?
Whatever confidence I’ve found
to prod my comfort zone
was nurtured in the family
I’m blessed to have here known.