Yuck!

Just a bubble of blood.  I dabbed it with a paper towel that I took with me on the way out of the restroom.

The knuckle on my middle finger had been a problem for boxing, aching and sparking lightning that grounded itself in my wrist.  But after some rest and repair, I felt it was ready again.

The last time was different. A change of plans turned into a night just for me, a trial run.  No sparks. Old wraps and new gloves, though, had worked against me.  This time, in round three, I felt the simultaneous cold and hot of bleeding. 

Over a week, a small abrasion gave way to a slowly receding scab on top of the knuckle. Still, every time I reached for my keys, phone, or spare change in pockets that I recall were once roomier, I’d reopen the cut.  

First a stream of red, later just a crimson dot. Bandages couldn’t stay in place, and lay ineffectively across the ridges. Sometimes I would notice the bleeding while typing on my keyboard or preparing to offer a handshake.  More disturbing, the bandage was somewhere, hopefully in my pocket and not anywhere else.  

It was never in my pocket, and I never found any of them.

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It Just Doesn’t Matter

Accepting and striving counterpoised. It all reminds me of Tripper’s speech, in the movie Meatballs…

That’s just the attitude we don’t need. Sure, Mohawk has beaten us twelve years in a row. Sure, they’re terrific athletes. They’ve got the best equipment that money can buy. Hell, every team they’re sending over here has their own personal masseuse, not masseur, masseuse. But it doesn’t matter. Do you know that every Mohawk competitor has an electrocardiogram, blood and urine tests every 48 hours to see if there’s any change in his physical condition? Do you know that they use the most sophisticated training methods from the Soviet Union, East and West Germany, and the newest Olympic power Trinidad-Tobago? But it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER. I tell you, IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!

And even, and even if we win, if we win, HAH! Even if we win! Even if we play so far over our heads that our noses bleed for a week to ten days. Even if God in Heaven above comes down and points his hand at our side of the field. Even if every man, woman and child held hands together and prayed for us to win, it just wouldn’t matter, because all the really good looking girls would still go out with the guys from Mohawk cause they’ve got all the money! It just doesn’t matter if we win or we lose. IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!

It doesn’t matter…at least, the thing we were all supposed to want. This is not nihilism, but a rejection of some external definition of winning and losing in favor of some other acceptance. 

Detractors will appear. Critics and well meaning sages may offer unsolicited comment.

Settling? Perhaps. So what? 

I know what does matter to me most of the time, and it is different than it used to be.


Son

He’s getting older and I am getting old.  He doesn’t want to talk so much these days, and I want too much to talk with him.  He is fine, even when he is not, and this we have in common.

He is a man in ways he may not recognize. He is young, and he has the benefit of choices, a terribly scary burden. He is excited to make them his. 

He is my son, and he is tied to my life. He is his own, not yet on his own.


Tracing

Having been so careful to
follow the connections
and trace the web
to its center,
the question sticking
to my finger tip,
in the end, holds no
answer I need to know.


Coach

Even my son called me “Coach” when we were on the field.  I suppose it was easier for both of us.  I could correct, teach, and praise with the roles defined and accepted. He could play, develop, and be part of the team. Player and Coach.  We were on the same team, but with clearly different responsibilities. 

I was still Dad on the way to the game and the ride home.  Talking about video games, the weekend plans, and school.

Coaching is now over for me in the sense it was for tee-ball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, basketball, lacrosse, and football.  My office at home is decorated by plaques and photos, signed by my players and fellow coaches.  With my kids moving into upper school, the rec league years are in the past. And I did not miss out of them.  I am thankful.

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Finally and More

Two ticks, so far,
in a forest of black fur,
still hungry, searching,
and not yet settled
into his skin.

Exhausted, he lets me comb
through his mass, a massage he thinks,
tongue a slab of deli ham,
my dog smiles with his eyes
and ears; surely this must be his
post-hike reward.

He swims through a bowl
of water, everywhere spashing,
then gobbles up his kibble,
perhaps thinking between breaths
that this day wasn’t his typical
lazy day.

Hills, mud, rocks and up, up, up.
More likely, he is thinking,
now that the air is just between
cool and warm and full of
critter scents and bird songs,
“Finally!” and “More!”


Just Right Words

Words. Too many. Where were the words, the right ones, when they were being called back to the yard? Hiding in the treetops or under the foundation walls?

It was quicker to swallow the words that came, but not easier, and assuredly not satisfying. Or empty them out over everything.

They were knives to slice and stab; spoons to dig, overturn, and mix. So much cutlery, clanging.

Except … sometimes.

Sometimes chiming.
Sometimes singing.

Sometimes they were right for a moment when the right words were needed. Unrehearsed, freed expressions finding escape from webs.

In those times, the right words held power to heal, to explore.

And when the words left, so did their power, only much more slowly and a few laps behind.  They now linger at the edges, but as tired memories, lucky and leaden both. The rants, arguments, and rehashings are now reduced to what they always were: mere distractions from what was and is real.

But the words, their potential…oh. And, I have the luxury of keeping the ones I need, dare say, want.

The right words still taste of sweet poetry and play melodies in my ears, occasionally harmonies; these words I deserve to keep dear, even though that is the only choice available.


Celtic Punk

My new kick: Celtic Punk.

More “full” than my childhood punk music, but coursing with the same angst. More than a nod to traditional music and boiling over with modern story. As a consumer of punk rock for over 30 years, I know that the genre’s rivers run much deeper than the extremes of silliness and nihilism that are the sharp outlines of the cartoon. But even this seems different – an older cousin who buys you cigarettes and reads the political editorials, and later, the one whose forearm is wrapped tight around your shoulder while singing pub songs. The rolling lyrics and mandolin are there; the fiddle and the dumpity-dum-a-dum drums as well, all backed by a heavy guitar and voices simultaneously growling, slurring, and singing about the “da devil” and dear “mudder and fadder” over the choruses and breaks. And the pipes, of course.

Hailing from the Isle, Scotland, Boston, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, and even San Francisco, the sounds draw from musical traditions of rebellion, tough living, hope, camaraderie, and lost love. Perfect punk themes. Folk as well.

The Dropkick Murphys, The Pogues, Street Dogs, and Flogging Molly were already on my iPod playlists.  Put Sticky Little Fingers in that mix for a more UK punk vibe. Pandora radio opened me up to the Real McKenzies, Young Dubliners, The Bollox, The Tossers, Blaggards, and two-dozen more.


Meadow

Hardened earth and hallowed ground
grow hardy and thirsty notions,
thistle and briar, engaged in wind-borne
attempts at spreading gospel.

Hitching to a body in motion, a transient,
unknowing and unconcerned, other
than to gnaw and pull at the roots,
to sate a hunger.

Riding the reaper, then ejecting itself,
the emigrant arrives an immigrant,
the notion spreads to fertile breasts
and hips, and takes hold.

But that is just a singular gene, a body atomic.
The whole of it is truly wide, a legion of
seeds spread in every lee,
unmarried and independent.

Born of almost infinite notions, a meadow rolls
and breathes, crawling over the dells, climbing and diving,
a map of invasion and recession
and constant flexure.


Comfort

Define achievement and success in terms
so basic, banal, and un-spectacular,
in a grey and beige shelter
of business casual beams and
game night girders,

like daddy-daughter day,
or coaching, or concerts,
or buttered noodles and green beans.

Like replacing a cracked windshield,
upgrading my smart phone,
or dinner with an old coworker.

Or trees, trails, and falling April skies
on a lone Sunday.

Comfort.

Comfort in chasing clients, winning trust,
making decisions for everyone stuck,
consulting with those who won’t speak up,
and the priveledge to
be trusted in the role. 

Comfort in designing a world that can be sustained,
in holding everyone to account,
Me first.

Who has been saved, included?
What questions were answered?
What footprints were layed deep
enough to withstand erosion?

What can be called progress?

Any?

The uncomfortable answer, the one
that is past the guilt of not enough,

or not yet enough, is

Yes.