Then and Here

The rays of those days
making pink the back of my mind—
how, emerging from original home to life on my own,
cool cave to kind sun,
hirsute and green and strong,
bearing little but recurring laughter,
on who could say which, but
just one side of manhood or the other;
hell, who could say even now,
looking at it from how many caves later—
me as a young man, put it that way,
that’s what this recent mess is making me consider—
me in the days without number,
the summers of my summer,
in the friendship explosion,
an agent of heaping wonder
at freedom’s happening,
the reaping of flagrant plunder,
for example, the fragrant thunder
of scissoring thighs that seemed to sizzle our eyes,
filling horizon to horizon, our minds to the gills.
Life straight appetizin’, yet bellies tight from hunger,
or just from active wills and health.
“You rich motherfucker,’
I’d occasionally say to myself—
and every day was an occasion.

There was so much, phase to phase, to be.
I got in touch with my inner Asian
through meditation and tea,
got my Español on on vacation—perdona me,
on va-ca-ci-ón
, sweated and chanted on the reserva-ti-ón,
called my lesser passions
“fash-i-óns,”
then—and here’s where these days come in,
with their lessons—
never threw them away
or donned them again.

Why not?  What about my whims wasn’t right?
Was it the fear of being called less than polite,
or less than sane, or less than sober,
or less than permitted to live out loud
in the presence of the crowd
I thought I’d chosen?

So I closed some doors I’d opened,
censored senses, pinned the wind,
let myself be limited, trimmed to fit in,
while promising my heart that as for the wildest parts,
the fangs, the wings,
nothing’s over till the fat lady sings.
Priding myself on acting proper,
I learned that modern life’s an opera.

While keeping the faith,
not giving up, I gave in
to an ancient but seemingly novel will,
signing on to the Committee to Begin to Begin—
to achieve what eventually felt like my end.
Nothing overtly sinister was threatened;
more a “We’re tired and just prefer it quiet” kind of thing—
like, “If you wouldn’t mind falling more towards the rear,
then sort of just little by little disappear…”
Chagrinned, I nevertheless agreed.

Well, in the name of Biko and Bigfoot, Milk and Ali,
Collins and Zulu, Sitting Bull and Morrissey,
Grendel, Galileo, Tubman, Poe,
vampire bats, Holliday, Keller, Van Gogh,
Bukowski, Burrows, Miller, Plath,
Shelly’s monster, Pascal’s math,
Kafka’s bug, Mike Tyson’s teeth,
Quixote’s giant, Robert E. Lee,
Bruce and Bhutto and Batman and Dean,
Bill Murray in Caddyshack, Wolverine,
Darko, Gonzales, Mandela, X,
Kahlo, Cassandra, the impossibly poor or rich,
Cassady, Whitman, Haring, Holmes,
Heffner, the Baptist, Zorro, Job,
the unborn, the dead, the waiting, the ill,
the locked out, the walked out, the fish in the spill,
Kerouac, the Cat in the Hat, Colonel Kurtz,
Robin Hood, Assange and the truth that hurts,
the endangered, neglected, rebellious, insane,
the trafficked, imprisoned, waterboarded, tamed;
in the headband of Hendrix, for the sake of the game;
in the name of the holiest, un-nameable name;
by occasional oaths, by sacred rites,
by the spectrum of darkness composing our nights
and by every harnessable source of light,
plus these glimpses of a soul so wild in hindsight,
with its voice that wasn’t noise, nor a choice,
but more like Tarzan’s cry on a vine ride—

by all those, I’m obliged once again to make clear:
the thing nobody else has rights to is my fear.
Because, beloved, I am here,
freely choosing faith in this place,
so dressed down for the job in my real face
and falling backwards, stage-dive-style, on buoyant grace;
and yes, setting hands on your waist, my dear,
or so near; forever getting there;
if I can’t live out loud,
best believe I’ll whisper in your ear.

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