for Tyler Cowen
Shortcuts to the spotlight
are the hallmark of our age—
why toil to make a thought bright
when outrage takes center stage?
Seldom can a centrist
(however strong his form)
cut through the division
that’s increasingly the norm.
Rarer still is one
who can sustain his measured stance
among any admirers he enchants.
You’re that unique exception
who does teach & inspire
without peddling deception
or preaching to the choir,
& though not face to face,
you’ve truly taught me that I’m free
to make a better place
of Earth, like you—marginally.
word count: 76
though close friends often know it before you,
no one can tell you what you’re born to do.
there is no Oracle who sees your fate.
there is no guarantee it’s not too late.
there are no pre-made maps to travel with;
there is only a vast stone labyrinth
whose pathways wind & wander to its heart,
& somehow through the walls, the center calls
you, & you know—you’ve always known—
there is a center, & you’re not alone.
word count: 170
Only after your time will Time decide
how well you’ve served our species as a guide,
but, since a leader’s life’s the life you lead,
on these 5 things I’d like to be agreed:
a good teacher won’t preach what he thinks;
instead, he shows the thirsty where he drinks.
the more he grows, the less he thinks he knows.
friends are those who keep him on his toes.
blazing no new trail from which to stray,
at best, he sheds some light that lights the way.
finally (to not drag out this poem)
he understands this story as his own:
a wisdom-seeker lived inside a cave
for many moons. He neither spoke nor shaved,
but scribbled nonstop nonsense on the walls
until, clearly enlightened,
out he crawled.
The only drawing left, of all he’d done,
was one big disk—a circle, like a sun.
Many disciples followed in his wake,
except they kept on making this mistake:
they drew circles, just like his, everywhere,
never discovering how his got there.
word count: 61
a self-devouring snake,
its scaly tail convulsing in its fangs;
whatever satiety it feels is fake;
there’s not even a momentary break
as it ingests its own abdomen’s pangs
for emptiness alone fulfills Desire,
which eating itself eats you along the way.
what’s more to say?
you’re empty of, or else feeding, Desire;
if neither, you’re entirely a liar.
word count: 92
verse designed to convey understanding
stiff, shallow & opaque, like ice
on a lake, it restricts movement instead
of inviting swimming, boating & stone
rather than explaining, it drains
each sinking, suffocating idea
of all its warmth.
this is the difference
between force & power: words that disclose
thoughts already formed before come out forced;
poetry should be a discovery
(at least for the poet). that’s when it feels
like the words aren’t being written, but exhaled.
this comes to me slowly, with study & concentration,
& it all hinges on you, the inspiration.
word count: 82
it’s the crown of thorns.
it’s the weight of the world borne
on your shoulders; it’s the killer
lurking in Lincoln’s theater.
it’s powerfulmanhood, like Oedipus
the King who gored out his own eyes
when he laid eyes on his naked fate;
it’s laying down your life for the human race
like our great martyr Martin Luther King;
it’s tongue castration.
you’re always feeling feelings you can’t
talk about, so you pour your sweat & blood into
anything but tears.
word count: 76
wisdom is moderation of all things:
to neither be a puppet nor pull strings,
to lead with strength but not an iron fist,
to smartly borrow from but not consist
of lessons learned in lifetimes besides yours,
to seize the day while still doing your chores
& take action, but give in when you’re wrong.
balance & reflection make you strong,
except in love, which no wisdom can touch:
love proves it’s love by loving far too much.
Charisma shows up everywhere
wearing a stranger’s face.
strangely, she’s always recognized
& never out of place.
she graces who she pleases,
ignorant of looks & wealth;
she’s powerful in poverty
& faithful through poor health;
she’s drawn to freaks & outsiders,
but princes have her too;
she’s blatantly bisexual;
she favors no skin’s hue;
she has no code of conduct
or unbreakable taboo
except this: she expects the most of both
her host & you.
a charismatic person
can pull on your inner strength,
crossing the chasm between you with
a rope bridge half its length;
compelling you to prove your worth
as long as you’re on earth,
Charisma is the catalyst of all rebirth—
& she’s your other lover, love;
she rarely leaves your side;
her confident hand guides you—
i’m along just for the ride.
word count: 66
how bad could it be?
it’s unloaded, see?
i know what i’m doing.
there’s no way she’s suing.
“i see black light!”
“does no one understand?”
“shoot, coward, you’ll only be killing a man.”
(hugo, james joyce, che guevara above).
me? i’m not the type to fall in love.
what? keep falling?
don’t be absurd!
now i know a few more
famous last words.