Poem for All Souls Day

I grew up the middle child

of divorced parents

a family held together more by tenacity and verve

than any old fashion values

more infused with a refusal to become broken

than aspirations to become beloved


I was raised in a Los Angeles suburb

which underwent a botched values transplant.

I watched the button-down Rockwell world of the 50s

on modern, state-of-the-art 13 inch black and white TVs

where Wally and the Cleavers

eventually gave way to guns and rose colored glasses.


The factory which once manufactured children

from snips and snails, sugar and spice

was sold

when the new management changed suppliers

to cut soaring costs.


Every child since 1972

is made from scraps of innocence

and recycled hope.

These days, it is almost impossible to find one

rolling down the line

untainted by trauma or despair

or, who still possesses

the forward evolutionary lean

of a planet tilting its axis toward the ancient promise

that some day we could all become one

among billions

of communally minded mystics


What if

we started anew

considering events

like Watergate, Watts and Waco

Nuremburg, New Orleans and Newtown

as pretext

for the fundamental choice

between walking out our door

every morning

armed with hope

instead of hurt?


I believe there are enough people

Still not willing

To give up.

Who don’t have to lose their memory

To retain their sanity.


Indeed, no one now living today

can look back on their life

without having wiped off the fingerprints

of tragedy or disappointment.

Hurt and the impulse for hostility

are in our box of recipes as well as our journal.

But aren’t those few slender strands of DNA

that differentiate us from the warring animals of the jungle

just the most beneficent sections

of a very complex code

recalling for us the risks we took

when we dared to choose

compassion instead of contempt?

Cooperation instead of competition?

And aren’t those only

the millions of minute distinctions

that make us most human?


None of us can rewind this great, collective story

we are all part of.

We are actors with bit parts and aspirations of stardom

not directors who move the stars to suit the scene.

Everything before us is simply the outcome

of millions of lines already spoken

many of them responding to the hurt

instead of the hope in our lives.

And even if we could

erase all the pain,

edit out the disillusion and despair,

would we not also lose all the necessary practice

To forego this stunned and stunted outlook

for a more starry gaze?

There is no better time

To begin writing over old hurts

With a new code of hope.

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