Third Act

Scene 1

I’m an aging man sitting with his three dogs in a rented house way out of my price range. Divorced now for five and one-half years, I share custody with my ex of the Malamute, Benji dog and Baby Bella, the dachshund mix.

Now you folks reading this who are under 50, keep reading because you’ll get here someday, and the 50 and over, let’s talk about being relevant. We know we have a lot less life in front of us than we do behind us. But like the rearview mirror says, if you’re still able to drive, “objects may appear closer than they really are” (or something like that).

Those objects are former careers, ex wives and husbands, grown children, large homes we’ve had to sell and have scaled down to smaller apartments, condos and tiny houses, some of you with your partner of over 25 years, barely fit in those small spaces. Let’s be honest – some of us have put on a little weight, or at least I have.

If you are able to keep your house, you spend an inordinate amount of time mowing the yard, weed eating around your fence or sidewalk or fixing something all the time whether it’s broken or not. Perhaps you have a small garden or play 36 holes of golf every day when your aching joints or back will allow.

You retired prematurely instead of becoming re-inspired or re-imagined your future. Your pilot light went out, or so you think. Well, hell let’s reignite the damn thing! That’s how we stay relevant.

How does one do that when life’s matches are so hard to find and even some of those are moldy with age like some of us?

Scene 2

First, I had to accept my stage of life and the fact that I’m 67, even though in my head I think I’m 40, but with a really messed up body – damn arthritis. Second, I had to grieve the loss of my 40-year-old body which also includes my former devilish good looks and see my baby blues disappearing from sight. Third, and most importantly, I had to accept that I don’t know how to do my Third Act and stop beating myself up for not knowing and begin to learn.

You folks just getting to your Second Act, or coming to an end of it, you’re not supposed to know either – so cut yourself some slack and start asking us older folks – and that right there is a way we can stay relevant.

Scene 3

Here are a few ways to stay engaged and energized. If you wanted to be an actor but became a banker, go to your local community theatres and try out or work backstage.

If you were a teacher, volunteer to teach inner-city youth or community college or a seniors’ class at the assisted living facility. A carpenter can volunteer for Habitat for humanity – a plumber, electrician – same. Policeman/woman, fire fighter, doctor, lawyer or Indian Chief, help the poor and the homeless, write your memoirs, take classes in something you’ve always wanted to learn. Create, create, create a second career. Yes, I know you have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Showtime, Sundance – go ahead and watch a movie now and then, but don’t sit too long. As Einstein said, “A body in motion…”, or as the poet Rumi said, “Let the beauty we love, be what we do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

I know for a fact that the Third Act is less than total fun, but since we’re on this side of the grass, never stop asking the questions: “What do I love?” and “What is next?”

Designated Problem: Let’s Get Rid of the Label

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding about ourselves. C.G. Jung

“Mend his life.” “You really need help.” “Fix her.” “If he would just get into therapy.” “If she would only stop drinking.” “We’d be all right then.”

No, you wouldn’t be and neither would they. You see, one of the greatest barriers for people to overcome is being the “Designated Problem” in the family, marriage, or workplace.

The label impedes the growth and healing of everyone concerned. When all the focus and attention is put on the alcoholic, addict, non-communicator, the one unable to be in touch with their feelings or their reality – that’s just too much weight on anybody’s shoulders. The shame, embarrassment, and guilt is enough to make anyone unable to really change.

For over 35 years I’ve worked with angry, depressed, aggressive, traumatized men and women, and one of the first things I do is help them see the truth: that it is the system, dynamic or context that is the real culprit.

You see, even if the Problem Person does deep psychological, emotional and spiritual work and grows and changes, if he or she goes back to a toxic workplace, an untreated family, or a dysfunctional marriage, he or she will soon be the Designated Problem again, and again break everyone’s heart and hope.

For decades I was the designated problem in my family—the outcast, black sheep, troublemaker, alcoholic. No wonder my shoulders were bowed to the ground all through my twenties. Lord, the therapy and recovery I had to do to lift that burden!

I wrote about my work in the men’s and recovery movements in The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man and Flying Boy Book II: The Journey Continues and aired my family’s less than clean laundry, and my own problems with relationships, alcohol and not knowing a feeling if it bit me on the ass. My dad and I didn’t speak for ten years he was so angry. Back then I was beginning to see that there was more to these problems than just me, my dad or my girlfriends.

“We” are the problem – wife as well as husband, children, grandparents, and even the babysitter. We all are the problem.

Most of us, I know I did, have to turn to an objective, third-party like a therapist, coach, sponsor, who can help to more readily identify each person’s patterns of behaviors, problems, histories, hang-ups and character defects, and I promise the formerly so-called Designated Problem will get better – indeed we all will.

So when you think you are or they are the sick ones, remember Rumi’s words: “The fault is in the blamer. Spirit sees nothing to criticize.”

What Now?

Thoughts and Poetic Direction

When you come to a fork in the road, take it. Yogi Berra

No matter what age you are or what stage of life you are in you will come to Berra’s forks in the road. Most folks have four prongs pointing forward, none to the past unless you turn the fork on yourself and stick it in you to see if you’re done. People ask me all the time, “When will I be done?” My silly reply has always been the same, “Only steaks get done.”

Alright you’ve lost a relationship, parent, career, your youth, or a home. I, by the way, have lost all of these the last couple of years and I’ve asked myself this question every day: “So what now?” 

For many this question gets harder the older some of us get. But most of us are driven to seek out the answers anyway. Some of us go slowly and tease the answers out like pulling cotton from its stubborn boll or taking a pearl out of an oyster that doesn’t want you to have the “great prize.” Others attack the question like a bull in the china shop only to get hooked by our own horns – hooked on drugs or alcohol or other numbing processes to make us think we’re really searching for the answers, but we’re not.

To put all of this in a more poetic way, if we’re not careful during these difficult times we may, to quote William Stafford, “following the wrong god home we may miss our star.”

Perhaps you are having to do what I’m doing – drawing on the support of new and old friends even though sometimes making contact using my 300-pound cell phone to call them when I’d rather pull my comforter over my head and go back to sleep. I’ve also enlisted the help of a new therapist – nope, I’m not done with therapy or 12-step meetings.

I also have to keep cultivating good crops of patience, something I don’t grow very well because I want the answers to “What now?” When? Now, damit!

Then I re-read T.S. Eliot’s words one more time:

I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Another thing I try to remember is to pay deep attention to my body and a little less to my mind – thank you T.S.

I recall the words of the Sufi poet Rumi: “Let the body speak openly now without your saying a word, as a student’s walking behind a teacher says, this one knows more clearly the way.”

And if I don’t listen to my body during these tough transitional times and slow everything down I will commit way too many errors in my impulsive decision making and end up like another of Rumi’s poems:

  Who makes these changes?

  I shoot an arrow right.

  It lands left.

  I ride after a deer and find myself

  Chased by a hog.

  I plot to get what I want

  And end up in prison.

  I dig pits to trap others

  And fall in.

  I should be suspicious

  Of what I want.

Translated by Coleman Bark

So I hope this short post, while not answering yours or my question: “What now?” provides a little comfort and some poetic pointers to the way forward.

You are not alone and I’ll give Rilke the last words for now: “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror…” and “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…”

Why We Can’t Be Rejected

“When we lose someone and we find ourselves, we win.” Anonymous

One of my best, dearest friends I’ll call K has broken all contact. She doesn’t call; she doesn’t write; she doesn’t send flowers or return texts, and seemingly doesn’t miss me at all. My psychologist brain says, “don’t take it personally.” My human heart says, “she has rejected me and it hurts.” But here’s the truth. You and I can be dismissed, avoided, shunned, hell even banished but we cannot be rejected.

You readers will say, “Well you’re just wrong. My boyfriend rejected me last week.” “My father has always rejected me.” “My best friend hasn’t spoken to me in over a year. Don’t tell me she hasn’t rejected me.”

No one can reject us. Here’s why – because it’s never about us. We are the creators of, not only our outer worlds but our interior ones as well and what we are drawn to or deny is already in us lying loose, latent or floating down that ole’ river D-nial.
I was well into my 50s, having “felt” and “thought” I’d been rejected numerous times before it became clear to me, thanks in large part due to my long-time therapist and mentor, Dr. James Maynard.

You see, I lived my relationship life foolishly thinking that if I was attracted to a girlfriend or other loved ones it was because something was in them that was not in me – that perhaps it was their lovely disposition that pulled me into their orbit. They were “attractive” because of their looks, spirituality, intelligence, groundedness, sense of humor, etc. all things that my low self-esteem told me I lacked.

What James and decades of experiences showed me was that real attraction for others, and they to me, emanates from within and goes out to them. Attraction thus is self-generated, rather than coming from the other person and when I’m no longer attracted to someone or I’ve integrated their qualities I stop generating the interest in them but I do not reject them nor they me.

This truth becomes obvious I hope in Rumi’s poem:

The minute I heard my first love story
I went looking for you, not knowing
How blind that was. Lovers don’t
Finally meet somewhere, they’ve been
in other all along.     Translated by Coleman Barks

Those we love who we think are rejecting us are rejecting those things in themselves they are no longer able to pull out of their own inner or outer shadowy part of themselves that they projected onto us.

A woman I loved a long time ago and am still good friends with I’ll call B was extremely intelligent and cleaned houses for a living when I met her while giving a lecture at a local university. She was also a nurturer, mother and possessed boundless sexual energy. I was a counselor, writer, still too much in my head and anything but a nurturing, parenting person, with little to no domestic inclinations at the time. Of course we got together. During those four years later – I became a pretty good step-father with a greater inclination to nurture and after we went to many therapy sessions we broke up. Once again at first I thought she had rejected me. To make a long story short she went back to school and got a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is one of the best working therapists.

A couple of years later I got married to Susan, bought a home and we set out to have children that hopefully I would spend a lot more time with than I would in hotels and conference centers.

broken heartGoing back to K – she left, either because she saw things in me that she was not ready to embrace or already had successfully embraced or perhaps never needed and therefore I guess I rejected the “sunny” disposition she had in abundance while I was my grieving my despairing divorce. She rejected my “old age” and perhaps I rejected the youth she possessed but was still somewhere in me even though I was having a terrible time finding it. She rejected my seriousness, and damit, I rejected the spontaneity I saw in her that I have always longed to have more of and on and on. Our paths diverged because I needed to access all that she manifested, and she either needed to access some of what she saw in me, but to be clear, neither of us did anything wrong nor did we “reject” the other.

When I said in my earlier book, Writing From the Body, that people tend to be drawn to artists because they dream of being creative but they’ve been told that they are not, or they are afraid to succeed or fail having way too many credit cards, cars and a house payment they feel they must pay off first. However, “If we spot it, we got it,” as the old AA saying goes. So we tend to “acquire” the artistic creative person instead of “accessing” the artist, writer or the tender, compassionate domestic, nurturing, sexy person we’ve been all along.

So the next time you or I “feel” rejected see Solutions below:

  1. Make a list of the qualities, characteristics, attitudes, traits you have found in other and acknowledge and further develop them in yourself.
  2. Remember the attraction for others starts inside you and proceeds outwards, and as the Indian poet Kabir says, “I say to my inner lover, why such a rush…” because I say he or she has always been inside us waiting for us to stop projecting onto others.

CLOSURE: A Made-Up Relationship Term

If you’re going home for the holidays, trying to recover from a divorce, a break-up or really any transition, change or loss may I suggest we stop looking for Closure.

Closure is, according to the dictionary, “a psychological term that describes and individual’s desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion to ambiguity.” And it is a “set has closure under an operation if performance of that operation on members of the set…” I never understood math or calculus and people are not mathematical equations. And just because we long for lost love, happier childhoods, better outcomes of all kinds and what we wish would be, never gets finished like a math problem or a business deal. The idea of closure is a therapist’s shell game – find the closure pea under one of three cups. The therapeutic community tries hard to not know there was never any pea in the first place. Closure is a made up modern psychological word. It probably came into use sometime in the 60s. Perhaps Gestalt therapy, Primal, EST, later Forum and Insight, all agreed we should seek this state in order to move on. Moving on does not require closure.

You see after each failed relationship, no matter how bitter or sweet the ending, we still think about them when we see someone who looks like them in an airport. On a holiday we see them in the window of a passing Toyota, and if we don’t see them there, we see them in our dreams or at the very least, we hear “our song” on the radio.

My first love, mostly unrequited, on-again-off-again, high school and college sweetheart and lifetime friend, got married very young to a very unkind man. However, we saw each other at class reunions, funerals, weddings and sometimes late at night when neither of us could sleep we’d call and talk for hours. No matter how many hours of therapy I did looking for this enigmatic, amorphous thing called closure, I never found it. However, we explored the option of being together for decades. The closest thing to it was the four hours we spent in a Hampton Inn in downtown Austin when she learned she would be leaving this world thanks to the curse of cancer. We sat down and told each other everything in-between loud sobs, laughter and watching the other customers nervously leave the restaurant. You know I still think about her. I’m writing a novel with her as the main character. Now anyone reading this might think I need more therapy and you’d be right – one can never get enough says this therapist of 35 years and counting.

For those of you like hard research – 3,000 men and women were asked on a questionnaire would they consider remarrying their ex-spouse if they were available? 70% said they would definitely consider it. So much for closure. Do you know how many people marry their high-school or college sweetheart after their spouse dies? Me either, but it is quite a few.

Okay literature and movie aficionados, look at literary books published before the 60s. Steinbeck’s Joad family did not find closure in California, no closure in Hemingway, Fitzgerald and certainly none in Faulkner, Hawthorne or Huckleberry Finn and there is not even any in the Bible.

“Oh, Rhett, why can’t we just get closure?” “Frankly, my dear I don’t give a damn…”

Bogart and Bacall or Spencer Tracy never found it.

Hans Solo never even thought to ask.

Even Butch and Sundance remain frozen in time.

Finally, I bet you never heard your grandparents or parents, if you are over 40, use the “C” word.

The bottom line, some people leave us and some people come back and some leave us again and the parents, siblings, former best friends aren’t now who they were, they are ghosts that still haunt us, memories of who and what they were like and how things used to be like or never were. If one of my best friends, who left me for reasons unknown, was to appear today at my door, she could never close up the sorrow of the she who left. If my father, who is still alive at 90, and I tried to get “closure” with the 30-year-old father he was, is impossible. That young, green father is dead and gone. The feelings we have that make us seek closure are coming from memories we have of the past and the illusions we have of our futures should go.

SOLUTIONS—

1. A line from a Robert Bly poem, “The people we have loved, we will always love…”

2. Use your therapy money to help you find resolution – oh wait, that is Closure’s kissing cousin, never mind.

3. The word closure originated from the word “enclosure” and that is what we really do at the end of a relationship. We build an enclosure in our hearts and at the same time we let go as best as we can, and never let anyone tell you when you have grieved too long.

So What’s the Holdup on Being Held?

As Part II to my previous post, “Isn’t It Touching,” I thought touch-starved men might be interested in considering the following ideas.

  1. Most men either have one male friend who lives in Russia or Tasmania, but they haven’t  met face to face in 30 years, or they have none – solution? Get more men in your life.
  2. Where to go to get a healthy male hug or simply to be held? Men’s gatherings like the one I led two weeks ago in the mountains of North Georgia – 70 good men with Mentor Discover Inspire (MDI)! 12-Step Programs that sober men attend. Go to a Mankind Weekend – an excellent place for male comradery.
  3. Stop settling for bullshit conversations sometimes, not always, but talk and listen to what is going on inside of them and you.
  4. Deal with the “Moral Injury” perpetrated on you by boys and men and the hurt and injury we have done to other men.  (Definition of Moral Injury: An injury, a wound to an individual’s moral conscience and compass when men witness or fail to prevent acts that go against deeply held codes of conduct. Moral injury is a betrayal of what’s right and often results in PTSD because of unprocessed grief, guilt, anger, embarrassment and shame.)
  5. Remember C.G. Jung’s words, “Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” So don’t condemn men who need to be touched, and for God’s sake, don’t condemn yourself for still being a live, breathing, touch-starved man.

 

Isn’t It Touching?

Most men are touch starved, touch phobic or sexualize a tender touch.

Many men have never availed themselves to a therapeutic massage by males or females. I was one of those men into my 30s. The first time I received a healing massage, I wept and wondered why I’d waited so long and why I had to pay $30 (back then) for human touch when lots of people got it for free.

To be hugged by a man was taboo in the Deep South of my raising. Real men shook hands. Some of us eventually graduated and upgraded to what I call the “Heterosexual A-Frame Hug.” This is a leaning, barely touching, beating the hell out of each other’s backs, for no longer than 1 ½ seconds.

You see many men that I grew up with were, and some are still, “Homophobic.” This term has lost its true meaning. The word does not mean fear of gay people; it means: Homo = Man, Phobic = fear – fear of men – the competition, bullying, beatings, cheated, lied to, molested and abused by fathers, uncles, Priests, etc.

So all this has led to men not only alienated from men but isolated and lonely in their own bodies. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons men die earlier than women and are lonely to their core and ultimately leads to a breakdown of male friendships and male non-sexual intimacy, the lack of mentors, and the fear of being held in general, which after thousands of hours of therapy and men’s work a lot of us finally receive a safe man’s embrace.

Here is an excerpt from Canadian poet, Alden Nowlan:

“He Sits Down on the Floor for the School of the Retarded”

…It’s what we all want, in the end,

to be held, merely to be held,

to be kissed, (not necessarily with the lips,

for every touching is a kind of kiss).

Yes, it’s what we want, in the end

not to be worshipped, not to be admired,

not to be famous, not to be feared,

not even to be loved, but simply to be held.

 

The Illusion and Reality of Abandonment

“Adults can’t be abandoned,” I said in a clinical conference with 500 or more persons in the audience. They were stunned and were contemplating running me out of town after being tarred and feathered.

“Wait a minute – I didn’t say adults don’t feel abandoned.” A mother says, “But my adult son stopped coming to see me. He abandoned me.” “My wife abandoned me 30 years ago,” a client said to me in a therapy session. Actually I’ve heard, “They abandoned me,” hundreds of times.

But you see adults don’t get left on the steps of an orphanage or at the door of a police station, and they don’t end up in a mall holding the hands of the security guard looking for daddy.

Most children after the Industrial Revolution, and even now, experience a variety of forms of temporary or permanent abandonment. Fifty percent of households in the U.S. is a one-parent home, and a one- or even two-person home – will in fact leave their children unattended for brief to long periods – not maliciously – but cooking, cleaning, phone ringing, doorbells ringing and 30- to 40-hour work weeks.

In order to not experience abandonment there would need to be extended family, caregivers, etc. to meet a child’s needs every hour of every day. Remember 20 minutes in a soiled diaper or crying hungry in a crib, feels like eternity.

When someone leaves us, a husband, wife, lover, or even a good friend, we may enter into “Child Time.” A non-returned phone call on Monday leaves us feeling like 24 hours is 24 days by Tuesday.

Many reading this brief post have been abandoned so many times in childhood and adolescence that we become habituated to constantly abandoning our essential self. We give ourselves away to be with someone for fear if we don’t, then someone will leave us and never come back.

Bottom line – we as adults abandon ourselves quite frequently until we don’t, and once we learn how to keep ourselves, when another adult leaves us we will feel loss, grief, anger, disappointment, despair and depression, but we won’t feel “abandoned,” because we are connected to our deepest self. 

Here are some ways to stay connected:

  1. Learn more and more ways to implement self-care and self-soothing.
  2. Bring in any, or many, supportive friends to be with you as you come out of “Child Time.”
  3. See a counselor, therapist, priest, rabbi, etc.
  4. Get out in nature as much as possible.
  5. Cry, scream into your pillow, write “loss letters.”

I hope this helps.

Excerpt from best-selling book The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man

The following is taken from my first best-selling book, The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man. I thought it was timely to share this since I will be keynoting at two men’s events this month:

Oct 19-21 The Bubba-Buddha Men’s Empowerment Weekend for Mentor*Discover*Inspire Organization (MDI) ~ LaFayette GA

Oct 26-27 What Does Healthy Masculinity Look Like Now? ~ Sponsored by Lenoir-Rhyne University ~ Asheville and Hendersonville NC

I hope you will find something in this post that will touch you in some way, and I will be pleased to hear from you.

In 1981 I read one of the first articles about Robert Bly’s work with men in New Age Magazine. While I was moved and completely understood what he was saying, several years passed before I felt the truth told by the man who spoke to me as one who had lived my life. His father was an alcoholic – so was mine. His mother treated him like a magic person and gave him what C.G. Jung terms a “mother complex” – so did mine. He had escaped the world of men – so had I. He said that men who didn’t get in touch with their own deep masculinity found themselves unable to make commitments, hold down jobs and have good relationships. They constantly projected their souls onto the women they loved and left. These men did not have male friends because they only trusted females. He called them “Flying Boys” – I was a Flying Boy.

Unconsciously I had denied many things masculine and male in me. Though I looked and dressed like a lumberjack, I kept my hair long like my mother’s. I saw maleness as exhibited by my drunken angry father and wanted no part of such meanness. I had seen maleness via the cultural fathers who sent their sons to Vietnam to live out their, and John Wayne’s, dreams of heroism and cultural domination. I wanted nothing to do with such maleness. I looked toward the feminine and tried to look like a sensitive man who would not use his intuition to plough through people’s souls and bodies. My spirituality was deeply feminine and finally soft. During my early 30s, thanks to Bly, Laural and others, I realized that I was one who was completely out of balance and quickly approaching a “sickness unto death.”

If you fly away from commitments, responsibilities, intimacy, feelings, male friendships and your own body, chances are you are a Flying Boy. If you are a woman reading this, chances are you have loved or come into contact with a Flying Boy.

Flying Boys frequently use fantasy to escape reality. They hide in their mind/intellect, reason to avoid the pain they keep in their bodies. They appear to all but those closest to them as sensitive, gentle and completely in touch with their feelings. The truth, except in the most extreme circumstances, is that they seldom even know they have bodies and feelings.

Fate and circumstance always seem to be controlling their lives. They can’t quite make life work for themselves. When things do begin to work out or they finally succeed at something, they fly off in pursuit of another city, lover, job, degree, religion or drug. recovery treatment center image jumping between two mountains

Flying Boys are often addicted to sex, work, pain and failure as much as they are to intensity and darkness. They are constantly coming down from ecstatic highs and descending into deep, dramatic depressions. They seek the extremes and are bored with the in-between times.

Flying Boys often grew up in dysfunctional families. Their fathers were both emotionally and physically absent. Their mothers often tried to compensate for this loss. In the process, the Flying Boy learned to reject his masculinity and grew to overvalue the feminine. He experienced his feminine side vicariously through his mother and other mother-like women in his life.

A Collection of Poems from a new book, “Five Friends on Sunday Afternoons”

Book Release Celebration and Reading at Malvern Books – Friday Oct 5 at 7 pm

John Lee will be celebrating the release of, and reading from, a new collection of poems, “Five Friends on Sunday Afternoons,” along with authors, Lyman Grant, Bill Jeffers, David Jewell and John Oakley McElhenney. Please join them at 7 PM CDT at Malvern Books located at 613 W 29th Street in Austin, TX 78705.

Lee will be reading two of his poems, A Thunderstorm in Mentone and Holding On, that were written in his sweet cottage on Lookout Mountain in Mentone, Alabama as part of his way of letting go of a place that has been so dear to his heart for almost three decades.

A THUNDERSTORM IN MENTONE 

A thunderstorm in Mentone.

The wind is different tonight.

The leaves on the trees move easily.

Summer rain cleans the horses

grazing in the pasture

across the road.

I saw lightning for the first time 

in months. It looked like a ragged

tuning fork, and I felt the thunder

roll through my body.

Today, in a house a hundred miles

away I saw my father for the first

time in ten years.

He sat beside me with his bare shoulder

against mine as we looked at a map.

Years ago I would have wanted more to

happen and felt a disappointment,

but this meeting moved easily.

A part of me (the part that always wanted more)

felt cleaned. The lightning comes down in jagged

lines and then separates into its tines. A tuning

fork and a father and son

are like that too.

We talked about gas mileage; then

he showed me the peas he’s grown in his

garden.

This is the most affection I’m going

To get, I thought.

Today this amount of affection was finally enough.

HOLDING ON

There is always one leaf

that hangs on to certain trees

even in mid-January – wind

blowing thirty miles an hour.

It holds on the way a bowl holds on 

to a Buddhist monk, a Bible holds

on to a Christian; the way a cane

holds on to a blind man.

What holds on to me when it’s winter?

A poker perhaps to punch and stir the

fire, a pen that turns empty white

paper into a prayer for some company.

Every morning I sit down by

the fire. I see the poker by my hand,

the pen on the table and, outside, the

leaf still holding on.