Tag Archives: Boston

Poem of Awakening

Oh Boston!
You are my lost city of sorrow,
lost city of light,
of illuminated minds,
illuminate our hearts.
Calling all cars: hear ye! Hear ye!
You make movies of mobsters
with whom we’ve fallen in love
because we see ourselves in them:
We are the underdogs of life.

Oh Boston,
You teach me to look down
when passersby pass,
to pretend we are invisible,
but I see your hidden heart in parks,
in the corridor of London Planes that line the Charles in witness of
your sad soil, your grit and insistence, armies of wasps,
your tribalism and no-nonsense attitude.

Today I was awakened at the Fort
beneath Rapunzel’s tower,
listening to the Grandmother-wisdom of willows.
I witnessed my own mobster movie of rebellion unfolding
from within.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I never thought I could love you,
your fields of broken glass
where things still grow.
Four years ago
I saw a woodcock
undulating in the shade of the
massive puddingstone of Thwing Street.
Our eyes met for a second and
I thought I saw the gaze of my teacher.
The keys, hidden in plain sight.


Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

“I like you just the way you are.”– Mister Rodgers

All names, except dogs’, have been changed. Photo of mural by Cyrille Conan on Thwing St.

After teaching my evening class, I took Mr. Chulo, my four-legged friend, up to the park for his requisite second play. With the aid of the chucker (a sort of arm extension with a cup at the end that allows you to throw a ball really far) I hurled tennis balls off of his favorite lump of pudding stone with a force that greatly exceeded my natural ability. The chucker, when properly handled, can turn even the girliest throw into a rocket. To add to the excitement, pudding stone is jagged and uneven, so there was no way to predict where the ball would go. Fortunately, there were no windows nearby.

Mr. Chulo chased after each missile as though possessed, kicking up clouds of dirt in his wake. I marveled inwardly that I never ever got tired of watching him run. He’s a whippet, a smaller version of a greyhound, but not so small as an Italian greyhound.

He’s fast. Wicked fast as they say in Boston. But it’s not only his speed that captivates me. It is his conviction. No amount of uneven, rocky terrain can deter him from his goal, the ball, although to call catching the ball a goal is somewhat missing the mark. When he runs after the ball there is simply no separation. No him and it. When Mr. Chulo runs, he is oneness.

Anyway, after a good twenty minutes or so of this, Bob appeared. Not Disco Bob, but Lucy Bob. You see, at the park when there’s a redundancy of first names, we tend to place the dog’s name before the human’s as a sort of prefix. Lucy, an old heavy yellow lab, and Chulo ran a few circuits while Bob and I fell into conversation. I love these conversations with Bob because he’s, well, interesting: a former high school English teacher, musician, carpenter, former hippy-free-loving-polyandrist, history buff and who knows what else.

On this particular evening, we were discussing the history of Thwing Street, a dead-end street in the Fort Hill section of Roxbury that I happen to live on. The funny thing about living on a street named Thwing is that you have to repeat the name several times and spell it out before people believed that such a place exists. “Thwing Street did you say?” they ask incredulously. Yes, that’s it. And if you think that’s weird, check out the dude’s whole name.

“Drum rrroll, please,” says Mr. Octopus.

Ok, Mr. Thwing, for whom our street was named and who was engaged in the triangle business, involving rum, sugar cane and slaves, had a whopper of a name according to Bob. It was, get this,

SUPPLY CLAP THWING.

Now, as I stood there talking with Lucy’s Bob, the sun setting majestically over Boston, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of place it must have been way back in the 1800’s where a mother could name a son Supply Clap Thwing. What a world indeed.

While musing over this, another neighbor, Carmen, showed up. She’d lost her dog, Celeste, an albino boxer, months ago, and in her grief rarely made appearances in the park any more. But this evening, the tide seemed to turn just a little. She saw Mr. Chulo, who she calls Chalupa, in the park, and bravely ventured in. She threw the ball for him a few times and we chatted. I knew this was a big deal for her to be able to play with another dog without breaking down in tears.

On the way back home, another neighbor, Dave, was in the street helping Carmen unload her groceries. We hugged briefly. He’s a regular in our home on game night. He asked when the Celtics played next. It’s tomorrow night and we are, that is, Mr. Conan, is making lasagna. Come by!

As I left Dave and walked down the hill to our little spot on Supply Clap’s Thwing, I wondered if I had left Roxbury and stumbled into a parallel world of Make Believe until a fragrant cloud of pot smoke wafted oh so beguilingly past my nose. Nope, still in da hood. Nevertheless, I said out loud to the universe and whoever might be listening, “I love my neighborhood.”

I haven’t felt like I actually lived in a neighborhood with, uh, neighbors since I was a small child. Since then I had grown used to not knowing neighbor’s names and thought of them more as potentially hostile people to avoid. But the neighbor thing is nice. It makes me feel safe and gives me a sense of belonging, of connectedness and I have Mr. Chulo to thank for that. He’s changed my life. I used to be such a loner-hermit type but he has helped bring me into community. He has connected me to people because with him, I have to be outside, walking around, each and every day. You get to know people. You get to have conversations.

Seriously, real live conversations! When we are hanging out in the park with our dogs, sometimes for hours at a stretch with other semi-employed dog lovers, people rarely pull out their phones. We are genuinely interested in each other. We play frisbee. In this age of technology, when we are connected, yet alienated more than ever, these daily gatherings in the park are such simple medicine.

“You know, octopuses can also bring you into community. How ’bout a little credit here?” asks Mr. Octopus.

“Sure. Why not? If I can love my neighbors, any thing’s possible.”


Bones that Speak

“Hard to see, the dark side is.” –Master Yoda

My fiance’s parents were visiting last night. We all piled into the car and drove from Roxbury to the posh South End for dinner. On the way, I noticed a huge, unmarked building that I had never seen before. I asked my fiance what it was and he said it was a chemical weapons facility built by Boston University.

Huh? Why? Why would they do that?

I looked it up this morning on the web. It’s a research facility, not a chemical weapons factory as my fiance said, but isn’t it? Boston University said that the facility was built to save lives. Whose lives are they talking about saving? When did ebola become rampant in Boston? Come on! They are not researching the deadliest viruses known to mankind to help save us from them. Oh, give me a break. BU’s own professors denounced the building of this death lab.

But built it got. Its facade looks normal enough, but upon further inspection appears faceless. A faceless building. How appropriate. I can’t help but wonder how they entice people to work in such a den of wickedness. It is nothing less than the allure of the dark side of the Force. We have seen it played out in Hollywood, men in dark cloaks happening upon innocents, catching them off guard, playing on their fears. Everyone in the audience recognizes the bad guys, but the innocents take the bait.

Right and wrong seem so obvious in the movies, but in the real world, it goes a little something like this: students come out of college where many have their inner-wisdom squashed. They weigh heavily with student loans. They are afraid of the burden of their debt. They’ve heard horrible stories. They are afraid of being poor, which in our culture is equated to being a failure. Someone recruits them at a bio-chemical lab for a good salary. The student is told that they will be doing something positive. They walk past the protestors with their heads low. With this job, they can bring their family to America. They can give their sick brother health insurance. They can really get somewhere in their career. They can finally move out of the cramped apartment they share with five other room-mates and a family of mice. They are told only what they need to know. The same is true at every level of corporate and government hierarchy: knowledge is given on a need to know basis. And who knows what’s really going on? Only a select few, and we will never know their names. They are the faceless ones.

These are dangerous times, indeed, because we seem to have forgotten that there are worse things in life than being poor.  What’s the worst that can happen if we don’t take that job? That job that we think will save us, save our families, save our futures. Well, I guess the worse that can happen is that we can die. Our family will die. But maybe it’s better to die this way than to live with the knowledge that we are the creators of death.

As humans, it is a dangerous thing to not know what we are willing to die for (Malidoma Some). It is a dangerous thing to have millions of people who are not willing to die for anything. That’s how these companies get so out of control with greed. Of course, in this Yin era that we are in, choosing between right and wrong is not always easy. Unlike in the Yang era out of which we transitioned several years ago, there are no clearly marked boundaries. It means that corruption is everywhere, but so too is goodness (Makarta). So, while universities do good things, they have also become corrupt corporations.

LUKE: How am I to know the good side from the bad?

YODA: You will know. When you are calm, at peace. Passive.

I would not be surprised to find out that the pharmaceutical companies are in cahoots with the death lab, who are in cahoots with the universities, who are in cahoots with politicians. This is what I predict, either in Boston or elsewhere, and goddesses, please let me be wrong: many thousands of deaths will occur, both here and abroad. In a few years, voila, a drug or series of drugs will appear that allow you to live a relatively normal life with ebola, or whatever, with a few so-called side-effects that may include dry mouth, increase risk of suicide and/or a sudden, forceful ballooning of the buttocks. Billboards of happily married ebola-infected couples with pretty children will dot the freeways. Commercials and advertisements everywhere will boast “Proud to be an Ebola Survivor.” We’ll give it a ribbon. We’ll give it a cause. We’ll give it a hot-line. We’ll give it group therapy. But here’s the catch: you will have to take the ebola drugs for the rest of your life. Gotcha! If you’ve managed to avoid debt because of student loans, try getting out of the debt from your ebola medication!

The pattern is so obvious. It’s just that now the governments and corporations are getting really bold. They’re doing it in our own backyard. It will be Guernica right here in Boston.They have even created a term to trivialize any claims against their misdeeds. The conspiracy theorists of today are the witches of old.

This debate between the community and the bio-lab Dungeon of Horrors, has been going on since 2003. I just heard about it yesterday. I drove past the building. It looked like any other modern building, but I grocked a wrongness about it. Call me a witch if you wanna, but I FELT it. I felt it as a disturbance in the Force, no shit.

Now, I will admit, that this old news being new news to me is my own fault. I tend to live under a rock. I hate watching the news because it hurts so much. It hurts it hurts it hurts, but now it seems that I can’t avoid knowing even if I want to because I can feel it in my bones and the bones will speak.

And they will continue to speak. And speak and speak. Even if ebola gets me. The wisdom of the bones cannot be silenced. My bones, your bones and all the bones of beings that seek to nurture life instead of destroying it. ‘Cause dig this all yee Obi Wans: those that seek the dark way of suppressing life have forgotten one very important thing: that some of us will be more powerful in death.


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