“Secret Identity”

Here’s another new poem that I finalized just recently and debuted at an open mic night this week. I’m calling it “Secret Identity.”

Question for discussion: do you prefer poems with a definite rhyme or rhythm (like this one will be), or ones written in free verse (like the last one I posted)? I feel like free verse is more “in vogue” these days, and so for a while most of what I wrote was free verse. But personally, I find that when I write for spoken word or specifically for performance (as I have been doing lately), I like to go back to consistent rhyme and rhythm if I can. Having a rhythm and a pattern or beat helps me to keep my pace when the audible sounds are the focus more than the written word.

Anyway, here’s “Secret Identity.” I hope you enjoy it.

——

Shirt & tie
Image taken from user jopperbok on Flickr Creative Commons.

My shirt and tie may cover me.

These glasses hide my eyes.

But still this outer man you see

is merely a disguise.

By day I speak on words and books.

Your minds I try to fill.

I may give disapproving looks

or tell you to sit still.

But underneath there’s so much more

than what you could dream of:

a soldier fighting holy war,

a heart that’s full of love

and far-too-idealistic hopes

in my heroic quest

to talk of more than tomes and tropes

but make your life feel blessed.

Behind the desk, behind the beard,

behind the endless puns

lies something more than first appeared:

deep care for broken ones.

I see you there, alone and lost

like sheep, a shepherd needing.

You don’t know I’d pay any cost

to simply stop the bleeding.

You’ll never know how much I care

or how I long to hold you

or how I wish I could be there

though outwardly I scold you.

Oh, how I longed to draw you near

like a hen unto her chicks,

to chase off every hurt and fear—

to shield, to heal, to fix.

Of burdens I would bear the brunt—

but alas, I am unable,

for I stand up here at the front

while you sit at your table.

For after all, I’m only one

flawed, finite, mortal creature,

and when it all is said and done,

I’m just a high school teacher.

But I’ll always be here on your side.

I’ll always be your fan.

I couldn’t save you if I tried,

but I’ll do what I can.

Clark changing
Image taken from user Porta-john on Flickr Creative Commons. Originally published by DC Comics.

The Wanderer’s Lament

I haven’t written much fiction lately, but I’ve been working on some poetry. And as our own Mr. Mastgrave reminded me this week, a poem can often be a form of telling a story. In my case, I certainly believe that that’s true. Some people are gifted enough that they can write beautiful poems about almost anything, but I can really only bring myself to write one when I have the right inspiration, usually when it has been influenced by something from my life—-a story, if you will.

Later in the week, I may write a post analyzing poems and storytelling a little more thoroughly. For now, I’d just like to share with you some of the latest ones I’ve written. The following is a work in progress born of an emotion inside me, but I didn’t really put it down in words until yesterday–so I reserve the right to edit and change it later on as I revisit it. (But I am planning to unveil it to the public at an open mic night tonight, so hopefully it’s ready enough for that at least!)

I have named this poem “The Wanderer’s Lament.”

———-

Home is not the mattress I sleep on

in a brick building far too uptight

to be anything more than a temporary dwelling.

Home is no longer the four walls

where I talked and laughed with two best friends

right up until everything changed.

Home is not even where my parents live, or my brothers,

or the simpler, more idealistic version of myself

I can still glimpse within my mind,

reading a book or doing homework

in that familiar house ten years ago.

Home is not a past that can never be repeated–

but neither is it the ever-fleeting present

or some hopeful future still in flux.

Home is not a grand adventure

6788260659_52e0a97b0d_n
Image taken from user Ciscolo on Flickr Creative Commons.

where I crossed the river to chase my dreams

and learn how to grow up a little more

and just maybe begin laying down some roots.

Home is not the winding halls

of the university I still love,

or the classroom where I spend so many hours

to earn a living and hopefully make a difference.

Home isn’t found under a steeple, in a pew,

or even a friendly living room full of smiling faces

with a Bible in my lap.

Home is not my friends,

the ones who have stood by me for years,

or the ones who so graciously welcomed me

into a strange new land.

Home is not any loving community that I’ve found,

or any that I’m likely to find in a week,

or a month,

or a year.

If one day I find love

and build up a family in a house,

if I hold a wife close to me

or cherish the sweet laugh of a child,

even then the home I long for

will still be far from me.

 

If I Find in Myself a Desire
Image taken from QuotesVil.com. Quote from C.S. Lewis.

Home will finally quench my deep desire

which nothing in this world can satisfy,

because, most probably,

I was made for another.

I don’t know what home will look like,

but I’ll see it when I go.

 

 

On Gender Relations Post 4: Great (or not so great) Expectations (Alayna)

Welcome everyone! I hope that you’re having a wonderful Sunday. As you all know, Alayna and I have been working on a series of posts lately dealing with some of the things that we’ve struggled with and some problems that we see in the culture. As I’ve said in earlier posts, we both hope that those of you who read this find in helpful, but the primary purpose for writing these has actually been for us, not for you. We’re working to get ourselves on the same page, work through some disagreements, and effectively express our concerns, beliefs, positions, and fears so that we can better understand one another first and foremost. So, this week’s post is from Alayna, and I personally think that she did a great job of expressing some real issues in American society as a whole:

While preparing a post about what marriage means and what it’s meant to accomplish, I kept getting hung up on exactly what it means to be loved and how people allow that love to die. This necessitated that the marriage post be postponed a few weeks so Tobias and I can wrestle through a major issue that helps sour multiple marriages. This issue is one of harmful expectations. And just like we did with dating, this post is directed to women and next week Tobias will address the men.

While the coffin for a marriage is always ready (as part of living in a sinful and imperfect world), couples put the nails in and hammer them through with repeated mistakes. The nail of harmful expectations is often firmly in place long before rings are exchanged or ‘I do’s’ are said. This of course means that even before a marriage begins, its demise has already been started. This demise comes to you straight from Hollywood (and the like). From the comfort of our couches or theater seats, we see heroes who possess a perfect hairstyle, physique, and fashion. He locks eyes with the heroine and instantly his life (and our’s) is changed. She consumes his every waking moment and is in his dreams at night. He knows when she will have a bad day before it happens and always shows up with the perfect remedy. He chases her through airports so they can share one last-last (since the last one was in the car seconds previously) kiss or embrace. He wows her with lines like “you have bewitched me body and soul” (Pride and Prejudice). He obsesses over her (in a romantic way of course) and moves heaven and earth to save her and be with her. And all this in only a couple hours…think what we can fit into our entire lives!!! While watching these scenes play out, our heart skips a beat and our breathing quickens (or momentarily stops…depending on how one processes romantic thrills). And then the moment is over and we have a desperate yearning to live it out again…the next time, however, we fully intend to play the role of the heroine. We walk out of the theater with a subconscious but fully planted expectation of what it looks like to be loved by a man.

When our real-life hero walks into our lives, we notice him and fall in love with him, but there is nearly always some level of discontent. Something is missing. Most women walk into marriage with either a ‘husband improvement plan’ in the back of their minds, or with the expectation that he will magically change himself and become the beloved Hollywood man we’ve pined away for. While these women imagined love being like a torrential downpour preceded by roaring thunder and flashing lightning, most love is like a small rainstorm. Constant, pleasant, and allows the sun to shine through. But it lacks the drama and intensity that we women can crave. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with grand gestures or making some days (like important anniversaries) extra-special. But women often condition themselves to miss the gentle rain because they’re too busy desiring the giant storms and think that that’s the only way to show real love. Men claim that these expectations are unrealistic, but how hard can it be to chase someone through an airport, we ask ourselves. Ultimately, it’s not that these expectations are unrealistic, it’s that they’re misguided. Is it possible that while focusing on what our man is not, we’ve lost sight of what he is?

The simple truth is that, while your man may be missing some of the characteristics that Mr. Hollywood possesses, it is emphatically true that this works both ways. Mr. Hollywood is also missing characteristics that your man possesses. The key here is refocusing our attention so that we notice what our men do to show their love for us. And then we can prioritize and maybe come to the conclusion that the constant gentle rainstorm might actually be preferable to the occasional downpour.

The following are ways that Tobias loves me in his own way rather than Hollywood’s style. While I appreciate the opportunity to publicly brag about him, I’m guessing some of these are true for a lot of men (maybe even your man?). So ask yourself, what is really important?

-Tobias has never chased me through an airport (and in all likelihood never will). But he has pursued my heart through his own loving gestures (flowers, quality time together, hugs, making contact throughout the day (calls, texts, messages, etc.)

-Tobias has never talked like Mr. Darcy. But he has told me that he loves me.

-Tobias has never been obsessed with me or been overwhelmed by a need for me. But he has deliberately chosen to prioritize me in his life and has shown that by repeatedly setting aside time in his busy schedule to make sure my needs are met and to spend time with me.

-Tobias has never been awestruck by me. But he has loved me regardless of what I’m wearing, how my hair looks, or what my make-up regimen was (or wasn’t) that morning.

-Tobias has never felt desperately lost or alone while living 4 hours away from me (our current situation). But he has re-arranged his schedule (when he can) to make time together happen. And he has been faithful to me through the distance.

-Tobias does not find his life purpose in me; nor does he claim that I am the only important part of his life or the only receiver of his attention. But he has made me his highest priority (other than God) and has trusted me to be a help to his other projects rather than a hindrance.

So how does Tobias (and most men) score on the Hollywood test? Fairly low probably. The adoration, worship, and all-consuming nature of the love that Hollywood shows is polar opposite to what many women receive each day. But they receive that love day in and day out. Year after year. And isn’t that more important?

Conclusion

Men are human, too. It can be difficult for them to do small things for us over and over if they go repeatedly un-noticed or seem unwanted. Like us, they want recognition for their efforts, and a response that shows we notice and appreciate them. Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness rather than discontent. You will be happier, and your man will be as well. Start today and find 5 ways your man has shown you love in small ways in the last couple days. Then go find him and thank him for them. Looking for a new year’s resolution? Look no further.

Philosophical Story Challenge

human_nature_by_molicious-d4x4992Hey everyone! Time for another philosophical story challenge. I’ve really enjoyed reading the responses to the last few that I posted, so keep up the good work everyone! For this week’s challenge I want to look at the idea of human nature. In the world today we chalk a lot of things up to “human nature” but if you’ve ever sat down and tried to pin-point characteristics of human nature it can be difficult, to say the least. Sure, it’s easy to say things like love and friendship are part of human nature–and they certainly are–but then we have to confront the elephant in the room: hatred. It seems hatred is as much a part of human nature as love and the desire for societal connection. I mean, if we just look at the history of the world it is filled with violence, and perhaps even more intriguing to me is the fact that most of this violence is justified by love of different things. In fact, I think it can honestly be said that sometimes both parties in a conflict can desire the same thing, but because of differences in religion or culture this common goal is never achieved. It’s tragic, really. So for your challenge this week I want you to write a story where there is some form of conflict and both sides ultimately want the same thing, but due to fear and hatred or discrimination it cannot be attained.

Philosophical Story Challenge

images (4)Hey guys. It’s Saturday again so it’s time for another philosophical story challenge. I’m going to keep this weeks challenge short and simple. Love. Love is a concept that can be rather difficult to pin down; it both goes against our nature and is also a part of that nature. Everyone craves love to some extent, and it seems like a lot of people are proponents of the idea that love would solve a lot of our problems. If more people were loving and less selfish the world would be a better place, it’s probably true. Your challenge this week is to write a story with two conditions. One, the society within the story must have some fixation on love, and two, the main character/characters need to question this fixation. As always, keep your stories under 1,000 words if you want to post them on here, but feel free to write more! Have fun!

Poetry: What Love Is

IM000292.JPGSorry for the late post, y’all….as Tobias hypothesized, yesterday was full of work (night shift sucks), grading papers, proctoring exams, and research. So I completely forgot to write my post. To make up for it, I’m going to share a bit of poetry with you. I wrote this in my poetry seminar earlier this semester. Enjoy!

What Love Is

Love is not thoughtless,

taking the bullet meant for him,

expiring in an easy out,

with a shallow “I love…”

causing a romantic stain like the blood on his shirt

for the rest of his days.

 

Love is deliberate,

crushing the prescription pills,

consciously choosing torturous existence

on a day when just breathing is hell,

because even your agonized brain knows

there would be no kiss of peace

for the walking dead man behind your coffin.

Story Challenge of the Week

hesedI think love is very important in life. I’m not talking about romantic love here, or at least not just about romantic love. I’m talking about loving others in general. Anyone who knows me particularly well can tell you that I’m not a fan of C.S. Lewis. Most of my friends have heard my rants about The Chronicles of Narnia or Lewis’ glaring theological inaccuracies, (which, to his credit, he freely admitted – Lewis did not consider himself a theologian, it is later fans who have attempted to make him one). However, there is a quote from The Four Loves that I am quite fond of. Lewis said “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”* Love does not require romance to be real. There are many people that I love, some of them read this blog, others probably don’t even realize I run a writing blog. All of them have hurt me, and I have no doubt that I have hurt all of them at one point or another. So, this is your story challenge this week, and from all of the crazy stuff I come up with, I think this is probably the most difficult challenge I’ve ever given you.
Your Challenge: Write a story about real love. This should not be a story about romantic love, or cliched love, or seemingly perfect love. I want you to write a story about true, real, unremitting love. Whether it is between friend, siblings, parent and child, or love for a stranger, write me a story about loving someone.
*The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis can be purchased here, though I have no doubt that with a little effort you can find it for a cheaper price.

Bringing it to Completion

ImageLet’s face it everyone, most of us have trouble finishing things from time to time; some more often than others. It is so easy to get a great idea in your head and just go with it only to find that you’ve left yourself with nowhere to go to develop the plot, or even to lose interest in a story that you’ve started and just never finish it. I’ve written a previous post on why this is okay, and what I want to say here is not meant to contradict anything I said in that post, but rather to point out the benefits of each. Having trouble finishing something is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you let it prevent you from ever finishing anything it certainly can be. Completing a story may be a very difficult task for some of us, but I want to encourage all of you to challenge yourself to complete something. It could be a simple NaNoWriMo story or it could be something you’ve been developing for a long time; either way, try to push on through to the end. Like any other type of art, it is a wonderful feeling to look on at something you have created and be able to say “that’s mine, I did that.” And as the author or painter or sculptor or musician you can see the piece of art for much more than most other people can–you can see it as a living, breathing entity which you created from yourself, flaws and all. I think the relationship that any artist has with his work is one of the most powerful expressions of love there is, and I think everyone should experience this at some point.

Philosophical Story Challenge of the Week

ImageHey everyone, it’s Saturday once again which bring us to this week’s philosophical story challenge. Today we’re going to do something that is a lot more commonly discussed, but is important nonetheless. Love. Love is something that almost everyone has experienced to some extent, which is why is it important to discuss and understand philosophically. This brings me to the question prompt for the challenge; what is love? Try to be specific in this as well. Focus on what you personally consider to be love, or perhaps how you show love, and then delve into why these things are your idea of love. As always, try to keep it within 100-1000 words if you want to post on here, but feel free to go beyond that if you need to! Have fun!

Coming Home

My new series on love is proving more difficult than I had originally imagined.  Yet, it’s not difficult due to lack of thought or material, rather due to an over-abundance.   There are so many directions to go and sources to choose from that I find myself scanning through titles, poems, and thoughts thinking “Great! Even better! Oh, this one too!” There are novels, short stories, poems, song lyrics, movie lines, and even fine art.

With that said, the poem I posted last week, “In and Out of Time” is quite possibly one of the most perfect poems ever written, and it’s going to be hard to top.  But, I love challenges.  And I do have a few pieces I am definitely going to include – when the time is right. Still, it’s challenging. But, for today’s post, I want to include a more personal introduction on the topic: LOVE.

LOVE. It’s one of the foundations of life: not a luxury, but a necessity.  In fact,  it is included in the third level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and has even been known to come second (before physical safety) in many abuse cases.  When you create your characters, LOVE is going to be a huge part of who they are and why they do what they do.  Were they loved by their parents, siblings, extended family?  Were they abused as a child or as an adult? Are they in love? Have they ever suffered from a broken heart?  Love drives us. It is one of our biggest motivations from money, and as a result, it cannot be ignored in your writing.  So, as I continue with this series, think about your characters and their background.  Think about your own experiences.  And then, WRITE them.

And, I’ll be completely honest.  I’m a romantic.  I so completely believe in love, and the power of love (the idea, not the Celine Dion song) that I have become slightly cynical about it. Growing up, I had such a black and white view of love.  Every person had one perfect soul mate.  One spouse destined for them. That one spouse was the only person they would ever romantically love.  Now, this isn’t to say that they wouldn’t have had strong feelings for a past boyfriend/girlfriend, but I didn’t understand how it could be love, true love.  You love your spouse.  If you had loved anyone else, wouldn’t that cheapen what you have with your one and only?

It’s a naive thought, I know.  Still, I clung to that idea with a fierce tenacity, and so when I realized that’s not how the world works, I was stung.  Nevertheless, I still hold out hope for my Mr. Right.

That being said, I want to to introduce “the list.”  Let’s face it.  Most girls (and guys) have some sort of list that they have created about their perfect mate.  That being said, I have long hated the word “list” when it comes to people.  It traps your perspective in a box of sorts, making you close-minded.  And yet, there is some validity to it.  Whether we realize it or not, we have a list because we have STANDARDS.  Now, some have long lists detailing everything from hair color to occupation, but I’ll admit that my list is fairly short: 4 items + 1 fun optional item.

Still, at the end of the day, the idea behind all of the lists we create is the same.  We want someone we can be comfortable with.  Someone who we can love and who can love us back.  Someone who makes us feel like, at long last, we have come home.

So, that’s this weeks literary piece.  A song.  “Come Home” by One Republic.  Simply put, this song is about patience, faith, hope, and home.  Waiting for someone, calling them forth from their ashes.  Believing that they are beautiful just as they are.  It’s about realizing that home is about complementing and working with each other.  It’s about fighting for each other, not with each other.  Home isn’t always easy or pleasant, but, it’s HOME. Home is about calling someone forth, raising them up. Sometimes, it’s about being called, realizing that you are loved.

So, without further ado: Come Home

“Come Home”

Hello world
Hope you’re listening
Forgive me if I’m young
For speaking out of turn
There’s someone I’ve been missing
I think that they could be
The better half of me
They’re in the wrong place trying to make it right
But I’m tired of justifying
So I say to you..[Chorus]
Come home
Come home
Cause I’ve been waiting for you
For so long
For so long
Right now there’s a war between the vanities
But all I see is you and me
The fight for you is all I’ve ever known
So come home
Oh[Verse 2]
I get lost in the beauty
Of everything I see
The world ain’t half as bad
As they paint it to be
If all the sons,
All the daughters
Stopped to take it in
Well hopefully the hate subsides and the love can begin
It might start now, yeah
Well maybe I’m just dreaming out loud
Until then…[Chorus]
Come home
Come home
Cause I’ve been waiting for you
For so long
For so long
Right now there’s a war between the vanities
But all I see is you and me
The fight for you is all I’ve ever known
Ever known
So come home
Oh

[Interlude]
Everything I can’t be
Is everything you should be
And that’s why I need you here
Everything I can’t be
Is everything you should be
And that’s why I need you here
So hear this now…

[Chorus]
Come home
Come home
Cause I’ve been waiting for you
For so long
For so long
Right now there’s a war between the vanities
But all I see is you and me
The fight for you is all I’ve ever known
Ever known
So come home
Come home