For Kimberly

It’s one year today, and still hard to believe you’re gone.
kimberly

How does one cope
With loss, far removed
By time and more so, by place?
I suppose one can only recall

Shine one, with that smile
That will light up a room
That will get us all laughing again
Bring us back to when we first meet as friends

Speak on, with that voice
That will fill up a room
That booms but can giggle as well
Call us back to when everything was swell

Burn on, with that fire
That would warm your true friends
That would scorch the impatient, the rest
Guide us back to the times we knew best

Ours was unique, a band of true friends
An oasis of laughter and jokes
Of drawing, of action, of fun
How careless I was, tending to plants
Rather than doing more for someone

Your heart was so open, your potential unbound
Your life should not end in this way
Shine one, speak on, burn on, please do
Bring us back to when we first met as friends

Stone Face

All things change on shifting sands
And time, the most shifting of all
No thing can endure, though some may survive
The change of the suns and the moons.

Even mountains of ice can wander adrift
Though their faces that shimmer will cry
Their hearts of cold venom will thaw to reveal
The drip of lost lifeblood, obscene.

The mountain of life will spring from the tears
Turning sadness to cries of new birth
But even the greens and blossoming trees
Are subject to dusk and disease

For life begets death, as the two are lost twins
And their parent, the glacier made ghost
No birth can come forth without death eying close
And portending the fate of all life.

But the mountain, carefree, springs forth evermore
Let the life that comes forth go along.
Kept warm by the greens and blossoming trees
The spring of the living goes on!

All systems must balance to stave off the chaotic
And equations in math must compute
The song of the spring had too many to sing
And so death came along to collect.

Scarcity first brought life to a lull
Which begats it close cousin disease
And as all of the greens and blossoming trees
Covered sky, so the mountain brought dusk.

The mountain, imperfect, knew it too late
But the greens and trees would soon die
And all that was left for the mountain bereft
Was dirt, held together by rage.

For even as it was a mountain of life
It would not succumb to those tears
So the dirt would grow hard, and rigid and grim
The mountain of life, a great stone.

The sun and moon would circle the stone
Growing bored of its stasis, dead face
Yet through the blank stare of the stone growing old
Was a burning sensation, a rage.

The barrren dead mountain grew hateful of death
Having pledged to steal its victory
It would stare at the sky, yet refusing to cry
It sought only the strength to explode.

All things change on shifting sands
And time, the most shifting of all
No thing can endure, though some may survive
The change of the suns and the moons.

Pokemon, Innocence, and Idealism

Unless I’m the only target to a very consistent marketing campaign, people are being made aware of the fact that Pokemon is turning 20 this year. There’s even a Super Bowl ad coinciding with this milestone. While its been some time since the last time I played a Pokemon game (Gold, in case you are wondering), I couldn’t help but recognize that there’s still something special about Pokemon as a larger narrative and why it, at least to me, still seemingly has an importance today.

Of course, this could all just be wistful nostalgia, but let’s see where the rabbit hole leads.

The first place to start would be with the Super Bowl ad itself.

What’s particularly striking to me about this commercial is how little of it is actually connected to the content of the Pokemon franchise. The repeated mantra of “I can do that” calls back to the driving force behind Pokemon’s original narrative. For anybody who watched the original show back in the late 90s, the not-so-subtle inclusion of “Like No One Ever Was” is a direct reference to the lyrics of the theme song for the television show.

Aside from the obvious nostalgia angle, the decision to focus on these components of Pokemon is significant because it reinforces the open-ended nature of the protagonist’s (or the player’s) ultimate goal: to be the very best. The commercial shows people running, playing chess, gearing up for a football game, and engaging in a stadium-style Pokemon battle. How are all of these things connected? They aren’t, and that’s precisely the point.

The Pokemon television show back in the 90s introduced a protagonist, Ash Ketchum (because puns were funnier back then), who was driven towards being a “Pokemon Master”. Given that this is the character’s primary motivator for the first couple seasons, you would expect some specificity as to what conditions need to be met in order to become said master. You would be wrong. Between the two broad goals of capturing as many of the various types of Pokemon in the world and winning Pokemon battles, there is a whole lot of time dedicated to efforts that directly go against even these two enormous feats. On top of that, the show’s protagonist DOES NOT win all of his battles. He DOES NOT capture all the Pokemon ever, to the potential chagrin of completionists everywhere. But that’s okay. The goal of being of “Pokemon Master” is still out there, in spite of, or perhaps because of, his prioritization of his human companions, his Pokemon, or the world at large.

What’s equally enduring about Pokemon is that it’s not afraid to show us that world and, with each new generation of Pokemon introduced, seemingly expand it out further. The primary goal, of being the very best, takes on new significance when you realize just how big the world can be. However, the response by Ash (as well as the player in the Pokemon games) is to go out and engage that every growing universe. While there’s a certain level of naivete that comes along with a show predicated on a bunch of pre-teens wandering the world with nothing but what amounts to fighting pets by their side, 1) it’s a children’s TV show and 2) the lesson to be drawn from this messaging is that it is better to go out and see the world than to be afraid or averse to what it has to offer. If it strikes people as idealism, it is; but what would the world be like if we didn’t raise children to think they could be anything?

“Being the very best” is an open-ended goal that is largely defined by the person who takes it on. That was demonstrated in the TV show, the 20th anniversary ad, and is important when considering the population of people who grew up with Pokemon (myself among them). There are certainly a number of idealists out there who are pushing and fighting to achieve their dreams. Whether it is to be self-sufficient or to make the world a better place, they are out there, engaging the world, being their very best. Where I suppose this becomes “problematic” is when that aspirational and idealistic drive runs up against the realities of the world. The world of Pokemon is certainly not the real world. There are a multitude of dangers, threats, and crises that would, when taken collectively, scare anyone from ever leaving their bunker of a home. However, these dangers are more a product of the world we live in than they are necessary constants. The world as we know it now has always been changing, and those changes are often driven by those who aspire to change it.

It is worth reiterating that Ash lost most of his high-stakes earlier tournaments (it’s possible he became an unstoppable winner in later seasons but I doubt it). In spite of those early and narratively significant losses, he learned from his shortcomings, strengthened his bonds with those closest to him, and moved forward as a better person. What made that growth possible wasn’t just a robust support system, but a constant yearning for self-improvement. While I can’t speak for every idealist out there, I understand that “being the very best” is a long and challenging prospect. I can imagine plenty of people are working through some significant challenges right now and still maintaining their belief in a better future for themselves.

It’s important to think about where we come from collectively as a people, what forms our values, our fears, and our scope of imagination. When it comes to the idealism of the young, I think we were collectively well-served by the hopefulness, the determination, and the idealism that Pokemon presented. Whether that role is still filled by that franchise or another, it is important to our development as a people to never stop pushing for that level of excellence that seems just outside the realm of possibility.

Verdict

As we wait for the Ferguson verdict:

Guilty
For the act of blood
To kill a boy on summer day
And baking there in scorching sun
The passions boiled over.

Marching
O’er hundred days
And people cry for truth
To change the dialogue at last
Institutions challenged now.

Innocent
May be verdict
Injustice to a whole
And rage, well-earned, into the streets
The death toll just to rise.

Innocent
Will be the next
And the countless ones to come
But when will calls for peace and calm
Fall upon all angry ears?

Kiss of the Wind

While it may be Halloween for most people, I instead remember the man who passed away on this day years ago. He was a symbol, a legend, and a gentle teacher all rolled into one. Having been named after him and hearing of all of our similarities, it’s become annual ritual for me to reflect on the things I’ll never share with my grandfather. While I could endlessly speculate on the conversations we could have had on our similar directions in life, I always like to take a moment to read the below piece to help me focus my thoughts and remember.

—–

I crouch there, weeping
As the river flows by
The humble beginnings of a once great man,
Reduced now to ash, as the years have long passed
Since the campfires of boyhood have been lit.

The simple box can not contain
His smile or his heart for humanity.
But as all things must live and must die,
So too does he return to the birth of a dream.

But as he is made to be one with the world
And his being is merged with this river of life
My tears do not cease, for there is no release
To the loss of my dear Grandpa.

The silence is broken
In this now hallowed place
By the wind that begins to pick up.
The ashes, now lifted by the movement of air
Partake in ethereal embrace.

But as my heart trembles
At saying farewell
The wind picks up a droplet of life
And as it caresses my face in the sweetest embrace
I know he will be there for me.

The years, they have come
The years, they have gone
And with them, my hopes and my fears.
No longer a youth, but still looking for truth
In the firmament that captures my eye.

The world is now challenged
The world is now broken
Perhaps moreso since when you were here
But your dreams and ambitions, for a just coalition
Seem further and further away.

I march and I run
Against sweltering heat
Afraid to watch the world burn.
And while I grow weary to see this world dreary
I gasp as I try to still breathe.

Though broken and beaten
And slowing my pace
In my effort to bring salvation
I feel it again: my dearest of friend
The ethereal dance of the wind.

It whirls and it pushes
The heat of the earth
Away from the fore of my mind.
But as it sees me now broken, in a language unspoken
It pushes me now to go on.

To remember the dreams
Of an elder great man
The man for whom I was named.
And as he did then, he did so again
Send a kiss of hope through the wind.

And in these brief moments
Of hope and of promise
When the cosmos now seem all aligned
I weep once again, for I feel him now send
A message for me to embrace.

I know that you’ll miss me
I know that you’ll grieve
For to death there seems no reprieve.
But as the sun comes tomorrow
Grow strong out of sorrow
For in you, my last son, I’ll believe.

Every Hour is Sacred

While there are certainly special moments in one’s life that can give you nerves, I’ll address today’s prompt from a slightly different angle.

Life is full of grand milestones
The times when your being is known
But I have lived life in a fashion without fear
For some milestones don’t show when they’re known.

Calamity, crisis, or the pure stroke of luck
Can bring any large moment up front
So without being pushy or immediately rude
Allow me to be perfectly blunt:

Every day has the makings of the rest of your life
To live with bias towards days would be cruel
For every hour is sacred, every minute inspired
Every second is an end, not a tool.

Can you tell me which step matters most in a journey
The first step, the last, in between?
If you ponder each pace on the journey of life
Then your conscience will ever be clean.

So each step, well-considered, leads to well-thought out ends
As each step is a moment’s inception
So as you stride through the hours that make up your life
Keep it with you, this gift of reflection.

Myth

The overarching theme of the week, legends and myth. Enjoy!

—-

From the moment we learn
Which is to say, our birth
We absorb the great stories we’re told
And ever we listen
As our eyes they do glisten
At the legends and myths of days old.

From here and ever after
Through youth and adulthood
We set our aims and aspire
To be like some one hero
Or at least not a zero
As the myths of our life sparked the fire.

But the myths themselves
Being told through the years
They are rigid and their goals, arbitrary
What then can be done
For each and everyone
Seeking a life that may in fact be contrary?

Be the hero of your own
Great lost prophecy
The cynics will fail to disprove
For your efforts alone
Are fulfillment shown
Of the story that you alone move.

Remember these words
When living your life
And seeking out guidance from myth
For the legends of old
And the stories we’re told
Were once people we shared the Earth with.