Haunted ~watching, day by day~

dragging my feet through the sand, I
can think only of you
consumed by all the world’s pain
as I search for our gravestones now swallowed by the sea,
we cried
wanting our love to make a difference
trying to save all the world’s children and our own
now condemned
I walk into the sea without feeling the chill
the swirling pull about my legs, meaningless
the same way our lives were meaningless
you cannot drown a living spirit, after all
and the spirit of humanity is still nothing but alive, I tried
to find you but even now I’m lost
and haunted, I resume my eternal wanderings without a thought
without a word to describe the thought
forever searching, watching, losing,
to this world in which I live.

Sora

sinking into the sea, your face still masked
and of course it was your own undoing
the chains curl around your body but you cannot feel
the moonlight pierces the surface high above,
our only indication of direction as you fall

you might as well be flying

as precious as a child’s dream, your eyes I cannot meet
hidden behind the plastic that guarded your heart
she cries but her tears dissolve into the saltwater unseen
both knowing this is nothing more, nothing less than eternity
nothing more, nothing less than being alive
because if the act of waking up is dying, our world is now right-side up

and you can be anywhere you want to be

soaring through the heavens, you call to me
as images flicker through your mind
this isn’t so hard, you think,
your mask still fastened tight
and when you draw your knife I don’t resist
and when you are reborn I don’t resist

because when you are alive I cannot live but here we are

spiraling to the ocean floor like helices
all of us flying in our eyes
fully masked and hauntingly we cry

after all, our paths are beautiful

after all, we are still beautiful.

Zuihitsu #6

Humans, I think, seem to have an innate desire to simplify, and to simplify too much.

Liberal or conservative
Male or female
Black or white
Gay or straight
Catholic or atheist —
Good or bad
Worthy or unworthy
Happy or sad —
Love or hate.

There are too many to name.

We reduce immensely complex feelings and thoughts to only a few words
We push those words onto a categorical binary —
Then we worship it;
And condemn any who do not seem to fit,
Or who fall on the wrong side of the line.

My political views cannot be reduced to a word.
Not all liberals or conservatives think alike;
What is the purpose of this all?
For now we promote doctrines on shaky grounds,
Like a house without a foundation,
Rejecting one’s ideas simply because “You are not
In the same party as I” —
And to what end?
How are we to progress?

You may look at me and term me female,
And perhaps it is true that I am —
But since I was young,
I display “male-type behaviors”
And reject the female —
What say you now?
Stop and think.
My behaviors cannot be reduced to a word.
They cannot be categorized —
They do not dictate my gender or my sex —
So why do you care?
Why do I care?

And what of love?
You say I love you
To your father
To your sister
To your friend
To your lover —
Do you really presume to say
That every feeling is the same?
No;
Love is a category
Not any one feeling.
So why is it that you judge
When I turn to a friend and tell him I love him
Or to a cousin?

Why do you assume?
Why do you care, if it does not involve you?

A person cannot be reduced
To good or bad
To worthy or unworthy
To sinful or pure
To anything.
So why do we insist?
Can we not believe in each other
Simply as we are?

But that, too —
That is a form of simplification in its own right;
Is it yet impossible to break free?
Are humans innately unable to comprehend the world
Without reducing the whole to some of its parts
And losing all the significant intricacies in the process?

Seventy-Four to One

The ocean breeze flows easily,
I close my eyes to try to see
The branches of the tree of time
Still reaching out to you and me.

I take them in my hands and sigh,
You look away and start to cry;
“We’ll be okay,” I try to say
But to you I could never lie.

The world folds in like a paper crane,
A freeway collapses into a single lane –
Seventy-four years condense to one day
And the fires are still burning in the autumn rain.

A jam-packed calendar of tragedy –
This is no longer inhumanity!
What have we done, what have we learned?
Just killing ourselves in plain insanity.

Hundreds of thousands swamp the river of death,
Worlds torn apart by a species’ breath –
Nothing has changed, if anything, it’s worse!
Yet we still try to live – only ignorant and cursed.

We’ll go again to such extremes,
You’ve seen it in prophetic dreams;
Having locked our memories in chests full of blood,
We can no longer hear our own children’s screams.

Seventy-four years and I still can’t see
The peaceful life you begged from me;
Longer and longer the branches grow,
As we lose sight of what once could be.

Zuihitsu #34

How many are left?

This is a loaded question –
Perhaps you don’t want to ask it,
Perhaps you don’t want to answer –
But there is so little time…
We must face it now.

So I ask –
How many generations are left?

How many years do we still have on this earth?

How many more children will be born –
And how many more children will die,
In school shootings and genocide,
After how many more promises and prayers,
How many more “we shall never forget”s?

How many living beings are left on the planet?
How many have we killed out of ignorance and selfishness,
And how many are left for us to kill – or save?
How many people still think we have the right?

How many tragedies are left before the end of the world?
How many more wars and fights and meaningless arguments,
How many people still must die?
And then, how many more times will killers try to justify their acts –
And how many more times will we accept?

We must ask these questions now,
While we are still here –
While we still have the capacity to change our answers…
Time is running out...

The Eleventh Sun

Photo by Specna Arms on Pexels.com

An endless graveyard,
A sea of blood –
My dreams have been fulfilled –
I close my eyes, but I can’t unsee
Bodies sprawling across infinity –

When we are gone
We will only be known for death –

A universe, a planet, a species
Given life and so much promise –
A single second torn apart
By the birth of the human heart
Anger and greed collapse at our feet –
Nothing can save us now –

Beyond my window I see children,
Shattered by assault rifles
Pushed in front of trains
A world on fire –
Call yourself the savage!
What we have become…

On our way to the moon,
We shot down all ten suns
And here we are in endless night –
A cold desert with no horizons
No longer a place of life
It’s a meaningless battleground!

In front of an elementary school
Stands a man with a gun
Bleeding hatred and pain –
There is no way to stop him –
Today he is all of us
And the children too, after all…

Screaming into the void
I close my eyes
Begging, pleading, crying –
And the world whispers:
I’m so sorry for your loss…
We will never forget…

Breaking news, thirty-two people confirmed dead in a mass shooting in…

Not Enough

From the beginning, we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people. Schools reinforce social comparison using grades, test scores, and certificates until it becomes almost secondhand. As soon as a test is handed back, many students begin to ask their friends, “What did you get?”

We are taught to feel good if we have higher grades and more rewards than our peers. But it doesn’t make me feel good. It makes me feel sick.

Whether in school or not, the things we use to compare ourselves to each other are completely arbitrary and are rarely indicative of actual effort, intelligence, or character. For those who end up on the lower end of the scale, often unfairly, this system rams down their throats a single message: You are not enough. And that message is toxic. That message can kill.

I often say that I take human beings one at a time. That’s because every single human being is different. Comparing us all to each other, and comparing us all to a single arbitrary standard, just doesn’t make sense. I’m tired of looking at the people around me and thinking, they’re smarter, they’re more beautiful, they’re more interesting, they’re more creative, they’re better than I am.

Some Eastern religions, such as Buddhism and Taoism, have a teaching roughly equivalent to this: if there are seven million people, there are seven million different ways to live. As long as you are not harming others, live true to your heart, and let others do the same.

I have to remind myself of that a lot.

For instance, I have to remind myself of that when I feel like I don’t “qualify” to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Because the typical narrative is that gay people have always known they were gay, and being gay is a huge part of their lives, and non-cis folks have always felt non-cis and experience severe gender dysphoria and being non-cis is also a huge part of their lives. That might be true for a lot of people, and that’s totally valid – but none of that applies to me. For me, my gender identity and sexuality are just small facets of the very complex human being that I am. I don’t feel the need to come out to people or make a big deal out of it. I don’t care if other people know, I don’t care what pronouns are used to refer to me – the only thing that matters to me is that I have a better understanding of myself. That’s just my way of life. And I’m tired of feeling like I have to compare my way of life to others.

I’m tired of making that comparison and deciding that I’m “not enough“.

We Are All Human

Everyone is deserving of respect. And I mean literally everyone.

Don’t get me wrong — respect comes in different forms, and certainly I don’t think Hitler deserves the same level of respect as Nelson Mandela. But it’s hard, if not impossible, to quantify respect and the privileges that come with it, and that’s not what I’m trying to get at. All I’m saying is this — I believe that, at the end of the day, many of our societal problems arise from a simple failure to respect other people’s basic humanity.

When we start believing that other people don’t deserve any respect at all, we change how we treat them. We give them labels, labels like “illegal alien” — which suggests that they aren’t even human, that their very existence is a crime. We refuse to listen to them and find ways to silence their stories. We create laws and policies that take away their basic rights, making it possible to spy on them, lock them up, torture them, sometimes even kill them. Look back over human history and you’ll see we’ve done this many times over. African slavery, the Armenian Genocide, Japanese-American internment, the Patriot Act, the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, the White Terror — just to name a few. While all of these were (and are) highly multifaceted, they couldn’t have happened unless one group of people decided that another group wasn’t worthy of their respect. You cannot make war, commit genocide, or oppress a population without leveraging the value of respect, without saying: she’s on the good side, so you should respect her and let her live, but she’s on the bad side, so you can go ahead and do whatever you want with her.

I believe a basic level of respect should apply to everyone — a respect that cannot be lost or taken away. If we decide to treat everyone with respect, we make a commitment to value their individual lives, to protect their basic human rights, to listen to what they have to say. And if we do that, it becomes very, very hard to hate, oppress, and murder our fellow human beings, no matter how we try to justify it.


A Short Story

It’s not always easy to respect everyone, but it’s something to work towards. In 11th grade I had a history teacher who was arguably racist, depending on your definition of the term. They said some very hateful things about non-WASP people, ridiculed many Asian countries, trampled over Native American terminology and cultures, and sugarcoated Japanese-American internment. As the days went by I became more and more critical of the little things they said, and I stopped taking notes and paying attention to their lectures. It was the first time in my life that I came close to actually hating another person – and when I started to feel that hatred, I knew it was time to put the brakes on and take a look at myself. And here’s what I realized: it’s dangerous to not have a solid, irrevocable foundation of respect in all of our relationships, because lack of basic respect breeds miscommunication, cruelty, hatred, and ultimately violence.

I could have talked to this teacher. I could have explained, I took issue with what you just said and here’s why. I could have had a respectful, open-minded dialogue, if I just went up to them and said, I want to know why you think Japanese-American internment was equatable to summer camp. Instead I sat in my chair and stewed until I felt hatred, until I felt capable of cruelty.

This story was about a simple two-person relationship. Replicate it on a grander scale, and I hope you can see how lack of basic respect can lead to systems of oppression, war, and genocide.


Do Children Deserve Respect?

At what age does someone become deserving of respect? I get that question sometimes. But if you ask me, it’s kind of a silly question. It’s not like you turn 18 and all of a sudden your life and voice matters. So my answer is this: if I say everyone is deserving of respect, I really do mean everyone, and that extends to children of all ages.

Once again, I’m talking about a very foundational level of respect, a respect for another person’s basic humanity. That six year-old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store is a fellow human being – so they’re deserving of respect, no matter how much you might dislike them right now, no matter how annoying they are. Respecting them means valuing their life, their rights, their voice, and everyone is deserving of at least that.

What about school? I always have a lot to say about our education system and how adults treat children there. Time and time again I’ve seen teachers, administrators, and staff disrespecting students, and that’s not okay. The same is often true in reverse, but in my experience, the failure of a student to show a teacher basic respect was often because they felt the teacher didn’t respect them in return. Especially in high school, a time when many students are beginning to hold jobs and external responsibilities, it’s not okay for adults to refuse to listen to them, to assume they were just lazy, to assume they just ditched class for no reason, to assume they’re self-righteous arrogant little pricks who need to be locked up and shown the meaning of discipline. When you don’t show a student of any age basic respect, you’re teaching them that humanity doesn’t automatically come with being human – instead it becomes something that you can freely give or take away. And that’s, in a word, dangerous.


The Bottom Line

Train yourself to treat everyone with respect. Value individual human lives. Listen to what people have to say, and be open-minded. Stand up for them when you see their rights being infringed upon.

This is how we fight against war, oppression, genocide, human rights violations, and simple day-to-day acts of cruelty.

Every human being matters.