I wrote this about a year before I met the girl of my dreams. I was in college, surrounded by late nights of drinking tea and studying geography books. I was fascinated with the city of Cordoba, and horribly lonely as I imagined who my love would one day be.
I’d love to take my wife to see Cordoba some day.
I gazed across the cobblestone street, focused on the hurdy-gurdy beggar.
The silver coin in his cup danced with him, winking.
I drummed my fingers, half-eager, half-anxious, against my third cup of tea,
still dreaming. I still asked words almost on my lips, “Who is she?”
The woman of my dreams sifts through my perceptions
and becomes as real as my bones, smiling a gentle blush,
fingering the handle of her cup, porcelain, still with a sip or two
of chocolate in the bottom.
“So how do you like Cordoba?”
“I’m glad you came.”
“I’m glad to be here.”
“How was your flight?”
“I hardly remember it.”
Every word meant more than was spoken, and as
we drank the morning in that Cordovan cafe,
“Daniel” on the record player, every second in her eyes caressed me.
I placed my folded hands on the table in front of my cup.
“I… I don’t know what to say.”
She reached for my hands, and I winced inside, hoping she’d not see the scars.
With her hands in mine, I noticed she had them too.
We sat through midday, and watched the children on the streets of Cordoba
play with their smiles and laughter.
We watched the hurdy-gurdy man’s eyes gleam as a stranger would leave
a coin and a nod and walk on.
We talked about our pasts, and our futures, and our dreams. We watched midday to afternoon, and saw fathers coming home from the tannery. The hurdy-gurdy man packed up and bought a sandwich from his beggar’s fortune. The sun dipped deep to slumber and the moon blotted out the stars.
“Well, I have to leave now.”
After a soft kiss, and a squeeze of my hands,
she sifted back through my perceptions and
returned to that corner of my heart where she is always.
I push my chair under the table, and walk
down the empty streets of Cordoba, humming “Daniel”,
and drop a coin for the hurdy-gurdy man to find tomorrow.
Sometimes you discover you’ve locked a few feelings away, and they’ll creep up so that you have to deal with them. This week, news of the release of John Rigas from federal prison stirred up a few of those feelings for me. In 1999, I started working for Adelphia in the Long Distance provisioning department. Remember long distance? It was a service you used to have to pay for by the minute!
My new wife and I had moved back to Potter County after we discovered we were going to have twins, and Adelphia was my first full-time job. When the company declared bankruptcy in 2001, many of us knew that our jobs were doomed. Our department was cut in 2002, and I found myself laid off, and confused. I bounced around for a couple year before finding full-time work again.
To be honest, I hated the job. So losing it was in reality one of the best things that ever happened to me. Despite the fact I’ve looked at the loss of that job as a good thing, over the years, I’ve struggled with how I felt about Adelphia, and the Rigas family.
Part of me has always respect John Rigas for the good things he did for Coudersport while he was at the helm of his empire. If there was a need, he met it. He viewed his wealth as a responsibility to put others to work, and to help those in need. Part of me, though, has been angry for the financial ruin that worked it’s way through the lives of many of my former co-workers and friends in Coudersport and the surrounding communities. I was a little bitter for the two years of struggle my own family endured, while barely able to pay our rent, and living expenses. I watched a vibrant community grow dormant, and I watched people lose their houses, and their careers.
Whether or not Mr. Rigas is to blame is hard for me to say. According to the court, he’s guilty of mismanaging his publicly traded company’s wealth, and thus guilty and culpable in the eyes of the law. According to his family, an injustice was done when their father was incarcerated, and when his appeal was struck down. Whether or not he was actually guilty, isn’t up for me to decide, that’s why we have courts to make that declaration.
This summer, I was asked to produce a video for the memorial service of Doris Rigas, John’s late wife. That video was meant to allow John and Timothy Rigas the opportunity to see the service. For me, it was moving, and as I spend weeks editing the footage, I watched as the Rigas family wept and laughed as they celebrated memories of their matriarch. I watched as they expressed genuine frustration with the justice system as it related to the conviction and incarceration of their loved ones.
This summer, while watching a beautiful memorial service for a woman I barely knew, I was forced to reconcile something. I saw that part of me was bitter. I saw that part of me was holding on to this tiny little sliver of anger. And much like a wooden sliver that gets stuck under the skin, eventually, it has to come out. So I made a choice. Whether or not Mr. Rigas was to blame for the hardship I went through – I had to forgive him.
My forgiveness probably doesn’t matter to anyone. It’s not as though anyone at Adelphia knew that their actions were going to affect me. It’s not as though John Rigas or his family even knew part of me was angry. I just know that it felt awfully good to get that little sliver out.
So, while there are a few out there that see Mr. Rigas’s release as an act of injustice – I can honestly say, I can see it as an act of compassion. And an act of compassion is never a bad decision.
If I pay attention to the news – I’m reminded that if we’re hoping a politician will “save us” or “make America great” – then we’re really missing the point. We are trying to fix moral failures with political solutions.
So – here is my suggestions. If every American does these things – our country will be great again.
1. Hire Local. Shop Local. Buy Local.
(don’t outsource to India. don’t buy from china)
2. Be generous and set aside a portion of your budget to help the needy.
3. Abide by your budget and avoid debt. Also – if you are responsible for the money of others – use it wisely, as if it were your own.
4. Be respectful of people that you disagree with.
5. Protect the weak and stand up for the innocent.
6. Teach your children right from wrong.
7. Show respect for people who are doing jobs you aren’t willing to do. This includes fruit picking migrants, police officers, the military, and ER nurses.
8. Don’t use illegal substances. Don’t make them. Don’t buy them. Don’t sell them.
We can try to legislate ways to make America great. We can try to build walls to keep foreigners out. We can try to tax the rich. We can try to carpet-bomb our enemies. We can try any number of things, but ultimately – until we start taking the personal responsibility to live ethically, morally, then we are just contributing to our great American bankruptcy.
I don’t know about you – but I will strive to do right.
As I look back on my high school days, I remember many great memories with many great friends. But for some reason, the adventures I had with Frankie Bruzzi are the ones that make the best stories.
I am convinced that one doesn’t got coyote hunting to kill coyotes. But rather, one goes coyote hunting to get the living feces scared out of him.
It was dark, and late. My friend Frankie Bruzzi showed up at the door, and said, “Get your gun, we’re going coyote hunting.”
Mom and dad nodded in approval, and despite the fact that we were unaccompanied by an adult, we hopped in Frank’s car and took off, guns loaded, and ready to kill us a wild pesky canine.
Keep in mind, that due to some genetic malformation, my pupils don’t dialate. They stay pinpont all the time, which means I have no night vision. It’s a long and sordid tale of syphilis, several generations ago, and the strange way that it has altered the genetic receptors that control pupil dilation. It has baffled many eye doctors, as it appears in very random places in the family. Great Grandma’s sordid past surely makes for some interesting tales at the ophthalmologist’s office.
So, up on the mountain we go. I’m holding Frank’s shoulder’s like an awkward prom date trying to dance from behind, as we hit the dark logging road, lit only by Frank’s red headlight.
To be Continued!
I write this poem back in 1996. Not about anyone in particular… but I found it in a stash of old files, and I think my old college poetry is kind of cool to stumble across!
Your folks have been keeping up with the Jones’s so long
You thought they’d never die:
Collecting a backyard full of motorhomes,
They don’t understand your scowl,
ripped shirt, side-burned…
Daddy’s deep pockets buy you
cigarettes and caffeine,
so you can long strung-out sucked-in-cheeks.
Poor boy rich kid,
skinny by choice,
fat daddy fat wallet
you whine for canned beef stew.
slug in a civil oak ring
to support your shifty-eyed
1. Don’t be passive.
Your dream is not going to get built if you just sit around and talk about it. You’ve got to turn your ideas into plans. Spend some time brainstorming and doodling your ideas on paper. Then take those doodles and write some goals. Take those goals and write some steps. Take those steps and give them deadlines. Then put them on your calendar. Then DO them.
Also – on that note (regarding passivity). Don’t blame other people for the situation you are in. Just remove yourself from the blame-game all together. Play a different game: Responsibility. This is where you say, “I don’t care whose fault it is – I’ll be the responsible one to fix the problems. ”
2. Don’t be a pushover.
People will tell you that you can’t. Circumstances will loom like a monolithic wall in your path. Instead of letting OTHER people/places/things determine your course – how about you do it? SURE – sometimes God closes doors in your face. But sometimes he allows a little opposition in your life to strengthen you. When you are working out – RESISTANCE is what builds muscle. So – sometimes God might shut a door because it’s just TOO HEAVY for your to lift… but I think that most of the time – we give up and let go just because it’s heavy… Let the resistance build your muscles and make you stronger. If you suspect that the resistance is just God closing a door – ask Him to make it clear for you. Because “If any man lacks wisdom, let him as God, who gives it freely.”
3. Don’t be a pansy.
Building your dream takes guts. If you feel like you don’t have enough guts, then leverage the power of peer pressure.
You know how your mom used to say, “If your friends told you to, would you jump off a bridge?”
Well, a lot of times, the answer to that question is YES. So instead of letting your peers pressure you to do the wrong thing – find the peers that encourage you and make you drunk and stupid enough to do the right thing!
the last blue
mistake for night.
preparing to destroy…
And the clouds melt
away to a creamy
and they hush,
I’ve got a number of poems that I’ve written about the crucifixion… I thought them fitting on this Holy Week.
This first poem has inspired a song that I wrote. Watch the video – or purchase the original recording.
His blood coated me,
but not in redemption…
As I held the weight
of Him on
scarred steel shank,
I knew I could not have held Him…
I could not have held Him there
against his will…
Many have counterpoised,
and many have died,
to pay for their own,
but that day I held
more weight on His unstruggling shoulders
than any other weight
these nails have held.
I see my frailty…
I pretend to have;
I wish was mine;
Turn your back
and go your way
But I’ll still
You could cut me
into a thousand
and not steal my love.
You could lift me up
spikes through my hands,
and smear the blood in my eyes,
and mock my
I see you frolic
as my blood
my skin (Red stains deep).
I beg to see you
I plead for your forgiveness
and love you nonetheless.
My Hands / His Hands
Bloodless, mottled hands,
with slender fingers,
chewed away nails,
callused by phosphored bronze
and silvered steel
And gentle palms
that a sliver
A solitary childhood scar,
definitely from a
jackknife rests on
the first knobby knuckle of
my index finger,
down to my
fingers, muscle to the bone;
Dirt pushed back beneath
His unmanicured nails, broken
by hammers and ironwood.
Scars deep through His wrist,
Through back and front,
We went to a friends house for dinner… and He took over..
He served the bread and he served the wine.. said something about it being his flesh briken and his blood shed.
As always.. talking in riddles.. I didn’t understand it…
I didn’t really know.
I couldn’t comprehend
What he was trying to show..
So we went to the garden, and he went off to pray.. I was keeping watch, and dozed off.. he ticked off, and I could tell he was hurt that I couldn’t stay awake for ten minutes while he prayed.
And then it came, and I’ll never forget. The night that rocked me to the core.
It was black. And their torches burned the air.. they took him at the point of their sword, as though he would have fought them off..
At the trial, they set him up, and they beat him so bad,, I couldn’t recognize his face anymore…
I was so scared theyd come for me.
I kept hiding in the shadows..
I kept hiding in the shadows..
When they whipped him the next morning, I wanted to tell them to stop
I wanted to scream and stand in his place,
but I was too petrified to move.
I was too terrified to prove
that I was a friend of his
they led him to the place, where they executed thieves and murders…
I know he wasn’t that popular, but he didn’t deserve this..
As they stripped him naked, and mocked him, and the blood from his beating scabbed his back, they braided a crown of three in ch thorns, and dug it in his scalp…
I wanted to cry.. but afraid my tears would give me away.. I stood in silence, as the led him down the way…
The spikes were iron and gnarled, and they tore through his wrists and his feet, the blood splattered on their faces, and the laughed like rabid beasts…
He cried, he screamed, but he didn’t fight back.
I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, I wanted to fight back..
But scared to join in his fate, I just stood silent in the back…
They hung him up. And I watched as his life slow faded away.
A prayer for their forgiveness.. he struggled so hard to say…
MY GOD MY GOD, WHY have you forsaken me?
He whole earth screamed as the sky went dark, and I ran off into the blackned daylight…
When they pulled his body off of the cross, eack drop of blood had drained.
Limp and dead, beaten beyond recognition, they laid him in a grave.
Meanwhile I thought back to every word he had said… and I realized that he was a lamb…
He was a sacrifice..
A sacrificial suicide.
Willingly he died.
When the whips tore thru his back it was for me
When the nails pierced through his hands it was for me
When the blood spilled from his veins it was for me
When the Father turned his back it was for me………
If he died for me, I couldn’t bare the shame.
I was smother in grief, lambaasted in blame.
On Saturday , I just laid there..
hiding out… scared to death.
Shaking in fear, and hating my own breath..
I deserved to die, so why did he?
They woke me up Sunday.
Said that his body was gone…
I raced to the graveyard to see it,
Met up with pete and john
They were white as ghosts, but the grins on their face spread wide..
They said “He’s Risen… JESUS IS ALIVE”
and as i turned around i saw him..
i could recognize his scars..
and he told me that he loved me
and he took me in his arms..
and he whispered something to me
that i never will forget
he said “i forgive you”
and it was spinning in my head
do i run or take it in… do i kill myself or die of shame
and that’s when i realized why
all of this happened the way it did.
he died to take my place
but he rose so i’d be free…..
he rose so i’d be free