The Lives We Live as Leaves

still-standing

I have told this story many times, but I’m “feeling it” today.

 
One of my greatest life lessons came from a man named Mike Sullivan with whom I worked when I lived in Rhode Island. We worked for a boss that always expected you to cover his ass and make sure his work day would go smoothly. But that boss would always hang me and Mike out to dry and force us to fend for ourselves. The two of us often talked about how good a working relationship we had while in that environment.

One day, Mike said to me, “All we ever have is each other.” I asked him if he meant the two of us, looking out for each other while dealing with our shithead boss, or if he meant something larger, something greater–a bond connecting person to person on this mixed-up world.

He said, “Both.”

Those words will always resonate with me, and I hope to help them resonate with others I encounter, especially in times like the ones we face. The state of the one world we have, socially, politically, environmentally, and so on, is growing more and more precarious every day. We need to wise up, we need to care, and to support, and to love more. We need to build, to truly create lasting and meaningful connections with ourselves, our fellow beings, and our only source of life.  We must, before it’s too late.  Everything is connected.  We are all connected.

“All we ever have is each other.”

 

The Tree

The Tree of Life links everything,
And all the souls its branches spring,
Connected by such fibrous thread,
Swell by what each limb’s been fed.

The Tree of Life, it branches wide,
Connections growing at each side,
And when one sees the common boughs,
It’s limitless what growth allows.

The Tree of Life has many leaves;
Sometimes one falls, and someone grieves,
And though there will be growth again,
A gloom remains within the glen.

So many fruits sprout on this tree,
And some fulfill prosperity,
While others come to waste and rot,
And their branch ends in pitted knot.

So each bloom needs to see the ties
That bond each bud and to realize
That all we’ll have is other leaves
As every Life branch interweaves.

And as my own now ages on,
The truths that I have come upon
Have made me praise the leaves I see
Have helped me grow my own life’s tree.

© Jordan Alan Fox

 

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Our Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”

6275825-a-pile-of-reference-books-isolated-against-a-white-backgroundI have a friend who said to me, “Words are powerful things.”  It was quite some time ago, but I believe I was saying something hurtful at the time.  And, as a writer (one of my few true skills), I had the ability to make my words really sting.

I’ve heard that there are studies in which the power of words was tested by saying “I love you” and “I hate you” to dishes of freezing water to see if there was any effect.  Reportedly, the ‘loved’ samples made beautiful crystalline formations, and the ‘hated’ samples made very fractured-looking structures.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I DO know what words can do to a person.

It’s rather hypocritical of me to be hurtful with my words, since I can still remember the things that were said to me as a child by my peers.  And let’s not talk about adolescence.  It’s because of that lingering pain that I have felt the need to amp up my words into a full-blown arsenal when I feel slighted.  It’s the desire to one-up the other and dish out more than you’ve received.

Words are indeed powerful things, and just as I’ve seen the hurt I can cause and have been caused, I’ve seen what KIND words can do and what my own have done for others.  I’ve had someone very important to me tell me how I always seem to say the right thing, the best, most perfect thing to help them stay grounded in that moment and maintain perspective.  You know what?  I like the feeling it gives me to have THAT effect on someone better than the scarring one.

I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog that I’m in a couple writers’ groups.  We ALL have this power, and ALL have this responsibility.  Even if you’re not a writer, the pain that words can cause can still last.  I’m sure the people that hurt me from childhood and on weren’t exactly Shakespearean in their verbal skill.  So may we all bear in mind the power of words, and pause before we do some damage to someone, because oftentimes that damage lasts far longer than it took to even speak.

Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”   

  

Someone once said to me, “Words are powerful things”.

They can be used to help, or to hurt, an array that each one brings.

I’ve used my words in scathing ways, cutting deeply as I could;

I’ve also used them to let one know their pain is understood.

     I hope that when my time is up, what’s left when mine are heard

     Is something benevolent and sincere or else be deemed absurd.

     May others feel the light of love that’s hopefully interred

     Every time, from here on out, within my every word.

I have a gift to use my words in all the ways I do;

I’ve often been praised for all the shapes that I can mold them to.

But I must revere that power that I know they each contain,

Remember all the times they’re used, intent to cause one pain.

     May each sentence that I share leave no darkness that’s inferred,

     And if I fail in that regard, leave the recipient undeterred.

     Unless productive, taking flight like a paradisiacal bird,

     May no harm and only help be born by every word.

© Jordan Alan Fox 

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You’ve Gotta Fight

NFLparody-bannerI must confess to being overly emotional of late.  My father has cancer, and it’s pretty bad.  He’s successfully beaten cancer before; in fact he had two types at once and beat both.  But this latest case is going to be very invasive and, I imagine, turbulent.

But there are other factors impacting my mood as well.  It’s football season, and of course that means seeing all the mike vick t-shirts and jerseys and eagles logos in general since I live in the killadelphia area.  Never an inspiration for positive thoughts where I’m concerned.

But the National Football League is now alleged by Peta to have spent $10 million on researching injuries by inflicting catastrophic damage upon dogs’ knees and driving pneumatic pistons into rats’ skulls and spines.  The animals that survive the testing are still euthanized (and who knows how humanely) because they’re messed up, and ‘no longer of service’.  When I put Peta’s petition to the NFL to stop this testing on my anti-vick Facebook page, someone gave the perfect response.  They said, “What do expect from an organization that welcomed vick back with open arms and open checkbooks?”

The NFL responded to Peta’s claim with a legalese-riddled reply that speaks of “board-approved methods” and “acceptable parameters”.

Bleacher Report, an online sports news medium, reached out to the NFL for comment and received a statement that:

“Grant recipients must follow existing industry ethical standards for medical research established by the scientific community. All grant requests have to be approved in advance by the institutional review board of the participating institution.  In addition, we require any proposal to have been submitted for approvals by the institution’s animal care and use committee prior to applying for funds.”

 

It is in NO way a denial.  To me, it essentially says, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.  Incidentally, dripping corrosive substances into rabbits’ eyes and attaching funnels to a bunch of Beagles’ heads through which cigarette smoke is blown until they get lung cancer are also “board-approved methods” that are “within acceptable parameters”.

So, in addition to the fear of losing my father (he’s 73, and there will be several major steps at which anything can happen during the removal surgery, reconstructive surgery, and radiation follow-up), I am  considering no longer watching football again.  I love this sport, and giving up watching it is seriously depressing.  Arguably, I should have done this when they first readmitted vicky into the league.  I’m tired of losing things I love because it’s the right thing to do.  But taking the stands that I do is more important to me than being a fan of something.

I’ve made so many changes, excised so many types of things from my daily life.  Giving up meat and dairy has made eating unenjoyable.  Again, I know it’s the right thing to do, but eating, once a fun thing, almost a celebration, is no longer so.  I put it off as long as I can sometimes because I dread it.  Additionally, all the vegetable-based things wreck my insides a lot of the time.  And then there are all of the cleaning products and hygienic products I’ve been getting rid of because Proctor and Gamble also tests on animals.  It’s a constant fight to do what’s right.

But giving up everything leads me back to my opening sentence of getting overly emotional about things.  I’m worked up over many things right now (including some other personal issues I haven’t mentioned here), but I’m wondering if it all matters in the end.  Animal testing and consumption is going to continue long after I’m gone.  Wars are still going to be fought over religious or political differences.  In fact there are wars going on within political bodies such as Congress just because one party doesn’t like the other and wants to block any potential progress because it’s on the other party’s agenda.  Innocent animals are still going to be beaten, burned, abandoned, and neglected, and judges and legislators still won’t consider these important enough to institute harsher penalties.  People will still rape, murder and steal from each other well after I’m dust and my name is remembered by none.  People are still going to contract awful disease, and even if we find cures, new maladies or strains are always popping up.

So I’m wondering what the point of constantly fighting for change is when the odds seem insurmountable.  Some would say that faith is what gets them through and that I need to have some of my own to escape this spiral.  But that’s not my way.  I’m too much of a scientific mind to cross over into the realm of spirituality.

But I can’t stop the fight.  I want to give up but can’t.  Maybe that means being unhappy and struggling through all the things I must give up.  There’s a saying that once you’ve seen the bad things, you can look the other way, but you can never again say that you didn’t know.  I DO know, and learn more all the time.  Can’t turn back now.

And as much as I doubt my father’s chances against all of the medical trauma to come, I have to fight to stay strong and positive for him, too.

 

Peta’s petition:

Tell the NFL to Stop Funding Sports-Injury Experiments on Animals secure.peta.orgThe National Football League Foundation is funding horrific and deadly sports injuryrelated experiments on animals. Ask them to stop!

 

For those that care to check out my anti-vick page:

Vick-timized: Giving Voice to the Voiceless OnesCommunity · 595 like this

 

(Photo used is from the Peta petition.)

Hospitals

Hospitals. What a horrific word. When one thinks of hospitals, he or she probably thinks of the sick, the broken, the dying, the dead. Some may actually think of them in a positive light, as a place of healing the infirm, aiding the impaired, curing the ill.

Hospitals aren’t always for the physical, however.

In my own life, I’ve had loved ones, the most important people in the whole world to me, suffer from trauma and other wounds on the INSIDE. THAT’S what I think of initially. Inpatient facilities, outpatient step-down programs, psycho-therapeutic drugs, depression, shock therapy. The complete cessation of a once-normal life.

I’ve watched these loved ones become unable to go to work or school, sometimes unable to get out of bed. I’ve had loved ones unable to be at home for their own safety, as well as others’.

This is what the word “hospitals” conjures up for me.

I know I could look at them, in these cases, as the places of healing, and don’t get me wrong; I do. I am so very grateful for all of the programs out there that you never knew existed until they were needed. I’m thankful to every single soul who chooses the profession of helping the people in need. Thank God above (or whatever entity or force may exist) for all of this.

For the foreseeable future, though, horrific is how I’ll describe them.

I’ve logged so many miles driving more than an hour to visit my loved ones in these facilities, sometimes leaving from one place to visit someone else in another. Afterward, I’d go home, sleep, go to work, and do it all over again.

I’ve logged so many miles on the NJ Turnpike that, if you check out the details of the many included in my New Jersey tattoo, there is an outline of the Turnpike (the green strip going diagonally up from left to right). This was, in fact the impetus for the design. I’ve earned that detail, like a badge. A medal in fact, since there were times, as the last one of my family “on the outside” I called myself The Last Man Standing. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thank God (or whatever entity or force may exist) the hospitals are there, but I pray to God (ditto) you and yours will never need them.

My Writing….

I’ve been encouraged to share more of my writing, and even to get published.  I don’t know about the publishing thing, especially because of cost and the fact that in order to sell books as a poet, one needs to be 1. Maya Angelou, 2. Nikki Giovanni, or 3. Deceased.  But I thought I’d share something I wrote that’s very personal, and I consider it one of the most important things I’ve ever done.  The story is true.

 

 

 

This Was Not                                                      10/29/09

 

 

Standing at the work table,

I’m off drifting in my brain.

My body knows what it’s doing,

And the mind has its own way

Of passing time.

I remember many things

While standing at my table.

My hands have done these tasks for years,

So the memories flow unbidden

Into the waiting silence.

 

I remember buying you cheap toys

For your eighth birthday,

Your first back in Jersey.

It was all we could afford

After eight months of medical bills

And your mother out of work.

One broke that very evening,

And I was so scared you’d be upset.

It didn’t seem to faze you,

But I’d wanted so much more

For you

After the SHIT

That had become of that year.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

I leave my table, the work abandoned,

As I need to dry my eyes.

But my synapses decide

Upon my return

That they’re not done just yet.

 

I remember being asked

In one of the Fairmount family groups,

What my biggest fear for you was.

You hadn’t been HOME,

Residing in centers

For traumatized children

For most of the year.

This was where you’d spend

Your NEXT birthday.

My answer was that all this

Would still be going on

And you’d lose the last years

Of the closing window

Of your childhood

Without getting to have

A normal one.

 

I remember helping you move

From there to your third center,

And eventually to your fourth,

All within two years.

It was at the fourth one

Where you’d turn

The ripe old age

Of ten.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

I remember the times before this,

When you told us

Things,

Things your biological father did to you.

We decided that

When you came off the school bus

You would be given dinner,

And some things would be packed

For you and your mother.

I’d stay behind to pack our things

And arrange for the movers.

I watched

As you were driven back to Jersey that night

In a February New England blizzard

To save you from your father.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

I remember when

We had just reunited

After the midnight run out of Rhode Island.

You were uncontrollably

Acting out, as we now know

Abuse victims will do,

Because of what your father did to you.

The  daily and nightly rages,

Triggered by flashbacks,

Would eventually require

Restraining you

Because of the harm

You’d cause

To yourself,

And to others.

This became

Your daily experience,

And it was a miracle

When you were actually able

To make it to school.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

I walk away from my table yet again,

Knowing someone will see me

Soon enough.

I tell myself,

“Endure!”,

Wanting desperately to hold it together.

 

But then I remember

Your mother and I

Reviewing the options given

By the prescribing therapist.

You needed help with the feelings

And the images

In your seven-year-old head.

THIS drug may cause

Kidney failure

After six months of use.

THIS drug may cause

Seizures,

Or other loss

Of motor function.

 

You have had your

Blood polluted,

Your chemistry FUCKED with,

Because you were worse off

Without these poisons

Meant to help you heal.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

You will soon turn eleven,

And you’re still not home.

You are still not able

To handle the rage,

The flashbacks of your father,

All of the emotional damage,

And I know that window,

That precious window

Of time

Called your formative years

Is gone;

What I feared for you

Has happened,

And I can only cry

At my work table.

 

This was not the childhood you were supposed to have.

 

©2012 Jordan Fox

Why michael vick Proves There Is No God or Karma

Alrighty, how’s that for a title?  Provocative, I know.  But it’s how I feel.  I couldn’t think any lower of vick for his past.  In fact, you’ll notice I’ve taken a friend’s suggestion and disrespecting him by never capitalizing his name.

Yet with Sunday’s win over the New York Giants, and his team’s 3-1 start to the season, the fervor for this monster grows.  To have been reinstated into the NFL in the first place after electrocuting, beating, drowning and hanging innocent lives while also forcing them to fight to the death is unbelievable enough.  But how easily the Phickle Phans of Philthadelphia have been won over by his self-proclaimed “redemption” is simply maddening.  I have admittedly never been a person given to the ways of faith. But I’ve always wanted to be, believe it or not.  What little chance I could have had to move beyond the need for things to be scientifically tangible and incontrovertible, to believe in something greater, has been eradicated by the lack of Godly wraith or bad Karma to come vick’s way.

Sure, he spent 19 months in a minimum security prison for illegal gambling.  But he served ZERO jail time for animal cruelty and abuse.  The prosecutor in Virginia (from where vick hails and also where his dogfighting operation was) didn’t want to be the bad guy for going after the local sports hero.  If he had his way, vick would have served no jail time or at least less than the sentence given.  So the arguments I always hear of “he did his time” are extremely inaccurate.

Then Roger Goodell, the football league’s commissioner, could have set the standard by not allowing vick to return to the NFL.  Goodell entered his position as a man on a mission.  He fined and suspended people left and right, wanting to set the example of “zero tolerance” on behavior detrimental to the image of the league.  Yet, given the chance to ban vick forever and setting the bar where he claimed he wanted it, Goodell allowed vick’s return.

Now, I will admit some bias here, but my favorite team’s quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, has had his own legal issues:  he was twice accused of sexual assault.  He was never found guilty on either charge.  I know it’s possible that he simply paid off the accusers as most believe.  But I also know that athletes and celebrities are targets for those seeking a payday.  I honestly don’t believe basketball’s Kobe Bryant raped the girl that accused him of such  in Colorado.  He did sleep with her, yes.  And he gave a woman the best paycheck of her life as a result.  So there is a 50% chance that Roethlisberger is innocent just as there’s a 50% chance he committed the crime.  But the only thing of which I KNOW he is guilty is being stupid enough to put himself in that position to be accused, especially after the first accusation.  I hope he didn’t do it, but I’ll never know one way or the other.  vick, on the other hand, is unquestionably guilty.

I bring this up because, after the second accusation, Goodell suspended Roethlisberger 4 games for being such an awful role model and potentially tarnishing the league’s image.  That same summer, vicky-boy threw a birthday party in which someone was shot.  vick didn’t do it, but the person who did was one of the crew with whom he hung out during his dogfighting days.  Goodell did nothing, though vick, already a controversial person, had shown an equally poor example of off-the-field decision making.  There is the possibility that Goodell didn’t want to look bad for having to punish the dirtbag he just pardoned.

Additionally, upon vick’s reinstatement and subsequent signing to the philadelphia eagles, his jersey was one of the top 2 in sales.  The fans didn’t care what he did.  His jersey to this day is still anywhere in the top 20 in sales.  I believe there are a great amount of his fans that love the fact that such a thug made good and went back to earn millions.  I will be fair here and mention that he doesn’t get to keep all of that money.  He has many debts to pay as part of his sentence.  He has even become richer, however, by many companies signing endorsement deals with him.  These include Nike, Musclepharm, and Subway.  He even has his own clothing line.  I and others I know have boycotted these companies, and have informed those companies as to why.

But here he is, making more than I ever will short of a lottery win, being adored by the masses (and not just in Killadelphia), and unfortunately succeeding on the field to such an extent that his inhumane and simply INHUMAN crimes are a distant memory to most.

So, if there is the God of which Judeo-Christian faith speaks, and/or there is a celestial force weighing Karma, why is this the case?  I don’t want to hear that the guilty are punished in the next life.  Why is he being so rewarded in this one?  And I’ll make the same argument for Roethlisberger if he is, in fact, guilty of sexual assault.  Why is he, too, rewarded if so?  

And why does all of this matter to me so much?  I often wonder if I’m wrong for fighting so hard against injustice, and for taking injustice so personally.  I’d definitely be a much happier person if I could let it go.  Should I just be one of the many uncaring citizens of the Philadelphia area, and only worry about the entertainment value of the game, and forget about the rest?  Should I just let sleeping dogs lie, and let dead dogs die?

As I said, I believe some buy into the sick following of vick BECAUSE of his past.  Dogfighting in this area has actually gone up 300% since his arrival.  Maybe they figure they’ll get off with 19 months, too, should they be caught.  Some truly believe that he is a transformed man, and that there is sincerity in his monotoned PSAs and court- and agent-ordered charity donations.  And many, like a girl with whom I work, simply can’t be bothered with thinking about him as more than a win or a loss for her team.  I tried explaining to her that I no longer support the eagles because they signed vick, and that I will never forgive him for his disgusting past.  She said, “I don’t know anything about that”, and walked away before she could be educated about “that”.  She knew, but didn’t want to deal with it.  It was literally an inconvenient truth.  I feel that this is the category in which most fans reside.

I find myself thinking that perhaps I should also ignore all of the truths and just deal with wins and losses and championship titles.  But then I think about a dog being tortured in the most agonizing ways.  I think of a man who admitted the pleasure he got watching them tear each other to pieces, and feeling the lives leave their bodies as he did away with those who lost fights or showed no aggression.

I also think more and more of just never watching a sport I love ever again, because it hurts my soul to watch injustices of the most heinous nature be rewarded in every possible way.

It’s Been Awhile….(The Dog Days of Writing?)

It’s been quite a bit of time since I wrote in here, and quite a long stretch since I regularly posted at all.  I’ve mentioned numerous times that the animal advocacy eats up my time, and, well….there you go.

A friend (hi, Marie!) recommended that I regularly write and post poetry based on advocacy issues.  Now, I can’t control when, if, or in what way The Muse will strike, and I want every piece to be as perfect as I can make it, especially for something so meaningful.  It’s hard not to get sing-songy and cheesy when you’re chasing after something so heart-felt, at least in my experiences.  And really hard not to force it out which, of course, makes it SOUND forced.

In previous posts I mentioned how seeing the cases of animals needing to be pulled from shelters to avoid euthanasia and petitions against abuse (which include photos), etc., batter the brain, leaving images burned in the mind’s eye.  It is in response to these images that I wrote a poem back in April in one of my writers’ groups.  We were given a prompt to use, and this prompt was “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

Here is my creation:

 

 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words 

 

Pictures of those gathered, or alone,

Beaten, abandoned, starved to bone,

With burned and scarred and ravaged hides:

A death blow thrown to my insides.

Their faces shown, which overwhelm,

Await release to another realm,

Stares unfocused, fixedly seared,

And souls that long-since disappeared.

Suffering I can’t understand,

Yet this is brought by human hand.

These inflictions: craven, disgusting,

When they were bred to be so trusting!

Relentless harm, though victims yield;

No longer shall this be concealed!

Words can’t state the horrors shown;

Of cruelties for which we must atone!

These wicked ways must be undone,

These countless pictures reduced to none.

 

Dedicated to those that fight for animal rights and welfare, and, more importantly, to the animals themselves.

© 2012 Jordan Alan Fox

 

I hope you like it, as I am incredibly proud of it.  I’ll admit it’s actually hard to read it myself without getting choked up.

In other news, I was the featured poet at a coffee house near me on August 3rd.  There was 2 hours of total time.  I picked 18 poems out and practiced reciting them to get it to about 30 minutes, including time to give a background on certain pieces.  That would leave plenty of time for the “open forum” after my “set” in which others could choose to share their work.

I believe it went well, but I have to admit that the group of 15-20 people there were friends or friends of the woman that set the whole thing up.  She is the same woman from one of my groups that asked me to do the “He Said/She Said” Valentine’s reading.  I’m scheduled to do another one in October, plus an open mic night 10 days later.  I will read the poem above, for sure.