You Played Yourself: Knives Out

Here we go, first class in Food Tech,

That’s cooking class to the uninitiated, a new world opens in eighth grade,

Students split into groups, assigned a stove each,

Complete with tools and equipment necessary to whip up a simple meal,

Ain’t no Masterchef shit here, gotta start with basics first,

Excitable teens quickly presenting challenges for teacher,

For the most part they’re diligent, some more experienced than others,

The temptation to trigger a food fight must be all-consuming,

Thought the class needed laughs so you did the next best thing,

Pinned a knife between your right armpit, stumblin’ like a stabbing victim,

Had your groupmates giggling while others shook their noggins,

Teacher wasn’t buying it, boy did he see red,

Ordered you to see him after class, better get ready for he’s about to whup your ass,

Slapped you with after school detention, the price of your clowning,

Come home time while others are charging out the gates, you’re sitting in a room ruing your mistake,

Good luck explaining to your folks why you came home so late,

‘Til then, sit back and relax, still got hours on your sentence,

There’s no other way around it, Dude you played yourself.

Hours In The Day

Rise and shine, your big day has arrived,

A new day’s breaking, time for that grand entrance, your bio clock’s off and running,

Mom and Pops, they sure were smitten, in their eyes your presence is a blessing,

Though they might be thinking opposites when you’re trolling with their sleeping patterns!

But all jokes aside know that you are loved, that they’ll walk through fire for ya,

To make sure you’re healthy, nourished and a very happy camper,

The significance of what they’re doing doesn’t quite register, but hours from now it will,

Before they know it you’re communicating clearly, moving independently, growing exponentially on the daily, seemingly.

The day progresses, the sun rises further,

Morning at its peak and you’re raring to go, practically bouncing off walls,

Once an infant, now a child, some degree of independence and strength,

Plays right into your favour, those energy levels seem never ending,

Earlier just an infant now a living advertisement of the human body’s capabilities,

Running, crawling, jumping, rolling, throwing, catching, occasionally crying when ya trip then scrape that knee,

Gonna have to start school eventually, it sucks but if it’s any consolation, might seem scary at first but for Ma and Pops also kinda nerve-wracking,

But soon you’ll make friends, find your tribe for life if you’re fortunate,

Might as well be siblings from different parents, doing damn near everything together,

As the minutes turn you’re getting bigger, a growing awareness of the journey ahead of you,

Though the main priority is living a life carefree as young’uns are wont to do,

Besides keeping those grades up and your room tidy, responsibilities confined to fun times with friends and family,

What was exciting hours prior now seems beneath you, you find yourself wishing to be bigger,

Just like your guardians, free from any rules it seems, free to do as they please,

But you’re not privy to their hustling on the daily to keep you happy and healthy,

Some nights coming home drained, yet still making time with you to play,

Checking to make sure you’re head of the class, put you back in line when you’re acting like an ass,

Listen when they tell you never to take these hours for granted,

You’ll find out soon enough, how much clout such advice been carrying.

Closer to midday now, the past few hours have been most kind,

Crossing into teens, a taste of the world once beyond your reach, soon you’ll see, the big ones ain’t driving down Easy Street,

Slapped with more and more responsibilities, life’s no longer loose and carefree,

Those grades a new battleground, better be diligent or you’ll be found out,

Assessments and exams carrying extra heft, outside class you’re likely to make as many enemies as friends,

Some folks be wolves in sheep’s clothing, fading innocence giving way to ruthlessness,

There’s your early taste of politics and manipulation, flexing and comparisons, big folk games that’ll make your head shake,

Popular among the teens, it only gets worse from here, unfortunately,

What your folks done taught and brought you up with in the morning can and will be challenged, will you evolve or remain defiant?

Ma and Pa can only do so much, the world and your surroundings will do their part, where temptations were once of the sweet and sugary type, perhaps a few white lies, might now involve escapades and substances of the harmful, trouble-making type,

Thinking ‘bout the opposite gender, where once they repulsed and repelled, they’ve all but taken over your mind, thoughts of the sweet and nasty kind,

Years behind those gates under the teachers’ care won’t last forever, gotta plan for life outside sooner or later,

To jumpstart what could well be your life’s work or get you a degree first?

Make use of your newfound freedom to venture beyond that comfort zone, see what else the world has to offer,

Go get what you’re worth, have no fear of failure, start over as many times as necessary, the world is your oyster.

Past the midpoint, here comes the afternoon sky,

Drifting further from morning and closer towards night,

Earlier on lived for the material, to fly high your main ambition,

More pals and hangers-on than you can count, living for the present was what life’s all about,

And now it’s sunset and all your treasures are in storage collecting dust,

That circle reduced in circumference, whatever bubble you’d created long gone bust,

No need to be ashamed, it’s part of the journey, look at you now, reinvented through maturity,

Equipped to make moves on your own, Mom and Pops can take a backseat,

Their roles now that of support system than guardian, up to you to dance to your own beat,

Perhaps you’d found someone to call your partner for life, had you some little ones to carry on your legacy,

Maybe you’re flying with no co-pilot, marching to beats suited only to your rhythm,

Those aforementioned little ones the closest that you’ll get to turning back time,

Been there and done that already, you’re more than qualified to be their guide,

Do your job right you can live through ‘em vicariously, maybe turn ‘em onto what lit your world up bright and sparkly,

Hustling day in, day out as your folks once did, lessons they drummed finally sinking in,

Sadly, they might check out at any time, but if they’d raised you right you’ll continue to thrive,

Looking back on earlier hours wistfully, the world seemed pure under the sun’s full bloom,

But nothing gold can stay, so said Mr. Frost, as the sun’s sinking you feel yourself turning grey,

Day’s more or less half-over, minutes ticking by quicker,

They should have told you earlier the more you acquire the shorter your hours,

Never too long in the tooth to learn something new, stay curious if you want to slow down,

Keep in touch with whom you were earlier, they’ll never let you down.

The sun finally sets, blue skies and white clouds melting into dark night,

Been a long day of triumphs and trials, you’d come a long way since sunshine,

The young ones on their own time zone, perhaps got little ones of their own,

Clock’s turned back again, just like that, for you and for them,

The day’s almost over but your time ain’t over yet,

Will you push on and keep rocking or call it a day then set off for bed?

Time may have ravaged you physically, actions once effortless now require some doing,

Others, still, might be trapped in a fog, left a shell of an individual once lively and strong,

Can’t play like you did in the morning, those joints done took a beating, but anything’s possible, still, as long as that spirit’s willing,

Barring life’s intervention these are your second set of golden years,

You’d paid your dues, that ticker’s still good, might as well go out in a blaze of glory,

Never stop learning or growing, not until St. Pete comes calling,

Stay hungry, curious and willing as you’d been in the morning,

Break the rules, defy the cynics and doomsayers, you needn’t be confined to your rocker,

Be of service while you’re able, that belt has room for extra notches,

Give ‘em miles to recall once you’re finally laid to rest, it’ll be genuine tears shed for a life well-led,

Fly high now, knowing that you did all that,

Your day ends, more new ones begin, the cycle continues like it always has.

Bank’s Closed

They say you can’t lead a horse to water then force it to drink,

Such a saying done forced yours truly to sit down and think,

Better to teach one to fish than catch it for ‘em every day, to take them under your wing until they can spread theirs then fly away,

But resistance is a possibility and in this case it’s kinda scary,

When they ain’t open to learning ‘cuz a free ride’s appealing,

When there’s zero progress because they couldn’t care less,

When the entitlement is such that they’d rather you do the rest,

To hunt and gather day after day to get them a good feed, shoulder the heavy loads until those joints creak,

Give them an inch and they’ll give you a mile, such sentiments rings true,

Tired of pulling their own weight, for all the hard yakka they’re turning to you.

Seemed like a dream when we’d finally reconnected,

Residing in different parts of the ocean, low-key forgot that the other party existed,

One big happy fam again it seemed, the honeymoon period seemed never-ending,

Should’ve done this sooner, the lateness now yours truly is regretting,

The turning point seemed innocuous but should have braced for impact,

Looking back should have severed ties there and then, that’s a sad fact,

You asked your boy for a hefty favour, even through drastic means,

Even if it meant a potential run-in with the authorities,

Opened the floodgates, others rushed in with so-called favours,

Quickly became clear that one man alone bore their expectations,

That’s to be the payroll, no ifs or buts, time and time again,

No problem too big, let him foot the bills, dude be living the life and they all want a slice,

Promised to reimburse but ain’t nothing guaranteed, funny how when it’s time to collect they suddenly disappear,

They think he got it figured out, that he’s swimming in green,

Such sentiments couldn’t be more wrong, let’s make some things clear.

They say you shouldn’t judge someone by where they came up,

No two origin stories are the same, to make assumptions would be insane,

Applies, too, to those they say got all the breaks,

Ain’t just dudes from the ‘hood slapped with labels insensitive and crude,

Some folks seem blessed many times over, the ones that fortune smiled upon,

But they, too, aren’t immune to struggles, bad luck strikes ‘em now and then,

You’d think they can escape any trap unscathed but that’s where you’re mistaken,

Could fumble the bag at any time, perhaps burn priceless bridges while they’re at it,

Health could slide at any moment, not to mention the all-conquering rising costs of living,

Hate to break it to you but that money pit ain’t as bottomless as you think,

More to the point it ain’t yours to abuse, no one believes a liar crying ‘wolf.’

Got your back should you ever run into strife,

By that we’re talking ‘bout the catastrophic type, those that require an army by your side,

Yes, your daily struggles dwarf those of the ones that you’re begging from again,

But it would be a stretch to suggest that yours are situations that are life and death,

If anything you embellish the truth just to get that loot so you can live large on someone else’s funds, read that again and tell me it ain’t fucked up,

We’re giving you plenty yearly so what’s your damn hurry?

Please don’t say you’d burned right through the last damn bags already,

Never needed handouts prior, did this renewed connection change things?

Live within your means if you want to live like kings and queens,

It’s strange how you remain invisible unless you need some bread,

Was contact initiated purely to keep those ever-expanding bellies fed?

Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way,

If this is a game your boy ain’t gonna play,

You ain’t keeping me boxed up in case of emergencies only,

Trapped in a lamp like your very own genie,

Got my own problems like the rest of ‘em, can’t take on too many external burdens,

Take responsibility for your own and face ‘em, like you did back when we were virtual strangers.

Hate to sound callous but should you reach the end of this rope your boy ain’t hanging on ‘til his palms rip, he’s letting that shit go,

Got no use for leeches that try to drain, life itself’s already a pain,

Those that ride with you should be ones that revitalise and empower you,

Flip the script and see how you like it, you really don’t want such problems,

Folks you know made it on their own, why not follow their examples?

You descended from hard-workers and survivors, why not use them as a personal reference?

You’re still better off than others where you’re at yet you’re ducking responsibilities like a brat,

Get up from your knees and hustle, keep moving and moving ‘til the wheels fall,

The view atop that mountain will be sweeter than if you got there on someone else’s time and effort,

That’s enough ranting for today, ain’t nothing personal unless you make it so,

Really hope we can stay on course, but if not it’ll be your fault, Sorry but this bank’s closed.

In An Alternative Universe

For most of my life been a loner, no platoon with this soldier,
Took my lumps but I’m still standing, got this far let’s keep moving,
Felt freedom in solitude on good days, thinking ‘fuck the world’ during bad,
Perhaps the latter’s exaggerated, I don’t carry hate and malice like that,
Not without friends and family, very much love them dearly,
Just would rather business be privy to no one but me,
Yet life’s very axis turned upon your arrival, in ways unanticipated,
Irrevocably it seemed, the impact damn near broke The Richter.

Never really was one for companionship, never bought into the concept,
Came out the womb alone, will leave this world the same, decided that it’s destiny, certain that it was fate,
Neither scared nor aloof, it ain’t like that at all,
Life in the shadows is where I’m home, different strokes for different folks,
Wasn’t one to catch feelings, hasn’t happened often,
They say it’s hubris and I hate to make excuses, this game ain’t for the faint-hearted,
People showing true colours too late, it’s quite exhausting weeding out snakes,
Folks would sooner destroy than uplift one another, who wants to be around such behaviour?
As Trent and Johnny sang, everyone goes away in the end,
It’s a big bad world out there, more often than not we crash and burn in the end.

Crossed paths one day, looks like we caught the same wave,
Going our own ways in life, our paths done intertwined in time,
Somehow got to talking, somehow formed a connection,
Awkward in the beginning but thank God we pushed through it,
Your boy made like Prince Akeem after the first kiss, like him gave no shits that the neighbours were pissed,
Many chapters later asked the magic question while on bended knee, then came the ceremony, time crawled and zoomed simultaneously,
How on earth did we get here? All of this seems a dream,
But that’s life, I guess, no such thing as guarantees.

I’d need additional digits to count the ways you leave me awed and amazed,
Could wax lyrical day and night, page after page,
The world’s a brighter place thanks to your very presence in it,
You’re supportive yet assertive, keeping it real and unfiltered,
Not afraid to speak up when I mess up, unoffended when roles are inverted,
Disagreements are inevitable, life will throw challenges, but we’ll get through ‘em all together,
You’re my safe space when times get tough, I’m glad to be the same for ya,
Can’t imagine a life now where I’d never ever met ya,
Previously hard-pressed to trust one another, viewed the world as grey and monochrome,
Your love and warmth done thawed the ice within this individual, jaded and cold,
Every day an opportunity for further self-improvement, to be the type that you deserve,
Love and respect can’t be bought or cajoled, they can only be earned,
Likewise it’s a treat to watch you grow and evolve, to help you achieve your goals,
I’ll keep it one hundred with you, pick you up when you fall, both sides
putting in work,
I savour your warm hugs, hope you love kisses to your forehead and crown,
You’re my ride or die for life through all the ups and the downs.

But this is just pure fantasy, we ain’t even met yet,
Chances are fifty-fifty, a sure bet’s non-existent,
An encounter might occur sooner or later, perhaps it already has,
But neither party had a clue, life don’t offer cues,
The song won’t last forever, gotta step up and join the dance,
Even if you go alone, leave it on the floor until you’re called home,
Would be glorious if these musings become reality, but no such thing as absolute certainty,
But if not then no point getting mad, maybe it was the master plan.

Bad Day: Step Up

It was a bolt from the blue that shocked the entire system,

Trouble was brewin’ but still you never saw it coming,

Looking back now on those good ol’ days, the contrast is heartbreaking,

It was laughs and good times galore, signs of a rock-solid unit,

The guardians loved one another, you and the sibs their little tribe of miscreants,

Experienced highs and lows like everyone, got back on track after every single one,

Fractured unions now a frequent occurrence but had faith Mom and Pops won’t be one of them,

Then cracks started forming on the surface, smiles rare as diamonds, as time went on and on the future seemed less certain,

Fast forward to the present Mom was glued to the tube while you were messing with the sibs,

Pops wasn’t home, still out on a work trip,

Seemed like good old-fashioned normalcy, a typical Sunday evening,

Then came the berg that sunk the vessel beneath the ocean.

Shouldn’t have been unexpected, been sailing over rough seas lately,

More than a few storms, took ‘em longer to get back on course,

Even what was trivial served as kindling for raging fires,

Old remedies failed to extinguish ‘em, their once undeniable chemistry nothing short of dire,

Still felt like a gut punch from Tyson, nobody likes to lose a parent,

You and the sibs been drifting due to changing interests, nothing like sorrow to get you reunited,

All the while you wonder, as their first-born, how the one you once looked up to, who clothed, provided for and raised you, could up and leave just like that, without a farewell hug at that?

Just a simple text message, talk about insincere, so much for precious memories from the past twenty years,

On the subject of familial breakdowns, night after night prayed you’d never join the club,

But life had other plans for ya, shit is totally fucked up.

You were thrust the unofficial role of co-pilot, Ma can only do so much on her own,

Fresh out of teens, still unsure of your life’s goals, forced into a new role, spat into a world that devours even the bold,

Work turns out to be your safe haven, a distraction from your current situation,

Away from the anguish and bitterness in equal measures, reminders of unwanted changes,

The daily commute serves as a time of reflection, though not in a way that begets enlightenment,

Rather to purge the heart and mind of inner pain and sadness, why did it have to come to this?

Got you contemplating the dark side, embrace many a broken soul’s vices,

But deep down you knew better, for all their faults they didn’t raise a fool and delinquent,

Still, the inner anger got you thinking foolish temptations,

Must be draining to go through pain alone while the world remains happily oblivious,

Misery loves company but strength of mind ain’t having it,

Gotta stay on the straight and narrow, new responsibilities require you to do so.

The fake smiles mask internal tears, got you wondering how many years before the pain subsides if at all, after all, this was one of your worse fears,

Happy fam snatched away just like that, what happened to their chemistry from the past?

Been caught in storms before, no one makes it out bone-dry,

Time and time again they made it to the other side, sometimes different brollies were required, but damn it they got out of them alive,

Then you have the mental gymnastics nothing short of soul-sapping,

You resent ‘em for blowing it, for taking away from you a complete support system,

Takes two to tango, the handiwork’s barely one-sided, but to the one that played deserter the blame is compounded,

Bitter feelings are inevitable, can’t believe he walked away,

Feeling angry, scared and betrayed, will life ever be the same?

Should’ve been here to show the way, act as your guide through life,

But now he ain’t and you don’t know why, just that he left y’all high and dry,

Fangs are out for her, too, for making mountains out of mole hills,

On his case constantly for even the most useless things, who wants to put up with that shit?

Juxtaposed against the love that offspring naturally feel for their parents,

Can try to deny it but can’t simply just forget about it,

The sacrifices made for you and your sibs, through grown eyes you recognize all of this,

Couldn’t get to where you are present had they not hustled hard for it,

As far as parenting you couldn’t ask for better, they raised you and the sibs proper,

Insulated y’all from all manner of harm and danger, guided y’all through your problems,

In many ways you kids were privileged and for that you ought to stay grateful for it,

When all’s said and done they still deserve their flowers, recent occurrences can’t and won’t erase ‘em,

So now you’re left in this conundrum, though the betrayal cuts deep,

Opposing feelings on extreme ends of the scale, haunts you damn near every night before you sleep.

So ends another day, mask on while slogging through work,

Shelved it upon arriving home, life with fam now seems rather awkward,

Before the hard part hit you, that would be the hours before bed,

Hearing sibs and mother crying, their means of purging, the sound reverberates around your head,

Trying to stay strong for their sake, takes every ounce of your being,

Nodding off, finally, a brief respite from grief and uncertainty,

Times are tough right now, Kid, but soldier on and you’ll be fine,

It’s ok to feel sad or mad, to ask and wonder why,

Life took a different turn, certainly one that’s mind-boggling,

Just know you aren’t to blame for it, not all unions go the distance,

Keep a strong front if you must, the younger sibs need someone to hold onto,

Even Momma’s struggling hard, she, too, needs a rock to cling to,

Break down if you must, let the tears fall, don’t keep it bottled up,

On your lonesome, too, if you don’t want them to see you broken and torn up,

Remember that winners never quit and quitters never win, don’t let nothing break you,

He taught you that long ago and it will always ring true,

Speaking of lessons, you can still learn from ‘em, too,

How not to communicate with your significant other, the one with whom you vowed to live happily ever after,

Not to sweat the small stuff, match your emotions with the matter,

Getting hot over the irrelevant, such behaviour does not serve to flatter,

To never quit on one another, they were supposed to be in it together,

For every problem there’s a solution, might take some effort but eventually you’ll find it,

But if the fairytale ends, if somehow it didn’t last, surely there’s better ways to part that ain’t cold, abrupt and crass,

Though you’d rather forget this particular chapter, do file it for reference later,

There’s not telling where life might take you, might find yourself in situations similar,

Until then just carry on, though it’s hard, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,

Step up and thrive where they’d stumbled, you still have a bright future.

Cutting A Man Loose

Afternoon strolls, always a favorite pastime of mine,

Sunnies on, head up, no chitchat, nothing to break my strides,

Saw him from the corner of my eye, out and about on his lonesome,

A significant figure from my past, been almost twenty since we saw each other last,

Had to do a double take, surely these eyes must be tricking,

Not much ‘bout him changed, save for some subtle signs of ageing,

Some greys here and there, lines near the eyes, hadn’t seen him since graduation,

That’s more than twenty years, I wonder if he remembers who I am?

Only one way to find out, gonna run up on this dude,

It’s now or never, excuse the attitude, hope he won’t think I’m crude.

“Hey, Bud. Remember me?”

A smile spread across his features, this surely was a random encounter,

“Hey, how’ve you been? So good to see you,”

“Ain’t nothing changed, Brother, seems like the same for you too,”

We walked for a while, exchanging war stories from our lives,

Sat down on a bench eventually, chopped it up ‘til the sun started disappearing,

Seemed like old times once more, but then it occurred to me,

Something different about him now, of the type rather sad and melancholy,

Change is inevitable, no one is spared,

It’ll do its work as the time passes, better go with it or be left in the ashes,

But it ain’t always sunshine and rainbows, the good and the bad come together,

Enhancing some aspect of our lives while deteriorating others,

In his case he seemed to have it all, working his dream job and generally having a ball,

But his demeanour seemed unfamiliar, at least from the kid that I’d known before.

He was positivity personified during years past,

Up for fun and laughs at the drop of a hat, couldn’t get cooler than that,

In the present he seems bitter, not talking so much as ranting,

Harbouring bitterness and hatred in seemingly equal measures,

Seemingly contemptuous at what once set his soul aflame,

Sure, we acquire knowledge and changed interests along the way, from birth ‘til death we rarely stay the same,

The contrast, still, of the past and the present was kind of sad and disturbing,

‘Is this really the same dude? Or just someone with more than a passing resemblance?’

Still, we continued to converse, most of it spent reminiscing on the past,

Every once in a while bursting into fits of belly laughs.

Time flew, soon it was time to get going,

Agreed to meet up again but such sentiments seem to mean nothing,

Life gets busy after all, we keep moving different directions,

We may cross paths again but fat chance of that happening,

Probably for the best, what I’d learned about him left me kinda depressed,

What happened to my friend? From sunshine to cloud the dude fell off the deep end,

Once upon a time could talk to him about anything,

At times found myself tip-toeing ‘round eggshells during our little reunion,

Was tempted to ask him what brought about this transformation,

But better to leave the proverbial can closed, don’t want to clean up the contents,

If this is it then perhaps it’s best to wish him well, even if we’re strangers once more,

Hold on tight to memories of when we were small, teammates and brothers of sorts.

Good Time: The Turning Point

New Year came and went, then it was straight back to business,

Went by too quick, that holiday period, daily life prefers a peculiar brand of slowness,

Ten years-plus an outcast, cynical and jaded,

Middle-finger salute to society all but permanent but low-key wanting some type of connection,

Logged onto FB one night, found me an old friend, he was with me in the trenches during the warzone that was lunch and recess,

Both of us deemed nerds, copped our fair share for it,

Me more so than him, that once-cheery kid grew up the polar opposite,

Back to the present he accepted my friend request, DM’d me after a few days,

Hadn’t seen or heard from him since graduation, his circumstances changed in strange ways,

After a few days he spilled his guts, tales of woe and heartbreak,

Thought she was the one so he upped sticks for her, before she tore his heart out then hurled it into the incinerator,

This mind back then wouldn’t allow sympathy, he’s just paying the price of vulnerability,

Welcome to society, where so many are fucking slimy, to trust is an act of self-sabotage, really,

Why’s he even dumping onto me this shit? This type of info one would keep a secret,

How’s he trusting a homie after more than ten years of distance?

Been keeping it in for too long, the contents within bubbling, pressure busts pipes, sooner or later there’ll be an explosion,

Somehow found myself compelled to help, this must be what they call compassion,

Channelling my inner optimist long dormant before I got to replying,

Encouraged him to soldier on, do away with plans foolish and drastic,

His luck could turn in a minute, in the end it’ll be worth it,

Regurgitated every cliché used by every motivational speaker ever,

Somehow it worked, though, found that out a few short months later,

Sure enough he met someone, in the present he’s still with her,

Two little ones to cap it off glad his happy ending came along.

In return he turned me onto anime again, been some time since I’d watched a series,

Then came a new beginning, at Pops’ insistence and urgings,

Began a new discipline, nothing like others that I’d tried,

Boxed and wore a karate gi in the past, but this seemed to throw every rule through the glass,

Squared on, everything from the centre, hard striking forbidden,

A fresh challenge but one that I took on, kept at it going forward,  

Seemed to be the turning point, felt a metamorphosis of sorts,

Befriended some fellow practitioners, for the longest time didn’t feel awkward,

Holed in my fortress for so long but dared to believe that leopards can change their spots,

Have I found a home away from home? Some semblance of acceptance?

All signs pointed to that direction, slowly but surely toppled the fences.

Finally embarked on a mission for qualification for that role I’d long been coveting,

Several months of fun and lessons, not to mention further friendships,

Can’t say I was a natural, but I’ll say I did ok with it,

It was fun while it lasted, been done for a while but thankful for the experience,

Later reunited face to face with that old buddy, the catalyst for this trajectory,

Not much changed physically, other than he’s aged markedly,

Got to know his co-pilot and the rest of their crew,

Still running with ‘em to this day, counting ‘em in my inner circle too,

Had long felt stagnant at work but seemed to embrace it once more,

Positive vibes permeating all aspects, have I found some secret key to what they call happiness?

Christmas with the extended fam sure was a blast,

Trip to Kosciuszko the icing on the cake, thus ending a year full of blessings in its wake,

Been a great one, I have to say, one of the best I’d ever had,

Still look back on it wistfully but to have lived it once I’m still glad,

Began as a surly recluse, all but anti-social and pissed at the system,

Wasted a great deal of young adulthood for it, always playing victim,

Picking at scabs from long ago, would have healed sooner had I not kept on doing so,

The lone sufferer the man in the mirror, time to get moving, better late than never,

Many moons prior, the Mayans predicted this to be the end,

For yours truly such was the case in some ways, finally emerged from a long hibernation,

Out from the darkness of the shadows to the brighter lights, it was a glorious reunion,

Old self has finally come to pass, in its place an older, wiser and all-round better version.

Impure Intentions

She was out for a walk, alone with her thoughts,

Five years retired already, been quite the journey, two years a widow now, unfortunately,

Heard from the kids every now and then, grandkids loved her when they visited,

Too long between reunions but life gets busy thanks to higher costs of living,

Melancholy comes knocking every now and then, but for the most part life’s a breeze,

Simple living and optimism, both have been the key,

On this day, her peace ‘bout to be shattered in ways cringey than clear and present danger,

The dude ran towards her, gave her quite a fright, expecting a thug or purse-snatcher but he wasn’t that type,

He asked her how she was doing, if she was feeling blue,

Wrapped himself around her, minus her consent, before a response can come through,

“It’ll be alright,” said he, “you will be ok,”

“You looked like you needed cheering, have a lovely day,”

His mate stands not far away, phone pointed towards ‘em,

Soon to be uploaded into cyberspace without their subject’s permission,

Off they run feeling heroic while she’s left to pick up the pieces,

To say she’s weirded out and mortified would be an understatement.

Not too far away, dude on the sidewalk wasting,

Reviewing his current situation, the culmination of bad breaks and his own poor decisions,

Living off of others’ generosity and donations,

For the most part mere shrapnel but it’s better than nothing,

One day was approached by a total stranger, cash in her hand, ready for a big contribution, but for reasons rather sad,

She dropped the dough as intended but her phone was pointed at his face,

“Enjoy your money, Sir,” said she, “hope you have a lovely day,”

He’ll be eating well tonight while making the rounds online,

Without his knowledge or consent, her generosity was tainted,

Helping the needy is cool, but social media clout’s her main objective,

Chasing praises from the masses, the dopamine fix is highly addictive,

But for every five likes there are far more of the opposite, consider the plan backfired,

Critics are letting her have it, she still doesn’t know it, but she’ll find out in a little while.

Good deeds with hidden motives, we’re seeing ‘em more often

Helping the downtrodden but we see you acting the paparazzi on ‘em,

It’s an empty gesture if you’re just doing it for clout,

Your audience ain’t cheering or admiring, they’re mocking and laughing out loud,

If you did it out of kindness then you wouldn’t need any witnesses,

You’re just fishing for compliments and backslaps from friends and so-called followers,

Putting it on blast reeks of fakeness and arrogance, how translucent can you get?

Using the less fortunate for your own selfish intentions? You’re a special breed of scum bucket,

And in other cases you’re just playing the space invader, running up on ‘em like whatever,

How’d you like it if you were hassled for no apparent reason? You’d think they were a right little nuisance,

Better cut that out sooner rather than later, you’re doing yourself no favors,

You’re considered a major irritant across social media, how does that label work for ya?

Indulge your ego elsewhere through different means, your actions aren’t appreciated here,

Better you walked on by than using and abusing ‘em, let the real altruists tend to them.

Three Acts

Act 1

It’s night time across the city, midnight rolling in a hurry,
On the base of a skyscraper, the tallest of its kind, a lone figure arrives,
The cape and full-body suit a smooth, silky black, face shielded by a similarly-coloured mask,
Anonymity is key, gotta hide that identity from the pesky powers that be,
Twice a week without fail, come sunshine and rain, been at it for some time now, the nerves won’t even attack now,
A small crowd gathers, where once they’d resembled a mosh pit,
One too many reruns later many had seen enough but for some the act remained hot stuff,
The one they’d come to see prepares, undergoes a vigorous warm-up routine,
The act will be over within seconds, such preparation seems extreme,
But tonight’s a treat for the fans, the ones that had stuck around through thick and thin,
For this is the last show, a retirement party of sorts, a fond farewell and a well-earned reward,
Limbs loose and ready, body warm and primed for the main event,
Approached the base of the building, five breaths deep breathing,
Then it was blast off, scurrying up that structure sleek as a panther,
Much to the awe of onlookers, still thrilled at this daredevil’s superpowers,
No special gloves and shoes or harnesses here, just literally scaling the windows and walls,
Looking skyward all the way, unbothered by the altitude at all,
Hit the rooftop in less than two, shimmied up the antenna too,
Now at the city’s highest peak, the view was grand and majestic,
Eerie silence up near the clouds, the hustle and bustle of the world below rendered silent and resembling a stream of lights and fire ants aglow,
It was time for the second part, the death defying one,
Better make it memorable, it’ll be the final one,
Strength gathered, dexterity and balance takes over, hand standing atop that antenna now, toes pointed upwards like a dancer,
Then without warning pushes off the perch, a somersault preceding a free-fall towards the gutter,
Audience holds its breath though they know how it ends, a wrong move still guarantees certain death,
Their hero’s right foot makes contact with the building’s wall once past the twentieth floor,
Sliding down all the way as though on vertical ice skates preventing a less desirable fate,
Touched down back to the starting point, the short show is complete,
The audience breaks into their final applause, the eyes of some welling with tears.
Not much emotion from the star, from behind the mask the eyes remain unchanged,
‘That’s it, I’m done,’ the voice utters in a near-whisper, walking away from the scene forever.

Act 2

It’s half-past-five, so ends another day of hard grind,
He ambles out his building, head down, headed towards the train station,
Air pods locked in, blasting some tune articulating loneliness and depression,
Somehow without being corny, extra gold stars for the musical artist,
He drifts away from the land of tall buildings, inching towards a main road,
Lining up the sidewalk, various cafes and convenience stores,
Outside one of which, a small group of men are loitering,
Smoking ciggies, clinking various energy drinks, warming up for a night of partying,
He sees them up ahead, from behind his sunglasses the eyes widen,
More than a few of ‘em look familiar, the realisation hits like a hook from Tyson,
Transported back in time, to when he was young, insecure and nervous,
Courtesy of the chumps from up ahead, day by day they were terrorising,
Not much in the way of beatings, thankfully, though they sometimes rained bombs,
Mostly through picking on and hazing, wounds psychological hurt just as much as physical,
Felt that juvenile urge to turn tail and split but quickly he catches his grip,
Been more than twenty since they’d clapped eyes on one another, surely they would’ve totally forgotten,
He stands up tall and proud, adjusts his shades then begins his trek,
Soon he’ll be scot-free, just need to casually stroll past ‘em,
He inches closer, their voices and laughter grow louder, one of them catches his eye,
He returns the gaze behind his shades, as though burning holes into this guy,
His hostility goes undetected by the target, soon he’s walked past them,
On and on he walks as they continue their little talks,
Their voices fade behind him, now lost among the sound of the streets,
“Some class reunion that was,” says he, the station visible in the distance.

Act 3

Lunchtime almost over, time to head back to the building,
Knock off the last three hours before home time comes knocking,
Had gone outdoors to unwind, at a park nearby, passed some establishments on the way back, that’s when he caught my eye,
Enjoying his own mid-day meal, seated outdoors by the sidewalk, playing with his phone while all but oblivious to the world,
Hadn’t seen him for quite some time, figured we could chat for a while,
“Hey, Bro, how’re you doing?” the greeting roused him from cyberspace, immediately he stood then we shared a brotherly embrace,
“Been a long time,” said he, “how’s things with you?”
From there chopped it up in a hurry, his precious break was almost over, too,
Asked him if he was still going to the club, a shared space of ours,
He said it’s been a while before dropping a mini bombshell on us,
“I’m thinking about quitting,” he said, “what about you? Are you still going?”
But before I could respond the world started spinning,
My boy vanished without a trace, as did the setting we were standing in,
Until it was straight-up noir like many an Instagram post in mid-2020,
Followed by a buzzing sound, a white light suddenly greeted me…

The Next Morning

The phone alarm was squealing, it was morning already,
Yawning as I sat upright, pondering the meaning behind that dream from last night,
Three unrelated tales, each with differing points of view,
Finding myself stumped for answers, well, what say you?

Young Turks: Constant Companion

Sit down, close your eyes, take a trip down Memory Lane,

From the rubble, what did you mine that made those eyes rain?

No doubt it was fun times of endless cheer and sunshine,

The world stood still for all the right reasons, the glow perpetuating across the four seasons,

Seems so far away, in its place endless bouts of boredom and apathy, dotted by depression and anxiety,

Recapturing what you once had proving to be mission impossible, they say keep going but in your mind you seem unable,

You rage at the unfairness, at feeling empty and cheated,

The passing of time claimed another, got you yearning for reasons to keep going.

Everything is temporary, one of life’s little tragedies,

Often revealed the hard way, what we have can and will fade,

Livelihoods and possessions, good times and the people in it,

Our very lives, too, while we’re at it, losses happen at any given moment,

But there remains two seemingly endless constants, though you might not want to hear ‘em,

That of change and suffering, both often come together,

Even while the world sparkles some form of pain is lurking,

Think about the stresses that come with planning for events that’ll have your crew buzzing,

Might seem like child’s play compared to the lot forced onto others but surely could tempt one to scrap plans for something different,

The game of love’s a beautiful thing but can’t play without risking hurt and heartbreak,

No telling how long, or if you’ll ever, find that special soulmate,

And if you do then further challenges await, bound to leave you drained,

Exchanging ‘I do’s’ then raising children, neither are straightforward,

From the legal wrangling to fixing up assets before having and raising successful children,

Big life changes for the fortunate but come with their own sets of hurdles,

Cheers to you if you find your life’s purpose but the road to success ain’t smooth,

Guaranteed there’ll be sticks and stones to stumble over with every next move,

Might be forced to up sticks, so to speak, running in place gets you nowhere,

Defy what you obey to the point of dogma, almost certainly requires an upgrade of your character,   

Peaks and valleys that may break one’s soul, might convince you it ain’t worth it after all,

But quitting’s never rewarded, where there’s passion there’s another direction,

Go with the flow and keep your eyes on the prize, you’re a lot more resilient than you’d ever realised.

Time waits for no one, camp for too long you’ll be left behind,

Changes happen unannounced, sadly at the expense of those golden times,

Now it makes sense, why many try to extend the moment,

While fear paralyses others, they’re missing opportunities in the process,

But moments won’t last, soon you’ll lose your grip, better decide now, Friend, which one is it,

Find what’s worth suffering for, ain’t about dopamine fixes anymore,

Ignore your cravings for a minute, happiness is but a limited source,

Focus on what you’ll fight for over and over, for better or for worse,

In the end that’s what it boils down to, suffering for your art and passion,

A reflection on life’s brutal truth, spots of happiness dotting over endless suffering,

Actors and athletes, artists and authors, frontliners, teachers and even your friendly nine-to-fiver,

See ‘em bleeding, sweating, grinding to to be the best in their field, shit is painful but awe-inspiring,

And when the world turns they adjust accordingly, no time to cry about what’s beyond control,

They who quit and go home weren’t worthy, gotta fight to achieve total victory,

They say change is good but it’s never easy, what you love now might have to be confined into history,

Evolve or die, Friend, accept the brutal truth over comforting lies,

Only the strong survive, something to ponder over along the journey,

It don’t stop ‘til the casket drops, Tupac nailed it quite succinctly.