Death as an Existentialist Mantra

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Death as an Existentialist Mantra

Handsome, Ego, & Harry Belafonte

Who says?

I never realized and never gave much thought to the notion that I was considered mostly handsome by the ladies throughout most of my life.

Most of us have some sense of ourselves as we grow up, a self-image that shifts with our changing minds, maturity, and body types. There was a long period of teen years where I hated my hair and felt that I looked more like Jerry fuckin’ Lewis then like anybody who was ever going to get laid (although I’m not sure when the knowledge of sexual union and intercourse even entered my consciousness) but eventually this self-loathing changed, and my sense of myself slowly shifted in accordance with how I was treated.

Some girls liked my eyelashes (and “you have such lovely eyes”) some girls loved my hands (“oh my, do you play piano? You should!”)

For many of those years of early adulthood i had a full bushy beard and even a full head of hair for a while.

The dying mother of a high school girlfriend, only a few days before cancer finished her, told me right in front of her daughter, “you’re the most handsome man I’ve ever seen, it used to be Harry Belafonte, but it’s you.”

(Day-o, day-a-day-o, daylight come and me wanna go home...)

But the real kicker was, on my journey to accepting my gorgeousness, aside from getting laid a lot; was I always felt sure in my ability to make the ladies smile and nearly as often, laugh.

My looks, I really never thought about. Until the other day, at the age of 73 and ½ I looked into a mirror close-up, to see how my new glasses looked and holy shit!! I’d become an old man!!

I guess I’m glad I had such good luck for as long as I did; and I guess I’m a bit disappointed that the luck finally ran out. On the plus side, the new glasses look okay, but I’m afraid to say, they aren’t helping much.

And i just looked up Harry Belafonte to see when he died...He’s 20 years older than me and still alive!

Whether I’m better looking than that 93-year-old guy is a matter of opinion. I know at least one dead mother who once thought I was more handsome.

Harry Belafonte 1927-2023

So, You Think You Wanna Long Life, Huh?

Sometimes the most obvious truths are the hardest ones to face

If you live long enough or too long, you might end up feeling sorta famous and successful and imagining your obit will be pretty cool and flashy, like some fancy guy who, you imagine, everybody wishes they knew, etc.

It doesn’t have to be full-on NYT’s but even in your local paper, it could be pretty cool.

You may end up checking yourself out on google a lot and comparing your total number of hits per “(0.55 seconds)” to other google searches of other writer friends (and competitors).

You’ll pay a lot of attention to your Wikipedia entry, hoping nobody has messed with it and called you a pervert (again).

You may look at images of yourself there and click on “more images” and count the number of pages/lines that actually have anything to do with you.

You may decide that this fame/recognition/celebrity is a reasonable substitute for having been stiffed by the Pulitzer and the Noble committees which you think must have surely failed to reward your genius by some mere hiccup in their system.

And as you die you may kid yourself that your being here made a big difference in the world, or if you live long enough you might realize what a lie that is, but either way, following your long imaginary illustrious life, you’ll be dead.

Know thyself, heal thyself...Say goodbye to thyself.

Agreeing and Disagreeing

We think we speak the same language as others; we don’t, none of us do

These are the things I have

The title of this is misleading because this poem is inspired by the obvious simple truth that in the end we have to let go of everything, up to and including our lives. But even more, living our lives in present tense, there is, in the end, not really a clear agreement on our understanding of what one another are saying. For instance, do we really agree as to what constitutes “common sense?" And isn’t what one person “takes for granted“ likely to be radically different from what someone else does? This is not a red pill vs blue pill thing, a sci-fi epic in which every moment, every perception, must be called into question —however, if you think about that the high minority of people watching Fox News and denying their attachment to white supremacy, in spite of all the examples you can give them in their conduct statements and lives, it can get discouraging. The things we have, then are nothing we can agree upon and thus finally we have nothing at all.

Changing, Not Our Hearts, But...

Looking Around My Office

…I see quite a lot of Obama kitsch and cool shit gathered and collected out of my admiration for him. Probably time to take it down and put it away but… …Nah!

As I get older and hopefully a bit wiser, all the reminders of my life so far become both more and more necessary and less and less important. A pair of considerations below ...

Soon, I’m going to take down all the personal memorabilia in my office: pics of me as a boy and of my sister, my wife, old friends, my parents and grandparents and ancient, long dead Aunts and uncles whose names I no longer remember or ever knew.

I’ll throw out post-its with mysterious phone numbers and a few love notes: political stuff, corvette junk, artsy-fartsy objects that at one time might have meant something but that now just gather dust awaiting their landfill burials.

I’m going to make my space Zen-like, full of emptiness because I’m just THAT evolved. (Maybe I’ll keep a smooth stone or have Alexa play Soft Ocean sounds To help advance my meditation.)

But everything else Has gotta go:

Yep, all of it…


Looking around at all this shit, seeing that it’s my life, entire.

I’m thinking...

Later, maybe, I’ll clean it all out. Maybe a little later, I mean, what’s the rush?

Letting go of the world is likely harder than we might imagine, until the moment comes when we have no choice.

Quick, Blink Existentialist Mantra

A pair of joyful writings floating around for anyone to steal

I Never Wanted to Go Out with a Whimper

And thus far hardly any ending I’ve endured has been soft or easy.

Buk postulated, “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”

I think he’s right and I’ll add, carry a can of gasoline with you because you never know when the walk will end, but there’s no point wasting the opportunity to make damn sure your walk has been noticed.

I am breathing

Over here, Nearby, I hear you breathing also.

I can breath and smile at the same time.

It’s a trick I can’t teach you, but one I hope you have learned too.

Stephanie, Goodbye Again

Last night I dreamt another goodbye to Stephanie

Stephanie was a friend, a respected teen-services librarian in Rochester, NY who started a teen book festival there and who told me that my novel Stuck in Neutral was her favorite book. We became close friends.

Added note; I just now noticed that today, March 1st, is the anniversary of Stephanie’s death (March 1, 2018). I hadn’t been aware of this during my dream about her last night, or when I recycled this poem today.


And I went back many years With a wide range Of affection and intimacy, Closeness for a time then later, distance.

And when she killed herself I was shocked and hurt.

Lots of people are saying lovely things About her.

When you reach the end Of a book, it states “The end”, and you knew this was coming and where and when, and you’re ready, and you close the cover.

That is one thing, after all, we all have to leave sometime.

Stephanie’s You Tube pictorial on her obituary online runs 23 minutes And no photo Is up for longer than A few seconds. Her life is presented as one rich in love, family, friendship and purpose.

Stephanie didn’t say goodbye, at least not to me, but I’m quite sure I won’t be seeing her again. There is no heaven where our ego-selves end up if we’ve been well behaved, nor any hell for all eternity if we’ve been naughty.

So, goodbye, Stephanie. I hope you got what you wanted in the end.

But I doubt it.

A Dangerous, Honest Question

America is a violent, mad empire, whether we are comfortable facing it or not...

I wonder if any of the soldiers who died while serving in a theatre of battle were simply crazy fucking psychos who enjoyed killing and somehow, by their deaths, got exactly what they deserved? And on Memorial Day as we think about military people killed we can’t ask this question because the narrative we want to believe, and that we tell ourselves, is that all the people Killed were brave and good and admirable. You ask: How dare I suggest such a blaspheme? I respond: How dare you insist on arguing otherwise? The truth is out there or not. A final question: Do you want to know the truth, or are you happier with the lies you want to believe? You don’t have to answer this: After all, we’re still a free country, allowed to think and say whatever we believe just so long as whatever we believe and say fits into tight little window of acceptable conduct and words, thoughts and deeds. After all, this is ‘Merica the freest and best and we’re number one, motherfuckers!

Almost I want some happiness

I want some happiness god-damn-it, and I’m willing to pay for it, but you’ll need to tell me exactly how much, both the amount and how much time I’ll have to pony-up ‘cause I’m on kind of tight budget, being: a) broke and broken AND, secondly, tired and pretty much done for.

Lao Tsu

Was a poet And philosopher Who died 500 years Before Christ was born. He liked to drink wine And write poems And he noticed Pretty much everything That was going on Around him and Within him. Let me reiterate He DIED 500 years before Jesus Christ Was even born. I’m typing this About 2,021 years After Christ. Time doesn’t fly Nor crawl Nor likely, really Even exist Beyond being a construct We make-up To pretend we can keep track Of life Which is a level of control That I’m pretty sure Lao Tsu and I (And Jesus, too, for that matter) Understand Is just in our imaginations.

Just Weighing Separator
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Image courtesy of Valentine Salja, Unsplash

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