How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel? For this average white guy, countless.

If I could go back, all those years, and stand next to twelve year old me, would I have the courage and strength to tell that nervous boy watching all the other children, swimming, laughing, and running—playing shirts v.s. skins—to quit worrying and join in, that it doesn’t matter how chubby you feel, or how different you look, that as long as you love and accept yourself, no words from another can harm you, or would I just sit back and watch, still the observer unable to join the party?

It’s funny how something so simple as taking your shirt off to swim can be so detrimental to a young child’s self esteem and yet as adults we often forget what that was like or rather what external forces beyond our control led us to believe ourselves unworthy of such a simple, yet harrowing task.

As in childhood, so as in adulthood, what we allow to harm us will.

Commercials show us long, slender, sleek models who seem to effortlessly fit in to their surroundings while being rewarded with warm smiles and admiration for seeming perfect.

Television shows and movies give us well manicured, quintessential versions of ourselves that often seem more like science fiction than what actually is.

Billboard ads and magazines are placed conveniently to fill all our psyche with blemish-less detail to promote this false sense of unattainable beauty that even when met, there’s ultimately an even whiter teeth formula, or wax to whisk away our imperfection.

It’s a cycle that even before the mind has time to develop, stunts it’s growth and like a cavity begins to decay all sense of self worth.

How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel?

For this average white guy, countless.

But it’s taken all those countless times to figure out that it doesn’t matter in the slightest, especially as a child who’s developing.

So would I tell that twelve year old me to take his shirt off and go swimming with the rest of the lot?

I don’t think there is a clear answer other than that instead of telling him what he should or shouldn’t do like all the rest of the world, I’d allow him the opportunity to listen to my story and decide for himself.

But I would say this. Chances are that boy or girl over there thinks there nose is too big or there ears are too small. Chances are that kid who cringes to put on his glasses everyday feels just like you do now, wondering what others will think of what makes him human.

Perhaps I’d reassure him that everybody has stretch marks, even the biggest, strongest athletes. Even his mother, and what could be more beautiful than sacrificing your physical form to grant another life?

But we all figure it out in our own time.

I know he did.

Clearwater Beach Florida

A kick in the head!

I will always be curious

and allergic to cats.

Ain’t that a kick in the head!

My deepest hearts confession

In your spirit lies perfection

Mind, body, and soul

My deepest hearts confession

What a blessing it is to hold

You close when no one’s guessing

My heart strings don’t you know

Sound only for your blessing

This flame is yours to grow

your conscience

I was this

I was that

I was—rat-a-tat-tat—

Who’s there?

Who’s knocking, oh

Welcome back Jack!

You are here

Door’s open

Let’s have a chit-chat

I am great

I am grand

I am—rat-a-tat-tat—

A friend?

Who’s there?

Who’s knocking at my nerves?

It’s me, your conscience

I am here to serve

You not what you have been

Or whatever you were

I am here as your guide

I am honest

I am pure

My thought among the leaves

The breeze it blows my thought

Away unto the tree

Like branches stretching out

I rustle with the leaves

It’s there among the many

Shadows I can see

The physics of my body

Expand and cease to be

I’m sorry my friend.

I wanted to help you

but hurt you instead.

The least I can say is

I’m sorry my friend.

The most I can do is

tell you I’m here,

no matter the distance

though waters aren’t clear,

it’s times like these—

a balloon in the air—

to let yourself go completely

and live not in fear.

You’re worth more than you know

I know this my friend

so follow your heart, and

try to understand.

I wanted to help you

but hurt you instead.

The least I can say is

I’m sorry my friend.

soup

I eat my soup,

and only eat my soup

mindful that—

With my teeth

I chew.

With my throat

I swallow.

With my belly

I digest.

With my mind

I taste.

With my body

I savor.

—the rest can wait.

Tell me a story

There’s a part of me

that see’s this all clearly

like a child standing in a crowd

there’s really only one way out.

What is it that you see

it’s fine to disagree

why if the world’s mine oyster please

forgive me for the lack of belief.

I had this faith in you

I thought you had it too

how many smiles does it take to show

the unhappiness we grew to know.

Do you take this hand

would you understand

lighting matches just to prove you could

did it ever do you any good?

Tell me a story, one without love, cause it’s taken me for granted so many times—enough.

There’s a part of you

engrained in me now

I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit

it’s a piece I won’t ever regret.

So what’s the point of these prose

and insecurity poems

like a fish needs water to breathe

I guess it really isn’t up to me.

If this is just a passing feeling

I’ll agree to disagree then

watch the sun rise and fall once more

a couple hours then I’ll start the chore.

You see I know my problems

it’s not up to you to solve them

if I go out the Hemingway

like Kerouac first I’ll have my say so

Tell me a story, one without love, cause I’ve taken you for granted so many times—c’mon.

Tell me a story, one without love, cause it’s taken me for granted so many times—enough.

footnotes in nursery rhyme

Got up this morning ahead of my time

shook fear from my hair and tears from my eyes

took to the mirror and spoke to this guy

who said he knew me from before —

it’s there that he unlocked the door.

He gave me a sunrise he gave me his hand

he told me a secret I could understand

life isn’t a journey or destination

it’s your choice to choose to buy in —

for me it’s better not to win.

So I sharpened my memory and tore out his tongue

recycled the organ from which I’d dislodged

filled it with the secret and sealed it shut

if X marks the spot then I’m fine —

love’s just footnotes in nursery rhyme.

Connecting the dots which soon filled my head

aligned with ideas I spoke with each step

life ain’t no cake walk or deal with respect

it’s your throat or mine well of course —

I’d take mine to spare you the course.

It’s kill or be killed so I’m on my knees

no fear any longer just tranquility

it’s obvious ain’t it half hearted pity

runs deep like the roots of despair —

no one’s got the cure or should dare.

So with that in mind one swift hit should do

a hole in the head hell it ain’t nothing new

I was head over heals now I’m sinking through

the clouds which look soft from afar —

at the end of this there’s only dark.

With all things considered it’s lovely I guess

like spilled paint confetti this hole in my chest

I’ve dug it before since third grade I guess

my actions speak louder than words —

it’s all been a blessing and curse.