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

Leaves they fall in autumn

Everyone has problems

More elaborate than my own

Like these they fall in autumn

Their limbs are all exposed

I want to tell them something

Assure they’re not alone

Still leaves they fall in autumn

Sometimes to live you’ve got to die.

Some say the world’s worth saving

Some say we’ll never know

Like a corn cob pipe and button

Left in the melting snow

A fireplace can warm you

For a while from the cold

Still a child holds his coal eyes

And now he knows.

It’s not his fault that his friend must go

Either way he’s gonna cry

You’re beautiful so it’s logical

This season’s just a state of mind

If I could save you, you know I would

But even I know that’s a lie

See summers change and then grow cold

It’s no longer up to me to decide

Seated in the summer sun

Seated in the summer sun

drenched in heat

reading a novel, alone

how sweet.

With memories of you

drenched in heat,

feet stretched out

along the beach.

Where in the summer sun

you’d sit and read

a novel too, my mother

sweet.

While you’d watch us kids

the swimming sea,

and how you read

effortlessly,

I never wondered then

like I do now,

how a quiet lesson

could teach me how.

I turn each page

my mind at rest,

my mother’s sun

warm on my chest.

This Adam’s apple is proof of Eve

Did you think it would be that easy

just to walk away.

Like we were the 30th of April

now it’s the 1st of May.

The sun here is always shining

yet I still see rain.

I was California dreaming

just to numb the pain.

Awake

or asleep

It doesn’t really make a difference

Blue

or green

The ocean looks the same

Black

or white

Just pictures on a TV screen

You

and I

We’re searching for significance

I guess…

You had to make your move

like we were playing chess.

Across from one another

we are at our best.

Stuck between the sun and moon

like all the rest.

Before my Confirmation

I never did confess.

Up

or down

The world’s full of extremes

Then

or now

The choices never change

Commit

or don’t

Either way there’s so much pain

You

and I

We’re just finger painting our esteem

I guess…

Then a baby’s born

Then another one and then some more

While a preemie dies

It’s not her fault that he’s premature

Grief

or guilt

Both come in due time

Live

or die

Flip a coin put it aside

Bitter

or sweet

This Adam’s apple is proof of Eve

You

and I

Banished from that Garden

we couldn’t find.

Still, did you think it would be that easy

just to walk away?

Casco Bay

Life was shit

and life

was all we had

stuck staring

at the Casco Bay

from a lighthouse

that dark summer

where nothing

would go right

and everything went

predictably wrong.

We held each other

in the morning fog

sharing our breath

as if on life support

barely hanging on

you and I and a plug

but we’d picked blueberries

earlier that month

and though life

was shit that summer

nothing went to waste.

deserted summers

like fine grains

of sand

everyone I love

falls through my hands

to a beach

of salty air

and deserted

summers

I wade

at bay with the tide

which pulls me

further

and further

from the shore

the naked and clothed

If you can manipulate life into a form

that suits your needs then wear it.

Or walk naked if you have to.

Either way,

Winter is cold. Summer is warm.

Spring is boundless. And the Fall is inevitable.

In this life

the naked and clothed

are one and the same

some just get lucky

while others wear the blame.