Tag Archives: tanka

Out of the Draft Box, Part 4: Haiku Today 2015.10.23 —

autumn leaves
(Image credit: Phoenix Wolf-Ray)

falling leaves
wash the ground with death
in color —
unseasonable
as it’s been lately


Here it is, the last post in my draft box. These drafts were nice jump-starts to posts, having a haiku to roll around in my mind while I’m writing out whatever happens to be streaming from my consciousness at the moment. Though I can’t say what I was thinking at the exact moment that I was writing this tanka, I do know that at the time I was starting to figure out that manufacturing was going to eventually do me in.

And by that, I mean to say that I had recognized my folly in thinking that I would ever see any kind of relief from the soul-crushing work schedule I had been subject to whilst working at the Bobcat plant here in Bismarck. This plant had shut down in 2008, just a few months after I relocated here from Detroit, and at the time it was a Union shop. I was told my only way in was to know someone and at the time I really didn’t know anyone. So when the plant re-opened quietly under subcontracted management (Bobcat’s way of snuffing out organized labor, I suppose) I was able to slip in and almost instantly find more gainful employment than what I’d been doing in the interim; but they worked the hell out of us.

When I first started, they had just set up the fab shop. We had some brake presses, a laser, a plasma cutter, a saw, a lathe, and a couple of vertical machine centers. They had us working twelve hours a day, five days a week, and ten hours on Saturday, making parts to feed the weld lines. And for years, they told us they’d cut back hours when we caught up, but we never really caught up. We clamored for years for pay increases that were promised and never delivered.

So at the time I wrote this tanka I was almost three and a half years in, and thinking that one day I was going to just jump into my lathe and let the machine pulverize me.

Of course I wouldn’t do anything like that; but I’m sure we understand that when things get dark, the imagination goes wild.

This is the darkness that pulled me away from writing. I turned to escapist routes to keep me from getting dragged down. I played a lot of video games, I watched a lot of TV, knit a lot of hats, and tried to think hard about what I was doing.

I realized at the time that my folly was in falling to the sunk-cost fallacy of my facile choice to be a fabricator. And it took me another year and a half to feel comfortable enough to extract myself from the situation.

So the question is, where does this particular folly end?

How do I know I’m not making the same mistake right now?

I probably am, and now I wonder whether my folly was in thinking that it was my career choice that was sucking all the joy out of life.

More likely, it was my choice of employer; could I be repeating that folly even now — just going from one disaster to the next? What comes after this, then?

(Image credit: suRANTo dwi saputra, CC0 1.0)

Out of the draft box, part 2: Haiku Today 2015.11.17 —

(Image credit: Eric Huybrechts)

fading ages,
protruding via
tenuous
pockets of space-time
grown cool . . . bitter . . . thin.


January 3, 2022

This is an easy one to knock out. A haiku which felt unfinished, and no longer relevant today. But I breathed some extra room into it — made it tanka — and felt the icy ping of cold air, as I finished it. The original text I’d composed for this photo went:

Faded ages,
protruding
through holes in time

Of course, at the time this was written as a draft and I meant to come back to it. For six or seven years I’ve meant to come back to all of this in some functional way as I struggled in my manufacturing job for fair treatment by my employer. Fair for me, fair for my coworkers, some of whom I still feel don’t make enough even though I haven’t worked the plant since September of 2017. I’ve meant to return to all of this as I worked retail in the interim, as a hardware department floor associate at Menards — as I transitioned to a career in the law enforcement sector, serving my community for real this time.

And the Interwebs and all my readers have been so patient all this time. I’ve had things to resolve, and I’m not even sure I’m all the way through this process as I still deal with some of the hangups I’ve collected throughout my life. Yet here I am, presuming that I am ready to insinuate myself into the blogosphere once more . . .

Is this really a new dawn, or just a waft of scant inspiration? There have been some false starts, of course. It reminds me of quitting cigarette smoking, only in reverse — I had to try several times before I could quit permanently. And yet . . . there have been relapses. So is anything really permanent?

All this to say, I now have this design to pick up my writing once more, but I know I can’t go back to what I was doing before. That’s why I’m cleaning out my draft box. I need to figure out a new direction, or at least create a new plan if I want to go long-term again. I don’t think I will ever say goodnight to this blog, though I’ve considered it before; but I’d love to find a new groove and get back to writing.

I’d love to write more flash fiction for you! 🙂 🙂 🙂

What I wouldn’t do for some bargain-basement inspiration right now . . . I’m so thirsty I just know I would soak it all up like a sponge, and I feel like once I get some momentum I should be able to maintain. I’d build new suburbs of sweet script, neighborhoods of knack, communities of composition — cul-de-sacs of content! And I’d erect it all, block by block right here on WordPress. I can surround and obfuscate those cryptic, monochrome bones with my inspiration. . . .

Then I can forget that they’re still there, and there they will always be.

And in other news, in case we need to know: robssurfreport.com is back.

Blowing Dust

Small comfort,
pithy post-nailed note:
I want you here”
,
scrawled in fading ink
on timeworn paper.

(Image credit: στρατός. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

There are days, and then . . . there are days. It seems like there’s been a lot of those days lately, and with the holiday season in full swing there’s the added stress of things to do, people to see, dealing with shopping for people . . . things can get just a tad overwhelming.

And is it me, or are people getting harder to shop for anymore?

Lately I’ve been feeling a little touched out by the constant activity. Not to mention I’m falling behind on fitness. I’ve got a whole bunch of things I’d like to be working on but I have no time for. My guitars are dusty and lonely. I need to just take some time off to decompress but we’re too short-staffed at work to allow for it and the first available days off are out in February, so . . . screw me, I guess! The only way to get time off is to be sick, and I’m famous for not getting sick. 200 hours of sick leave: pointless. Over eighty hours of vacation time: unusable.

And then there’s the real enigma: how I can do my very best at my job, improve on practically everything I do, pull off some great work and train great people on how to do our jobs well, and get trashed on my yearly performance evaluation by — apparently — the only person whose opinion matters; based on situations and metrics that either can’t or won’t ever be corroborated; to the confusion of the other supervisor who had to read the eval to me, who later told me that he tried to back me up but . . . well, we both know how that goes with the boss. Once something’s on paper, boy it is done! There’s no defense, there’s no reasonable explanation, and there’s no appeal that’s going to make that steaming, smelly pile of contrivances go away.

"starr-100218-2532-Dianella_sandwicensis-habitat_with_helicopter_landing_and_blowing_dust-Helu_West_Maui-Maui" by Starr Environmental is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I suppose I’m fortunate that this has no other negative effect on me other than weighing heavily on me; in order to keep this career I have to just accept my fate and admit that I will never have any chance at success so long as I am assigned to this shift. I’d have a better chance making it as a helicopter pilot. Good news is, my boss’ boss wants me here so I guess . . . that makes it better?

Yep. I guess I have to keep that bit close to heart, to keep me warm during our 30 days of nights.

(Image credit: Starr Environmental. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.)

I had to get that off my chest, anyway; I apologize if it’s a real downer. There’s certain “morbid” statistics associated with careers in law enforcement, and though I never intend to be a statistic, I’m starting to see how one gets behind that curtain. This job attracts certain types of people, and some of them should not be given power over others. For my part, I just want to help people — legitimately, help them. I think I do that well but I’ll never win any awards doing it and I’m fine with that. Just don’t micromanage me, nitpick me, poke or prod me with baseless accusations and falsified accounts of behavior that no one else can verify. Don’t lie on me and then laugh it off like it’s the end of a Scooby-Doo episode. That shit burns.

Forget about the holidays. The rhetoric about the time of year, how we should be all happy and nice and forgive people their trespasses, all that noise; make it a way of life. Those whom you have responsibility over, make sure you support them and validate their work. Don’t forget that they’re human beings. Don’t squash them because you think it makes you look good, like you’re doing your job when you’re letting others get away with murder. You know who’s going through a lot right now? Everybody. Don’t be a dick.

That’s my PSA; I sincerely hope you enjoy the remainder of 2021, in case I don’t get a chance to write again this year.

*This post was brought to you by Tanka, where Haiku is a lesser included offence

Not just another Tanka Tuesday

Have you ever found yourself clearing out a craft space that has long sat unusued, only to discover a finished product that never saw the light of day?

I said the other day I’d be working my way through the handful of drafts in my draft folder. Here’s one that I found today, and it was fully written. Here it is, with zero changes. Originally written on December 20, 2016, this post dates from about a year after the lights started going out on my original spate of blogging . . . about three years solid, and five years since post one (seriously, I just scrolled through all of it; Holy Hannah Banana, I have a ton of material!) Today this blog is nearly eleven years old and I have some cobwebs to clean out, but as it turns out, I also have something left over to offer — a little look into the mood that pulled me off the page for so long . . . .

room by room
turning off the lights
unsure as to why
I get the impression
it’s time to withdraw


I’m pretty sure I’ve been islanding. I’m almost certain that it’s not entirely my fault — I blame some of it on climate change. Things aren’t the way they used to be, and I can’t tell whether that’s because I’m always either resisting or having trouble keeping up, or whether it’s simply because I am no longer a kid, and I get that now. 

Every year the ocean levels are rising, and the shores of my island become smaller. I’m being forced inward. 

Or maybe it’s supposed to be like this. As the drum beats time marches on, and as we disconnect from the Matrix of old social paradigms the tubes and wires connecting us to them pop off, leaving us cold and alone in our very own pod, surrounded by a sea of machines and trite little tchotchkes, a blip of life in a Universe drowned in invisible data.

But I can’t believe that; it’s fatalistic. It’s dark, I know — and I promise that it won’t always be this way. But sometimes to find treasure you have to be willing to dig through a mountain of trash, decaying remnants of old life, mouldering bones and offal. It’s a dirty job for sure, but someone ought to do it. 

I’ve had the good fortune to be a WordPress blogger for years, even in spite of long absences, and this place has helped shape who I am. Writing gives us an outlet and a place to put our thoughts and ideas in order. To put ourselves in order. And I must write more, or risk losing myself in the shuffle. And I guess that means getting some of this stuff off of my chest and working it out. 

I find it ironic that I use this space to talk about how I see technology as an increasingly efficient disabler of the natural social construct, leaving unfulfilled more and more the visceral call to community that built the world that made WordPress possible. 

Maybe it’s evolution, or maybe someday it will turn out that my job was to document the fall of humanity. If so, then I might be woefully behind as outsiders have already set up shop within our borders. Or maybe I’m just looking for something other than myself to blame. 

This is me, digging. 

Tanka Tuesday 2016.07.12 —

Guest
Image credit: Andrey (CC BY 2.0)

 

bumbling off
the guest will take
leave behind
transferring spirits
communion of souls

 


 

Nothing is better than having guests to break up the routines of our daily lives. People like Mme. Ross and I — that is, people who don’t thrive in large social circles — craft our lives day by day in the comfort of our home and our lives there. The occasional gathering of our closest friends really brings something to our home, and we do our best to give back as well. We help our friends move, we make them our neighbors, and we share what we have with them. To live that life on a permanent, unbroken basis seems like an idyllic dream.

On the other hand, to go to work forty hours a week for people with ridiculous, half-hearted, loosely-applied restrictions on the use of personal technology; who rarely appreciate what I’m bringing to the proverbial table; and who seem to specialize only in making others feel stupid for being themselves; had begun to seem like an awful chore until the plant was given the week off for the 4th of July, and while I thought that going back after that week off would be like more of the same torture, it seems as though the days are going fast, maybe speeding me along toward the next Summer adventure.

Or maybe it’s just a small respite in that tug-of-war.

I sometimes feel like a guest in my own life — like nothing I do entitles me to comfort or indulgence. As though very little that I do gives me a reasonable excuse to be the selfish person that I often see in myself. I stay withdrawn, and the work life that drives to the rhythm of hammers on metal while presenting as a music video fit for the Doors’ People Are Strange becomes the theme I take home in my head as I frustrate myself trying to pound some inspiration into the hearts of those who feel like their only purpose at work is to make a paycheck. To work as little as possible, think as little as possible, never realizing that it’s easier than they’re making it out to be. I often end up taking that unwelcome guest home with me.

A little effort goes a long way, is all I’m saying. But what if I’m putting too much effort into the wrong endeavors?

It would be interesting if every day was a different event — a parade, a carnival in the park, a bike ride along the river. Somehow our culture insinuates the fulfillment of that dream in a life that often demands more of us than we can reasonably give. It stretches us dangerously thin, like worn-out bubblegum.

Where can we reasonably say “no”?

Now there’s something to chew on.

 



Looking for a word to cunningly inspire the perfectly-crafted spontaneous blog post? Try the one-word prompt at the Daily Post — probably the best thing since split infinitives.

Tanka Today 2015.09.30 —

040/365v2 The Incoming Tide
(Image credit: Mark Seton)

washed out
but never washed away —
the tide
inevitably
returns things mislaid

 


 

What do you do when impossible notions intrude upon your peace of mind? 

Like how recently I caught myself thinking, ‘maybe I should admit that I’ve given up on writing and blogging and whatnot, and learn to deal with the fact that I’m not the kind of person that does those things anymore.’ I think this more and more as time slips away while I make no meaningful contribution to the blogosphere, and yet I can’t pull the plug on it because I can’t stop thinking about it — about writing. It’s a silly, presumptuous thing for me to pretend like I have nothing to contribute — in effect hoarding all the little thought-gems that get mined from my mind. It’s selfish and at some point it needs to stop. 

I defy the notion that I’m a non-writer who obsesses about writing and lets the fact that he’s not writing eat away at him and his fingernails.

I’m always so preoccupied, so heavyset with goals and plans and to-dos that it’s ridiculous to think that I keep forgetting to bring a notepad with me to write down the little seeds that become ideas, leaving me wondering, “what’s the big idea?”

I think the Summer came and ran away with me!

Some of the things I have planned involve finishing the playhouse I built for my daughter before it decides to snow, slinging the kayaks to the garage wall for the winter so we can use the garage loft for storing rummage sale boxes, fixing the little hole in the roof of my Jeep so water doesn’t leak in when it rains (for now I have duct tape on it,) and building a ramp for my barbecue grill so it’s not such a pain to get from the garage to the patio about a dozen feet away — because of two stairs, it must either be lifted/lowered or wheeled around the entire house!

Another thing I’d like to do is build a rack for the kayaks that would attach to a small trailer, but first I would have to learn how to weld. So at work I’ve tried using my charm and chutzpah — not to mention putting my reputation for good work out there — in an effort to get transferred into the weld department; so far, though, I’ve gotten nowhere with that. It’s not as though I want to learn to weld for just the one project, but I’ve been interested in welding for a long time. I’m a fabricator, after all, and welding is a fabrication skill — one of the few that I don’t have under my belt. 

So for now, it’s just a plan. Between now and then if I find myself washed back out to sea and washed up on some foreign shore, or even swirling around in the Pacific Garbage Patch, there’s sure to be some adventure to find, some trouble to get into; I may be at the mercy of the tides, but I’ll be damned if I won’t find a story to tell now and again. 


Lazy Learners | The Daily Post

Double-edged, from swords to razors — Tanka Today 2015.05.20

ALT-TEXT
(Image credit: Bowfinger26)

an open mouth
exposes secrets
widely prized —

a tremendous risk
for good luck or ill



Beard, beard, beard. What do you do when you have just one word with which to spark a discussion?

Beard

I cut off my beard a couple of weeks ago. 

It was glorious. 

Safety Razor Set - A safety razor, shaving bru...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have been trying to get myself into the swing of wet shaving for the past several years, with mixed results. Wet shaving is where you use a safety razor, a brush, and shaving soap to shave; and in case you didn’t know, a safety razor is one old-school tool that holds those double-edged razor blades infamous for being used incorrectly on the wrists. That’s not meant to be funny or anything, though. I totally disapprove of self-destructive acts in general. 

I have been having more success of late, mostly due to the decision that not washing my face prior to shaving was proving detrimental to the experience. I’d end up looking like a crime scene, trying to stanch the blood for what seemed like forever. 

English: Drawing from US patent 775,134 (safet...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I really want to get the hang of this, because in my opinion it’s beneficial on several levels. For one thing, it’s dead cheap. The razor, the brush, and the shaving mug are a relatively small investment over the long term, because they’re more or less permanent. And my razors? They’re antiques. Oldies but goodies from as far back as the 1930’s. I can get new blades for pennies apiece, and each one is good for several shaves. Shaving soap is cheap, too.

And wet shaving is not the same slapdash affair that a plastic razor or some fancy deal with five blades and a vibrating lubricant strip were designed to facilitate; wet shaving is a meditation.

This meditative act — the washing, the lubricating, the lathering, the application of the blade with almost zero pressure in carefully measured short strokes — it all demands a focus, a mindfulness that transcends all the trite little acts that comprise the modern definition of grooming;

wet shaving is its own thing.

And see, I hit upon this realization when I was shaving once prior to shaving off my beard. Attempting to round out my ideas, I texted my friend Zach and asked him for his thoughts on wet shaving. “It’s for a blog post,” I said. “The more abstract the better.” I was dipping into his fountain of experience because I knew he had cracked the code, and he was the only person other than myself that I could draw upon for some reflections regarding the art of wet shaving.

He must have misunderstood me, however, because he came back at me with a sort of how-to — his process of shaving. This is what I mean about meditation, after all: it’s a process and I knew Zach had it down to the letter, but up to then I hadn’t realized how much I didn’t know about the process of wet shaving. Where I had researched, he must have pored over and sifted through the whole Internet. That’s what he does. He had developed his own recipe for shaving oil, for Pete’s sake, and that’s also what he does!

I replied to his email to tell him that I was looking for something more reflective, more abstract. He said he would get back to me, but he hasn’t yet. In the meantime, I did the only thing I could do with what he had sent me:

I shaved off all of my facial hair.

I left my eyebrows, of course, but I got everything else. I followed the spirit of Zach’s how-to to the letter, and afterward I felt just like Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption; like I had just crawled through a river of crapola and came out clean as a whistle on the other side. I had found the missing links in my clumsy attempts to shave vintage-style, and I could practically hear Morgan Freeman narrating my triumph. It doesn’t get any better than that, folks!

Not that I have any problem with beards. I had this Lemmy thing going on for the last couple of years: the muttonchops with the attached moustache. I’d call it the ol’ Burnsides, but it just didn’t get that bushy. I’d love to grow one of those thick, bushy beards, but my hair doesn’t grow like that; it grows straight and is fairly thin. I think I’d do well with a thin beard, but right now I’m sporting what I like to call my “Summer-face”, and it does get people talking at work. I showed up that Monday morning for the department meeting and I could tell when The Sarge saw me that he approved. Everyone had something to say. Joltin’ Joe told me that I had dropped ten years, and I told him I appreciated that, seeing as how I’m pushing forty. Carlos said I was messing with his head; every time he saw me he thought I was a new guy.

But I’m still me.

Still pushing to live my adventure —

Still exploring.

🙂

(The One-Minute Writer’s One Word Wednesday: Beard | Header image by Alan Levine)

What are we trying to hide? — Tanka Today 2015.04.26

Little Frog by Bart Van Dorp
(Image credit: Bart Van Dorp)

nestled frog
back against a wall —
one way out;

just a moment’s peace
in a savage world

 


Sometimes it seems no matter how advanced humanity becomes, the elements of our lives will always boil down to the basic set of behaviors that early humans must have used to survive and thrive where they lived long ago. With little more than rough-hewn tools of wood, stone, horn and bone, they began carving their name into the surface of the earth. First we put our initials on this tree of life, and then over time the graffiti proliferated until it was hard to see the tree for all the carving on its trunk —

only the tree is still there.

The wilderness remains
unchanged
beneath the hard, slick veneer —
the software layer —
of the modern day.
We think we’re smart;
we ranged
and we conquered with concrete
the hardware of life
that made us this way.
We tear it to bits,
inputs for the machines
that give us the warm fuzzies . . .
and we conquer all
but ourselves.

I find that society itself is a denial that this is a savage world, and that lasting, inner peace is something that must be manufactured whole-cloth within each of us; because in truth every moment of peace is a win that cannot last too long. Flexibility and resilience are two of the most valuable virtues one can possess, and analytic introspection the highest skill; yet these aren’t enhanced by our educational systems. They must be self-taught, and thus we find ourselves living in this lie, that school has all the answers to making it in the real world.

 Don’t forget about the old school. This world we’ve built is no safer than the one it was built over. There are predators all around, and you’re always being evaluated as potential prey. Learn to roll with the punches and change direction as necessary. Discover community with others nearby.

And of course, don’t take yourself too seriously. There is no inner peace until we choose to find it within, in spite of everything we dislike about the world and the way it works.

🙂


 

(Header image by Alan Levine)

Tanka Today 2015.03.26 —

ALT-TEXT
(Image credit: Martin Fisch)

 

jungle’s germ
defies desert soil —
oasis;

the chain reaction
is unstoppable.

 


Throwback Thursday: Writing About Something

Where does the time go, that time I once had in dribs and drabs — that time I once stole, that once was slated for production with ideas in mind? Did the river run dry?

Did the dunes come from nowhere, like the waves of an Ocean’s   -1   — rising, cresting, falling like water as the Sun grew hotter with ire for inspiration’s slaughter burning in my eyes?

It was a sandstorm, and it came as it went.

Then:

peeking through . . .

the hint of something

hidden for a bit, but not gone forever.

“Go ahead; take it and run.”

I am a Time Thief,

incorrugible.

(Header image by Alan Levine)

Tanka Today 2015.02.23 —

Trees in Winter
(Image credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy)

foreign sights
where sunk costs are weighed —
turning points
often marked too late
for a traveller’s taste

 


   (Header image by Alan Levine)