Friday, May 22, 2009

Черная карта

I love to watch my coach in competition
(well, love and dread
Sometimes it’s both in equal measure)
After I bomb out
I find his pod and settle in to watch the
Opera, drama, Grand Guignol
Braiding my damp hair while
Waiting for the curtain’s rise

The first DEs are prelude
Overture, a preface to the show
Simple touches,
Economy of effort
Humor, joy, exhilaration
Shining through his actions
Very little hint of what’s to come

Climbing up the ladder
Always, there’s a point where
Things get tight
Storm clouds rumble in the wings
Foreshadowing the tumult that’s to come
Disturbing echoes of the past

Cue the tactically timed delays
To wipe the face
Adjust the mask
Straighten the blade…repeatedly
The ref would never let me get away with this
Somehow, he pulls it off, if only just

At last, the crunch
The score is close, the calls perhaps a little warped
And (hold on tight) the tempest breaks
The air is ionized with his intensity
Every atom vibrates, close to nuclear implosion
--Stomping back and forth
--Jamming his weapon’s tip into the floor
--“Requests” for explanation (with thinly veiled contempt
And indignation)

He’s awesome in his lack of inhibition
Truly a force of nature
(A fecund nature that brings hail, earthquake, wildfire, flood
And similar disasters
Oblivious to human cost)

Spectators shift and murmur
Distressed by this uncouth deviation from the script
Of civilized convention
His opponent’s contingent (teammates, relatives)
Cluck and disapprove
Try to parse his Slavic exclamations
Comment loudly for the ref to overhear
A harpy chorus chanting from the sides

He takes it to the edge
And frequently beyond
The bout becomes a 3-way contest
Coach, opponent, referee
A triangle of politics, emotion and (oh, right) athletic skill

It’s then, when tension ratchets to the max
I fix my gaze on the ref’s hand
Watch its every twitch and drift
In the direction of her
Blazer pocket
I hold my breath
Alert anticipation
Will the cards stay safely tucked
Inside, if not, which color will emerge?

But ready to skedaddle, fast
If things go wrong--
Not losing, necessarily
A clean touch
A clever act
All good enough, and worthy of respect
But if the timing’s off, a call that deviates from his conviction of
The proper application of the rules then
Watch out
Rage formerly contained within the strip
Bursts its bounds
Becomes a solar flare
That singes anything within its orbit

Now is a golden time to be elsewhere
Preferably innocent of how the bout played out
Who me? I was changing in the locker. What did I miss?

Monday, May 18, 2009


It’s an addiction
I admit
To what…well, that’s a harder question

As Skinner boxes go, it would seem
Immensely inefficient
Random reinforcement
Few and far between
Occasional touches, sporadic runs of competence
A transitory flush of pride

Clearly I need only minor treats to fuel
This stubborn dedication
This (more than) slight imbalance
   - adrenaline
   - ambition
   - a little bit of pain
Enough frustration to make me hunger for another chance

This sport, this hobby, pastime, entertainment (!)
Pushes all my buttons
Taps my fundamental traits
Conviction that perfection can be reached, the only cost
Relentless dedication
A minor loosening of sanity
Nothing too extreme

Deep down, I’m wired to believe
That me, this I
Is able to succeed at anything I try
Despite the massive evidence that contradicts
And so I come back time and time again
Impelled by evolutionary forces to return
And face my limitations

Deep down, I secretly suspect that if
A miracle occurred and
Grace and speed, precision, clever strategy
Descended on my blade, settled in my limbs, that if
I suddenly swept all before me
Small, fierce, clever, brave
This laser focus on my goal would blur, diffuse
And I would be released
Cage sprung, trial ended
Experiment complete

Failing that, about all I can hope for is
A balance of more treats than shocks in this research
On training of the soul
Excuse me while I push this lever one more time…

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vidya and Avidya

I see and do not see
     Your actions
Name them, sure, place neatly in taxonomies but
     Incapable of parsing what they mean

I know and do not know
     How to respond
Theory springs quite readily to mind…
     Half a beat too late

I think and do not think
     Not thinking is the best—
Actions flow unburdened by the mind
     More commonly, my bossy thoughts intrude

I am swept up in flow then pulled up short
     Caught upon my ego, snagged by doubts
Thoughts of self, second-guessing
     Searching for a way to dive back

I flip between these alternative states
     Cycling through unstable combinations
Seeking balance, settled orbit
     Vision, wisdom, spontaneity
Immersion in the now

But that is an illusion, yes?
     Stability’s stagnation by another name
These oscillations generate the power driving me through life
     And if they cease, then what? Disintegration, I suspect

Not that I’m likely to find out…

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Convex Lens

I face each lesson with
A certain trepidation
Take my stance en guard,
Gingerly probe and gauge the evening’s mood

Sometimes your temper is inclined
To mockery
In word
In gesture
Wicked imitation
That spot-on nails my faults
Its funny, true and
(just a little bit) unkind

And sometimes too intense.
Are you frustrated at
The world
Me embodying the world
Or, perhaps, yourself
Your unforgiven flaws?

So thank you for the snapshot, feedback, accurate reflection
(however painful to observe)
But maybe, just a little bit, relax
Have patience with
My tardy comprehension
I’ll work at being playful, patient and persistent
I hope the mirror works both ways
And you absorb my lesson