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I have no regrets
starting a landscaping job this summer
after responding to a newspaper advertisement.

During my phone interview
with my soon-to-be boss Jeff,
I learned that this seasonal job
meant working in a team of two.
Jeff said this guy’s name was Mel,
A man who claims over twenty years of experience
piping sewer systems
for the Martinsburg water filtration plant
on top of his continued seasonal work
weeding streets, painting curbs,
and waving to city neighbors.
I usually go along with what I’m given,
but I’m an inexperienced worker,
let alone in pairs of teams.
I also wasn’t happy about working with another guy.
I often think that any person I work with
Will be my age, someone I already know (heaven forbid I should be picked on doubly),
And someone else who doesn’t know the job either.

Not that I’m a full-time feminist,
but I haven’t had many enjoyable moments
associating with the guys
outside my family,
most men I’ve met
are largely competitive, pride-absorbing carnivores.

I was met with relief
when I found out my colleague
is a 72-year-old Mel who seems slow at first glance
yet I am barely able to keep pace with him painting and weeding along streets.

When I first heard my colleague’s name,
I didn’t stereotype.

I honestly assumed my coworker would be my age.
My mental picture of my colleague
was only half wrong:
He may be wrinkled and gray on the outside,
with a raspy voice that quakes his loose dentures on the inside,
but his attitudes and actions haven’t caught up with the times.
I occasionally see him
staring me down while I’m painting
to make sure I don’t overpaint or angle the roller
at an up-down stroke position.
And when I’m driving the company car,
he’ll calmly let out an “Easy there!”
when I’m only going 15 on a 25.


The saying goes:
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
And a thousand pictures can grow
from one word:
Mel.
Last prompt of my two-week poetry lesson with Dawn Leas.  What a breath of sunshine and ray of air!
I wanted to voluntarily give my time
in 2011
without any parental/outside influence
to build my own heart
and my own destiny.

I’m sure people have had plenty of dates
with Destiny,
leaving Fate to pay the tab.
What Destiny didn’t tell me
at age fourteen
are that churches that mingle together
are still different populations
with different works of focus.

In the Catholic tradition,
any Catholic can go to any designated church
for holy communion,
holding constant how anyone can attend anywhere.

I received more than the church
when I wanted to go to camps
with another church outside my family’s church.
Rather, I got a helping of obedience, discipline,
work, teasing, trouble, uneasy fellowship,
and a deacon who I believe was never true to the words
he preached.

This deacon, Dave Galvin, was not a personal
heart-to-heart person.
All he did, at least to me,
was assign me to loads of work,
answer my problems by pooling for other people’s answers,
and keep camps and youth of his church
[yes, not even being the lead pastor]
on as inflexible of a schedule as possible.

I almost think some days
he wanted me to starve,
because suffering makes him smile.
Most times around this minister
I would take my life as a failure
if I didn’t understand his instructions
Or didn’t have a faux homily lined up
in less than a minute
for a homiletics competition among
other high-school guys at the time.

He rarely smiled during services
unless the priest made a joke.
Gossip says that his family cheats
with religious obligations.
It wouldn’t surprise me
if this man’s family were another
cover-up story.

There’s no genuine fun with this man.
Being around his church and his mannerisms
almost trapped me permanently from recognizing life
outside being pruned as a seminary prodigy,
trapped as a Trappist.

And yet most people mimic him
and reference his motives and leadership.
Being the only one at most church activities
with Dave
from an alien church of another town,
I tried so hard to keep my mind from being controlled
and of being intensely Catholicized
to the point of breaking down.

Now, what I make of my former interactions
with Dave’s church
is meat for my resumes
and stories to recount.
I thought I was free-will from the Divine
not Dave’s puppet.
To be honest, I followed Grammarly's edits on some lines slightly before I published this poem.  Prompt 5 was the strongest prompt for me to write on...about someone that stirred aggression in me.  I may sound like an innocent church boy with how I word this poem, but the feeling has been real to me.
I have the greatest friendship
with a local Lutheran pastor
because of her willingness
to contribute her thoughts
for an article I hurriedly wrote and published in 2017
on the Protestant Reformation.
She also allowed me the next year
to vent and cry my social troubles to her
for four hours at her office,
like a mother addressing her child’s cry.
In the brief time I have known Pastor Karen,
she continues to be the most passionate person
about living life positively
and about praying for animals.
Pastors will talk creation
at services I attend,
but it’s not too often I hear ministers
set aside social intentions to specify creational matters
as a Sunday prayer.
Pastor Karen is such an important person for me to know,
Being the first woman and Protestant minister
I ever truly befriended.


An Office Depot employee named Matt
remembers my name.
Matt gives business interaction
a whole new meaning:
The secret to his successful customer interaction
is the genuine tone of his voice:
Matt’s voice sounds as though
talking gives him purpose,
while he listens just as sincerely
Happily anticipating relatable life scenarios
from customers.

Skylar,
my friend who works at a homeless shelter,
gives inspiration to young adults like me.
She radiantly exemplifies job loyalty
As house-monitor every weekend.
I usually drop by to hand over donation goods
such as toys for the younger females of the shelter
and foods as peanut butter (a favorite!), alkaline water,
chicken tenders, organic raisin bran cereals,
and toiletries as toilet paper and Kleenex.
There have been times though
where I wanted to just see her.
I told her how I felt, once,
directly asking her in her office
while she was sipping her latte
If she’d want to meet up outside the women’s shelter
for a date.
Skylar informed me that my gesture was sweet,
but she prefers being single out of her own choice.
Skylar likes being single.
No blame there.
Each time I visit,
she’s either helping a resident,
cooking a meal for all in-house patrons,
or in her office
doing administrative work.
Though I don’t see myself as a rule-follower
when it comes to religious teachings
as fasting
or simple slip-ups
as tracking shoes in the house,
the way Skylar abides by company policies
Reminds me that even being a free young adult
has its boundaries
and responsibilities
on and off the clock.

I’ve heard it said
That the world is one big family.
I don’t deny that statement,
but until I meet everyone around the world, in the jungles,
departed, yet to be,
the family I have
are the ones who remember me.
I am a son, a friend, and a rewards member.
Out of a couple prompt options once again, I slelcted to have this poem be about inspirational people to me.
The best learning
comes from putting books aside
and discovering the public world
on the road.

A few years back,
I put my textbooks on hold
To take a trip to DC’s
Native American museum.

My favorite scene of the museum
was the wall
commemorating the Navajo Code Talkers
of World War II.
As I walked around solo,
I pretended that I was my dad
walking around slowly and curiously.

The moment I entered the museum,
I lost track of my campus group
among bustling tourists and museum enthusiasts.
But shouting for my mom
hours away
might have only made me
stranger than a stranger.

Crossing several lanes of traffic
in search of dinner
felt like a level of Frogger (Seinfeld reference).
I wasn’t expecting dinner and a show,
but apparently the show came first
when a man named Dan
intercepted my path to a McDonald’s corner restaurant.

It was no surprise that a fellow loitering the streets
would turn out asking me for money.
I hypnotically scoured my pants pocket
and unfurled an Alexander Hamilton bill
for Dan to confiscate.


Surprisingly, Dan refused a quick grab-n-go.
Coolly, and I kid you not,
He wanted to perform a service
Before compensation.

Dan apparently wanted to earn his money
By singing a song.
All I remember from Dan’s singing
Was how he sounded pitch-perfect,
Like a sincere American Idol audition.

The glitz, government, and grub
of DC
Will never beat the day
Dan and I met on a backstreet sidewalk.
I selected to base prompt number three here on a trip I took away from family.
Bonjourno, paisanos!
Didn’t think I could say actual words,
right?
Most of us virtual protagonists
like Pac Man and Crash Bandicoot
don’t talk much since we are
systematically required to listen
to enemy plans and damsel-in-distress gratitudes,
to actively work to stay alive,
making it hard to breathe
and cough up a sentence or two.

Now that I momentarily have the freedom
of [legitimate] speech,
I’ll let you in on my thoughts
about comrades, enemies, and my abilities…

Most days I can’t stand
how a princess like Toadstool
keeps falling into the wrong hands.
Even us characters have a life
when gaming systems power off.
Most days I’m not the only hero
but the co-hero.
Though most times my friend Toad and brother Luigi
are scared of warding off intrusions,
they’re my only reinforcements.

My archnemesis Bowser and his army of koopa-turtles and armless goombas
aren’t too bright.
When Bowser acquires power-ups beyond
my virtual abilities as an inner-city plumber,
I scurry to find others who know
Bowser’s vulnerable spots
and who help me gain acrobatic abilities.

The food I eat
Provides strength and focus--
like mushrooms that make me grow taller, smaller, and lengthen
my lifespan.

I’m sure some of you wish
you could hop across wide crevices
or defeat troublesome figures.

Thanks to gamers and patrons
who adventure through space and evolving scenery
with me.
I hope in the midst of Rockwell-style art in motion,
you all take away real-life lessons.
Wahoo!
For this prompt, I had to choose a fictional character to write about in the first person.
Parties, sleepovers,
and making it to the weekend
were and are familial excuses
to pull out foods I drool[ed] over
such as fried chicken in the evening
and donuts in the mornings.

Another special fun-food excuse I recall
was a time my Granny and Pappy (maternally related)
patiently endured a three-hour car ride
to visit my family in West Virginia.

[The mystery of their visits
Is how my dad successfully shrouds himself
the majority of the time his in-laws so lodge.]

Something as simple as a supper
felt like a Cold War:
My dad and Pappy
seated at either end of the table.
The sour taste of the evening
wasn’t the skim milk I almost drank.
with saucy spaghetti,
But how my grandfather offered me
a disproportionate beverage
(I had a harder time rejecting offers, then)
and how my dad softly yet sternly
shook his head to my left
with a frowned mouth and anger-stirred eyebrows.

My dad would have been louder
about saving my stomach the trouble
had I not been fearful of loud voices
other than my own,
Whether with sarcastic laughter included
or loud with revealing words.

Caught in the middle as always,
I listened to my dad,
mentally recalling my last comsumable experiment:
When I swallowed rigatoni pasta
without giving the due mechanical digestion.
My stomach acid was angry with my pathetic transition
from eating pasta and feeling fine
to constant flushing behind closed doors.



My dad and Pappy don’t get along.
Years ago I asked my mom privately
why they only say hi and bye
at family gatherings.
My mom could only shrug,
saying how Pappy and Dad
simply had different views of life
that somehow can’t overlap
in harmony.
I’m not a peacemaker,
but I’d prefer not to be a sitcom family
of disconnection.

Suppose there’s a reason
why most grandparents
and their adult children
don’t constantly interact:
If they can’t homogenize their realities,
they don’t mix.
This poetry prompt I was assigned sought to dig into a family relationship to write about.
This is just a brief commentary that these next six poems I post are from taking an online corresponding poetry lesson with a poet named Dawn Leas.  She's a poet of the times and has contemporary empathy for the writers of this millennium.  I mention this as well as these poems are based on her edits as well.  Enjoy.
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