Tag Archives: introspection

The Hardest Prayers

Some may think it kind
To pray for others success.
But one may come to find
In that prayer, distress:

He wishes her success in her goals,
He prays fervently for it, but there’s a toll:
Much to his dismay,
Her goals will take her away.

Can he secretly hope she fails,
While praying she gets that letter in the mail?
No, ’tis selfish, ’tis not love.
He’ll send a unified message above.

Each time her departure is spoken of,
Part of his heart withers,
And though it goes against his druthers,
He’ll hope for that which sorrow comes of.

©2015 H.K. Longmore

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Taking the Fun out of Jokes (Or, Finding Truth in (Insensitive) Humor)

A coworker told a joke that went something like this:

A young boy with Down syndrome had moved to a new neighborhood, and was waiting for the school bus. When the bus arrived, the driver opened the door, and the boy said, “Good morning”. The driver slammed the door shut and left. Hurt, he told his mother about the incident.

The next day, when the driver opened the door, the boy tried again to be friendly, but got the same result. Again, his mother had to comfort him and encourage him to keep trying. But she decided she would walk with her son to the bus stop the next day.

In the morning, the mother walked her son to the bus stop and waited with him for the bus. The bus arrived, and the boy greeted the driver again. The driver slammed the door and drove off.

The next morning, before her son could greet the driver, the mother asked, “Why are you being so rude to my child with Down syndrome?”

The driver replied, “‘Cuz hees alway ma’on fun o mi.”

Most jokes have at least a shred of truth to them; that’s part of what makes them funny. But before we all decide this was a distasteful, insensitive joke (or, for those who already have, before we start deriding the teller), let’s consider what truth there might be in it. On one level, there’s the caricaturization of the speech patterns of people with Down syndrome. This is at once what makes the joke funny, and what makes the joke insensitive. A nice bit of irony, that the joke can’t be funny without being insensitive. But let’s not stop there, no. Let’s dig deeper.

What other truth could there be here? Let’s analyze the speech and actions of the boy and the bus driver. First, the bus driver. We know, from the end of the joke, that the bus driver assumed that the boy was making fun of him when he tried to be friendly. We can suppose that prior experiences taught him that when people talk to him the same way he talks, they are making fun of him. We can also suppose that as he matured, he learned the “flight” response was usually the best when it comes to “fight or flight”. So, he naturally dealt with the emotional sting of perceiving that he was being made fun of by closing the door and leaving.

The boy assumed that the bus driver, never having heard him talk, was a normal adult, and as an adult, was expected to act responsibly toward children. This expectation was rightly shared by his mother—indeed, she was likely the source of his expectation. So when the driver closed the door and drove away, he felt the emotional sting of being excluded.

So what can we take from this? I would say the deeper kernel of truth in this joke turns it from a joke into a short parable. We don’t always understand the motives of others, their life experiences, what burdens they carry. We would do well to seek to understand others before assigning meanings to their words or actions that aren’t there (or that maybe are, but they deserve the benefit of the doubt). Even here, with this joke, we can assume that someone telling this joke meant to be cruel or insensitive, or we can assume that they were telling it as a parable: “Please don’t react before trying to understand. Please don’t be hurt by what seems to be on the surface something cruel or insensitive; reach out to those around you and give them love, even if what you felt in response to their words or actions was pain.”

Given the nature of most jokes, I’m not convinced the teller was meaning it as a parable. But I’m willing to give the teller the benefit of the doubt: the teller deserves it, as much as the boy and the bus driver.

Protected: Game Clock Time – With Links

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Game Clock Time

I’m told in certain circumstances in tournament soccer play, it can be advantageous to lose a game so that you play a weaker opponent next, and a stronger opponent plays a stronger opponent, possibly losing, thus allowing you to play the weaker team and win. I suppose it is possible that under certain circumstances, a tie would be advantageous, and possibly a 0 – 0 tie. That supposition is a required backdrop for this poem.

The hour appears to draw near
When the game clock sings
And the crowd will cheer;

And I will leave the field a victor,
Despite the score being zeros.
Not by my being a hero, no.

By: my fear of the unknown,
the strength side of my weakness,
my ultimatum uncommunicated, unfulfilled.

All shots on the goal missed;
Some deflected, others poorly timed,
And some badly aimed.

And though time remains,
I’m like a quarterback
Kneeling after the snap;

I must keep the ball
Centered mid-field
And watch the clock expire,

For fear a warning dream
Becomes my future,
And I don’t wake with a scream.

I must watch the clock run out,
From self-respect on a two-way street,
Where what’s good for the goose—

You may think I’ll be tired,
Running around in circles
Trying to keep the ball away;

But the only circles I’ll be running
Will be the ones in my mind.
There’s but two on the field:

The goalie and me.
Guarding the goal, the goalie won’t yield;
Never engaging me to take the ball.

I cannot enter the goal box,
So I set the ball at mid-field,
And slowly back away;

Still, the goalie won’t engage.

© 2014 H.K. Longmore

Maid of the Mist

Water Over Niagara Falls
I peer over the edge
At the rushing water below.
Not content
With second best,
It beckons.

Nor can one-fifth
The world’s freshwater
Plunging o’er its brink
Satisfy its thirst:
It calls out.

Two million liters
And more,
Per second,
Pass its lips.
It cries out.

The Maid of the Mist
Found escape from shame—
Refusing a mate arranged—
In the fifty meter drop;
So the legend goes.

The horseshoe calls,
Calls to me.
With my mass
Going o’er the brink,
It could be content.

With my body
In its depths,
Its thirst
At last
Satisfied.

For all the pain
I’ve caused her,
And her, and her,
I could do this
And feel justified.

All the pain
I will yet cause,
One small leap
O’er the rail
Could forestall.

But I see through the mist;
I see the pain
That leap would cause.
I linger, watching,
Then walk away.

She’ll not have me,
Not have me today.
Her rival Victoria
Retains first place.
The day remains beautiful.

© 2014 H.K. Longmore

Afternoon Shiver

It is meeting time.
Distracted by passers by,
Listen and observe.

I observe this one
Coming and going again.
The meeting goes on;

This one goes again.
My body soon shivers hard;
No explanation:

I’m indoors, it’s warm;
Winter has yet to strike here.
But still I shiver.

She returns once more,
A sweater now adorns her.
Shivering explained?

My Weakness, My Strength

I am weak; it takes but touch to draw me along.
But the siren song is not so strong
That I cannot resist its charm.
I can withstand, do your best, you’ll do me no harm.

But take me by the hand,
Put your finger to your lips
To silence questions in the sand
As I ask where we’re headed on this trip;

My weak knees will obey,
And my heart will not delay.
But this weakness, it is no concern,
On it’s head you’ll see it turn.

Most of the double-x chromosomes
Want one with a y, enticed by sweet honeycomb,
To be the instigator,
Or it’s “see you later”.

© 2014 H.K. Longmore

The Anonymous Burden

If you determine in your heart
To carry out an anonymous act
Designed to bring happiness
Or a smile to the recipient,

You must be prepared for the part:
Fully accept the burden of facts
Known to you and God—and security cameras—the madness
Of the temptation to tell, to take credit, your new companions persistent.

If you would walk the unidentified way,
You must quench the thirst for recognition,
Bury deep the desire to reap rewards; in sadness,
Leave not fully formed the hunger incipient.

When others comment, your tongue you’ll stay.
For leaving no clues you’d better have a knack;
Wipe that smile off your face at their gladness.
And it’s best to not write about what you’ve brought to fruition.

© 2014 H.K. Longmore

Taciturn Turn

My taciturn trait
Love of conversation stole;
Kissed the blarney stone.

But not so of late—
A taciturn turn I took.
Resumed quiet look.

Speak when spoken to—
Unspoken words fill my mind;
Keep comments inside.

No tragic event
Stole from me the gift of gab;
I just grew weary:

Content to listen
To banter between two friends,
Clenched jaw hides my tongue.

A banter party
To which I’m not invited;
Tired of butting in.

Copyright © 2014 H.K. Longmore

Three Misses

Soaking wet

Leaving work one day I took my AWD vehicle through a patch of snow that wasn’t plowed. The magnitude of my velocity vector was too small, inspiring the second stanza. My pants and gloves got soaked trying to dig the snow out from underneath.

Was it this word,
Or that, that she said?
“Life” he thought he heard,
But ’twas spoken while she fed;
“Mouth” is thus not absurd.
Misheard.

It will not budge;
His car is stuck.
The ice-crusted snow it can only nudge.
Did he think he drove a truck?
Must he now homeward trudge?
Misjudged.

For words overheard in passing he could
Seek meaning, though lacking context.
Alternate possibilities, weight of wood,
He might settle on the wrong text.
The comment made, was it for the good?
Misunderstood.

Copyright © 2014. H.K. Longmore

The Spoon, the Bull, and the Pickaxe

If you're installing a sink, and you have to do this to get the pipes to connect, try another way. That way, those coming after you won't curse your unknown name.

If you’re installing a sink, and you have to do this to get the pipes to connect, try another way. That way, those coming after you won’t curse your unknown name.

A small metal spoon slipped silently,
Submerged beneath the suds,
Into the dark abyss of the insinkerator,
Preventing progress
Of waste: from a garlic press,
Or catered scraps of ‘tater;
From recipes now deemed duds
As the baker sighs gently.

The proverbial china shop
Guards against the bull.
Upon learning of his coming,
The owner clears all his stocks.
But his plan the bull mocks;
His hooves, incessant drumming
With which he breaks societal rule.
Now comes the owner’s son, armed with mop.

A pickaxe-wielding ‘niner,
I strike my core and rock the spike:
Am I ever the bull,
Or am I at times the spoon?
Do I stop the disposer’s tune,
Or as a bull—as a fool—
Do I others psyche,
Yet think I am the china?

Copyright © 2013 H.K. Longmore