Torn

An expectation, placed by
society, community, culture.
When did partnership become a
prerequisite for happiness?

Loneliness is a leaden blanket, smothering
any thought of additional companionship.
Having been a self-professed romantic for
such a long time, have I finally come to see
the truth?

Physical urges are what they are and,
in the wake their expulsion,
when the sweat has dried and the
words we repeated in rapture
dissolve into air, our lust is only
replaced by regret and
guilt.

Is this all I would reap? Momentary
ecstasy and what remains for the duration.
Am I simply impatient,
immature, and
arrested in my development?

by Erik Shinker

Up to This Point

I can recall the first time I saw you
leaving, the first
glimpse of your auburn mane; I
hoped you would be here, just for
the chance to speak with you.

Then you began to come through that
door routinely, sending silent smiles and
greetings of a genial, if surface, nature.

As time passed, I pined and poemed after you;
an ideal image with no validity.
My gut would clench, palms perspire,
tongue swell at the thought of your attention;
I craved for even the briefest exchange.

I finally inquired,
offering myself to you in an awkward way;
a coward unable to commit.
I left the choice in your hands;
how could I hold
your decision against you?

I recall these things, and with time
they lose their luster;
but now I have your attention
and, up to this point, I
had thought it a blessing.
Now, I’m not so sure.

by Erik Shinker

Open Eyes

We stand together with open eyes;
but that isn’t enough.
We need to continue this difficult conversation.
We are all bound by our
common humanity.

We no longer get to turn a blind eye.
African Americans in our country wake up to this
every day
and they don’t get the
luxury of looking away;
neither do we.

by Erik Shinker

If you would like to donate to help the recovery of Lake Street businesses who were victims of the rioting, please visit welovelakestreet.com

For more ways to support Racial Justice, this article has a large list that is a great resource.

Double Standard

My words are just pointless noise,
meaningless when not directed
at the horrors that surround.

A blue, double standard
flies high in the face of
equality, empathy, and justice.
Protections make the prosecution of
the police more difficult;
they have acknowledged this, but
done nothing.

How can we not hold the enforcers of
our laws doubly accountable for breaking them?
Why is the burden of justification when force is applied
so much lower?
This is systemic, so how can we
trust the system when it is
built to protect the police and not
its citizens?

by Erik Shinker

If you would like to donate to help the recovery of Lake Street businesses who were victims of the rioting, please visit welovelakestreet.com

For more ways to support Racial Justice, this article has a large list that is a great resource.

Privilege

I have the option, to
bury my head, to
change the channel, to
avoid the distressing situation.
I can walk away and do nothing simply because of
my location, my socioeconomic status, my
skin color.

Yet another African American man
has died at the hands of the Police;
to deny this pattern is to be intentionally
blind and ignorant in the worst way.
People are angry, we are upset,
and rightfully so.

But there are those taking things too far;
destroying a community already beset by
grief and strife at the callous death of
George Floyd.
Empathy seems to have deserted us;
she has taken flight and withdrawn from our
undeserving presence.

I could choose to look at the
beauty in the world around me and
deny the evil in the system, but
that is a privilege I never asked for,
nor one I should abuse.

I have a platform,
a voice, and I am disturbed;
by the indifference I see, the
useless finger pointing and politicizing.
People’s lives are being destroyed, and
any one who thinks differently needs to take
a long, hard look at their perspective.

This isn’t happening in some far away place;
this is in my state, my country.
The world is watching us;
how will we show them that we can be better?
That we will be better? That when
change needs to be made, we
will roll up our sleeves and get to work.
This is a time of great unrest and difficulty,
and we need to build one another up, not
tear ourselves apart.

For those who are privileged like me, I beg you;
don’t turn away from what is happening.
Call to action; support the right to assemble and speak to truth;
demonstrate peacefully if you are moved.
We are in this together, and
we demand justice.

by Erik Shinker

If you would like to donate to help the recovery of Lake Street businesses who were victims of the rioting, please visit welovelakestreet.com

For more ways to support Racial Justice, this article has a large list that is a great resource.

My Shadow Sleeps Forever

Fur remains to mark
the common, cozy places of his rest.
Nuzzling, my constant companion of over
16 years seeks solace in my touch.
His nose nudges my hands as though
propelled by the vibration of his purring.
Matted, greasy fur from a lack of
self care covers him. He headbutts me in earnest,
as aggressive for affection as ever.

I have known him through all his years,
though 10 passed me by the time he arrived.
Precocious, inquisitive, and all the other
adjectives we bestow upon the young.
Following my footsteps, his padding paws
were ever-present.
He was vocal from the beginning:
baby “mews” that squeaked from little lungs;
hearty “arrs” and “ows” in adulthood;
and final, ornery, pitiful yowls for release.

Arthritis arrested his joints;
he wasted away as his appetite
disappeared and we discovered
bony hips once covered by powerful haunches.
His claws no longer retracted,
now creating a “ticktickticktick” when he prowled the
hardwood of our first floor.
Houses with too many stairs became his enemy;
he trudged from food to litter box until
he could no longer make the trip in time.

Some days sleep was his only escape,
though if he woke and saw my face,
purrs soon permeated the air. I could never be sure
whether his whiskers and twitching paws,
unsettled by snores,
signified dreams or nightmares.

But my shadow sleeps
forever; gone
from the pain of this world.
He leaves behind comforting memories;
an example of unconditional love and affection.
He lives on in dreams; warming himself in the sun,
surrounded by the smell of fresh-sliced ham,
cold water dripping from his whiskers, and
the chirping of birds to be
stalked in the tall grass.

by Erik Shinker

Little One

(For my nephew)

Your entrance was preceded by
your mother’s cry of pain
and followed by your own
announcement.
“I am here,”
you proclaimed, though
the words haven’t been given to you yet.
Your mother’s struggle supplanted by
the love felt for you as you were
lifted, a gift, into
maternal embrace.

I hope you have your father’s sense of humor;
his ability to express the
boundless love he feels
for those he cares about.
His frugality, integrity, and
honesty.

I wish for you
your mother’s laugh, her
fierce spirit and
intense loyalty.
I hope you have her stubbornness, and
her refusal to back down
when facing the seemingly insurmountable.

But these are just parts of your possibility;
the truth will be so much more.
You are a combination:
both the before and
something new.

We’ve been waiting here for you;
we’re happy that you’ve come along.
A family, made a little bigger,
a little brighter, and elevated as your
giggles signal the
hope of another generation.

You will do things we can only guess at;
songs will touch your spirit,
stories will guide you,
and you will learn
as you take your first steps.
We will pour ourselves into you; and though
your family may, at times,
struggle to understand you,
(and you them)
know that you are our kin.

And that means something.

There is so much love for you that you
will one day understand;
I am overcome with the splendor of you,
and you have only just arrived.

I won’t hope that you don’t make mistakes;
we all have, and you surely will.
But, I wish for you to learn from them;
take your parent’s advice and heed them.

I wish I could spare you from
the pain of the world,
but that would only serve to
keep you from sharing
all you have to give to it;
and you have so much to share,
little one,
so much.

by Erik Shinker

Options of Escape

It was always an option;
the chance of escape from the everyday,
the routine, the mundane.
An epiphany of wanderlust and
the ideals of those post-grad, 20-somethings
still clinging to their
divinely endowed potential.

The lie of being content now revealed;
that surrogate stories were all the travel necessary
was a fool’s fantasy;
that imagination and
the ability to translate the stories of others,
manifest their magnificence,
were enough.

Things lost that were never owned,
ideals implanted from media and music.
The cowl of adulthood lies heavy with
the knowledge that the
past has passed and
there is no going back.

We fall, warriors cut apart by
time’s rusty blade, learning nothing;
faux-philosophers who cling to clichés and
parrot the same concerns that add
not wisdom, but
exhaustion.

by Erik Shinker