“Shining Star,” a goodbye to a dear colleague

Yesterday, we celebrated the upcoming retirement of a colleague I work with.  Today was supposed to be his last day of work, but the man of the hour never showed up to his own retirement party.  Then we were informed late last night that he had been found dead in his apartment.  He had been suffering from some strange and unexpected health issues over the last few weeks but was unwilling to seek medical help, and just wanted to ride it out and see if he could get through it on his own.  Regretfully, he could not, and I can’t help but think about how we were all eating and celebrating while he was lying dead in his apartment.  I also can’t help but think about how he worked until he died, never able to cash in the rewards of retirement, nor to cash in on a lifetime of frugality which he likely did in order to retire before he turned 60. I find this to be a painful reminder of how short life can be, and that we shouldn’t live-to-work but rather should work-to-live, with the few and precious years we’re given.

I decided to write a poem honoring some of the memories we had of him, trying to incorporate some of what I’d learned about him over the years.  He will be missed.

“Shining Star”

I knew a man who loved to laugh
A sense of humor quite his own
Sharing stories with all the staff
Bright’ning days, the light he shone

A brilliant man, who knew a lot
You want a beer? He knew the spot!
A lager, pilsner, ale or stout
He brewed his own, you’d never doubt

The man loved cars, and trucks, and all
And loved to watch the horses race
Impressed by power, big or small
It put a smile on his face

Fond of nature, the trails and lakes
Of all the beauty that she makes
He’d kayak, bike, and take some pics
And loved to tinker, loved to fix

He studied industrial arts
Though many a trade he had learned
And replacing so many parts
With all of the wrenches he turned

A kind and gentle man he was
For this and that, or just because
With love for all the dogs and cats
He’d seek them out, their habitats

A star that twinkled in our sky
Has flickered out, so we reflect
He was indeed a special guy
Who earned his place and our respect

– May he rest in peace. –

“Meta-phorin”

This is a poem I wrote about how the brain structures its own neural connectivity in order to produce metaphors, poetry, analogies, allegory, and the like, including through its use of semaphorin guidance molecules and such. So one can think of it as a type of meta-poetry I suppose.

“Meta-phorin”

Branches born from distant gardens
Fed by the fruits of senses streamed
Spreading out, a vibrant pattern
Crawling along those ancient trees
Toward the scents, hypnotic dance
Winding paths until they meet

Their tips begin to touch at last
Caressing as they’re intertwined
Hebbian journey, webs of gnosis
Embodied frames are now sublime

Synaptic waters flowing faster
Emotions growing, bearing passion
Creative means no longer foreign
By the meta-semaphorin

“One Heat Minute” Podcast & Some Poetry

 

heat pic

Michael Mann’s 1995 L.A. crime opus, Heat, happens to be my favorite movie of all time.  Me and my family have somewhat of a deep connection to the film as well, given some of its didactic content relating to some of the dynamics found within a criminal’s family life, so the movie is especially important to me on that level as well.

As it so happens, there’s a podcast that began two years ago, called One Heat Minute, created by Australian film journalist, Blake Howard.  This podcast involved breaking down the movie Heat into 1-minute increments, analyzing one minute of the film per episode of the podcast.  This was an incredibly ambitious project for Blake Howard to undertake, but he finally finished the podcast a couple of days ago, after more than 166 episodes.  My brother, Niles Schwartz is also a film critic and has been featured on a few episodes of this podcast as well.  He actually shared some of our family history during one of those episodes, connecting my father to the movie’s Chris Shiherlis character (played by Val Kilmer), since my father had been in and out of prison his whole life, finally dying while serving a more than 20-year stretch for robbing more than 40 credit unions throughout the Midwest.

Since the movie meant so much to me, I decided to write a poem about it, which is something I had never done before, but I figured “what the hell, why not?”

I emailed Blake Howard and sent him my poem, and he loved it, unsurprisingly, since he’s probably the most pro-Heat biased person in the known universe, and so I expected him to like it even if it had been a complete disaster!  The poem is titled The Lone Wolf, and Blake asked me if he could read it on his podcast.  I was honored to say the least, and if that wasn’t already flattering enough, he actually waited until the final pre-credits minute episode of the podcast before airing it!  Needless to say, I was excited when he emailed me to tell me this.  Anyway, here’s a link to this episode of the podcast, where my poem is mentioned and then read, starting at about 02:59:00.  What an awesome opportunity it was to be a part of Blake’s epic journey!

Here’s the link:   Final Pre-Credits Minute Episode

And here’s the poem I wrote, below:

“The Lone Wolf”
By Lage von Dissen

Eagle, globe, and anchor branded
Fates intertwined, two men of arms
Paths diverge as they extend
Yet bound to intersect again

Trapped on the Island of McNeil
A fortress where amends are made
Freedom found, then lost in Folsom
Four year price, with seven paid

Gaining smarts for on the street
The captain found his loyal crew
Learning those tricks of-the-trade
Submerged within a feedback loop

Released again to play the game
By taking scores until the end
A stranger with a diff’rent mask
Was tasked to join the other men

The RAJA beast was running fast
An homage to the daughters four
With two-eleven in the air
The clock was ticking, time to go

A charge of shape had cracked the drums
For bonds that tied this crew as one
An itchy trigger finger pulled
‘Twas evil in its truest form

No witness left, for why the risk?
Though it didn’t have to come to this
Enraged by all the needless death
He sought the cowboy’s final breath

Distracted by those cherries flashed
That beard of evil slipped away
A new distraction came about
Despite the codes that hold their sway

A longing not to be alone
To feel her breath, her bodice warm
Conditions of humanity
Emotions push against the norm

The fence did guide the linen yonder
Into the laundry, t’clean what’s owed
But shady deals can go awry
And pride can overtake the show

Into an empty phone he talked
Revenge was sought, impulsive ought
Yet eyes still gazed upon a prize
Metals refined, precious defined

The Five-O prowler in the midst
With dedication, virtues fixed
Hoping that the bomb’s exotic
Though cynical and not quixotic

A simple name, betrayed the gang
One very common moniker
“Hey Slick!” a phrase the peacock sang
Surveilled right on the monitor

Patiently waiting, sounder of swine
To catch the pirates in the act
But gave to Charlie their position
Most contingent fact

Although the captain and his crew
Could feel the heat, already knew
They hungered for the twelve-point-two
A final score for dreams come true

Spotted on the one-o-five
The hammer fully cocked
Bullets spared for java joe
Their destinies were locked

Sharing darkness, sharing angst
Recalling existential woes
Content with both their lines of work
And neither willing to revert

They’re apt to do what they do best
Respect they’ll grant, forget the rest
Relations failed, they’re on their own
With ultimatums set in stone

Dreams revealed their inner selves
The shadow and the darkness felt
Drowning, for the time he lacked
Eight-ball hem’rrage staring back

They parted ways and both were warned
Surveillance gone, the hunt was on
The traitor had come back again
He tortured, killed, more blood was spilled

Guard of bodies well informed
Had tipped ’em off, the men in blue
First Commercial, Wilmington
A battle in the streets ensued

Many died that fateful day
The crew, ’twas all but two
Gambler, leader, made it out
They knew just what to do

The man who lived among remains
Was banking on a chance
That love and vengeance would entail
The making of their plans

One was actually saved by love
She let him get away
But vengeance had prevailed indeed
The other had to stay

The psychopath had lured him back
Triple tapped, the heart ‘n cap
Made him gaze into his eyes
To face the man before he dies

Abandoning his only love
Around the corner, felt the heat
New Zealand now so far away
The chance is gone, to be complete

On the tarmac, one-on-one
His shadow fluttered in the black
Fatal wound, he held his hand
He ain’t never going back

“Primordial Bounds”

“Primordial Bounds”

Animating forces danced in the abyss
From cosmic clouds did Helios arise
Upon the sands of Gaia shining bright
Warming seas to hold her in embrace
Effervescent stirrings in the depths below
From whence primordial bounds emerged
Tendril seeds could then begin to grow
Entropic channels out of chaos born
Spreading far and wide, were favored so
The spark of life ignited, on it goes
Destined imperfections bringing forth
Beauty and a mass of creatures flow

Senses born, interpretations formed
Rosetta stone with energetic tone
Neuronal trees to carve the world of one
Integrated symphony, the source of all divinity
Then the eye began to gaze within
Branches twisted, turned, and formed the self
Archetypal images and dreams to undergo
Ego and unconsciousness, a battle for the soul
Psyches feeding culture with the food of all the gods
Imagination, future selves, to suffer and rejoice
Cogitation flowing, individuation growing
‘Til cybernetic unity subsumes the human story

“Colors of Meaning”

Here’s a poem I wrote while thinking about how short life is, the human condition, and the beauty and contingency therein.

“Colors of Meaning”

Never choosing our existence
Nor belonging absolutely
Death becomes the culmination
Nature’s own instantiation

Finding meaning in the color
Existential rainbow arching
Purpose driven dreaming clearly
Vision focused on the nearly

Senses mingle with the pneuma
Cogitation flowing freely
With hallucination blinding
Seek the shadow for the finding

Staring at the dismal pattern
Getting lost inside the labyrinth
Winding through the paths we’ve taken
Searching for a transformation

An ideal that you can fathom
Like a beacon, there to guide you
Climbing higher trying to reach it
Imperfections, they impede it

Staring at the stars above us
Infinite, though I am finite
Glimpses of the vast potential
Modes of being which are essential

Thanatos and eros driving
Auras manifest, surrounding
Interlocked angelic demons
Psyches morphing as the seasons

Drawn to beauty and fulfillment
Eudaimonia completes it
Darkness is the final chapter
Sleeping soundly ever after

“Whispering of the Gods”

Here’s a poem I wrote expressing some of my more recent views as a self-ascribed religious atheist.

“Whispering of the Gods”

Does God exist? Well, that depends
If God be but the transcendent
An ideal mode of dasein
Futures gained through inhibition
Sacrificing now for later
That which we aspire to be
Selves not yet realized, held up high
If so, then yes, God does exist

Ever since we ate from the tree
Gaining knowledge of right and wrong
A sense of self that suffers true
Knowing that others feel it too
Grief and joy for one and for all
What hurts me can hurt another
So now we act accordingly
Behold our sense, morality

Good and evil, forces that be
Aiding our goals or hind’ring them
Powers of awe, of life and death
An impetus until the end
Love and hate, powerful pathos
Possessed by what’s beyond oneself
The gods of old encompass minds
Fractured selves and multiple drives

And what is the soul exactly?
Phenomenological truth!
Identity transcending time
Continuity of the self
Personified as if divine
The powers of the conscious mind
And feeling that free will is mine
Internal struggles unified

Karma is as real as can be
The positive building bridges
The negative burning them down
A self fulfilling prophecy
Circles of friends who lend a hand
Because you were benevolent
Circles of foes who cut you off
Because you were malevolent

Many religions and their myths
Have accumulated wisdom
Far from perfect, yet impressive
Nevertheless, containing truths
We ought to respect what has worked
And yet overcome what has not
We mustn’t throw the baby out
Despite with impure waters bathed

Heaven and hell, they do exist
Within our minds and in our lives
Existential predicament
The life you lead is infinite
Imagining a better world
And striving just to make it so
Integrate the psyche’s shadow
To slay the dragons, out and in

“Time is a Butterfly”

This is a poem I wrote with a meaning that is particularly personal, and so means a lot to me as it relates to my life, both past and present. Behold the “butterfly effect” (based on a previous blog post, no less!).

“Time is a Butterfly”

Time is a butterfly flapping her wings
Bringing forth a ripple of the unknown
Structural breach, disrupting the mortar
Echoing through an established order

What led me to be the person I am?
How well can I trace causality’s chain?
Did I choose this path? Was it mine to find?
Have I chosen the thoughts that’ve entered my mind?

Most of life’s twists and turns are not chosen
Unpredictable sequences flowing
A chance encounter, effects of a breeze
Irrelevant seeds that sprout into trees

A remote site, a curious delight
Led to a lover, from the nest took flight
Five years had passed and it came to an end
Thrown into chaos, the heart had to mend

During that journey new paths were taken
New alma mater, knowledge created
Gaining some competence, new life in sight
A life partner found, our love burning bright

Set on a course with new aspirations
A newfound lust for life and for wisdom
Two souls meld into one, transformation
World views are tweaked, a new combination

Out of two souls, there arises a third
A child is born, a dream to behold
Yea the new chapter depends on the last
Inextricably linked, the present and past

Personality metamorphosis
Plausibly stemming from those stars aligned
Disparate events from so long ago
Have fashioned new values, helped me to grow

They’ve made me want to be a better man
A desire to learn, lending a hand
One never knows what the future will bring
Time is a butterfly flapping her wings