Lazy Saturday Poetry: Easy Company (For my Daddo)– By: Charlie Westerman

This is a poem about my Grandfather. He was a paratrooper in WWII and dropped into Normandy on D-Day as well as Holland. He wasn’t in Easy Company, but he told me that Band of Brothers is as close as you can get to experiencing what he experienced. In Normandy, he actually ended up being dropped on the wrong side of enemy lines and was trapped in a foxhole for days.

On one of his jumps he got shot in the toe. It always blows my mind that had that soldier that fired that bullet aimed one-one hundredth of a millimeter the other way, it might have hit him in a more fatal spot, and he and my Grandmother wouldn’t have adopted my mom, which means I wouldn’t be here. I tried to work some of these stories of his life into the work.

The similes used in the poem are built to work in relation to both the line before and after it. That is something I’ve never done before and really enjoyed the challenge of it.

I found out last week that the cancer Daddo (what we call my Grandfather) had last fall has come back. This time in his liver. He has elected to forego chemo and radiation and live out his last days on his terms. I respect him tremendously for that. The poem is about how even when we survive life-and-death situations, it is only delaying the inevitable. Someday we will all have to look back and reflect on our lives and what we see in our reflection will be how we choose face our death– either in fear or peace.

My first instinct was to choose a different poem to post for this week because I thought this one might seem a little heavy. But then I remembered that the purpose of Lazy Saturday poetry was to try and display how poetry is not just a hobby, it’s a way in which some of us (the poets of the world) can process and understand life.  I also think this is a poem a lot of people can somewhat relate to, not to mention I think our culture needs to value deep (dare I say even heavy) thinking more than it does.

 

Easy Company

like a boy with a bow and arrow

in the tree patch huntin’ Satan

he missed

and hit a sparrow

a special providence warns of scarecrows

 

like the flooded cells in my Grandfathers liver

the Nazis couldn’t gun him down

still

the hospice check delivers

a sense of inescapable shivers

 

like the pain that comes from smoking in the cold

i puff and ponder him at War all the time

dangling in the sky

pleading God to grow old

a chance slim as the splinter from a soul

 

like a bullet in the toe but not in the head

ballistic logistics only God could have scripted

cheating death

or buying breaths

 

a feeling of debt he cannot express

like a blackjack addict with dementia

the right choices he forgot to make

firing blanks

in the middle of a minefield

 

a purpose in life he cannot place a bet on

like soldiers casting lots on Friday

Father forgive him

a good man

that saw bad days

 

a company as easy as the grave

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Such Lazy Saturday Poetry It’s Sunday (Bleeding Inc.)

After making a big fuss about how I was going to post my poetry every Saturday because it’s the easiest thing I write and I have plenty of it, it’s been about a month since I’ve done one. Ugh. Do your job Charlie. Anyways, I missed yesterday, but I figured by posting one today I’ll get myself back in the mindset to remember to post next Saturday… and the Saturday after that… and the Saturday after that, etc.

So for todays installment I’m going to post the lyrics to what I’d consider to be one of the best — if not the best — song I’ve ever written.  It’s called “Bleeding Inc.” If my technologically incompetent self can ever figure out how to post videos from my flip cam on this blog, I’ll post a performance of the song itself, but for now, here are the lyrics.

Bleeding Inc.

Verse I

Twelve generations of pain, thirteen is prayin sayin let this be the day that the saints march our way

It’s a good Friday for swimming to the finer side of things, we call for rain to get the floodgates bursting

And you can say, that endurance is a song I’ll never sing

But the rhythm never stops when it comes to lions like me

We’ve got those everlasting chest beats

Chorus I

And we will shatter mirrors, and see through smoke

That came from the flames always burnin up our jeans

So let me cheer you up, like real good news

It’s not too soon to be free from the things that the devil tattooed on you

Verse II

Time bombs for clock shops it was hotter than sriracha when Big Ben went up in flames and got the bridges burning

The violent silence of writing, stabbin my pen through the wall tryin to get to the heart of the message I bring

I just wanna stop, stop stop,

I need the moment to pop, pop, pop

That the reason for the shots shots shots shot shots shots shots shots shots

And you can say, let the drinks spill like blood in a war scene

But the battle never stops when it comes to soldiers like me

We’ve got those everlasting chest beats

Oh don’t ya know we’ve got that never endin’ head flow

Chorus II

And we will shatter mirrors, and see through smoke

That came from the flames always burnin’ up our jeans

But let me cheer you up, like real good news

It’s not to late to be called by the name of the Christ inside of you

Oh don’t ya know, we’re the coolest kids

But son, you should know, gotta cool it kid

Bridge/Outro

We’re the coolest kids, walkin around, we like our beat down low and our feet to the ground

Don’t ya show it kid, that hurt in your eyes, I can’t talk right now I got my pride on the line

Can’t talk right now I got my pride on the line

Can’t talk right now I got my pride on the line

Can’t talk right now I got my pride on the line

 

Lazy Saturday Poetry features, “Little Hope”– By: Uncle Charlie Westerman

So this week, in honor of the arrival of the 6 pounds baby, 6 ounces man Beck William Westerman, my new little nephew, I read this poem in my poetry classes as we were asked to share our work from the exercise below.  I hope you enjoy it.  I’m happy to report that Beck is already a Functionalist, has big Westerman hands and a big Westerman nose, but big mysterious Van de Pol eyes.    

Choose a topic you are interested in and make a list of at least 10 words/jargon for that topic. You can do research to come up with this list. Then write a poem using all of those words at least once.

Topic: The miracle of giving birth (my sister-in-law is due with my first niece/nephew in less than a week!).

 

10 Words—

1)    Dilate

2)    Caesarean section

3)    Braxton Hicks

4)    Contractions

5)    Circumcised

6)    Epidural

7)    Umbilical chord

8)    Womb

9)    Labor

10) Infant

This poem mixes the metaphors of “the miracle of life” with “the sink-or-swim of college.”  I did a summer session last year, and it turned out to be my toughest stretch of college.  All of my major friends were gone, I was burnt out on school, and sick of living in a filthy five-bedroom house.  I called my mom live from the absolute-low of my college existence, and for the first time I seriously doubted my ability to get through college without having a major life-screw up.  About a week later my brother called me and told me he and my sister-in-law were pregnant.  I’m incredibly close with my brother (and sister-in-law, she’s really like my sister) and this is the first kid of us five siblings.  They had also had trouble getting pregnant for awhile and weren’t sure if they were ever going to make it happen.  So little Beck has been a miracle beyond the miracle of life.  He gave me the hope to push through summer session with my head still above water.  I remember when my Jer and Tara first told me the news, they said the baby was the size of a blueberry.  One of my better moments in the poem was working that little detail into the framework of the piece.

Little Hope

I couldn’t tell you how you do it, but you did.

Swimming to a sinking me, neck deep in college, you came to life.

I was about ready to ‘kick it’ for the last time.

Treating bourbon and cigarettes like they were an epidural for real life.

It got real,

real quick.

My stomach as barren as social-desert life can be.

Called mom. Told her my life’s a mirage & I’m about ready to pop.

“Honey I think you’ve just got a case of Braxton Hicks.”

She’s too sweet to say it, but I knew what she meant—

“Cut the damn Umbilical chord Char. You’re too big for me too pick you up.”

We’re here at This American Life halfway house to learn one thing:

Growing up just isn’t a miracle of life—it’s a pro’s choice.

A decision as painful as a Caesarean section…

“Well of course its gonna leave a scar dumbass, reality’s about to gut you with a knife.”

But then I heard news of you,

And put a camera to my womb

“Would ya look at that…

I think I see an undigested blueberry of hope in there.”

And so you, little hope, you grew.

And I started praying again.

And all the sudden the labor of growing didn’t hurt so bad.

Then I felt you kick.

And so, little hope, I too, started kicking again.

Got my sea legs back.

Went right up to my class, “Alright you bastard! Let’s sink-or-swim!”

As so, little hope, the battle began.

All the college and the pressure and the no getting dates.

But suddenly I didn’t mind getting circumcised on Friday nights,

by sexy plastic surgeons with pretty, dumb eyes.

I didn’t make my pupils dilate if everything wasn’t alright.

Nora you little hope you—or if you’re Beck you’ll be hope too.

You’re already a Westerman with your knack for irony—

That you, an infant, finally gave me the strength to become a man.

And yes, I cannot wait to party with you over Spring Break!

You’re favorite shot is breast milk?  It’s been a long time since I’ve had one of those…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing a new series: Lazy Saturday Poetry– By: Charles Westerman

When I started this blog, I said I was going to write a little bit of everything I really like to write.  And there is some stuff that I get absolutely jolly writing.  There’s nothing like capping off a sports column with that perfect last sentence, that last neat little stitch to bring it all together.  There’s nothing like learning something big about your faith and then finding a way to put that life-lesson into words. There’s nothing like inventing a new fictional character in your mind that even you yourself find interesting, funny, complex and mysterious.

But to be honest, sometimes my column feels like a chore.  Sometimes I go months without telling people what’s going on in my walk with God.  And most of the time, I want to punch my main fictional character in the face, because he’s just a bad metaphor for my life and he can’t gain his own independence and have his own unique personality (which is what good fictional authors can do).  When it comes to those forms of writing, I often have to dig down deep and pull something out of myself… and though it’s exhausting, when I find the discipline to do it, it’s always very rewarding.

Yes, readers, I’m going to finally admit one of my most awful secrets to you: my favorite writer is myself, and my most loyal reader is me.  I get a tingling feeling when I read my own stuff; I’d imagine it’s sort of what doing crack is like.  Nobody thinks I’m wittier and craftier with words than I do.  Seriously if anyone has a good shrink they should call me, because as you can see, I’ve got some ego-issues going on.  But hey, admitting it is the first step right?  But even more seriously I think all writers have to have this confidence and satisfaction on some level (although my levels are admittedly are a little high).

Personal Hamartia aside (if you don’t know what Hamartia means, Wikipedia that bitch) I’ll get back to the point.  That a lot of the writing I do sometimes feels like pulling teeth.  But even though it feels like I have to dig a lot of this stuff out of me, there’s one form of writing that has always just flowed out of my pen onto the paper, or came in a text message to myself, or that taps itself out on a little document I’ve had open on my computer for four years saved under “Playonward– Cause for Effect” (playing on the phrases ‘pause for effect’ and ’cause and effect,’ you have no idea how much I stroked my ego when I came up with that one).”

What I’m talking about is the writing form of poetry and lyrics.  Since my freshman year of high school it’s something I just have to do or I’ll burst.  Come to think of it, it’s a lot like peeing.  I never really know if I’m writing poetry or song lyrics, but when it’s three in the morning and my mind is roaring like a Harley, I know I won’t be able to get some Z’s until I grab my phone, open a text to myself, and see what knots my head is trying to untie.

What happens as I furiously tap those little button on my En-V3 is a rush I can’t explain.  A kind of trance or orgasm of the brain.  What I’m left with is an explanation to myself I’ve been working out for days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years.  I wrote a poem about my relationship with my late-father on the 20th anniversary of his death that I’d been trying to capture the complexity and feeling of since my freshman year of high school.

If my other writings are what crack is like, poetry is to me, the brief moment of clarity I’d imagine someone gets when they smoke meth.  I still remember the first truly satisfying poem/lyrics I wrote in a text message to my brother one day the summer after my freshman year helping my Dad fix fence on the ranch.  Back in 2005 I’d just got my first iPod and was finding my own unique taste in music– listening to a lot of Dashboard Confessional, Fall Out Boy and The Starting Line.  That angsty teenage music about how girls are the source of all their pain and all their joy.  And though it’s childish, I remember thinking that Chris Carrabarra (the lead singer of Dashboard) was like the Hemingway of angsty teenage music. So naturally I wanted to be like Chris (I don’t so much anymore).

I opened a text to ‘Mitch’ and wrote the following lines, “What goes around comes around and kicks you in the back of the head, I’m chasing your tail, which has me chasing mine instead.”  Yes it was very 15-years-old of me. But hey, that’s what 15 year olds do right?  I had officially started my mission to figure out how to deal with this angst and ultimately conquer it. Once I hit send I didn’t stop the rest of the day.  “Alright bro, here’s another one: ‘Your skating on thin ice and I’m under water with a blow torch to bring you down.'”  It was a bad imitation of Chris Carrabarra, but had Mick not been a good older brother and texted me back telling me they were really good, I’d probably still be looking for some form of my identity to this day.  In fact, I owe most of my confidence as a writer to Mick (and for that bro, I can never repay you).

Eventually I became competent enough with a guitar to start writing songs.  I wrote my first song the second semester of my freshman year at WSU and haven’t gone three months without writing one since.  I’d estimate I’ve partially written about 40 songs and have finished about 25 of them, putting me at about a completed song once every six weeks.  It’s something I have to do to keep my sanity.

With that in mind, I’d like to start consistently sharing with my small handful of faithful readers, where my true heart for writing came from.  I’ve posted a few poems on here before, but I’d like to make it a more regular occurrence. So I’m going to start a series title, “Lazy Saturday Poetry.”  One poem will be posted by yours truly at 12 pm Pacific Time every Saturday.

And when you read them, know that the writer your interacting with felt nothing but bliss and exhilaration as he wrote the words.  That he was refreshed and not drained as he hammered them out.  That even though writing his sports column was like doing layup drills, or writing about his faith felt like practicing free throws, or the short story your reading came from countless hours studying film– the poetry your taking in, was to him like all that hard work paying off as he took the court for the big game.

Below is the first ever edition of the Lazy Saturday Poetry series.  I wrote it in church last week.  It by no means stands out from the dozens of other poems I’ve written on this exact subject; trying to motivate myself to conquer my pride, and remind myself that only Jesus Christ has the power to do that.  But in a way it’s kind of a classic Charlie poem.  A good way to introduce you to my style: pure, flowing vulnerability.

Lately I’ve been trying to write some poems that have a rhyme scheme that’s more complex than my natural Mother Goose style.  I’ve been playing around with structure, punctuation and capitalization more, and learning how to make something flow that doesn’t necessarily rhyme, or at least rhyme all the time (you see, I can’t help myslef).  And though I’ve made strides in this department, I’ve come to the realization that sometimes a poet just needs to be true to himself and his natural style. I hope you enjoy it.

Why The Wine is Red 

See your face, and I shake like a quake.

The center of the flock breaks,

And the lambs disperse in every which way.

But the shepherd speaks a stern command:

We can be united again,

When you come back and feast from the palm of my hand.

Will you wait for me to find you or will you wander in the land?

If you’d ever stop screaming you could hear me calling back.

Calm down and come back.

You get a little closer with the tiniest of steps.

Deliverance will find you when you eat the bread,

And remember why that wine is red.

Go back to all the times where you thought your soul was dead.

And you prayed that sweetest phrase,

“I swear I’ll start living it.”

I don’t want another start, I just need another chance.

One more day to sing a song, strip off my clothes and dance.

Another night to ponder stars and praise how small I am.

I’m just a man without a plan because instead I chase my dreams,

That Christ would take my life until there is no more of me.

So I bid good riddance to that sore in my eye.

That swollen, black, pride.

The Vision (My New Tattoo)

I got a new tattoo about a month ago.  It’s on my ribs.  This fall I was praying on my deck and for the first (and so far only) time I spoke in tongues.  To be honest I’d tried to speak in tongues before but knew it was only the gibberish of my own head.  This experience was different.  It was from the Holy Spirit and it was one of the most powerful feelings I’ve ever felt in my very emotional life. The phrase I spoke, and have since tattooed on myself is this:

                      “Hallah yu Alla Higham Hyawehlujah”  

I love the tattoo and how it came out. The only thing I didn’t think about was how hard it would be to try and quickly articulate to someone what exactly it means.  In a sentence it means “trying to look at temporary life on earth through an eternal lens.”  But it really means so much more than that. I could probably talk about all the intricacies of it for hours.  Instead, I tried to capture it in the form of creative writing.  Hope you enjoy it.

The Vision

The Vision

I saw it all.

The day all the clock shops were blown up with all the time bombs.  I was on a multi-colored street that seemed to be an orchestra of cultures.  Fire engine red saxaphones. Atomic tangerine orange harps. Bright yellow journalistic guitars. Dark green envious cellos. Depression-quilt blue trumpets. Psychedelic electric indigo pianos.  Advent candle violet violins.

The people were all these colors—all these instruments of change. They wore their flaws without shame. They made their deepest fears known to each other. And because they did so, they knew just how to help and forgive each other.  The flaws could not fester in deep wounds of the soul. They were promptly cleaned and bandaged—no infection of insecurity, lust, greed, bitterness or anger could spread throughout the rest of the body of the people.

It was a multi-culture of lucid kisses and loving embraces. Prophetic words were the only words spoken.  People were ever changing—like the spectrum of colors of a star if it were played through time as you watched it in fast-forward in light speed.  Change was no longer a tragedy for the human soul to bare.  These lucid kisses, these loving embraces, were all kissing and embracing the mach-infinity of change that was ever present on the multi-colored street.

The symbolism of history was perfectly understood.  The practicality of mathematics was warmly accepted.  The curiosity of science was unashamedly desired.  The absolute necessity of healthy communication was a welcomed standard.  These avenues of the mind were all valued equally.

Yet art and poetry were of the most importance.  They were not avenues of the mind.  They were rivers to the seas of the soul.  And everyone floated them together.  It didn’t matter if you had talent or not.  When you created to energize, to invigorate, to electrify, to set fire to, to see into your soul– the art was brilliant, whether it was brilliant or not.

Every emotion was so deeply understood that you felt joy behind it no matter what you were feeling.  You felt anger wonderfully– sadness was necessary to appreciate joy–  boredom was finally understood as the ultimate form of relaxation… Anytime, was nap-time.

Dinner was a three-hour event.  Sports were pure and just.  Music was cleansing and graceful.  These were the facts of life.  It was simple and therefore it could be properly complex.  Behind every necessary invention there was depth in the thought of its design.  Self-awareness was absolutely essential to the vitality of the community and every individual understood that.  They did not fear the challenge of constantly being ready to learn.  The faster they learned the happier they were.  The only sin was being stagnate.

Stagnate: (of water or air) cease to flow or move.

the smelly old man

i came upon a man sitting on the beach

and as i walked by i did beseech

“sir, please get off of your smelly old ass

and go have your self a shower or bath”

i saw him look up at me and think

he said “you’re right, i probably stink”

“but its not my fault, its all this fresh air

and its at least been a year since i’ve washed my hair”

“are you homeless, sir? did you fall on hard times?”

“any why do you insist on speaking in rhymes?’

to this he ignored me and then simply said “what?’

i sat and i stared and i scratched my butt

“how did you get yourself into such a mess?’

he took a deep breath and began to confess

“i’m not homeless or poor or some drunken fool”

then he suddenly went crosseyed and started to drool

he uncrossed his eyes and looked up with a grin

said “since when’s being smelly become such a sin?”

i said “sir, you’re right! what a gift you just gave!”

and i vowed then and there “i’ll never again bathe!”

i planted my tush next to him in the sand

and thus i became the smelly old man

Understand.

By: mOUNTbRENDON

A Poem:

A long walk I found.

There were trees with branches and at times leaves.

There were twigs and at times logs.

There were birds who at times chirped.

 

And at times I stopped and asked Why?

And at times I stopped and asked How?

 

A long path I wound.

There was sun and at times stars.

There was ice and at times flakes.

There was laughter and at times howls.

 

And at times I stopped and asked What?

And at times I stopped and said Speak!

And at times no one spoke.

 

A fast car I found.

There was wind and at times blur.

There were lines and at times brick.

There were birds who at times hid.

 

And at times I stopped and asked Why?

And at times I stopped and said Speak!

And at times no one spoke.

 

And so I stopped.

And so I simply enjoyed.

I played with 513 words in this poem

Fighting Words Play

A poem within a poem (My soul in a poem… my soul is a poem)

(read twice. the little words are mercy. the big ones are justice.)

Stop pretending.

This ONE life is PAINFUL.

If you let it have you

You will let it drain you.

It will suck you down like a three-drink cigarette.

You have to have life

like sometimes it has you for breakfast.

There is only one RULE:

You have to let life change you.

You have to stop fighting it.

that CHANGE.

Take up an invisible sWORD.

Yes, that is right my friends.

We need to PLAY more.

To play IS A POWERFUL THING.

You see we are FIGHTING an invisible war.

and the little ones are the invisible words.   

And let me tell you THE little SHIT’S are JUST EVERYWHERE.

These invisible words we call thoughts

THAT PRIDEFUL part of you that you keep a secret from yourself.

That PROUD memory you have

of her walking out

with your PRIDE in her hands as she walked out that door.

That pride you were free of when your knees hit the floor.

That CHANGEd you.

Have we ever really seen IT

all before?

Where does your love come from my LOST LITTLE LAMBS?

Sometimes it must come in the form of a shepherd’s staff.

That is this pain we feel.

CHANGE

does IT really hurt?

Is change not death and death not life?

We do not have to let stupid little clocks tick us off.

Ticking off this silly idea we call the “precious seconds of life on earth.”

It pisses me off.

i really know we can live beyond time.

DAMMIT we can do this.

Live with eternal souls in temporary bodies.

Hope is right there in front of us.

We just have to START CHOOSING to HOPE.

And keep the little FAITH you need to LOVE.

To FIGHT WILL FREEZE our proud hands TO the DEATH of the sword.

We have no choice but to PLAY TO LIVE and fight FOR WARMTH.

We could stop the violence.

We could stop it with THE HOT THUNDER OF GOD.

With THE MIGHTIEST bolt of PEACE MAN HAS EVER KNOWN.

THE ABILITY to learn

TO BE BOTH OLD AND YOUNG

To dance to THE FUNCTIONal beat OF both THE OLD AND the NEW.

To let “democrat” and “republican” burn like hell.

Maybe then we would see we were under loyalties spell.

This is my TESTAMENT.

THIS IS MY SOUL.

This is my soul in words.

Can you see them playing?

See them playing as I sit naked in the bathtub writing this poem at 3 in the morning.

Drinking a couple Fat Tires.

Listening to Portugal the Man and Manchester Orchestra.

Bands who make words play.

Which makes them fight.

And that is why I truly believe they are the best musicians of our time.

Listen to them.

Listen to how they make word and sound make heavenly noise.

This heavenly noise we call music.

They sing out their pain.

They have stopped pretending.

And pretending is just a nicer word for lying.

And we cannot be liars.

We have to be THE WAY.

We have to be THE TRUTH.

We have to be THE LIFE.


The Great American Cultural Success

I don’t have much to say about my relationship with Christ lately… I don’t think you’d want to take a lot of advice from me about that right now. To put it lightly I’ve been a bastard and a schmuck in that area of my life, and that’s some of the reason for the absence of blog posts.

So I can’t tell you what’s right.  But I sure can tell you what’s wrong.  I hope it’s still productive writing though.  It’s hard to find the right answers until you know the right questions to ask.

Like everything that comes between a person and their personal relationship with Christ it’s been a pride issue.  I was ignorant enough to think that some of the demons I’ve sleighed in my life wouldn’t grow two more heads and come back with twice as much force to open the old wounds.

Touche Screwtape.

I’d like to clarify that some of the elements in the poem below that American-culture considers successful aren’t bad things (i.e. healthy family relationships), rather it’s just to illustrate how everyone needs the grace of Christ.   God doesn’t hate material things.  He hates materialism.  And this poem is about getting caught up in that.  It’s about me confronting my deep, selfish sense of entitlement in the world, a world which has already given me more than my due.  I’d also like to clarify that I sort of “got into character” in this poem (I call myself good-looking in it… I realize I only have my mom to second that!).

So here it is…

The Great American Cultural Success (the big mess)

(read slowly with a cocky Texas accent)

I wanna be complete like all hell

That’s when I all break loose.

Hard to separate filthy lies from dirty truths

It’s messy as shit.

And I’m hear to tell you

It don’t get any cleaner from here.

I’ve got those good looks

and that natural charisma

that blind talent

those God given gifts

physique like some sculpture of an adolescent Roman

the two parents

the brothers tattooed on my wrist

get along with my sisters real good too

upper-middle-class

college educated

dimples

Armenian tan

European man

can sing in front of pretty girls

talk sports in front of muscled boys…

I’m the definition of an American-cultural success.

(drop the Texas-accent)
That’s why I am such a mess.

 

I got caught up in the culture

With all the pride and all the lies and all the vultures.

A loose tooth and a broken nail away from drug-addict-despair

Not much separating the two of us there

Both guilty of pulling out our hair

Although I scratch at my chest instead of my face

It’s better that way —

Soul-wounds

Soul-wounds no one can see

the bloodhounds got the best of me

came on like talk radio

tracked me down

like a Rottweiler on a mailman.

I tried to send you the world in a package once:

“Ms. Pot, 6 Billion Lost Souls Drive, Helena-hand-basket, Montana”

It came back

A little hope stamped on it

“Wrong Address.”

20 Years ago my dad died.

20 years ago today my biological Father, Rev. Charles Beck Westerman, or Chuck as many called him, died of a brain tumor.  I’ve learned he was an amazing man as I’ve got to know him through the years through his writings, old sermons, and stories from my mom, brothers, grandparents, siblings and old friends of his.  In particular I’d like to thank my mom, my Westerman grandparents, my Aunt Katie and Uncle Larry, Uncle John and Aunt Sue, and Uncle Beej — all of whom have made a huge effort to tell me about Dad Chuck and give me a sense of who he was.

A quick bio on Chuck: he was smart. genius smart. Graduated from Dartmouth with honors in English Literature.  Could’ve been a Wall-Street lawyer, instead became a pastor: same stress level, one-20th of the pay.  After spending most of the 80s in Chicago with my mom doing ministry with intercity youth and having my two older brothers, he landed a job as a pastor in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  A couple years later I was born.  Exactly 14 months from that day he died of a brain tumor.

I’ve had one dream about him in the 20 years since that fateful day in May.  It will always be one of the most significant events in my life.  It happened my junior year of high school when I was really starting to get angry that I never got to know him, and I think if that dream didn’t happen, that anger might still have a hold on my life today.

So here is a poem about that dream in honor of you Dad. I’d like to dedicate it to your parents Hank and Rosie Westerman:

Nannie and Paw Paw, as us grandkids call you, thank you for showing me nothing but love in our times together. Thank you for embracing Dad Dan and Hannah and Abby, that wasn’t an easy thing to do I’m sure. I hope you don’t think you’re son was foolish for giving his entire life to Jesus Christ, because you know as well as anyone he was as smart as God makes ’em.

The Ink in my Veins 

(any lines with a number in parenthesis next to it means there’s is a footnote at the bottom of the poem explaining the line)

I walked through a dream, to 1991 West Hollow Memory Lane.

That fated place, in that greatest state. Wyoming. (1)

The angels of spring, were blooming by the streams.

And I swore I coulda seen this house before.

The cradle, the bay window, the friendly wooden door. (2)

A man was on the street, holy tennis shoes on his feet —

White Cons — just like his death — a pure crime and too soon for my time, (3)

Those 14 months of daylight.

There was no hell in his soul, and he strangely knew my mold.

He smiled when he saw me and started singing “It is Well”

I joined him in his song, like he’d taught me all along.

The stranger seemed like a Reverend,

That for many years I reveled in.

He untangled my ball of yearn, and beamed, “My son, you have returned!”

And I’m surprised my jaw did not break in my sleep.

The dad who died of cancer. The question. Never answers.

Stood before me with his arms out open wide, me with my rapid eyes,

And it’s not for the simple sake of rhyme I say I cried.

I thanked him for my life, and for how he took his death;

Telling mom to find another man that takes away her breath. (4)

He said my life was a delightful headache to watch,

from his 9th floor cloud off of Paradise and Lost. (5)

I said, oh really? I gave you a headache… Mr. Genius brain-tumor boy?

Cancer was funny like that in this dream. (6)

He asked me if I’d like to go in and use his bed to pee…

Or had I stopped doing that now that I was 16? (7)

The punchline hit my stomach just right,

And we laughed pretty hard after that,

And then we talked Quiet American and Henry the fifth. (8)

How prince Hal’s partying was part of the plan.

How one day he quit, and became a man.

How it was knowing the drunks that made him a king.

How the greatest virtue is empathy. (9)

And as we came to the end of the street,

He said “death cannot change you are the son of me.

From my growing pains, migraines and my big flat feet,

To the ink in your veins where the blood should be.” (10)

And it’s not for the sake of being sweet when I say I started to weep.

As his fingers interlocked around the spine of me.

I think he said he loved me but I couldn’t make it out,

As my conscious was awakened by my alarm clock freaking out.

1: Dad died in 1991.  He and my mom came to Wyoming because they fell in love with the West when they were about my age and they were summer counselors at Estes Park in Colorado.

2: When I actually had this dream I was walking by the parsonage we lived in when he died, but I wasn’t aware of it for awhile, I just thought it was a random neighborhood at first.  Like I said I was a Junior in high school when I had the dream, and hadn’t seen the house since I was a toddler.  A couple months after the dream me and my brothers drove by the parsonage and it looked exactly how I pictured it in my dream.  Call it what you want, but I say that’s proof of God.

3: He always wore White Converse All-Stars, and he’d duck tape them before he’d buy another pair.  Apparently when he and my mom were working in intercity Chicago, the kids they worked with, kids that grew up in the ghetto, were like “Yo Chuck! You need new shoes man!” That’s one of my favorite stories about him.  I tried to work a few of them into the poem.

4: Before he died he told my mom to go out and find a good husband for herself, and a good father for us boys.  And though I never really knew him, he became a hero to me in that moment.  It takes a selfless heart to tell your wife you want her to find happiness with someone other than yourself, and to give a man permission to raise the sons you brought into the world.

5: A reference to John Milton’s famous poem “Paradise Lost” in which he tried to “justify the ways of God to men.”  I think Dad Chuck was a well thought out follower of Christ, and tried to use his gifts (mainly his intellect) to reveal God’s glory.

6: I’ve always had a… well, “broad” sense of humor.  The first time I made the ironic connection that Dad Chuck was a genius with a tumor in his head, I laughed, and I like to think that at some point after learning he had a brain tumor he found that irony as well, and couldn’t help but smile.  The diction used in these lines (i.e. “tumor-boy”) is kind of reminiscent of how me and my brothers like to razz each other.

7: I’ve always felt like there’s two people watching over my life: God and Dad Chuck.  So here he’s razzing me back for being an admittedly late bed wetter as a child.

8: Like I said Dad Chuck was an English Lit major.  I started out college with humanities minor, after taking a humanities class first semester freshman year because everything else was full.  And I fell in love with literature, not because I wanted to be like my Dad Chuck, but because I was naturally like him in some ways.  That has been a great comfort to me as I’ve worked through feelings of being deprived of knowing him on this Earth. Anyways eventually I added an English Lit major to my journalism major, and someday Dad Chuck and I will talk Shakespeare and Graham Greene in Heaven.

9: In Shakespeare’s King Henry plays (Henry IV part 1 & 3 & Henry V) Henry IV’s son Henry V (Prince Hal) hangs out with the mischievous ruffian “pub crowd” in his youth.  This causes Henry IV a lot of stress, but in a soliloquy Prince Hal tells the audience he’s doing this so he can empathize with the common people and be a better king.

10: Dad Chuck was a writer.  Being a writer is not a profession, it is a way of living life.  I am a writer, and I owe a lot of credit of whatever talent I have as a ink-jockey to Dad Chuck… I also had growing pains and migraines growing up, which sucked, but when Nannie told me I was just like my dad, I almost split my head open cracking a smile.

I’ll end with quote from Chuck.

— “If you aspire to incarnate Christian truths in artistic or broadly commercial forms, then you will have, metaphorically, to surrender the norms of proclamation, take up the norms of creation and figure that the allegiances you have formed spiritually will shine through the designs you have plotted artistically. Write, sing, paint, dance boldly– and trust God.” – Chuck Westerman, “Pastor Karl’s Rookie Year”