Center City at 2am

11/13/2006

Curling golden brown leaves rustle damply in the cold wind, as we plod the wet amberlit pavement over last week’s newspaper and empty burger wrappings. Shadows dance in the periphery, fooling the eye with movement in the brisk chill breeze, and our collars are turned up against the frigid light mist falling. The sounds of rushing trucks on Ninetyfive below never cease, and we remember many years of sharing the late night interstate thruway with so many truckers so long ago.

Lights blink as we make our way past angled metal sculpture, iron railings, closed shops and bars, a few pubs rebelliously open at the late hour, coaxing the half-sleeping occupants to yell one more time over one more beer. One of us lumbers over a sheet iron sidewalk cover and it clatters with a hollow ring. Hands shoved deep into pockets we glance around bemusedly, minds even deeper in thought. It has been a weekend of change and permanence, ‘now’ turning to ‘then’ with finality. How much more valuable than diamond encrusted…diamonds, these thirty years of memories I chew over while inhaling the moist pungency of alleys and aerosols.

The illumination neon paints South Street shining coldly and wetly, as a few cars pass going way too fast. In silence, while we enjoy the 18th century architecture and its modern accompaniments in the hiss of a light shower, my love for this city rekindles.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Through my foggy passenger window, to an inky backdrop, the bridge soars above us, studded in lights. It’s monolithic towers and cable stride quickly behind us as we thread down into the maze of lanes and concrete tunnels lit dull orange.  When the car is expelled from the guts of thruway, we emerge into the foggy, damp, center of a glorious human-hewn canyon, a mega ghost town.

The sidewalks are empty, dormantly soaking in a sheen of mist in the imperfect darkness. A sustained woosh of sound, like one long and continuous peal of faraway thunder, seems to signify the steady buzz of life as the towers sleep. My head cannot stop swiveling and rocking, as I try in vain to download and store this magical moment, this four dimensional dream of surreal sensation.

Strolling the square of squares, remembering more and more as the familiarity roars back from decades past, my head panics that its sensory bandwidth is inadequate to grasp the enormity and sentiment of this moment. As emotions swell and I am silently thankful and euphoric for this chance moment in time, my love for this city ignites with a popping thud inside my heart, as if the pilot light of my memory has just touched off a gas coil in my soul.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When my feet leap to clear the last tread, and are met with stone tile courtyard at the summit of “The Steps”, heart pounding in exhilaration and remembrance, my love for this city explodes like hydrogen bombs. The lights twinkle back their agreement, as fog hides the pointed spires of ‘my’ skyline.

Tonight, this pre-dawn morning, will be with me forever. With its memory also swells a four (or five) strong corded love of we brothers, timelessly solidified in each raindrop cascading from the rafters of this brotherlove city.

 

Philadelphia.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Several hours later, we laid Uncle John to rest, temporarily.
It is Well. -DD

The Incident

On June 15, 2007, in Melbourne, Florida, our middle daughter Mary Helen was running up the tiled hallway full-speed with the kinetic energy of a roller coaster, when her legs got tangled with each other as they are known to do. We heard a sharp impact and saw her dive headfirst into the tiles, irreparably damaging her front two baby teeth. She was/is fine, and the teeth in question have since been prosthetically enhanced before eventually making way for other permanent teeth to grow in. Here was my “take away”.-DD

————————————————————————————-

How could You? How, literally, could You do it?

How did You deal with the sickening pain? This pain that numbs from within, and is so terrible that it simply surpasses anger and goes right to miserable tears and brokenhearted desperation?

How did you choke back the sobs? The groaning of utter helplessness? How did we possibly matter enough to You that You could just sit still when we did not even deserve such a costly gift?
…..

It’s like your heart stops, then starts, and then stops again with each attempt to beat….

I rushed over, moments after my own precious, tiny, impossibly beautiful baby had been whisked up from the scene of The Incident, and that’s when I saw it.

My own irreplaceable child’s smudged tiny handprint….in blood.

Drops. Drops, large angry red drops… and small pools all over, and tiny splashes marking the trail to the bathroom…and seeing her gasp for breath amidst the cries, and seeing her injured, seeing her wounded.

It made my insides thud to silence. Broken, brutal, silence.

I could not, nor cannot, keep the tears of pain from welling up in my own special agony. The agony of a Daddy who would do anything for his child, would trade anything for those recent moments before The Incident. A Dad who wished more than anything it was his own blood and not his special, helpless, innocent…above all, innocent, child’s. A Father who would blot and preserve each and every microscopic drop if it would put her back to new.

All pain is not merely physical.

This pain is horribly sickening, this pain inside. I see her precious blood spattering the sink, and my shaving cream, and the toothpaste tube, and I see her tiny hands and arms shaking as she struggles to overcome the pain and interpret what has happened. And I think that there is no way I would ever understand allowing such a thing to happen for someone else’s benefit, or even preservation. I would collapse and die of overwhelming, sickening, regret. Regret that it had even happened, that my child was even bleeding.

Her eyes brim with tears as she stares silently, deeply into my eyes, searching for the meaning of this pain that has shattered her happy existence. Is this, too, what life involves, Daddy? Is blood life?

Yes, my angel. Blood is indeed life.
I do not like it any more than you do, but blood is essential for life. It is joy and at the same time overwhelming pain. Blood equals life.

Eyes dark and silent, her tiny head dips as she thinks over the previous minutes and replays the moment when pain and injury and hurt descended like a crashing whisp of glass shattering to the granite floor. Her eyes move to the blood on my shoulder. Her blood. I see the tears of recognition come and it shreds my soul even more. Her fist and arm curls around and presses against my neck and won’t let go. And I don’t want it to let go.

How could I ever allow my beautiful, sweet, precious baby’s blood to be spilled for ANYONE, nevermind anyone who would be potentially ungrateful?

It is conceptually beyond anything I can grasp, and yet You forced yourself to inaction. You allowed more than I as a Father could even bear. You have to be the most patient, forgiving, restrained, and loving Father to ever exist if You could watch that and not despair. As each beat of Your heart was pain, as You saw those tiny hands and feet wounded, as You saw that innocence brutally ruined, and You willed Yourself to do…

nothing.

Nothing could gain more respect from me than Your simple act of inaction when they, we, did that to Your special little incredible Child. The one You loved so much, the one You cherished like I cherish mine; we spilled Your child’s blood and You forgave us.

As I knelt in the darkness hours later, holding her tiny hand and listening to the quiet peaceful breath, it all crashed in again and I realized how much I don’t know about You and why You would, could, let it happen.

Over and over in my mind I see her blood, the blood, and it brings new pain. My heart will never be quite the same, forever broken again in just a small way today for this child, as it was stirred to anger when they pierced the other daughter’s skin years ago at a cold hospital on a cold night in June. But today transcended anger and went right to numbness, to pain. How could You watch the puddles form and see the precious skin broken? How could You see that and not destroy everyone involved?

How did You endure seeing Your own child’s blood sprinkle the ground, with every drop wrenching and ripping the very heart from Your chest?

The blood is killing me inside.

The blood has been wiped away now, and there are only tiny drops missed here and there, but I still see them and each tiny one is my baby.

The blood is crumbling me, crushing me.

The blood has power over me. It shucks my layers of defense, it makes me raw and unstable, it cuts me to my very soul. It makes me cry as if I were not a thirty-one year old man. It holds ultimate significance and makes the cares of life inconsequential and filtered from relevance. The blood of my child is a bitter, horrible, infuriating, grief-stricken sight, and I cannot bear it. How could You?

Yet the blood brings perspective. It is life and it symbolizes the death we all carry inside us, the humanity of death, and injury, and smashing your teeth on tile floors, and bleeding precious blood. It also represents that which will never be smashed or killed, that which energizes beyond anything we know here and now as life. Each agonizing drop spilled is a bruise to my soul, but it is all that matters to me.

The blood, in that moment, is everything to me. In this moment it is my all.

Be The Counterpoint

February 20, 2017 10:10pm

Its almost like being a counterpoint. The answer to the truest questions that people have, about their creativity, about why music can hurt so deeply and also feel so wonderfully essential. The drive way down in their hearts, the Eternity in their hearts that cries out for something beyond the here and the now, both the moments of excruciating pain and the moments of heavenly bliss.   I want to be the counterpoint.

No, I AM the counterpoint.

I don’t think more highly of myself than I aught, but in fact I AM a Son of

the Living God,

the Source of All,

the Creator of Music and

the Finisher of The Last Note to Ever Sound.

The Answer.

The Response to calls from so many breaking hearts, that shout every second, as each of our hearts grow one second older every second on this temporary place called Earth and in this transitional place called Being Human.

As tonight, listening online for awhile, I have journeyed thru a few minutes of hearing, truly hearing, the creative heart of this mind-blowing producer named Jon Bellion, I have realized that I know the response to his deepest calls. His song “Human” is a perfect touchpoint to which I am called to respond, because in all the world there are people who, beyond an amazing hook or a sick drum sequence or enrapturing vocals, are really wanting it all to mean something. I am convinced that the “mean something” is the essential missing piece, I mean peace, of the WHY we sing and play and create. This entity, the Who We Create For (no, it is not ultimately ourselves, and certainly not the masses).

Elohim. אֱלֹהִים HE is the one Who causes everything to make sense, and I will create for Him. As I always have felt inside, the draw is a “drive or hustle” that stirs at the core and will not stop humming. When I sleep, a hum. When I am awake, a hum.  When I am preoccupied with everything that is not it; still a humming. Not to wax poetic or idealistic, but honestly when nothing else remains, HE IS. The ultimate muse of all muses: the King of all Kings.

This hum has not abated in war, in peace, in famine, in plenty.  It is still humming.

—————————-[~]—————————-

Be the counterpoint. Be the solution. Don’t do it for the people you can influence, the units you might move, the decimal point zeros or the Likes or Follows or anything. Do it because something has to be released into the atmosphere forever that answers all the questions, that solves all the riddles, that finishes the starts. Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End. The Conclusion of Searches, the End of Beginnings, the Solution. Put away the thoughts right now, before people who don’t know you know your name, that you will ever do anything for any other purpose than to Glorify God.

Does each of these elements of strategy glorify God? Does this ______ purchase glorify God? Does this song or written verse or sound glorify God? Does it? Never stop asking that question.  You are a conduit to be flowed, not a cup to be filled.

Conduits are funny things. There are a ton of them at Lowe’s and Home Depot that may never “make it big”. There has to be something to flow, or the conduit is fully valueless. As long as there is something to flow, the conduit is fulfilling its call. Not every conduit is hooked up to a sprinkler system at Fenway Park or Madison Square Garden or Buckingham Palace. Some conduit is functioning under your kitchen sink and below your toilet commode. That conduit is just as important to you as the fuel pump relay on whichever NASCAR racecar which wins the Daytona 500 next weekend is important to the driver/owner/sponsor.

It’s starting to become clear. Please don’t try to make it big. Please. Dear God. Please don’t try to do that. Instead, release what is inside you, the thing which has people sensing the governor coming off your voice week after week, the thing which Garret Gustafson prayed over you, which at times caused both reticence and  boldness in college around the ol’ piano. Release the singular, Matrix-like, music that is in your spirit. And Trust Him that the ears that should hear will hear, and the creative art that needs to be experienced from inside you will be unleashed. Release Joy and Hope and Eternal Purpose into the world.

Will you?

 

The next day after writing this, I researched counterpoint and found that it was a musical term!!!!!!! Means opposing sounds, relationships between voices that are harmonically interdependent yet independent in rhythm and contour. The term originates from the Latin punctus contra punctum meaning “point against point”. -DD

To My Oldest Daughter on Her 15th Birthday

On Finding A Small Yellow Car In My Pocket After Arriving At the Office.

October 29, 2010

When he tilts his head back a little and looks at me, I feel strength build. The soft whisper of his breath that brushes across my lips and face set off a chain of explosions inside me. The crescendo of dedication and compassion and pride are like a rushing, boiling windstorm, a triumphant roaring of a mezzo forte symphony at its zenith in my soul. In that moment, the air between us is infused with some type of syrupy electricity, a current of calm energy that is unexplained in its sensation. He catches a glimpse of something supernaturally funny, or joyful, in our closeness and he smiles at me with a glittering flash of complete happiness in his eyes. On the outer edges of my consciousness I understand what he sees, and I feel laughter well up deep inside my chest. During this distracted and clouded moment of rapture, he must have slipped a car in my pocket.

  ———]+[———

I love my Son. He loves me, but his small and choppy whitecap of love toward me is met by a thundering tsunami in return. At two years, he is incapable of knowing just to what measures I would take this. I would bloody myself on the street for him, and linebacker a locomotive to keep him from harm. I would even inflict punishment on him, with love, to protect him from dangers and consequences he has never even contemplated.

———]+[———

He leans his face slowly in, and kisses me with one sweet instant of emotion. It’s a peck, and I grit my teeth to keep from melting into incoherence. I feel unworthy, but he worships me. I am his Father and that makes me worthy to him. It is in accordance with the ancient order, firmly established before time began.

———]+[———

He is propelled to me by the bond of who I am, not what I do. In this moment of instinct and innocence he is showing me that he loves me, and he is drawn to my face magnetically. If I am not looking at him, he turns my chin toward him with a small but insistent hand. Then, when I make eye contact with him, he is overpowered and it is too much so he turns away sheepishly. He grins as his eyes close slowly a couple times, and he lays his head high on my chest, up under my chin. And stays there for a minute.

I love you, JP.

I wuv you too, dad.

 

My Son in Whom I delight.

One Minute To Midnight

 

Silently, violently cursing myself for

not remembering my abominable cellphone

With the desired number.

 

My wife’s tense foot slams into my

electrified knee as she lurches

up onto the gurney to be with

our bruised angel.

 

Screams, horrible heart-stopping torrential cries

Tear my eardrums and the rend

Is straight to my soul

as the ******* accursed ******* needle punctures

her mint-condition, brand-new

sweet, pure, arm and vein.

 

My forehead pours rivulets of fury.

Maddening rage courses my jugular

as my revolting fists clench her

thighs and immobilize her innocent body

for the hated shard of a life-replenishing

dose of lactated Ringers.

 

I detest infection.

Loathsome unforgivable weakening Rash of Darkness.

Self-pity of the weak wasted.

I’m not going any ******* where.

None of them are a remote concern to me

other than to

keep their ******* sickness to themselves.

 

In my mind, I upend the “tree”,

splashing Ringers all over this wretched cubicle

and slam it forcefully into the male nurse’s forehead.

GET. THE. ****. OFF. MY. DAUGHTER.

Yet the cranberry blood surges into the plastic tube

and then I detest

plastic tubes.

 

Yes, I’m perfectly fine.

My face, heart, mind, inner screams undoubtedly

Betray my inner panic and tormented roars.

The hated tube has been whisked off to a lab

by some yawning high school drop-out

Worker Bee,

and cc after cc is disappearing

into my Angel’s arm.

 

Her mother, valor incarnate,

cups her throbbing temples and reassures

despite the uncertainty.

No, Hun, there’s no Granola Bar in

the diaper bag.

Would it kill them to enlist

somebody who gives a ****?

 

I rage and weep inside.

Outside, I trust my shell appears somewhat

Calm.

Probably sullen though, I can’t hide my feelings.

Never could.

What congestion?

What ******* catheter?

What inner ear?

 

Quieter now she rests on her Mother’s breast,

Tender elbow immobilized.

An odd angle with “skin friendly” tape

And the infuriatingly necessary one-eighth inch

Hose of liquid.

So what now, Doc?

You better not be on a smoke break,

You well-educated **** Bag.

You are well-educated,

Aren’t you?

I nod.

It’s about

Ten ‘till midnight.

 

Thank you for buying so many groceries today.

I almost have enough room to entirely

Drain my head in ink on the back of this reciept.

Strangely cool, my skin now feels, from residual sweat.

 

Less of the rush now. Nice to know…

Wow sudden exhilaration as the live heart monitor

Shows beautiful purple hills and valleys in rapid

Blip, blip, blip.

So she’s probably going to be fine…

She has to be.

 

At least she’s not Beet red anymore.

Inwardly the profanity shames and embarrasses me

But I know of no other vocabulary that

Captures the same.

Forgive me Father.

 

I now realize, with all of the tear-welling pain

My heart can bear,

Just how impossible it would be to see

not-so-razor-sharp metal pierce the skin

Of your most precious only begotten child

And to will yourself to not

destroy all participants.

thank You for life.

252359JUN02

 

This poem was scrawled angrily on the back of a Commissary receipt one night in a U.S. Army Hospital, where we had rushed our 3 month old first baby girl after she was inconsolable. Being an Army Captain at the time was fairly stressful, but nothing compared to arriving home to find my wife, a brand new mom, genuinely scared and at her limit on what to do for a daughter who would not eat or sleep, only cry. All was well after some tense hours in the NICU, but the mark this event left on me as a new dad was profound. -DD

Why Am I Here?

Whyamihere

An angry mechanical squeal still rings in my ears, the sound of a carpenter’s circular power saw grinding to a halt as it chews into the gristle instep of a steel-toe work boot. An even angrier yell of human pain echoes with immediate fervor, as commotion and splattering blood identify the scene of the accident.

Our contract was to finalize a dozen multi-story tract homes by month’s end, and for the past 6 days my guys have been measuring blueprint plans, hammering joist supports, and now sawing their own feet virtually in half, all in hopes of completing this construction job on schedule.

This morning we were a half-day ahead of schedule. Now, I get to spend the rest of the afternoon sitting here in the local emergency room, waiting in suspended animation as the kind but overworked medical staff performs triage on my limping wood frame foreman. They think they can save the teriyaki of Mike’s toes, but dozens of stitches and a few weeks of recovery are in his future. Idiot.

I glare at the creeping hands of the dusty institutional wall clock, noting that several more hours of work time would have remained for this day, now lost forever. I glance away bitterly, and see the disinterested faces of a half-dozen patients lounging in the stiflingly inactive waiting room with me. The sleepy despondency is a reminder of how much I dislike Florida’s community medical facilities, all Doc-in-a-box facilities, really. The sadness they bring forces me to acknowledge the perpetual state of our human frailty. Not to mention the germs I imagine I can see crawling on the furniture. Maybe a soda would help.

God, why could he not have let off on the saw control just a few inches earlier? Why did the blade go BEHIND the steel toe, and not ABOVE the steel toe? Why am I here at a hospital when I should be out at the site finishing up unit 17? Where’s that dollar I had from my “roach coach” purchase earlier today?

 As I amble out the front sliding doors into the courtyard entry way, I peer around the few palm tree trunks for the familiar glow of a vending machine in the humid sub-tropical afternoon twilight. Imagining the wet taste of a cool, fizzing cola makes me start to forget the lost man-hours this accident has caused, when I suddenly see her.

Laboring down the concrete walkway from Admittance & Release, a middle-aged woman gazes down at the teen girl who is slumped weakly against her side, stumbling along, each step an exhausting ordeal. The girl is staring ahead, unseeingly, unaware of the older woman’s loving and concerned gaze.

I cannot take my eyes from the girl. Her golden chocolate skin is dotted with dark patches, the sweatshirt sleeves end at bone-thin wrists and knobby but delicate hands hold up the hospital bracelets on each arm. Her scalp shines like a bowling ball, not a tuft of hair. A knitted beanie cap has apparently slipped back off of her head, and is clasped behind the older woman’s arm as it circles the girl’s shoulders in support.

“I… just can’t.”  She is forcing the words to come, even as the shortness of breath is evident and wheezing.

“I just can’t fight any more. I just can’t take this, the treatments, the…everything!” A sob escapes, before the tragic declaration.

“ I give up!”

As she says the words, tears begin to rush through the sieve of pain in her sunken eyes. This is the kind of weeping where it is as if pieces of her soul are leaking out with the tears, as parts of her very essence rain out and crumble down her cheeks. My soul silently floods with anger, and my hands begin to shake slightly. It’s as if a wave of pain has just launched from this girl, and hit me square in my spirit.

The hopelessness is crushing, and I know why she wants to give up. She has used every ounce of fortitude, every portion of resistance, every measure of willpower. She is an absolute stranger. She is not even the same race as me. But as we pass on the walkway and I look into her eyes, it is as if she is my daughter.

And she is in so much pain.

The sorrow chokes me and I can barely see.

God. Oh God. Why? Give her more days, just a few more. Give her hope, that this is a light and momentary trouble. She is Yours. Save Her.

 

As I silently and violently leap from within myself and touch heaven, imploring the Savior for mercy and encouragement and peace for this much too young cancer victim…

 

I know why I’m here.

 

This is a work of fiction, and I wish cancer was as well. -DD

συκών (Greek for “figs”)

“Here is the proof that what I say is true: This year you will eat only what grows up by itself,
and next year you will eat what springs up from that.
But in the third year you will plant crops and harvest them;
you will tend vineyards and eat their fruit.”

  • Isaiah 37:30-32