Now/here Man

You said, “I don’t seem to fit anywhere”
I can relate to that—
Fourteen years teaching at the university as a statusless adjunct
No tenure
No bulging curriculum vitae full of books, articles, papers, conferences, grants and all the signs, tokens and rewards of playing by the game with brio

People we know make references to heady, intellectual, FIVE types
I know they mean me
“We’ve got good thinkers and analysts,” they say, “But…”
What’s unspoken can translated thus:
But the real contribution is ACTION, the realm of the do-ers

I used to be press spokesperson for the Louisville Pledge of Resistance
Far less than you in your twenties
I had some travels, too—
Nicaraguan contra terror war zones (1984)
Guatemalan quasi-Nazi state (1986)
In the 1980s it was going to hundreds of meetings and public demos
Rounding up the flagging troops yet again
Before the ongoing onslaught of the Reagan-backed butchers in Central America
Before I became an “intellectual”
I was an activist
But the putting the thinker and the doer together is an unfinishable task

Often I’ve felt awkward
Neither Catholic
(at least the way 99.99999% of Catholics would define it, yet there are people, teachings, stories, encounters of a Catholic stamp swirling around in soul nether regions)
Nor capital B Buddhist
(though I gravitate to impermanence, formlessness, and interbeing)
Nor Judaic
(my Israeli pal Yael says to me with a wry smile, “You are so Jewish”—whatever that means)
I don’t go to church on Sunday or temple halls or shuls
I’m not so taken by the rituals that give meaning to hundreds of millions of people

Neither an academic writer
Nor a dazzling Rabelaisian  free-former
Neither poor (though I make a pittance)
Nor non-privileged (like Craig Corrie, I am “Oppressor Man”)

What a mess I am…
But, then, it flashes—
So what?
So what if I am this and that
And that and this
Mish and mash
Half-holy hybrid
Container of multitudes
Ever inconsistent in quirky human form
And it further flashes,
Might not everybody be this way
(Except for certain fundamentalists)?

And as I expressed oh so didactically to you
Somewhere along I-55 southern Illinois rural route
On the drive home from Chicago:
“This is it”—
The present moment in which I breathe—
This aging construct called “Mark Chmiel”
Just another dynamic heap of body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness
(Vast internally as the galaxies out there)
Ever in flux
Inscrutable, raging, tender, lucid
So many strings not tied together
Cogency and consistency typically three thoughts away
But in this moment now
24 hours after we said goodnight
I acknowledge:

No career—so be it
No institutional, spiritual home—fine
No capital letter A for activist or academic—dược
(Vietnamese, “OK”)
There is just this orange notebook
This blue ink pen
The image of you late at night
Sitting by McKay’s $7000 computer
Telling me the truth
About feeling empty, not fitting, at a loss

I, too, am at a loss
Not fitting
Still, here I sit scribbling
Smiling and thinking of you
Breathing this all in and out

1 Comment

  1. Mark, Oh I can relate…I CAN RELATE…I know the not fitting in anywhere…I have experienced that since I was very young. and then I cared and tried to fit in till about 8th grade then I stopped trying.

    and you know what I like the most about what you shared in this poem/post? When write..
    “.So what?
    So what if I am this and that
    And that and this
    Mish and mash
    Half-holy hybrid
    Container of multitudes
    Ever inconsistent in quirky human form
    And it further flashes,
    Might not everybody be this way
    (Except for certain fundamentalists)?”

    Yes…yes indeed…SO FUCKING WHAT!!!
    we are all mish/mash, a little of this and a dash of that
    We are like human soup! and the simmering process makes
    the flavor of our lives richer…

    Oh yeah, sometimes I think about what this elderly nun once said
    as she “interpreted’ my handwriting…She said, “This person has 40 cats under her hood and is not using any of them.” I was devastated! But as the years have passes and seasoned my living, I have found I and using them, just not as others think I “should” or when I get really judgmental of myself, how I “think” I should.

    a long winded way of saying thank you..
    thanks for putting words on our common experience
    Thanks for NORMALIZING life…
    And not letting us get caught in the
    myth of “oughts and shoulds”
    We are who we are
    glorious and strange and mixed up and holy…

    thanks my friend.


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