Dad’s Barbaric Yawp

Walt Whitman

Walt and I need to talk.

Almost midnight and I can’t sleep because thoughts are flying through my mind. I have this image of witches flying around in circles at some sort of witch jamboree.

My mind is noisy and I am fighting to find my center, to quiet the screaming of the jet engines inside that destroy tranquility. The internal editor is screaming too, arms flailing around because he can’t find the words.

But I know the source of his gesticulating is fear that the words I place here won’t have a flow or rhythm to him. That fucking madman is far too self conscious and while he worries about his image I am pushing ahead because what powers my posts is momentum and if I don’t keep moving inertia will kill my panache and the machine that powers these fingertips will cease to work.

“I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable;
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”
Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman

It would be false to say fear doesn’t push me to keep moving but it would also be false to say it is the sole motivator.

If I were given the opportunity to speak with my good friend Mr. Whitman I would pepper him with questions about his work. I want to know how he found his barbaric yawp and what moved him to sound it.

I think about these things more often than I once did. Maybe it is because I can hear the tick-tock of the clock. My gut always tells me my time on the earth is far from done. I’ll see many more sunrises and sunsets but that never eases the feeling that I need to run harder than I am or I won’t get it all done.

It frustrates me to feel this way because it conflicts with my desire to be present in the moments. If we spend our days running like hamsters on a wheel it becomes more challenging to enjoy what is happening now and that conflict is a battle I fight each day.

Time isn’t unlimited but then again my daughter will be ten once and I won’t ignore that. Can’t ignore that. I will do my best to be a part of it all and to savor the time as I have it now.

But if I spoke with Walt today I would tell him about the things I feel in my gut, the stuff I know based upon the tickle in my mind and not based upon science or education. I would ask him about how to write about these things, how to take what I see internally and produce it externally.

This is what I am meant to do. I am meant to write. I am meant to take words and find ways to turn them into stories.

Meant To Do Meets The Bills

If you ask me to introduce you to the things I fear I could do so. I could share the list and tell you about the sick feeling that sometimes accompanies a few of them.

Today the one that bothers me the most is trying to find the way to do what I am meant to do and still pay my bills. It is the concern about how to turn the words that flow from the fingertips into a stream of income that makes it easy to support my family.

It is following that yellow brick road into the Emerald City and not allowing the fact that the wizard is a man to stop me from following those dreams. We all have our regrets and I can’t stomach the idea of being beaten by flying monkeys. In the past I might have tried to figure it out on my own.

A lack of trust or faith might have kept me from finding my own scarecrow, lion and tin man to help me but not anymore. These days I have learned to ask for help and to trust I’ll get it.

What Will My Verse Be?

Remember that internal editor I mentioned above?

He is the one who worries about whether you’ll read these words and consider them pathetic, ridiculous and or embarrassing. I believe he is the one who is holding me back. He is the one who sets limits upon what I can or cannot do.

Today I remind myself again of the need to kick his ass and for dad to sound his own barbaric yawp.

If I buy into the lines Robin Williams shared in Dead Poets Society (and I do) than I have to keep pushing ahead and do my best to contribute my verse. I have some ideas about what I want it to be but I suspect my friend Walt would say we won’t know until I am gone.

And now that I have placed these words upon paper the noise inside my head is silent and I am ready to shut my eyes and seek slumber. In the morning I’ll set off on my journey again and do my best to sound and follow my yawp, It is what good father’s do.

John Keating: We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”- Dead Poets Society

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