Not-so Free Bird

I am a professional statistician.

I do not weigh in on
Political controversies, as
Experience has taught me that
I will make everyone angry.

Debunking the shoddy statistics
Used to prop up political arguments
Is akin to disputing Scripture
To most people most of the time,
And, is seen as quibbling.

I don’t want to hurt people,
People I respect and love..
So, I say nothing.


I had a friend who killed herself,
Rather than let her husband ever
Hurt her again.
In my eyes,
He murdered her.

I passed by their house
Driving down to Florida yesterday.
It’s been almost thirty years.
I only knew her six weeks.

I wrote recently of a friend
Who died in her early twenties
From drug addiction and
Fleeing an abusive home.

These were not statistics;
Statistics are never really statistics,
They are people, were people –
And people hurt
Every
Day

But we pass by individuals
On our way to using categories
And statistics
Than generalize out
Everything that matters.


There are seagulls on this beach;
I am watching one, doing –
I’m not really sure what she’s doing.

For forty-five minutes, she
Stayed within sight.
This free or not-so free bird,
Whose concerns never crossed with mine
Before today.

I do not think
The crabs and small fish look on her
As friendly, as
We’ve seen her eat several.

She flew away, at last –
Away from the direction of the sun.
As we all will, no doubt,
One day.


I have no categories today.

I am not free
To claim to know you
Merely by
Description

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2 Thoughts to “Not-so Free Bird

  1. Anthony once asked if you weren’t really just walking around, seeing everything we live and wonder.

    I explained that, as far as I’m concerned, you’re not even in the same plane as most folks … you see more and understand more intuitively than, well, anyone I’ve ever met online or off. I think part of that comes from understanding there are limitations to understanding outside of actually being in someone’s shoes.

    Whatever the case may be, I am so glad you not only feel and think these things, but type them where others may read them. I am so grateful to have my eyes and heart opened, and to be moved further away from fear / toward compassion.

    1. I’m back home and can answer this properly, before I dive into Ra’s book that just arrived.

      First of all thank you – your and Anthony’s comments and support have meant so much to me, more than I could ever tell you.

      As I, in the last couple of days, revisited places I lived in my twenties and thirties – the worst parts of my life – I realized: it is only the memory of pain that makes empathy possible. If you’ve never been excluded, mistreated, neglected, it’s easy to dismiss it when it happens to others. One of the things that attracted me to your writing when I first encountered it is what I’d call its “fiercely protective empathy”. That and your formidable intellect.

      I wish wisdom had come to me sooner – perhaps my children would be happier now. Although the one I just visited seems to be doing very well. His life is simple, but, so are his wants. He loves to work, he loves his girlfriend, she loves him, they love their dog – they’re happy. So I’m happy for them.

      Finally, this post was, at least in part, in reaction to your “Beyond Fight or Flight” post. I could imagine reacting the same that way you described. It’s so hard, because, we have to hold on to our past hurts in some ways – as I said before, in order to feel empathy – but those same past hurts weigh us down, take us out of the moment.

      My poor wife gets a form of it from me all the time – she was a beautiful child, who had boyfriends as long as she could remember – I was an ugly, nerdy kid who learned to draw and play music in the hope some girl might look at me one day with something other than disgust, and who never went on a real date until he was a senior in high school. When she talks about Junior High Dances and proms and valentines my mind goes back to places I’d rather never revisit. It’s a trivial example compared to what you’ve been through, I realize, but it was the only reality I had.

      Sorry to ramble on so. Thank you so much for your kind words. And I want the chance to buy front-row tickets when that musical makes its stage debut.

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