unsent letters – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

unsent letters

Umbrella-huddled blurs
trudge past the cafe window
in dripping grays and blacks
mottled and melted
like zombies
in an amateur painting
raised from the graveyard
of a suburban garage sale

If they were to look through
the rain-melted window
what would they think of me
and my cold, half-finished coffee
sitting across from
your empty chair
trying not to dissolve

Pages in a journal – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Pages in a journal

Leaves, yellowed and browned
in the cold winds
after a hot, dry summer,
cling to grayed, shivering twigs
that point skyward,
like the splayed fingers
of cracked and crooked wizards
summing stormclouds.

Raindrops slice down,
heavy and hard, soaking in
until the desperate branches sag
and the leaves tear off
one by one
to drop to the ground
where they will decay,
leaving behind an emptiness
where one day
the brightness of hope
will bring forth new buds
nourished by
the quiet tears of winter.

next time – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

next time

No one saw us dancing
at the party
as we glided
separately
from room
to crowded room
greeting old friends
and avoiding each other
with practiced precision
until at the end of the night
our embrace on the threshold
lasted an acceptable duration
and we expressed
our mutual regret
at not spending
more time
together

weightlessness – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Weightlessness

When all the burdens
are cut loose
and you rise
past the thunderheads
beyond the crowded cacophony
of overworked satellites
into the peaceful silence
of weightless space
you will find me
waiting to wrap you
like a sun-warmed blanket

There
we will float
together in the void
the only sound
our slow breath
the only weight
our bodies
pressing into each other

our only view
the entirety of creation.

 

Distances – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Distances

Tall pines stand stoic
behind us, a row of sentries
barricading
two worlds from each other.
We broke their line
to escape the campground
with its unwashed dishes
and uncorked wine bottles
and unconcerned spouses.
We took with us
the children–
their implicit innocence
our passport
to the twilight
of the rocky dirt
beside the lake.

While they race along
the thirsty, drought-parched shore
you and I stand silent
side by side
motionless as ancient pillars
of a long lost pagan temple.

The bruised sky relaxes to black
and we turn our gazes starward
conscious of the trees
and the children
and the chill of the Sierra evening
and the warmth of each other.

I want to reach up
and pluck a star from the sky
like stealing a tiny white blossom
from a mountain vine
to curl into your golden hair.

But it would be easier to weave you
an entire wreath of stars
than to cross
the vast, impossible distance
that separates
your shivering hand
from mine.

The magic that makes Charities@Work the best CSR employee engagement conference every year

If you’re employed in CSR, D&I, or employee engagement, commit now to attending next year’s Charities@Work conference.

The 2019 conference hit the Times Square Westin a couple weeks ago, and it was my first time attending without also being on the corporate advisory council. I have been a regular at many of the CSR industry’s conferences, and this is the best for employee engagement practitioners, hands down.

Why? Two words: BECAUSE REASONS. Okay?

Advisory Council chair Michael Carren

If you want to know what was on the agenda or how the panels went or who the speakers were, there are other pages for that. I’m going to share my personal observations and try to explain the magic that I feel makes this conference special.

No corporate chest-thumping

The worst thing is to pay for a conference and spend two days listening to the big sponsors drone on about how awesome (yet irrelevant to the audience) their company’s CSR programs are. The Charities@Work sponsors pay in not because they’ll get a bunch of self-indulgent stage time, but because they know the talent and creativity in the room will be inspiring, challenging, and innovative. The sponsors are paying to keep this incredible forum from turning into just another mostly-pointless business trip, and to ensure that someone is helping push the profession and the field forward.

Real, unvarnished discussion

The pre-conference workshops are unique in my experience. A lot of conferences offer workshops, but I’ve found most to feel contrived—more dedicated to the methodology of the workshop, or the production of a preconceived outcome, than to the creative, inclusive, and challenging dialog that Charities@Work creates space for.

“Shark Tank” judges being judgy

These workshops are designed with a bit of intentional chaos built in because the organizers know that even the newcomers to CSR bring fresh ideas, new perspectives, and pointed questions.

Old friends and new friends

Although I think the 2019 conference could have had more space in the agenda for networking breaks, the after-hours networking events more than made up for it. More important, however, is that the conference comprises a mix of old pros who have known each other a long time, and new pros who might be networking at a CSR conference for the first time.

Networking at Starbucks Reserve Roastery.

We’ve all been to conferences where everyone huddles up in their own little established cliques. This is great for catching up with old friends, but it’s awful if you come alone or hope to broaden your network.

Charities@Work feels different to me. Every year I’ve met several new people that I’ve kept in touch with. There isn’t anything structurally different about this conference that fosters this networking; it’s the underlying culture of the event and the attitude of the staff and advisory council that run it.

Everyone’s voice matters, and everyone has things to say

BEST. PANEL. EVER.
Jillian, Jerome, and Erin. Best panel ever.

I had the honor of moderating the last panel of the day, and even with three stellar panelists in Jillian Mershon, Jerome Tennille, and Erin Gollhofer, I was worried that we’d face an audience overwhelmed and exhausted by the day’s packed agenda. So, intentionally, I warned the room up front that I didn’t want a Q&A session so much as I wanted people to take the mic and share their own thoughts. What happened was, for me, kind of magical: while a few people looked ready for a nap, dozens of people wanted to share their insights. The energy and inspiration had been building up all day, and people were eager to speak, to share, to interact.

At other conferences, I’m always eager for the last panel to end. It didn’t feel that way at Charities@Work 2019.

And those are my reasons. Not because I learned actionable tips to run CSR programs (I did). Not because I learned new things from well-known professionals (I did). Not because I got to lead THE BEST PANEL EVER (I did). But because of the underlying culture and inclusiveness and electricity and creative space and welcoming attitude that makes this conference special.

So commit yourself to attending next year. Set aside some budget to sponsor. And if you have questions or things to add to my thoughts, comment here.

Unlimited Capacity – flash fiction

“Your heart,” she told me, when we walked the pier and watched the lobstermen pulling up their pots at the far end of the dark bay, after that clouded talk in the coffee shop, when we both kept sipping at long-empty cups and looking at everything but each other…

“Your heart,” she told me, “has unlimited capacity.”

“You’ve told me this before,” I replied, remembering a drive in the Florida sun in a rented convertible, when I backtracked ten miles to retrieve the hat that had blown off her head on the interstate.

She was young, then, and I was… idealistic. Impressionable. Eager to be anything that she told me to be.

Her answer came like the sharp mist off the whitecaps, chilling under my upturned collar.

“I was wrong, then.”

“But–”

“Then, I thought you had a heart with enough room for everyone. A big heart. A heart like a balloon that could never pop, no matter how many people blew into it.”

I found her analogy lacking, but it had potential. I kept silent and waited, like the gathering clouds drifting along with us, far overhead.

“But my analogy doesn’t really hold water,” she mused, and I saw in her tight cheeks and quivering nose the telltale signs of a joke she knew no one else would understand.

“Your heart,” she told me, pausing to lean on a thick pole as a boat chugged past, wheezing white smoke behind…

“Your heart is more like a bucket with a hole in it. People pour their love in, and maybe it gathers for a bit, but it runs out just as quickly.”

Seagulls bobbed in the wake of the little lobster boat, facing various directions, as the twilight crept in around us and the chill of dusk oozed under my collar and raindrops began to patter on the mottled wood of the decking, drumming dully on the plastic lid of my long-empty coffee cup.

Winter Begins – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

winter begins

Tissue paper crinkles under the bed
waiting for Valentine’s Day
or an anniversary
wrinkled and flattened
over and over again
stuffed into gift bags
to decorate a mid-range Pinot
or add substance to the emptiness
left unfilled by a gift card.

I used to wrap gifts
with the Sunday comics
or sliced-up grocery bags
when presents held the magic
signaled by another candle on the cake
or cookie crumbs left by a fireplace
on a twinkling December night.

Now in a dusky twilight
the restless cats rustle under the bed
in the forgotten tissue paper
with fraying edges and fading colors
wrinkled and flattened
over and over again
waiting to be dragged out
for one more anniversary
or one more Valentine’s Day.

Coming Clean – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Coming Clean

Through the wash
Soaked and spun
Squeezed, wrung, and hung
Dripping out clear water
Like blood cheated of its color
To seep into the ground
And disappear
Into a muddy past

How many more washes
Until the tired cloth
Disintegrates on a pale wind

Better, perhaps, to let
The grime of years accumulate
And maintain the illusion
Of substance

 

Denial #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Denial

We turn back our clocks
unwinding
an hour of summer
in a futile attempt
to legislate autumn
into the future.
One more hour of summer,
as if daylight could be saved
like dollars
until the hours accumulate
into days, and the days
into months, until
we have cheated winter
of its cold-hearted
intentions.

But leaves turn brown
and our pace slows
and fog infiltrates,
dimming our bright thoughts
and chilling our fingertips.

Inevitability
insists itself
on our futures,
on our present,
and the irresistible rise
from summer
to autumn
to winter
will, inevitably, be met
by the folly
of our belief
that we can stop it.