Be Wonderful (Speech)

[This is a graduation speech I wrote and gave this past May for my English Senior Seminar class.]

         The name of this speech is Be Wonderful, and I hope that by the end of it you understand why.  I’ll be the first to admit, I hate speeches that try to light a fire under your ass and cause you to go out and make some drastic change in your life.  So I can assure you, that’s not what this is meant to be.  This was simply a thought that came to me on the day I specified to myself that I would work on this speech.  Nothing more, nothing less. 

         When I sat down to write this speech, I was stricken with the horrifying image of a blinking black cursor on a blank white page: every writer’s recurring, waking nightmare.  I had nothing.  For once in my life, I had nothing to say

         What else can you say to a room full of hopeful, eager, about-to-be graduates, their friends and family, and many well-read and extremely literate English professors?  What hasn’t been said before?  I could not think of anything during those first ten minutes of watching the steady, accountable blink-blink-blink of the cursor. 

So, I took my dogs on a walk to clear my mind and breathe fresh air.  Gather information, if you will.  The following speech was the result of this attempt at clarity.  It’s called: Be Wonderful.

I took my two dogs for a walk the other day.  And for those of you that don’t know, I have two pugs.  One is male; one is female.  One is old; one is young.  One is fawn; and one is black.  A true yin and yang. 

Now, my dogs, along with me, recently moved into a new apartment complex.  And for dogs, unlike humans, a move such as this means many new things to encounter: new sights, new smells, new sounds, new dogs to bark at, new trees and bushes to pee on, and so on and so forth. 

         Needless to say, a walk in a new direction is like coming upon the New World for them.  And I would say that they both enjoy it equally.  But it just so happens that on this particular walk, the three of us came upon an obstacle: it was a pile of rocks hidden under grass along the slope of a grassy hill.  And this is where I noticed that my two dogs really are opposites.  The older, wiser, more experienced pug stopped and sized up the obstacle, while the younger, more vivacious pug trekked right along at normal speed, slaloming through and climbing over each grassy rock like it was nothing. 

         Now, as any other dog walker of two or more knows, there always ends up being a time during the walk where one finds oneself stuck in between opposite-pulling leashes, caught in the middle like a puppet on two strings, which are both being pulled by an insidious child, probably laughing and licking his lollipop-induced, sticky lips.

         The moment came when I had to make a decision.  It was either slow down the young one or coax the old one forward.  I chose the latter, and with much caution, he proceeded to follow the young one, who was assaulting the ground with her nose, trying to take in every smell possible as we walked along, darting from side to side and always pulling, always anxious for more.

         I found, in that moment, a hint of truth. 

         It seems that with age, comes caution, and with youth, comes wonder.  When we are young, we are all alike; we are all like my young pug: taking on new things, as they come hurtling at us through our senses, with an audacious spirit of wonder.  We attack each new sight or smell in full force, trying to comprehend it, but always failing, and so always finding ourselves with eyes wide and mouth agape.  We have not yet learned that the fire is extremely hot and can burn us, causing pain, but instead we eagerly and intently watch the oranges and yellows and reds dance before us, swaying with every twist and turn of the wind. 

         And then the world turns, and keeps turning, and our minds and souls and hearts get used to certain things: the grass being green and eventually turning brown and dying in winter; the hawk hovering over the trees in search of food, eventually disappearing and then reappearing several minutes later; the cars charging forward in an endless race of being there: all commonplace, understandable, daily happenings. 

And we all, sadly, lose our sense of wonder, until those brief moments of awakening, when we see this random, beautiful existence for what it really is: a miracle, a divine spark in endless nothingness; we call it life, but it’s actually an absolutely breathtaking experience, the whole time.

         So you may now understand what I’m getting at.  All of us, here and ready for the next step of life.  Moving on and hopefully forward.  Getting older, more experienced, more worn down with each movement of the earth, though maybe we’ll find that we don’t feel that way for many years, too many to worry about now.  But the fact is, it’ll happen unless we’re taken early. 

And we’re all here, awaiting the piece of paper that says: “You’re now useful,” and we’re still worried about all the uncertain things of the future and what will happen next: in twenty minutes, twenty days, twenty years.

         But I implore you, all of you, to not end up like those that think of only the future until they realize they have none left, then only think of the past and regret.  One of the saddest things I can think of is seeing an old man on his deathbed, not ready to die because there’s still so much he’s missed out on and has regretted doing or not doing.  If there’s one thing I hope for all of you it’s this: that you do not end up like that man, but when it’s your time and the end is near, I hope that you’re ready. 

And you’ll be ready because you fully understand the beauty of this place we call “Earth” and how it’s been a completely awesome experience the whole time, even in the times of sadness and pain that you’ve lived through, because aren’t those the precursors for an awakening like none other?  When you realize the fragility and mortality of your own self, aren’t you then more apt to see the magnificence of the daylight moon or the hawk in search of food?   

         Don’t forget to see the green grass and the blooming flowers as what they are: a miracle.  Don’t forget to notice the trees as you barrel down I-40 or I-24 on your way to your new job downtown, in the big office building, where you can tell everyone you work, and they can think: “You made it.” 

Don’t forget to notice the trillions of miracles lying on the side of the road, maybe on a hill, with rocks hidden underneath, with thousands of compounding, smelly particles that just might cause a chorus to rise in your nostrils, if only you took time to smell. 

         And maybe when you come home and find that your wife or husband has had a bad day and accosts you for it, don’t shrivel up your soul and strike back with the power of your own bad day, but notice the waves in her hair or the freckles on his face and think: “This is the most beautiful person in the world,” and smile and laugh and forgive and do all the things that wonderful people do.
         Now, I don’t mean wonderful in the sense that everyone uses it.  I mean like the other way it can be interpreted: “to be full of wonder.”  Wonder like a child or a young pug has.  With eyes wide and mouth agape as you watch the DMV clerk tell you it’s going to be a couple hours, but you don’t notice what she says, but maybe that her mouth moves as sounds come out of it, and her eyes somehow reflect her tone.  And maybe you won’t say anything back because you realize you’re a witness to this awesome, breathtaking miracle we call life at every single moment.

         So you, sitting there, anxious and awaiting that piece of paper, I implore you: be wonderful.  Be full of wonder.  All the time.



         I am a man.
But, I am the sea. The sky.
The place where the sea meets the sky.

I am the ship
that sails past
the horizon and
lets its anchor fall
where no fish nor prey
can be seen.

                                       I live
                                       in the water,
                                       the clouds,
                                       the air.

                                       On the sun
                                       I visit
                                       The Holy Land
                                       where I’m from.

In the shadows
lies my soul.
yet effervescent.
with life.
to be grasped.
by lightless

a conspicuous calm
is overheard
by a love
blandly idling along.

                                       I am
                                       nowhere near.

                                       I’ve taken
                                       my Saturday nights
                                       and laid
                                       them along
                                       the flowing waters
                                       of opportunity

                                                                  Gone again.
                                                                  She whistles
                                                                  of eternity.

                                       I am
                                       gaining ground.

                                       My Friday
                                       Fever –
                                       to depths
                                       and mysterious.

a head-first
dive right in:
sad to see
the young
drunk again,
for her,
for him,
for their own
right hand.

I crashed
on Epiphany
and she said to me,  “You’ve been there, you are there,
                                  you will remain there,
                                  you Need Me.”


       my eyes open,
                                                                   my mind open,
                                                                   my heart
                                                                   my soul
                                                       willing to be freed…

“Even Jesus can’t save you from your self”

                                     “No, not yet”

                                     “You must want it”

                                     “With every ounce of energy
                                                          left inside”

And she came to me
On a white gazelle,
whispered once,
“I’ll see you
on the
Dark Side
of The

And I fell
to my knees,
in prayer,
as God
my future
and hope.

                                       And then the answer came
                                       after she had gone: “I’ve
                                       been there, I am there, I
                                       will always be there. And
                                       I Need You here. Now.”

a cosmic disturbance
felt only by me – “Wait.”

                                       I am
                                       eternally steadfast.



If I had
a fairy
in my pocket,

                       I'd sing to her
                       all day without

      And then,
      when times
      became black,
      she'd turn
      them to
                            and I'd fight back
                            against the slow
                            decibels of predatory

                          Believe me,
                          when I see thee
                          hollowed out
                          against the snow,

                                                       this lost poem
                                                       will find you
                                                       and keep you

                                                                     in the gloam.


Conjoined at the Hip

If only there were time,
Time for lost souls to regain
Their feet upon this weathered,
Hallowed ground and finally
Take the first plunge toward
Actual contentment.
Maybe then
Maybe then their egos and wits and
Horrible, lifeless bodies will wilt
And then they'll truly decipher
The meaning of these realities
All conjoined at the hip.
Maybe then
Maybe then all will be clear
And clarity will abound in every
And maybe then all the hurt and pain
That comes hand in hand with
Unknowing and doubt
Will vanish
And the clouds again will dissipate
Revealing that same, old
Smiling Sun
Who had never gone far
But was simply waiting for that
Glorious moment we all
Finally looked up.


Dead Leaf

dead leaf,
your essence fulfilled.
but I ask,
who or what willed?
on the ground,
lies your home.
an everlasting peaceful
rest with the stone.

dead leaf,
answer me.
which cone
grew your tree?
rooted from under,
you’ll find no other.
who or what
should I call mother?


9 o'clock traffic


                      9 o'clock traffic!

                                                         I shall
    never see
                                                of you


                                                        (that's why I'm naked.)


Dangerous Thinking

Oh! what a deliberate mess...
                                              this place.
                                              this time.

You can't find peace even amongst the "hippies!"
               such a sad, lonesome world,
               yet filled with jubilant jerks!
You can't see sunlight even above the clouds!

                 all the sounds of Earth
                     bottled into one,
                      giant, heaping
                       ball of trash...

You wouldn't call this music the righteous name of "sound."
             (not for all the lost pennies scattered about.)

                 You call that a painting!
    van Gogh had no right to hold a brush!
                (no wonder he went and
                   cut his own ear off.)

                                                         putrid art--
                                                            never good enough
                                                                  for my

                             so, what?
                             you think
                   these scrambled letters
                        serve a purpose?

would you
classify this

                      (a poem.)


You can't find art within reach of here for a thousand
                                 or so miles...

go ahead
take a seat
remove your hat
this is what we call:


                                                              (don't let it consume you.)


Rivers and Streams

I watch the world through lustful eyes;
My mind it searches for a new light.
I rest at ease--
With the rivers and streams.
My mouth is closed,
My thoughts stretched out.
What am I (?)
Even thinking about?

I watch the world through lustful eyes;
My mind it searches for a new light.
I rest at ease--
With the rivers and streams.
My mouth is closed,
My thoughts stretched out.
What am I (?)
Even thinking about?


Integer Collection

Perfect defects going against my will
How long till the mtn. range of my mind
disintegrates? Casts my soul into shrouds
of dust? When knocking on doors is futile
shall we stand outside and wait in
the freezing, cold abyss of our hearts
waking up to the sounds of thudding,
thudding? We're left wondering...

Wondering how many pointless friends
will help us toward our own self-
realization of the bittersweet
qualities inside us, infecting our
innermost sand and sweat, while
we still seduce our sad selves
into waiting, waiting, waiting
for answers in the proud, summerless night.