Posts Tagged ‘ZENspeak book’

Final Revision

Posted: March 24, 2014 in Poetry, Prose, Uncategorized

Been rewriting the final revision of the ZENspeak book.
It/ll be on Amazon soon.
Probably a couple weeks.
All my work will always be free on display through various blogs & the zenspeaknine official website.
my last several posts,
have been the rewritten poems.
I/ll be publishing the table of contents as soon as everything is finished & posted.
I do things backwards.
if you have the extra change in your pocket,
& would like to make a contribution to the starving artist foundation,
I would not object.
Book is available right now;
I would wait for this edition.

Thank the gods for my readers.


Posted: March 15, 2014 in Poetry
Tags: , , ,

Her thighs wet
Then her back bent
Her spine cracked
The band it snapped
Her fever climbed
The sweat it poured
Opened her eyes
For the first time
In a long time
Was left at a loss
Froze in permafrost
No hope recovery
She used to smile
With me
She used to dance
For me


I guess it all started after I got cancer.

Well, maybe before then. I don’t know. I mean I always had imaginary friends when I was little; but I never thought I was schizoid, you know. It wasn’t until I had the cancer though, that I got the wigs. I lost my hair you know. I just felt different when I wore the wigs.  I had so many make-believe friends when I was a kid. Then I grew up and got even more make-believe friends. When I felt agitated and ready to fight, I wore the red one. The red wig. One of my invisible friends when I was a girl had red hair. Her name was Heather. And Carley had blonde hair. And another had black. She was Mindy. Mindy was always such a downer and would burn dolls with her dad’s cigar lighter. The brunette now, my natural color by the way, was of course, when I felt smart and confidant. I had it all covered with the wigs. I just can’t help it that I don’t want to have sex. And it’s not like voices, voices in my head. I know what they’re saying, but I’m not hearing a voice. I just know. The blonde wig, well the blonde one is a funny story actually. I got so depressed after I was diagnosed. Sex was the last thing I thought about. But Phil on the other hand… Poor Phil. And when I put on the blonde wig, sex with Phil wasn’t so bad. Phil has been there through it all and I wish I could do better for him. I really do love him. When I had the blonde wig on I felt flirty. And the black was when I was depressed. The pills really weren’t the big deal everyone made them out to be. I was taking them for years with the cancer. Then I really didn’t want to have sex with Phil. You get a tolerance to medication you know. They’d always freak out on me about taking so many pills and I tried to tell them it wasn’t the same for me. Then they’re always nagging. Then the voices chime in. It’s just crazy you know. That’s what’s crazy not me. Go lock up the crazy doctor that’s peddling these things to people. I had been taking so many different pills for so many years I just get lost in what I‘m saying. I’m not some kind of junkie. I’m not out stealing to get the stuff. It’s my medicine right? Then that jerk Phil, I really hate him sometimes, goes and says something to the doctor and the doctor gets a wild hair up his rear and launches a crusade to take me off the pain pills. And I’m like, just give me my black wig and get away from me Phil. And I did good for awhile, thank you very much. Not a single pain pill for a couple months. But I’d just lay in bed you know. I didn’t even watch T.V. I’d just stare at the walls and think about how much I hated Phil. Even the blonde wig wouldn’t cheer me up. Who wants to live like that? In a bed twenty-four hours a day? I would’ve killed myself then if  I’d went on like that. So I went back to the doctor. Actually, I went to a couple different doctors. Of course I was scared to get into trouble, but that’s why I’d wear the red wig when I went into the pharmacy.  Yeah, I did write a little extra on a few scripts, maybe make a five an eight you know, but I mean really… prison? Poor Phil. I remember how he held my hand the whole three hours on our first date. Look at me now. He can’t even look at me. I couldn’t go to prison. No way. I can’t even stand staying in a hospital for very long. Well, except this hospital. But we’re not really in the hospital-hospital. You know what I mean. Phil says he doesn’t even know me anymore. I tell him that I know how he feels. I tell him that’s okay, I don’t really know me anymore. I never did know me. So yeah, I did take a bunch of pills. But I’m in here now and I’m getting better and I’m around people that understand me and thank Jesus they let me have my wigs. I always wear a wig.

I wouldn’t know who I was without one… said Melinda.

(reading at:)

This story is funny now, but it sure wasn’t funny when it happened.

Anyone that thought they had a handle on this addiction thing, only to find all hell breaking loose one day, those are the people often left with the question, when the hell did things get so bad? I was hanging out with a friend, Jeremy. Actually, friend is a very loose term in these circles. Let’s say acquaintance. We were partying at Jeremy’s place for nearly two days. We stayed up all night, shooting this and smoking that. Around three in the second morning, he went downstairs and came back up with a bowl of cereal. I kept staring at the cereal. When you’re on a long-hard drug run, it could be days between meals. He detected my interest in his bowl and told me to go down and get my own. I went downstairs and tried to find a bowl from the mountain of dirty dishes. I got one that wasn’t too bad and tried to rinse it off. I grabbed a box of cereal and as I turned the box over to shake out the contents, several gnats flew out the box. This caused me to take notice of the gnats that were everywhere in the kitchen. I looked in the fridge and found milk that was three days past the recommended date stamp on the jug. I lost my appetite. I was starting to feel nauseated. I dumped the cereal in the bowl into the garbage, and put everything back the way I found it. When I came back upstairs, Jeremy started drilling me with questions. Why did I take so long? Why was I banging stuff around down there? Why didn’t I get a bowl? I don’t know why I didn’t just tell him that his kitchen was nasty and the cereal had bugs in it and the milk was probably spoiled. I didn’t have the heart. I didn’t want the confrontation. I don’t know, take your pick. I just told him that once I got down there I wasn’t hungry anymore. Jeremy grumbles a bit more before heading back downstairs to dump his bowl back into that trash heap of a sink of his. While he’s down there, I hear cupboards slamming, dishes clanging, and the refrigerator door swinging shut. I hear him coming back up the stairs. He seemed to intentionally walk heavy. The tension was starting to give me anxiety. This is how it goes down when you hang with smokers. Now, I’ve been no angel with the stuff, but it just isn’t my cup of tea. People that smoke for extended periods of time, tend to be on nerves’ edge. It’s hard to relax around them in this state. At any moment, for no reason in particular, they might grab a butter knife and hold it to your throat and demand the thirty cents change from the pack of cigarettes that you walked to the store to get for them three months ago. So I brace myself as he walks back into the room. He sits down without a word. I start to think that maybe it’s cool. Maybe I was making a deal out of something that wasn’t going to happen. Should’ve known better. He starts drilling me with unreasonable questions again. He wants to know why I left the refrigerator door open, which I didn’t. He wants to know what I did with all the other cereal boxes, even though I only touched the one. He wants to know why I just emptied a bowl of perfectly good cereal into the garbage. He wants to know why I’d lie about something like that. He says if I’d lie about something like that, then what wouldn’t I lie about. After this small psychological barrage, I just snap. I tell him about the gnats. I tell him I’m sorry, I just didn’t want to be rude. He quiets down and I think things are turning back to normal. As normal as a situation like this can get. Should’ve known better. This peace lasts for about five minutes before he gets up from his chair and starts poking about his room. Here we go I thought. He goes to the dresser top where the pile of dope sits. He grabs a card and starts shifting the pile back and forth. He’s muttering at this point, but certain words are legible like, had more, that’s messed up. After a moment of this, I decide to clarify what exactly is going on and perhaps launch a pre-emptive defense before the madness ensues. I tell him I didn’t touch a thing. This sets him off to a new degree. He asks me why I would say something like that if I didn’t do anything.  Next, he’s yelling, telling me I have to go. He goes over to another dresser and pushes it over. It slams on the floor. I’m up out my chair now. I tell him I’ll just go. But he starts saying things like, sure leave now, after you ripped me off. I don’t know what to do. I’m in the middle of nowhere. It’s a little after six a.m. I have no one to call at such an hour for a ride. I have no money. Meanwhile, he takes a drawer that slid out the dresser he toppled moments ago, and smashes it against the wall. It splinters into pieces. I’m gone. I start walking out the room and down the stairs. At any moment I expected him to come running after me with a hunting knife. But he never came out of his room. When I walked out the front door I could still hear him up there shouting and smashing stuff. I’m not even sure if he knew I left. I kept walking and made it to Parkman road. I decided to go to my friend Chris’s apartment, but I still had a long way to get there. The quickest route seemed to cut through a few neighborhoods in order to get to Mahoning avenue. I walk idly through the neighborhoods because it was still early. and I wasn’t sure what time Chris got up. I didn’t want to piss him off by waking him. An unbelievable thirst began to grip me. My stomach rumbled. I hadn’t had a cigarette for hours. As I continued walking. I passed a tricked-out Z24 parked at the end of driveway. The car’s windows were down. I looked up at the house which looked secured and non-active. I walked past the driveway, looked back at the house windows and saw nothing stirring, and I turned around. I walked briskly up to the Z24. I bent down through the open window on the driver’s side. I’m going right for the change console in the middle, which is open and full of silver. As I’m collecting the silver I hear, HEY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY CAR?! I’m halfway in the car, halfway out. I look through the windshield at a big black guy standing on his porch in boxer shorts and sandals. The porch is about twenty yards from the vehicle. I dropped the change I had managed to gather and slink back out the window. He starts walking towards me. I’m holding my hands in the air. As I slowly start walking backwards, I tell him, look man I’m sorry, I didn’t take anything. But he’s not having an apology. He’ll settle for nothing less than blood. He tells me to come over so he can talk to me. He’s closing the gap. When he gets about ten yards from me, he turns it up full blast. I follow suit and turn and take off myself. So now I’m running down this road and this black guy is chasing me about twenty yards behind. He keeps yelling for me to stop. I keep yelling back that I didn’t do anything and to stop chasing me. I turn a corner and there is a group of kids and parents waiting at a bus stop. Unbelievable. They watch me run past them, probably wondering what the hell was wrong with me. A couple seconds later the black man runs past them. I hear him yelling back to them, GET HIM! STOP HIM! CALL THE COPS! IT’S ONE OF THOSE CAR THIEVES. Some of the parents start in on the chase. Kids are running around in a frenzy. Parents are simultaneously yelling for the kids to go back while yelling for someone to call the police. This marathon of madness continues for a couple more blocks before we run past another bus stop. Some of those people join in. At this point I had half a neighborhood chasing me like I was Frankenstein. I was so tired. I thought I was going to drop from sheer exhaustion. But I couldn’t stop. I really thought this blood thirsty mob would rip me to pieces if they caught up with me. What I couldn’t have known, was that these particular neighborhoods had a rash of break-ins into their cars over the prior three months. I had nothing to do with these break-ins, but these people sure didn’t know that. This neighborhood was out to make crime pay and I was the face of crime that day. There was no way they were going to give up and let me slip away. They were taking the law into their own hands. I had to catch my breath. The cramp that creeped into my side was beginning to kill me. I veered off the open streets into the yards. I jumped a fence and found a small shed that was built really close to a house. I hid between the shed and the house and gasped for air. I was doubled over for no more than a minute before a kid spotted me and shouted, HE’S OVER HERE! HE’S OVER HERE!BEHIND THE HOUSE! Damn you, I thought as I darted out from my hiding spot like a wild animal. I decided that the darting in between houses was proving ineffective. I headed out onto the main street. But the street I came out on, ran along the Mahoning river. There was nowhere to go but forward. To the right of me were open parking lots to apartment buildings. To the left was a guard rail, and over that was a steep embankment which led down to the river. There was a bridge up ahead about two hundred yards. If I could just cross that bridge, my friend’s house was right there.  That seemed the most reasonable plan. But then, the crowd of vigilante neighbors came from around the corner of a house. Somehow, that same black guy in sandals was still leading the charge. I kicked my jog back to a full sprint and after a few feet my chest just gave out. Then my legs went. I had a horrible cramp in my side. But they were real close behind me now. There was no way I would be able to make it to the bridge. I took what seemed the best option at the time. Isn’t it funny when the worst idea becomes the most reasonable one? That says a lot about where you may be in your life at that point. Anyway, the best option I thought, was to slide down the embankment to the left, and try to wade through the muddy banks and across the raging river. I was still running full blast, but my  body had never been closer to collapsing. I never broke stride, never slowed down, I just leapt over the metal guardrail like it was a low hurdle. Like I said, I thought it was a good idea at the time. I began on the street, went over the guardrail, and landed in a deadfall of leaves and dead branches on the other side. The embankment was even steeper than I thought. I slid head over heels through the deadfall. I remember seeing the top of the embankment, the river, the leaves, then the top again. I landed at the bottom. My legs were twisted up in briars and twigs. My shoulder felt detached from its socket. My face was scraped all to hell from the briars and branches. I could hear the crowd gathering at the top. I could hear the black guy complaining that he had lost one of his sandals. I had no more fight left in me. Jumping into the river would prove folly at this point. There was no energy left in my reserve to fight the current. I surrendered. I yelled up to them that I was coming up. I slunk back up the embankment completely defeated and utterly embarrassed. When I neared the top, the black guy that started this lynch mob, grabbed me by my bad arm and my T-shirt and hoisted me the rest of the way up, before slamming me back on the ground. I would try to get up, but I just keep getting pushed from one neighbor to another, as they ripped through my pockets, and yelled threats. Right then the Warren P.D. rolls up. Some super-cool-old black cop. He gets out and sees these guys whipping me around and he also sees all the scratches and red marks on my face and he thinks the people were beating the hell out me. He doesn’t know that I just did cartwheels down the embankment on my hands and my face. So he dives into the groups’ midst, arguing on my behalf. Once he gets a hold of me, he throws me in the back of his cop car and tells me to sit tight because these people want to kill me. He goes back out there and argues with the neighbors for awhile before getting back in his cruiser. The whole neighborhood throws daggers my way as we pull off. As we’re going down the road he keeps looking at me in the rearview mirror and shaking his head. He asks me why I would do such stupid thing. I tell him that I hadn’t ate for a few days and I just wanted some change to buy a can of pop and get some cigs. He tells me he can’t help me with the cigarettes, but he’ll get me a can of pop at the station when he books me in. Let me tell you, I slept better that night than I had in years. Even though I was in the county jail. I like telling that story because it says a lot about the life of an addict. One day you’re walking and everything is fine and within a matter of minutes, sheer pandemonium breaks out, and you try to outrun it, but you can only run for so long before you wind up at the bottom of an embankment, and in the back of a police car. People often ask me what changed my mind so hard against drugs. Well, I can’t really say that I turned away from drugs completely, because I still get bounced back and forth between doctors and medications. For me, it’s a question of damage control. Choosing the lesser of evils. But for those still lost in the abyss; its difficult to say. Different people have different thresholds they’ll cross. Losing my friends and losing my family didn’t do it. Losing my license didn’t do. The fear of going to prison didn’t do it. I seen many go, twenty-seven to be exact, all real people that I knew in one way or another. In fact, both Chris and Jeremy are two of those twenty-seven. Something just changed in me. That life just didn’t do it for me anymore. I began to slowly see myself as something different. I always believed I was intended to do something that worked into a bigger plot. A bigger plot than just feeding the machines of the courts and the jails.

Thank you for listening, said Jerry.


ZENspeak publication intro

Posted: February 5, 2013 in Poetry, Prose

A Brief Word


Whenever someone asks you to have a brief word with them, it usually ends up anything but. I suppose this will be another one of those times. I’m wrapping a prelude, a preface, and an introduction page all into one ball. But I promise to make this as tight as possible.

But first, a warning to some of the potential readers out there. If you think everything is fine in America today, that the media always tells us the truth, that the governing body always looks out for the best interests of all people, that drug addiction hasn’t become an orchestrated pandemic, that there aren’t any starving children here in the United States, that the inner cities are doing fine, suicide rates aren‘t at record highs, and children aren’t being abused; well, this may not be the book you want to snuggle up with on a cold day. I appreciate your purchase and I apologize that it will not be what you had hoped it to be. But hey, use the pages to stoke a cozy fire for that day you do find the right book.


The ZENspeak project has been something swirling around for some time now. This particular vision is not what was originally intended, but it is definitely an evolution. To concisely define the project, I’d sum it up with one word: recovery. A recovery from abuse, addiction, guilt, regret, incarceration, and a lifetime of lies. There are too many people suffering in this unnatural world. Souls paralyzed by a dire state of despondency. Those that believe it doesn’t matter which way they take from that point on.

It’s like going so far down a path that it doesn’t make any sense to reroute. You know you will never be able to make the journey back to that fork in the road to take the better path. It’s sad, but often true. If you have no opportunity –squandered the opportunities you did have, have no one to help you along until you find another opportunity, or have nobody willing to stick their neck out for you because you may screw it up– you may never be able to regain the position you were in before the destruction ensued. Yes, you may never drive again or own a house or have good credit or be in good health or land a job better than washing dishes. But this is all material, the corporeal, and as crazy as it may seem, everyone will be in that state eventually. Some just get there a little quicker than others. But what can’t be taken away from you are your dreams. No matter how far gone you are. What you can always regain, despite your sociological status, is your spirituality. Abstract ideals that can’t be properly defined by a material world: love, trust, courage, dignity, true freedom, benevolence, and a myriad of others I’m sure I’m leaving out. This is the spiritual recovery that this poetry is attempting to illustrate.

I am you, just laying there staring, thinking it makes no difference in the world if you fade out. That you think you’re alone. But this just isn’t true. There are millions of us; so many it is unthinkable. We are legion. But we must be fearlessly honest with ourselves if we hope to make any kind of change.

Our lives are consumed by addictions, economics, institutions, and industrial complexes. We barely have enough room left to breathe our own breath. We’ve traded our dreams for a fry basket and a stupid hat. We were not intended to be what we are. We’re supposed to be saving each other; not selling each other out. Wake up and start dreaming.

So here I am dreaming.

Here I am shouting; trying to wake up others.

But we don’t have much time.

The powerful tides of this material world are crashing in all around us. But we may have just enough time to wake somebody up. You never know.


Before this journey begins, allow me to shed a little light on the convoluted aesthetics of ZENspeak. In most narratives it is more accepted at an academic level to keep a linear style throughout the work. It keeps the flow cohesive. But with this one, I think the confused multitude of varying techniques actually helps illustrate the chaotic minds one passes through in this lifestyle. In a not-so-strict sense, ZENspeak is an epic. In that, it follows a single protagonist through a perilous journey that will yield great glory if the hero can find the strength to overcome the peril. This particular protagonist is about as far from the traditional hero as you’re going to find. A postmodern hero. An anti-hero. But he is the hero of this narrative nonetheless. His antagonist is a mindless machine. A machine whose every purpose is programmed to limit individuality, maximize profits, and to control human behavior through proactive criminal profiling. The hero, or anti-hero, is as most good heroes are, the last person you’d expect to be taking a stand.

But it’s not just wrestling with those two ideas. It’s about everything in between. Those who play their parts in such designs; both knowingly and unaware. ZENspeak is broken into three sections with nine poems per section. Each section has it own emotional theme. The first section, The Ninth Circle, is more political-sociological. The second section, ReDintegration, is how the designs, poetically illustrated in the first section, personally affected the main character. The third section, An American Phoenix Rising, is the spiritual ascent to break free from the chains placed on the main character in the first two sections.

There are many forms that flow throughout this book. The references to Dante, Milton, Rimbaud, Plath, and Eliot are obvious. But that’s just it, they influenced me. As in influenced me to do something new, not just regurgitate what had come before me. Art is an expression from YOU not THEM. To me, movement was the seminal art from which all others branched. So, I shall use dancing as an analogy to express what ZENspeak means to me. It’s like being told to dance. But you can only stand right here, and you can only move your arms. That’s how it feels to write with such a rigid structure. Sometimes it works for what I’m trying to express and sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, I may just abandon it midway through the poem. To me expression trumps everything. ZENspeak is about getting in touch with that expression. The real you. The person at the core of your being, freed from all the pollutants of this world swimming around in your head. If anything can be taken away from this crazy endeavor let it be: do what you want to do; not what other people want you to do.


Buddhism got me thinking about suffering a lot. When I first got into Zen Buddhism, I would stop after every rain and pick up every worm I walked across that had washed from the ground and been left on the pavement. I would then set these rescued worms back in the dirt. I just couldn’t stop thinking about the misery that would befall the poor things once the sun would come back and fry them right there on the scorching pavement. As you can imagine, this was a time-consuming task, and it eventually drove me to madness. One day I freaked out and decided not to bother myself with the lot of those damn worms. The other day I heard a poem about a son and his father driving down a road that becomes covered with frogs. The father stops the car and starts collecting the frogs individually and setting them off the road. It went a little like this:

“What the hell you doing you crazy bastard? You can’t save all of them!” said the son to the father.

“Yeah… but I can save some of them,” said the father to his son.

Next rainfall, I’m going to start saving those worms again.

It’s about damage control these daze.

That is why I wrote this book.

Art saves

Carl Paul Henneman