People will
Often pick sides
When they’re never
Easily taken
Without learning
Lines drawn distinctly
Become what shapes
We have feared,

Facing swiftly
Partisan rules
And agendas backed
By divisions
For causes made
Spewing hatreds
Like laws obsessed
With defeat –

For both parties
Trading their blows
Thinking answers grow
From exclusions
While its us against them
Always fighting
But ignoring flesh
All the same

If you really look
Beyond glares
Into eyes so deep
Hiding damage
Or past whose lives
Seem more varied
Than circumstance
Wrongly suspects.

I acknowledge
Difference is real
Though emphasis
Placed on experience
Can bridge those gaps
Needing context
To alleviate
Distances shared

Which begins new trust
Felt unsure
Losing privileges
Marring perspective
Building platforms
Over expanses
Very vast
Where questions remain,

Despite newsmen
Peddling answers
Through big networks
Garnering ratings
Choosing barriers
Offering voices
Making noise
That blocks out our own.

Only chaos
Assumes every change
Should follow rage
Still accepted
Asking families
Facing each other
Why progress
Must not forget.

  • J. Pigno

Across the parking lot came vagrants, people braving the wind and pollen to make their way towards an effigy of everything the weekend was – a place where materials dwell and money is spent religiously, a fixture of useless objects and marginally overpriced goods.

They all seemed to face the sun as each person carried baggage, whether pocketbooks or personal items on their journey come that Spring.

These pilgrims oddly marched as each footstep hit that pavement, though their vehicles broke its silence with migrations brought by car.

I was certain there were reasons for their haste and wayward smiles, though my wife appeared unsettled by how many had no mask. It wasn’t that I felt elated knowing crowds would never listen, but it somehow eased my tension seeing humans be themselves.

For a year, I dared not enter any dwelling outside my comforts, meaning shopping would never happen – especially on days like these.

Despite my apprehensions, I kept pushing her to enter.

Then I remembered all those reasons, sickly wandering empty halls – even prior to this virus, when my heart would beat so strangely, calling ambulance after ambulance just to realize help won’t come.

The folks who brought me aid only ended up making me anxious, judging hope with their authority which I apparently still lack.

But life’s joke is purely on them, since “new normal” forced us to realize most have never understood depression from experience found in a cage.

My existence before this trauma had its perks beyond obsessing over health and every heartbeat my pulse missed from sensing truth – how routines below God’s heaven weren’t meant for man’s successes but enjoyment always squandered by requests of cash and sin.

Churches ask for daily tithings. Governments demand our taxes.

But has divinity ever expected anything from us other than love?

I was pondering this myself while we exited that market, catching an answer almost unnoticed out of the corner of my eye.

The woman was dressed in rags, though their appearance proved mysterious – her tattered blanket wavered with each passing gale of dust.

Her mouth, unlike the rest, was shrouded beneath a covering, dirtied but held correctly above her nose which slightly curved.

Heavily, she exhaled, staring longingly at each customer, wishing guests would pay attention as she weakly shook her arm.

I realized begging for change wasn’t exactly considered saintly, yet in that moment, there were halos hovering gently above her head.

Perhaps Christ Himself had sent her into our midst as a staunch reminder how real hope was often needed by the ones whose chances pass.

I had never been in her shoes. I was guilty of being privileged.

For that, I took five dollars and folded it into her cup.

It was nothing, merely a gesture. If possible, I’d have given a hundred.

It just left me sad and empty since no one else had stopped.

She said “thank you,” and we walked -my spouse soon near close behind me, charging away from that busy building hearing her coins bounce to and fro.

Those bricks besides her echoed with the sound of rattling faithfulness – calling out to those who listened or believed good will endured.

I prayed tomorrow told her that graffiti spelled out gospel, and asphalt riddled with potholes offered seas of endless wealth, counting faces far more lost since her plight allowed her spirit to be found a true example of how suffering made her rich – in ways I thought I’d learned, locked at home without much purpose but agreeing pain was certain for such souls who can’t achieve.

Her glance, it taught me trust. Once more, that tomorrow lingered, inevitable though elusive – and worth what chaos loomed.

Pandemic or personal choice. Trauma or tragic endings.

I don’t count what blessings give me. I savor what they exclude.

  • J. Pigno

I’m afraid
This isn’t me
Or perhaps
Some sudden reflection
Of what fear can build
Through chaos
Knowing perfection
Doesn’t exist,

As appearances
Speak their truths
When our souls
Remain too silent
Like these agonies
Told by signals
On new clothes
And shortened hair –

That strange image
Staring back
While we gasp
Before wet mirrors
Within bathrooms
Steamed from showers
So damn hot
We hope they kill,

Feeling off
But looking right
If ignoring those
Who tell us
Every subtle change
Has meaning
More important
Than perceived.

This whole image
Just seems wrong
Though appropriate
Since agreeing
With old demons
Judging shadows
Casting figments
For real men

Among masses
Most will gauge
Still believing
First impressions
Yet neglecting
Better pictures
Told with words
All actions tell.

There is safety
Standing out
Watching fashion
Hide afflictions
Every mental wound
Has festered
Over years
Spent insecure,

Seeing small flaws
Become big
Letting flesh
Fixate regardless
Cutting strands
Off smiling faces
Only proving
Style screams.

  • J. Pigno

Has anyone actually heard our demise beyond the static?

Listened closely to such chatter which we translate by excuse?

The ending feels so close, but alas, I cannot seize it. I’m allowed to merely suffer while depression leaves me deaf.

I’m noticing indifference building lies amid confusion self-imposed by sheer denial or the fact some suffer less – which I doubt was God’s intention, though our laws and actions structure how society begs compliance based on answers hate has sown.

Across the board we’re greedy, even when it means existing alongside one whole damn planet slowly choking from these pills – what bad medicine nature swallow’s off the hands still claiming order held in place by business ethics shallow spirits think are fruit.

Their hunger means much more, without context they could fathom – such true needs are only serviced through creation left untouched.

But that wouldn’t count for excess or what joy this arrogance peddles as successful, though deliberate, while pursuing aimless thrills.

That radio keeps on blasting every song God warned was dangerous, rousing tunes which vie with envy for what chart their bias tops.

And the anchors keep on speaking as their hair waves in that picture, with long faces shown on TVs during hours spent at work – eating frozen foods accepted without family near but calling via cellphones placed on tables so they multitask at death.

We’re teeming with statistics to the point they’re actually screaming – eliciting cries now whirring in the background of our pride.

Forgetfulness murders reason by what language whines delightedly over discourse still acknowledging human shrieks that no one stops.

That’s the truth, as loud as it gets – a roaring cannon of ignorance drowning out those low-pitched demons while we raise our voices loud and pretend that silence lingers when tomorrow feels too heavy or our burdens grow existential beyond quotas fear upholds.

People die and pray for quiet. Not for change, but faint suggestions for improving easy bias on those terms their comforts yield.

I’m sick of white noise roaring before every powerful speaker. It’s time some colorful music yells it’s melodies long unknown – shouting anthems all can trust and enjoy without distinction drawn from stories shaped by limits across borders ballads break.

Simultaneous conditions aren’t how these strains were written, yet our harmonies soon supported helps agreeing orchestras play.

Melodies then prevail.

Improvisation triumphs.

We’re sounding better together, though behind us cymbals crash.

Tackling everything, all at once. For some songs are hard to focus.

I say we’ll always have to if we long to dance again.

  • J. Pigno

I remember that lost New Year’s Eve of my youth, staring amazed out of those tinted hotel windows into a vast night littered with raging starbursts and glittery, gunpowder salvos.

They scattered their sparkling ashes out onto the sandy, Vegas floor like some kind of coveted salute – a ceremony held more often there than perhaps anywhere else in the world, but far more rare in its poignance than my childish mind could ever have comprehended.

Through the glass I could see the last remnants of what was once The Hacienda casino, or as I’d eventually understand it, a lingering monument to the days of yore when kids weren’t welcome on The Strip and maturity meant being old enough to bet your entire savings away in one bad hand of blackjack.

I didn’t know it then, but it was approximately 11:45 that late December evening when I was touched by what could merely be described as the specter of my generation’s future – a ghost all parts Hunter S. Thompson and Mortal Kombat, coupled with years of internet addiction and spiritual neglect.

It is only now I realize how the phantom of Raoul Duke himself came to me just before the blast, whispering in my ear the sad disillusionment from his own mythical Vegas journey and the fact how drugs aren’t always needed to see the true distorted mayhem being peddled as facts in front of our bewildered faces.

For it was on that day one of the last true pieces of old Vegas would be blown into oblivion, taking with it a generation of corrupted dreams and frivolous excess that paved the way for decades ahead, ushering in an era of fallen debris mistaken for useful parts called the post-9/11, Millenial wish.

It was what my generation would inherit, what I am forced to sift through daily and contemplate as I mock the shattered pieces of what they claimed would be a future, now no more indistinguishable than the broken smithereens of an aging hotel long past its prime.

They said there would be jobs at the end of our pointless schooling. They wanted us all to work. They guilted us when we failed. Our efforts never seemed enough.

They believed it would be easy, and if it was wasn’t, we were always lazy.

The children of perpetual debt – “snowflakes” far too precious or fragile for the world around them which they agreed was best kept mad.

Or unjust, as times have proven, with innocent blood still lining the streets – men killed from bias and arrogance, both two things our forebears loved.

None of us wanted to gamble with these lives so wracked from evils built on bricks bad fathers told us would sustain what house they left.

Slot machines stacked against us were our options chasing happiness, choosing chance and probable misery over dreams we’d barely earned.

Sadly, soon, our odds grew worse.

I’m not sure their hope was worthy of enduring months gone missing among plagues such guilt has wrought.

Before The Hacienda fell, there was 15 minutes of waiting – a quarter of an hour spent thinking somehow none of this seemed quite right.

Perhaps it was just the lull before bombs brought down that building, or the notion somewhere out there those loud echoes would continue to ring.

Like they have until this day, deep inside my mind so weary from awaiting God’s good fortune so my words might still be heard.

I’ve traded every verse for the hands my wife provided, what true solace fate has gifted while instilling fear towards death.

It’s that panic which insists I should keep these memories naked, write them down and claim significance where I fear there might be none.

I stand by what that winter trip has provided me in hindsight.

The smoke I watched spread thin from the suite my parents rented had dispersed and left me visions of our legacy burnt too soon.

We didn’t even stand chance.

On top came another hotel.

I’ve visited Vegas since, but nothing trumps that memory where today and tomorrow whimper while they clash with continuing sins – an ongoing penance mentioned through its scene of spectacular chaos, an image of collective demons being traded for ones much worse.

We went from champagne toasts and controlling demolitions to fake news with dangerous rumors fueling deaths by pulled-down masks.

I’m still wandering that dark desert with my eyes half-closed in horror, hearing cheers of countless people so oblivious to what comes next.

There I shall dwell confused, without closure but explosions – remaining sick and surely doubtful while my faith’s oasis dries.

Forever yesterday’s neighbor – noise eternal beyond those borders.

Nevada 96’. One hell of a place to be.

  • J. Pigno

I’m pretending
Days don’t pass
To stall what meaning
Dwindles
As it fades
From hours begging
Such short minutes
Find some hope

Lasting only
For what seems fast

When in truth
Reality lingers

Beyond bodies
Always failing
With each dream
Our suffering takes

Doing tasks
Through gasping breaths

Making chores
Of empty spaces

While enduring
Boredom evident
By this fact all faith
Should yield

Under pressures
Measuring lengths
Easy gods
Have called successes

Purely hateful
Though still raging
Against freedoms
Time does hold

Fearing nothing
But men’s laws

Pressing rules
Upon forever

Pitting duty
Against divinity
Losing trust
Between both worlds.

How does waiting
Seem more fair
Than experience
Idly wasted

Immaterial
Though oddly finite

Proving boundaries
Nature’s joke?

Passion thrives
Where doubt recedes
Deeming worry
Inexplicable

Falsely gauged
Among expressions
Swearing feelings
Keep us whole.

Life’s real mystery
Promising death
Knows now art
Outwits extinction

Like those limits
Science has worshipped

Becoming gospel
Inevitably preached.

  • J. Pigno

“Nothing else matters but this.”

I’m watching television late at night with my wife laying close besides me, sharing pillows under our covers by the glow of that bedroom screen.

Creeping through these shutters flows a breeze within our windows, ushering traces of gentle echoes from a world now growing dark.

I’m thinking about what it’s like – being out there among the silence, the whispers of evening gusts dragging paper bags down my street.

Today, I’m lost in dreaming, wandering places where I’m not – believing there is freedom beyond memories called escape.

A show plays as we fall asleep. It’s a classic from when we were kids. A comedy featuring segments, displaying silly scenes on loop.

My eyes are almost closed.

It’s now 1995.

Mom takes me to see a movie every Friday after school.

She buys me a burger and fries. There is a toy inside each package – a doll from the films we attended.

I still have them to this day.

  1. I wake up dreading morning.

Sunlight finds me withering slowly – not outside, but where it counts.

I’m staring at another game, thinking someday I might learn answers at the other end of this small controller always drenched from nervous sweat.

In 1995, toys were reasons for adventure. I’d imagine I was a hero chasing quests wherever I went.

Perhaps it was just the yard. Somehow spaces felt much bigger.

Everything had potential current fears just seem to crush.

That’s how I know it’s gone – what was perfect and always special. I can’t leave my house from worry or the fact this world will end.

I’m repeating the same dawn twice.

No, three times.

Soon, forever.

My anger keeps me wishing that tomorrow things can change.

Will I ever see the sea shore where I spent my summers young?

Again, without exposure or concern my life should cease?

I want my wife to see one last time before this virus lays true waste to every virtue even God himself has lost.

Once more, she should enjoy what was oddly taken for granted – simple moments sharing dinner amid friends whose laughter warms.

Back in 1995, I am walking near the ocean. My father clasps my fingers making sure I will not fall.

I fear I may have broken as I cycle through these minutes, these empty sighs of waiting stealing breaths I’m sure are weak.

The TV flashes dimly. It’s another dusk together.

She’s smiling while she holds me. And it all makes so much sense.

I’d endure this pain again. Not for me, but gaining meaning.

Finding reasons she has given choosing me forever as hers.

We might never accept our present.

I don’t think it’s safe exploring.

2020 I’d gotten married. 1995 be damned.

“Nothing else matters but this.”

I miss comforts surely fleeting.

But childhood is found between us.

Stuck at home is fine by me.

  • J. Pigno

To God
I’m a disappointment,

And the rest
Just His running joke –

That son who could
Always be better,

Some child
Still failing at work

In ways
Where rebellion lingers
As idleness
Sought before toil
Values leisure
Rather than meaning
Or expression
Earned over cash,

Knowing people
Prefer their safeties
Precede what dreams
Should elude them
When seeking life
Amid reasons
Other doubters
Believe are true.

Perhaps this fear
Is successful,

Though sensibly ruined
Seeking ignorance,

Which dictates loss
Deemed essential
Pushing faith
So reliant on proof –

But hilarious lies
Disappear
If evidence learned
Becomes jaded
Through distractions
Constantly laughing
Among whispers
Hiding my words

While speaking
Behind thinning veils
Sharing truths
Most fools never witness,

Watching grownups
Worship disaster
Chasing snickers
Created with sin.

Soon every wish
Will gain dust,
Sitting shelved
Among ludicrous giggles –

Sharing wisdoms
Silently mentioned,
Telling tales
By appearance alone.

I humor those souls
Fallen deaf,

Too scared
For hearing new voices,

Or guffawing now
All around me

As comedy
Judges right back.

  • J. Pigno

Abandoning
These words
Is like running
From my God
As they find me
Facing penance
For what sins
Such silence brings,

Grieving days
Now lacking light
By their absent flame
Once kindled –
Bearing wisdoms
Left extinguished
Held inside
Like dying truths,

Since this ash
Shares certain smoke
Where each fear
May mother candles
Long before
Beliefs can answer
Through new wicks
Lost faith must trim.

There is scripture
Being burned
Upon tongues
Obscuring fire,
Hiding open pits
Still raging
Within mouths
Who’ve fallen mute.

I’m convinced
Creation suffers
When depression
Stifles meaning,
Trying hard
While missing nothing
But that peace
Remaining numb.

Some expressions
Force our wills
Towards redemption
More outspoken,
Knowing morning
Beckons waking
Only if blue skies
Show sun.

Should tomorrow
Seem less dark
Than gray clouds
Today has sheltered,
Trust how color
Follows efforts
Fueling dreams
Real feelings rain.

Purpose flares
Among dim stars
Only shining
Before spirits
Never giving up
Those wishes
Across heavens
Gleaming ink.

  • J. Pigno

How I’ve missed
These graphic tales
Which inspire dreams
Through heroes
Tackling feats
Sustaining wishes
Despite life itself
Gone wrong

Across panels
Side by side
Spread like murals
Faith inhabits
Where our myths
Gain honest meaning
Letting pictures
Show us God

Knowing deities
Do exist
Not in skies
Or drawn on pages
But much closer
Than expected
Sharing visions
Hope imbues

Watching failure
Run its course
Making villains
Seem more special
While true legends
Rise above them
Learning losses
Build strong wills

Fighting fear
Though still unsure
Any wisdoms learned
Can linger
If that issue
Come tomorrow
Should find stories
Incomplete

As each destiny
Unfolds
Over eras gold
From virtue
Turning silver now
Soon brooding
Almost bronze
Since darkness waits

Beyond duties
Never done
Finding reasons
Worth enduring
Turning underdogs
Towards glory
Along journeys
Seeking fate

Squashing doubts
With every pose
Proving innocence
Eternal
Among hearts
Whose champions capture
Imaginations
Left untouched.

  • J. Pigno