Yellow Brick Road

A Journal by Don Gerz

"The Homeless Game" by Don Gerz

She walks into Starbucks
with few stars
and enough bucks
to buy a coffee and a pastry.

Making three trips
she brings in:

a huge white
cardboard suitcase,
a red pillow,
large black earphones,
a Dell laptop,
a Samsung smartphone,
and a book:
Norman Vincent Peale’s
The Power of Positive Thinking.

Looking for a long time
at her smartphone,
perhaps she is keeping up
with the news,
or checking the weather for tonight,
or following her mother’s blog,
or maybe checking out
her son’s Facebook page.

Maybe she’s tweeting presidents,
prime ministers, CEOs,
the Dalai Lama, and the Pope.

Maybe she’s checking
her spreadsheet
of diminishing returns.

Maybe she’s surfing the World-Wide-Web
to find a shower for tonight.
Starbucks has no showers…yet.

Maybe she’s playing a computer game.
A computer game is easy to win
compared to the homeless game,
which is no fun at all,
and one she cannot win.

No one wins
the homeless game,
not even at Starbucks.

"Identity and Reality/Social Media, Partial Identity and Virtual Reality" by Don Gerz

Social media evaporates and melts identity by obsessively attending to and consuming particles of it in the name and practice of virtual reality.  The pseudo-reality remaining after the effacement and evaporation of actual reality by virtual reality is partial and distorted.  It is unreal.

In authentic life and total identity, there is no lost particle of life.  The particles of genuine life are infinite and contained in a constantly evolving cycle of completeness, presence, and, ultimately, transformation.  They are finally externalized, internalized, spiritualized, and perfected.

Real identity, real life, and complete spirit are beyond all measurements, beyond all algorithms.  They are conserved in mass and transformed in substance. In authentic reality, nothing is lost; nothing is
effaced; and nothing evaporates.

The more we record our lives with social media, the less we and others know ourselves and others.  Context is crucial to grasp “the big picture.”  A mere assortment of photos and text does not assemble that big picture, the penultimate whole we desire.  By definition, virtual reality is not the real thing.

The whole of real life is much greater than its parts, yet selected parts of life are presented and assumed to be the whole in the partial world of virtual reality. The disengaged and selectively presented parts of life are not the end all and be all of real life.

Instead, the contextualized and unfragmented parts of real, authentic, and genuine reality represent trusted metaphysical “stuff” that is
worthy of experience, perception, and, ultimately, knowledge and wisdom.

In the end, social media is not social at all. It is just an efficient form of accounting for the non-randomly selected and unrepresentative parts of an incomplete representation of reality through a virtual existence that is by definition not real. Virtual reality and social media do not and cannot depict authentic identity and real life.

Authentic identity and real life are ongoing and cannot be accounted for in a post and a picture or in millions of posts and pictures.  Virtual identity is counterfeit identity, and virtual reality is a mirage of real life.

In the end, virtual reality is a virtual lie, and social media is antisocial.

Joe Fellhauer (1947-2017) and Don Gerz (b. 1946)

Joe (L.) and Me in 2007

I have known Joe Fellhauer for over 55-years!

We both had nurturing mothers and fathers with technical backgrounds.  Joe's father was an engineer, and mine was a chemist.

We were both Roman Catholic with 12-years of Catholic education.  Both of us were trained by Jesuits for 4-years.

We graduated in 1965 from the same high school, Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, Texas.

We both played baseball in high school.  Joe was a pitcher, and I was an outfielder.

We graduated from the same college, Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.  We earned the same majors (English and philosophy).  Joe also earned an art major, and I also earned psychology and education minors. I graduated in 1970, and Joe graduated in 1971.

We were roommates twice (once in Nacogdoches and once in Dallas).

Both of us were writers.  Joe was a copywriter and poet, and I am an academic writer and poet.

Joe was 69 when he died in January 2017, and I was 70 at the time of his death.

We had the same heroes and shared the same sense of humor, books, poets, philosophers, theologians, other intellectuals, and much more.

We were very serious and yet irreverent, both in school and in regular life.

Joe Fellhauer and I had a lot in common.  I will miss him.


Don Gerz

Joe (R.) and Me in 1998

To read some of Joe's Work, please go to:

Pure Faith, Pure Belief

After almost dying in 2014 with a 3rd-degree heart block ( and seizures in 2013, I have lost my mystical inclinations.  I guess you could call me a neo-realist.

I'm not saying I do not believe in the spiritual world.  Quite the contrary.  It's a different spirituality...a different type of belief.  At present, because of my experience with seizures and heart blocks, I cannot psychologically experience the reality of the spiritual world, at least not in the same way as before.

But I still experience it.

I do not feel bereft of God's presence; instead, I experience Him in typical, everyday occurrences, people, places and things. It is a non-mystical spirituality.  Thus, the nature of my poetry, poetry that differs considerably from what it was.  Before, it was highly mystical; now it is neo-realistic.

But it still is.

As I write this at Starbucks, a young maiden sitting at my table is sneezing.  I see God's hand in those sneezes, but I do not feel it.  My belief is pure faith, a faith based upon knowing without knowing, with believing beyond mere feelings.

Pure faith, pure belief.

"Believing without Feeling" by Don Gerz
to Joe Fellhauer (1947-2017)

In old age I have lost most mystical inclinations.
My spirituality is somewhat ragged too.
I guess you could call me a reluctant realist.

I am not saying I do not believe in the spiritual.
I am not saying I do not believe in the mystical.
I am not saying I do not believe in God.

Quite the contrary.

It is just that I no longer directly experience the spiritual world,
and the mystical world taxes my patience.

I am not bereft of God's presence.
I experience Him in simple things…

rust on chrome,
blood from cuts,
smudges on a mirror.

It is a non-mystical spirituality…a non-spiritual mysticism.

Even my poetry differs from what it was.
Before, it was highly mystical.
Now it is
soaringly earthbound.

As I write this at a coffee shop,
a young maiden sitting at my table is sneezing.
I see God's hand in those sneezes,
but I do not feel the Divine.

I see it.

I believe without feeling.
I walk without legs.
I hear without ears.

My belief is an impure, pure faith,
a faith of doubt based upon believing
for no reason save desire.
I cannot know what I do not know,
but I desire, I desire, and I have what I desire.

My faith is knowledge without knowing,
believing with doubt,
faith with nothing but desire,
a faith based not on mysticism, theoretical physics,
or any other theory, scientific or not.

Believing with nothing but pure desire
is more than enough.

Believing without feeling.

"After All Is Said and Done" by Don Gerz
To Joe Fellhauer (1947-2017)

I've been worried about
what will happen after I die.

Tell me what you know
of this non-purgatorial school
you say we go to after our last breath.

Tell me eternity in a box that rots
after a thousand years
is not my fate,
is not our fate.

If we are to learn
what we failed to learn
while on earth,
that would be great,
not only for me
but for us all.

You see, I'm worried
that after death
there is nothing.

I like the idea
of eternal growth because
the end of learning
is true death.

I'm thinking of writing a poem
about all of this,
and anything you might have to share
would be greatly appreciated,
especially about the adventures on the other side,
the work we all have to do,
the eternal growth that is not so different

than what we must go through
during our short time here.

Give me the work of eternal growth
that is well worth dying for any day.

Speak to me about
this non-purgatorial school
you say we go to when we die
because death just kills me.

Joe Fellhauer (1947-2017)

Joe Fellhauer died on January 29, 2017 at the age of 69.

He was an exceptional person in many ways, not the least of which was in his ability to feel deeply and then transform those deep sensibilities into memorable words that fully reflect the Grace around and inside people, places, and things...Grace we cannot often sense.

Joe could sense the presence of God anywhere, in anything, and in anyone.

Although Joe would have denied it, I think he was one of the most authentically religious persons I have ever known.  Unorthodox, yes; but his poetry was made up of ingeniously chosen and arranged words and phrases that uncover God's presence in the most unlikely places and things...and in the most unlikely persons.

Is that not what religion is supposed to do?  Joe's poetry does it...every time.

Patience, generosity, and compassion: Joe demonstrated these divine attributes when most would or could not.  A Jesuit through and through, he was truly a "man for others" in the genuine Ignatian sense of that phrase.

I believe God will reward Joe for showing us all His glory in the most unlikely places and persons.

I and many others will miss him and his writing.


Don Gerz

To read some of Joe's Work, go to:

"A Good Wind" by Don Gerz

“It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. - An Old Saying

Years before he became a saint and an hour before he died, Admetus was contemplating the Blessed Trinity in St. Peter’s Square with Pope Sylvester XXI as thousands watched.

The Swiss Guard kept everything under control.

The Pope suggested they employ the acclaimed Russian Prayer of the Heart to better meditate upon the Blessed Trinity and any other sacred mysteries of Church dogma and doctrine that might surface during contemplation.

Being a guest of the Pope, Admetus readily acceded to his holiness’s suggestion.  The two immediately and silently began to pray in the Russian Orthodox method of high contemplation.

After about an hour of prayer, the Pontiff remained grounded, but Admetus began to levitate.  At approximately 100 feet from the surface of Saint Peter’s Square, Admetus’ concentration was suddenly interrupted when he inadvertently broke wind.  He fell to his death and was canonized after all the requirements for sainthood were ecclesiastically satisfied some years later.

Pope Sylvester XXI went on to become an expert in the Russian Orthodox method of contemplative prayer.

"On Wasting Time" by Don Gerz

It starts out
innocently enough
until a whole morning
is drowned with
insipid conversation
not revealing in the slightest
or illuminating in the least.

Moments, hours, days, weeks,
and months are tossed away
until years disappear
down the drains
of personal history,

forever flushed.

We have the watered blood of time
on our hands as it whirls down
a sinkhole before
we realize it is never
to be as it was meant
to be.

Our lives,
wrapped in moments
adding to years,
are measured as
time well-spent
or time not well-spent…
time to be,
or not to be,
time that could
have been of worth
had it not been wasted.

At the ends
of our lives,
time misspent
regards itself
in the mirror.

The faces
of time discarded
are our faces
staring at moments
that are no more.

"The Butt of the Joke" by Don Gerz

When he walks
into the room,
everyone lights up.

It’s not that
he means
to be funny,
though he is.

It’s not just his face,
a face that is
always deadpan.

Everyone laughs when
he makes a remark at
his own expense

as he looks
confused by his seemingly
unconscious revelation,
a revelation that
belies his own
words and actions.

He makes himself
the butt of the joke,
but the laugh
is not really on him.

The laugh is on those
he spoofs in acts
of self-deprecation

and facetious foolery
a hidden wit
worthy of a
Shakespearean fool.

He pretends to weep,
but laughs up his sleeve
as his audience thinks
they are laughing at him
when they are really

laughing at

the butt of the joke.


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