April 20, 2013

“pressure pots”: a Poem in Response to Boston & West, Texas.

pressure pots

“doo doo doo do-do do. do.

doo doo doo do-do do. do.”


david and freddie knew.

they knew about the pressure that comes down on me and you

and through their song, we were blessed with a pop witness to the

terror of knowing what this world’s all about.

it honored the good friends who scream “let me out!”
that witness is oh so needed.

in an age when thousands follow the vapid, overly positive tweets and twitters of radiant yogis and yoginis and the syrupy feel-good platitudes of shiny happy televangelists, we need some down to earth, tell it like it is, reality.
it’s heresy to some, and many seem allergic,

but the truth is—sometimes life sucks—a lot.

millions of us try to relieve our pressured stresses and to shed ourselves from the too sweet saccharine cotton candy of trite and hollow niceties of “follow your bliss, manifest your highest self, namaste”—or “he’s with God now, God needed him in heaven, that happened because it was God’s will”—by doing yoga as exercise, by doing asana as a work-out, or by jogging and running with earbuds in and without communing with the world.

utterly missing from our escapist practices are the yamas and the niyamas,

the dos and don’ts, recognizing that there is right and wrong.
there’s no trace of lament, no slave songs, there’s no full gospel recognition that

“I woke up this mornin’ and I heard a disturbing sound…”

there’s no admission that things aren’t as they should and could be

and we fool ourselves with the maya of false peace and contentment.

telling someone whose life savings were wiped out by a wall street bankers capricious whim; or telling up-rooted chechen children that their new life in america is going to be honky dory and to always look on the bright side of life—misses their need for someone to say, “wow man. what a crock. that sucks. i’m so sorry.”

if you pack a pressure cooker with explosives, and then surround them with ball bearings and nails. and if those explosives are placed in that pressure cooker at the same air pressure as the rest of the room… and if you seal that cooker, and lock down the vent, and if you detonate that explosive with a charge that increases that pressure beyond the limits of its container, you’ll have created an improvised explosive device with a 600 foot kill zone.

but we’re all IEDs. we’re ticking time bombs—and we’re lethal sons of bitches.

it’s not that we’re evil.
the NRA rightly says that guns should be available to law abiding citizens and that criminals already get guns without background checks.

and we’re all law abiding—except for those days when we break the law,

and we’re all mentally sound—except for the times when one out of every four of us experiences a mental illness in our lifetimes.

there’s only so much pressure than we can take.


did you know that the same chemicals that blew up that fertilizer plant in texas are found naturally occurring in our bodies?

In high enough levels, they can blow up a murrah federal building,

but ammonium nitrate is a hydroculture salt that our bodies can use as an expectorant to help us to cough and as a diuretic to help us flush out our pipes.


if allowed to build up at high enough levels, these compounds are deadly explosive, but if they’re stored in containers of love, and not allowed to build to such high levels, they can stimulate growth in most every sort of plant

but our stainless steel skins aren’t always so loving.

our vents get clogged and we can come to loathe ourselves, to hate our blemishes,

to see only our faults, and see ourselves only as ugly.


and when when we do, we project that ugly self-hatred onto others

and instead of simply breathing through it, and without coughing out our putrid phlegm, we over-do it,

instead of the occasional glass of merlot for medicinal purposes,

we drink whiskey till we puke and our livers fail.

instead of appropriately taking stock and naming and owning our faults and foibles and giving them space to breathe and spur us to evolve,

we ingest and dwell on them so much that we bloat and become constipated with the curdled crap of contempt  and the stagnant stench of shame
without intervention, without venting our pots, the pressures build to volatile points of no return where we not only self-sabotage but take others down with us.

we become ted haggards whose fake facades collapse and our inner demons are released and writ large to wreck havoc upon the earth.

pressure cookers—let’s vent!

let’s exercise and exorcize our hang ups and our failings with a friend or lover

with someone who accepts us just as we are warts and all—and always will.

let’s talk about our hate, let’s share about our rage,

and let’s use the full mother f’n pallet of colorful words and use enough of ‘em to make picasso blush


let us rage

let us rage

let us mother f’n rage!

in generous measured doses

let’s occasionally safe-sex ourselves so that select knowing smiles become treasured parts of our memories instead of being remembered in the newspapers for having been caught trading drugs for sex and bringing down an entire mega-church empire that was built on impossible standards of sanctimonious saintliness propped up on precarious pedestals – that tend to crash and go boom!

let’s take a few moments to relish in the girl scout snickerdoodle cookies of self-reproach,

let us have a few not so guilty indiscretions where we go-ahead and compare our aging, imperfect bodies to the photo-shopped illusions of beauty in Vogue and Cosmo.
let’s engage in the occasional pity party and remember how our parent’s withheld their love and approval and how they failed to teach us the good boundaries that we needed in order to feel safe and to thrive.
no, not to dwell in these places, but to admit them, and vent them, and graciously allow others to do the same!

‘cuz if we don’t…. ‘cuz if we don’t gaze into nietzsche’s abyss—we’ll never know and embrace our jungian shadows—and we’ll become frankenstein’s monsters who cause villagers to mob with pitchforks and torches

—with dang good reason.

vent cookers. vent!

roger wolsey

Roger is a United Methodist pastor, yogi, and author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

Reply to Kara (KB) Imle cancel

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rogerwolsey Apr 21, 2013 9:57am

i posted them as i wanted people who aren't familiar with those concepts, terms, or individuals, to have easy access to learning about them. mea culpa.
poetic license?

Cynthia Apr 21, 2013 12:31am

This really speaks to the events of the past week. I know this isn’t something you did, Roger, but for whoever manages the site, the hyperlinked words are really distracting in the middle of a poem. It’s one thing to have them in a prose essay, but it looks weird with poetry. Is there some way to prevent that from happening in the future with poems?

Kara (KB) Imle Apr 20, 2013 4:17pm

Bravo, Roger–thank you for this very good, very timely reminder, this salient truth.

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Roger Wolsey

Roger Wolsey is a free-spirited GenX-er who thinks and feels a lot about God and Jesus.

He’s a progressive Christian who identifies with people who consider themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” He came of age during the “Minneapolis sound” era and enjoyed seeing The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, The Wallets, Trip Shakespeare, Prince, and Soul Asylum in concert—leading to strong musical influences to his theology. He earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Roger is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and he currently serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at C.U. in Boulder, CO. He was married for ten years, divorced in 2005 and now co-parents a delightful 10-year old son. Roger loves live music, hosting house concerts, rock-climbing, yoga, centering prayer, trail-running with his dog Kingdom, dancing, camping, riding his motorcycle, blogging, and playing his trumpet in ska bands and music projects. He’s recently written a book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity