tj bday

the thought of you coming into this world
makes me smile. imagining the look on your
mother’s face as she gazed on you for the
first time is almost too much to take.

something amazing passed into the world that day:
it made people stop and turn and go out of their way
to hold, to touch, to be in that blanket of time
and openly yearn for a bigger blanket, more say.

all these years later, you are still making people
stop and listen and reach and want and love.
i feel honored to be a tiny part of that play; if all
the world’s a stage, you make it one hell of a show.

it’s not an easy space to fill; it’s difficult to face most days.
but you, just by being uniquely you, inspire us deep from the roots:
to show up, to fuck up, to get up, to laugh, to rock, to create,
to live, to love, to mock, to tell our story, to be real, to celebrate.

Thank you, Tommy, for being in the world.

Happy birthday with much love.

TJ pencil

Sketches of Tommy Joe Ratliff by Olivia Santiago


we are all connected (or, the softer side of obsession)

for tjr: today and every day

it happened while i wasn’t looking;
it happened while i was in pretty deep—

trying to climb up and out from that steep
dark that meets me even in my sleep.

but this time, you. you were there, too,
saying, yeah, i feel it; it’s true

but, it will pass. hold on, like the last time;
hold on, and it will lose its power,

and you will

it means every thing to have another
being there to say – i’m here

and not
much else.

it means every thing to have
a hand reaching out, an ear opening,

a heart-mind waiting to
wrap itself around you.

even across the creeping
light-years, miles, blues, trials:

we        are        all        connected
and that has made all the difference.


Painting of Tommy Joe Ratliff by Olivia Santiago

to be

To be, or not to be: that is the question…
To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come…


a new day is here, tiny bits of
fireflies from last night still caught in
my mind, still flitting, nudging at my
hands and feet and eyes, and saying:

wake up! listen to the clear sky all
around you; gaze up and out into
what is waiting to finally give you
every thing you need.

some thing is opening, some thing is
shift-dancing, some thing is reaching out
to take my hand and bring me into a
different light: where every thing is possible;

where i am allowed to feel this bright joy—
even layered on top of the grief and fear and
guilt and dark nights. it is all beautiful, because
it is all my life. and it all goes back to the light.

i can begin to see now where i was,
where i came up and out from,
where i was headed, and how
i was saved from myself.

as i wipe the sleep from my life, from this
spinning bundle of neurons harnessed now
only to make me stronger, i need only ask:
where do i want to go next?

i already know the time is short.
i already know what it is to love and to lose.
i already know what it is to not love.
i already know it’s time to stop looking back.

i am letting myself reach forward for the things
i do not yet know; for the things waiting at the gate;
for the dream-things chomping at the bit to
take off in any glorious direction i choose.

i am ready to dig my heels in for what i want,
for what i am, for what i have to give—
even if i have to rip it up and out of my-
self from deep down inside my own grit.

my time has come. i am giddy,
gathering myself behind the
sweep of the red curtain, inside
this sonic celebration of being.


Inspired by “Perchance to Dream” by Tommy Joe Ratliff
All of his music just sings. Go have a listen: https://soundcloud.com/tommyjoeratliff