Alive in the south

Hot. Wet. Uncomfortable.
Almost to the point of painful.
Acclimating to warmth after a long bout of cold.
Spent an entire season shivering in the morning.
Looking forlornly.

Apprehensive about getting out of bed.
A cold clouding a clogged cluttered head.
Skin washed thin in steaming sweat.
Light and clinging.

Consistently raining beaded on brows just beneath hair.
Consider cutting it off. All of it.
Hung over ears. Down neck.
In face.
Brunette lawns curled overgrowing cheeks.
Buried chin and mouth.

Transition. Change.
Leaping laurel to laurel.
Ethics cultivating morals.
Lifestyles range over miles.
Aristocracy. Agricultural superlative. Slavery.
There is outright truth and then word of mouth.
Like hot and cold. Good and bad. Right and wrong.

Each thing and its opposite,
alive in the south.

From Piedmont North Carolina to Upstate New York: Jeremiah Walks

I like to say I earned my masters in a garden, but truthfully, I just fell into the family pastime. After college, majoring in English, earning a Bachelor of Arts and Certificate in Creative Writing, I moved to the family farm. And like most of these properties nowadays, there was no family to be found. Every modern appliance and tool had been adopted by relatives, still working their own plots of land nearby. The only implements left behind were the callus-inducing kind. I was stubborn. I refused to accept that gasoline, oil, complex electronics and hard plastics were requirements for food production, or cutting the towering piles of firewood required to not freeze over winter.

Ten years have gone by. And I give credit for the man I am to those splintered handles and dented iron and forgotten forests. Credit for who I am. But not for what I need to become. Ten years I have labored over the domesticated poetry of home, and now, all the teachers I need are on the far side of mountains. I am leaving Cherryville, my inheritance, the one hundred and thirty acre campus that supported me in all my graduate work. And I am walking to New York.

A couple weeks into August, I will be working my last day at the company that found me running a thirsty hobby farm and humble, odd job and landscaping enterprise. Foust gave me a chance when the most recent experience on my resume included phrases like yard-work and tree-cutting. Now it lists technology and office management, social media oversight and customer service. I will never undervalue the opportunities that have been given to me, and though I will not stop trying, I will never fully earn them. The presence of grace is inseparable from every shred of progress I have made over the past decade. Just being alive, as simple as it sounds, took a profound amount of faith and patience that honestly was not in me when I started.

Now the time has come to leave home. To chase down the horizons I’ve had my eyes on for so long. There are just about twelve hundred miles between me and where I will land in upstate New York, more mountains than I care to count, unknowables stacked like bricks, mortared together by so many overlapping footsteps. I am not on my way to become. I am not just getting started. I am a world-changing artist. It is why I was born, and it is what I have worked for since before I even knew such pursuits had a name. Time has come for me to use my feet where I always let my mouth do my talking for me. I am not strong enough for the path laid out in front of me. But I fervently believe the many hills between here and there will see to changing that. I intend to be forever changed.

Starting August 21st, I will be dropped off in Southwest Virginia somewhere along the Appalachian Trail. My day job for the following four months will be putting one foot in front of the other. Thanks to the inspirational woman that has come into my life, and the network of supportive, amazing people surrounding us, I will be landing in a small cabin beside Lake Ontario, where Ashley will be waiting for me. Along the way, I will write two books: one of poetry documenting my walk up north, and the other, a work of fiction about a strained relationship between father and son, who catch up to one another philosophically, theologically, and in actuality throughout a hiking adventure of their own. I will have a few months to settle, work, complete my manuscripts and hopefully take on a few other performance based projects in the area. Then, we will move into the city.

Urban life is the missing half of all my writing. It hit me like a wave just how many journals I have stacked up, and how none of them include living this sort of metropolitan, social, fast-paced experience. I feel like I have left a huge swath of characters and stories completely out of my books, out of my mind, and my prayers. My goal throughout this experience is to change that. I need a book of city poems. And I want that city to be New York. Once I have filled them up, my journal and my head, I am going to come back. I am going to build so much more than a hobby farm and a teetering stack of handwritten books filled with dirty pages. The strength required for this is not yet in me. I feel called into mountains the way students are called into classrooms. Who I will be, and what I am capable of, is unknown, but I have discovered the path that leads there. For just a short while, I am being called off the farm, and into the great concrete cathedrals of modern people.

I will have more information about this walk shortly. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask a question or express a concern. I’ve been preparing for this for almost a year, and I still have a lot to do to get ready. I have information on my blog about the trip, ways to help, things I’m doing to get ready. Right now, I have about four months to go before I start walking. I have Liberty Mountain all summer long, and I have so much work to do to prepare my life and farm. That being said, I am beyond excited for a change. For a renewed sense of growth, and adventure. I’m not going anywhere I can’t be followed. Through my website, social media, through email, a text, or even the old classic, a phone call.

Please feel free to keep up.
If you can.

Click here to help support my upcoming walk from
NC to NY!

The Last Drop

Even your blood tries to leave you.
Whether reddening the heel of a sock
or that pinprick of a little red dot
or pouring out wholesale
staining whatever it touches.

A fine line of skin and fat-wrapped veins
hold back the plaque banks
of the river running through us.
Peeking through our cuts
raining purple where it should be clean water.

But this blood is brackish,
thick and salted.
Let it go when it wants to go.
Because try as you may,
you’ll die before you stop it.

One wave after another.

Steady low rush of lines of cars rolling down I 85.
Sounding like a steady river, like a train with no tracks.
Deep, and groaning, and steady never ending.
In the shade of some kind of skin-wilting little shrub-like ornamental trees,
eye shaped leaves, still green, still in the movement of a steady late summer breeze.
Steady like the heat.

One wave after another like walking feet,
curling into worn out shoes, like big black tires
gripping that overcooked, worn down gray rock road,
where the traffic is only either stop or go and never slow.

Just race at breakneck pace or static. Bumper to bumper and in a panic.
For there is no middle ground on six lane roads.
There is no herd mentality grinding into burnt, smoke fuming engines in the distance.
They are all gripping wheels, chipping rubber, cracking chunks of asphalt.
Hugging shoulders. In competition with one another.
None are even considering their tight-necked neighbors.
Or working, slowing, showing caution to avoid the very worst.
Not even just trying to get on home, but,
to get there first.

By Way of Means

When I write the word life, how much was written for me.
Gripping a bird feeder beyond clear barriers.
Moan yodeling in the corner forming soon-to-be hairballs.
Bare skull bearing antlers on a woodpile outside.
Deer turning up white in search of dirty green.
When I write the word life, I say the word why.
Then wiggle my hand until a pen gives me my answer.

Eat breakfast through my eyes and give time like spent breath.
Like carefree charity. Trash to me. Treasure to the tree.
New York timber living gnarled and surrounded
by their crumbling attempts at winter.
Which up here means more.
Apologies. Useless light switches.
Four families fourth floor apartment.
Generators hooked up to water heaters.
People choking in their homes for a hot shower.
Much by way of means.
Just no power.

All but breaking.

Heartbreak on top of heartbreak,
and to not even fully know what
a heart breaking really means.

Is it nagging, never-ending, mental suffering, or loss,
like a vital part of your sense of self amputated,
like growing used to a stump,
after knowing the glorious crowned height
of a straight growing tree, or stupidity, ego,
stories and fantasies that get woven haphazard
together when the nights grow unexpected cold.

Did I make up this concept of brokenhearted?
Did I harbor an expectation of hope being repurposed into happiness?
Did I climb to full height on a ladder, because if so, I chose this.
And I am the source of this antagonistic sensation. Falling.
All the pulsating, stomach clamping, nauseating emotions.

Yet the crow caws through the stiff shoulders of thermals.
The littler ones whistle short and simpler.
The goddamned sun has not been shy in over a week.
Summer is slowly breaking open into autumn.
Cooler air has swept back and reclaimed the evenings.
Damp capes of ignorant dew decorate the tired realm of morning.

Paradise is in control. Conquered. All around me.
Yet within it, my delicate heart is straining. All but breaking.
Again. And the word and. Again.
And it hurts.
I don’t fully know what it means, just this feeling.
Which honestly, has me reeling.
Drawing being drawn back up
out of this beautiful, warm,
midseptember scene.

Where I doubt it would change anything,
to know what heartbreak really means.

From the sore-hand bow-saw days #oldjournals

Up until a few months ago I had no chainsaw.
I still cut wood though. Sawed posts
and beams split into rails
with a rusted, red-painted bow saw
and small arsenal of ax heads on cracked handles.

I even cut down a couple trees that were huge to me.
Literally towering.
Others might call them midsize, or small.

No heavy machinery whatsoever.
Usually alone.

I sought out shorter, easier obstacles to level.
Seeking trees growing right on top of one another
trunks wilting bark with huge gaping rotted out spots
to cut first.
I like to think these trees needed it.
Destined in short time all ready to fall.
But that thinking is flawed.

Every living-dying is fated demise
not being drug from its forest
nailed into your structure
cut to length and piled for your fire
to break apart
disappear
in a location of your desire
not the forest floor
upright where it dug
and drank
in every day of its existence
and I have to be okay with taking it.
Though I am.

There will always be another mountain.

Ever been tempted to speak out loud a phrase like,
I don’t know how much more I can take before I break?
When in truth, it is just getting started.

This unforgiving,
promising place.

The here, and where when and how we found it now.
The sound and feeling of the breeze that makes an unbearable day better,
pushing, just like us, being pushed by changes in changing weather.

And whether or not you think you can,
there will always be another mountain.

And even if you decide to sit, quit, and die,
there is a mountain waiting in death too.
And this climb comes to you.

Besides,
by the time such a phrase has been spoken,
it does not matter how much you take before you break.
You are already broken.

These Details

Waxing hissing descending from high up in autumn breeze pushed trees.
Soft-hearted poplars and white oaks that shed skin like tall gray upright snakes.
Truck bed lower lip slammed echoed through otherwise quiet country distance.
Black scavenging ants that get on and into any available crevice.
Faded bricks segregated by weak taupe concrete lines,
and me, writing in red ink.
A poem about listening.
About eyes open watching.
Knocking down walls of swaying green
and throwing red pine straw mulch
and brown dust
and whipped black earth.

These details are what are, what is, what all, around me, exists.
A tangled consciousness such as this is no more or less
than the thread which has pierced and knit them all together.

So much of writing poems is so much no more than sewing.
Mending what was not the least bit broken.

For the mind is an eye unlike any other.
It can not be closed once it is open.

Some form. Or another.

I believe we are all some form of tree, reaching toward some form of sun,
digging as deep down as possible with some form of root system.
All that this man is is not on the surface, like a tree.
There is far more to us than can be seen, or achieved, or stood beneath.

We are all stacking cells like bricks, burrowing into our eternal selves
like we were digging wells, into the still flowing aquifers we all have
eddying in our core somewhere, eroding washed out circling lines
that record our time, and tell, at least, the length of our stories,
which no other life can cut into and realize until after we die,
expire, like the tree parted from roots, burned by some form of fire.
Leave some ash as dust upon the earth. Some rich white breath
to drift off and become clouds. The body eroded until no trace can be found,
except for some form of still buried root beneath a weeping stump.

I believe death will not be the end of us.
We are like some estranged form of tree.
We have not existed all on the surface.
There is much to Man that can not be seen, or destroyed,
or burned down by simple fire. Every ounce
of every being still exists after it has expired.

In some form.
Or another.