It has happened before.

Their religion is seizing.
Clear glass mountain view
eyes rolled back like blinds,
fluttering spring green leaves
in rain bearing wind.

It is not dying.
People are not abandoning it.
But giving it space.
Waiting for the episode to pass.
Wondering how long this one will last.
It has happened before.
It is safe for the church to drive a car.
Or operate heavy machinery.

The theology is heavily medicated and loopy.
Like twisted links of chains upholding a red candle.
Loopy like the redundant circular music.
The hymn and hers mind. Kind. Of. Loopy.

Eyes glazed from the cold outside
and the breath off volunteers
and so much mismanaged time
and energy.

How to Read a Poem

Though I’m sure you already know how. I’m sorry no one ever explained it plainly.

You do it when you look into the face of a baby.

And try to glimpse which parent is looking back at you most at this time in its life. You look up at dad, down at baby, close at baby, then back up at dad, and you say, oh yes, I can see you in his eyes. He has your eyes. And dad says, oh I’m not the biological father. And you’re a little harrumphed, but mildly, because you’re staring into faces, and you misplaced the features for all the love and innocence draped like a veil over them.

You got it. There is no way not to get it. If you looked into the baby’s face and tried to see something other than two eyes, a nose and goofy dripping wet crooked, tooth-dotted smile, you got it.

There. See. You know how to read a poem.

Look as deeply into the words as you possibly can, and try to figure out what, when, why, where, who all they’re related to. Look up at the other proud faces in the room. Whose eyes are tumbling around in the moonface of this oblivious child. This work of art. This little poem that made its way out into the world and is learning how to play with other poems and put away its poetic devices and how to edit after injury and chew up break fast language so baby doesn’t turn blue with little apple skinned words lingering in its throat.

You read the words. Take them in. I mean, the words are there. A baby is a baby. Nothing necessarily special, or out of the ordinary. That is not how to read a poem. To read a poem you look up, out, in from the words, and you start asking questions. Paint a picture. Tell your own story, with or without validation, or concern over rightness or wrongness. To read a poem is to make a connection. A fragile kernel of cuteness or repugnance or solemn reverence, I don’t know your baby, I just know they come from somewhere. They carry stories in their eyes, while they stockpile them in their minds, and they don’t know, they try, experiment, selectively remember and wholeheartedly forget and forgive and hold grudges and bury their blocks in dirty laundry.

There is no ugly baby. No child unworthy of this sort of consideration.
And if you think there is, you don’t know how to read poetry.

And how could you? You’ve forgotten. You let go of the sapling deep down inside the core of you. You’re playing make believe in the worst and most caustic manner. Pretending life is boring and predictable and though you find yourself entirely incapable of producing a single unique creative informative without sacrificing being entertaining thought, you can look down and grimace at other people’s children. Tell yourself you’re better off without a flimsy, fickle, time demanding habit like poetry tagging along after your life.

You would rather tell yourself a thousand untrue things than be told.

You look into the eyes of a child. You see no one else but yourself.
You look up into wet proud eyes of a parent. You see no one but yourself.

And you admit it out loud to the world.

“I don’t get it.”

For Now

All the creeks I’ve known are running now same as the last time I saw them. That water. I saw then. It is somewhere still too. Or more likely, moving. Eddying the belly of the ocean. The one that touches all of them.

I was never good with names.

I knew a Killet’s Creek once. And a Rocky, but it wasn’t rocky, it was full of water. They used to call the one up on our land after cottonmouth snakes or something like that, and no wonder the corn mill went under. The twenty foot high mounds of dirt are still there. Covered over in scruffy trees. Smiling gap toothed across Cottonmouth Mill creek.

If you look closely in the water and partial buried in the sand, the giant pine beams they laid for foundation to dam up the water are still there too.

For now.

Imagine that

Real crickets outside pouring in through the window make the same sound as the fake crickets trickling out a white noise machine in the bedroom where a little boy sleeps. And his mom.
And soon enough me.

There are people who probably have opinions about my little well I dug for water I like the taste of. But none of them are here right now. So fuck ‘em.

Some of the same science that put a roof above my ancestors keeps me dry tonight. Though it isn’t presently raining. A substantial level of that atmospheric substrate remains every day and night of late, brooding in the air, loitering late into the evening and saturating the grass before morning, beneath cloudless skies, the ground grows soaked. And we stay dry. And thank God our gardens were wet. And pray it’s dry again tomorrow yet so we can go out there and measure our progress or better yet, taste it.

My chest breathes without me. I don’t ask it to. Or demand. I don’t even straighten up or stand. I curl all of myself over my rib cage and tuck in my breast plate so it stabs myself curled in and these lungs still find a way to expand, the gut shrinks beneath the diaphragm, the longer aftermath, better yet, the algebra of food passed along even further into the colon. Maybe gas comes out the other end to make room for my bad posture. Because my body knows me. Too well. Ashamed of me in public, and tired of me in private. My body might like to break up with me. But I buy it nice things and distracted it comes around and re-likens itself to me, my own self. Which is good for our health. For all of us here inside of me to get along, and be on a team.

There is no spleen in team. I keep reminding it of that.
Splenic mass. And liver as well. Do not swell. Deliver my health.
Trash collector is not the full opposite of tax collector but perhaps as close to one as two rhyming phrases may ever come. Keep heart, young brain, not you, oh hands, you keep to your own selves, and feet, stay buried in shoes and far from the nose, you’re grand, thank you so much for all your support, now into socks, now laced tight, good, now that’s done and gone.

You brain. Oh wonderful, over under full, weirdly what are you as far as organs go, you look like some deep ocean alien laid its seed in our species long ago and we just think you’re ours but you aren’t, we’re yours. And you know it. And you don’t let us know you know it. You ripply devil. You furrowed, fat tissue crown. Lightning bearing cloud. We strongly and urgently thank you for your thunder. Lesson learned. Feel free to discontinue instruction. We’re scared. We will never take lightly the word storm ever again. You pink organ, wielding a rock sharpened mind like a chipped blade cutting both ways, mind you. Mind me. All of us. Please.

We’d all like to be minded when you go swinging your sword.

You oh wonderful brain.

Imagine that.



You Can Have It

Books on my shelf I’ve suggested others to read more times than I’ve opened them myself. A keychain tape measure, mini metal ringlets draped over the wooden edge. Work schedule with shift times different colors based on the responsibilities for those employees that day. Yellow is medicine. Green supervises the morning checklist and in the evening. Red is surgery, naturally. Lavender Sundays because it doesn’t matter. We’re not open Sunday anyway. It’s just the dogs and cats still need to be fed and we still need to give them their meds.

There’s a table beside the table I’ve made a desk with four, eight square sets of seedlings.

Scruffy black wisp of a dog with a healthy ironic name and level of codependency inducing anxiety. Her fear of the world is an invisible leash that can not fall from my hand. The only time she ever ran, I was two hours away in Utica for work, and she was staying with friends. I drove back and found her a mile up the lake Ontario coast and lost my keys and it was an ordeal. I locked her up tight and drove back to Utica and worked the next day and she held it until Ashley got home the following morning. She’s needy. And wouldn’t you know it. That suits me.

I hope to be sitting writing beside baby squash and Ashley cucumbers very soon. I hope to be sitting writing beside a great many things. Some are waterfalls and some still water and others stark mountainsides that spread rumors about their never ending neighbors spread out like rashes on the young face of the earth, a rippled horizon, a cheese grater to clouds and planetary acne and prehistorically popped zits and broken, reformed and rehealed. Scar tissue. Appalachians. Rockies. The many names they were called no one knows to call them anymore.

It’s all so similar. It can be infuriating. You back up outside yourself yet full rooted legs crossed eyes gracefully closed self aware. You see you are so like a mountain. Or like a tree. If you give them your voice the way you would give it to a pen or a pencil or a keyboard or a microphone or a loved one or a frightened animal or a sound in the night or a bullhorn or a stranger or a friend you see across the way who hasn’t noticed you yet.

Give the mountain your voice, and you’ll immediately hear it already had one.

It’s you.

You’re its voice.

And. Actually. While I’m thinking about it.
I have a book that you really need to read.
You know what. If you want.
You can have it.