An Arguable Truth

Be Delicious

Fifteen thousand years of voices, one billion years of choices. How did forward and back and should I eat that lead to all this. Consciousness. But you can’t call her that. She goes by Beverly. And she would prefer to pretend all those voices off all her ancestors are actually her own. When they aren’t. She’ll call them fleeting feelings. We call all kinds of evidence chaos when we don’t understand it. There are no miracles here. Our perception is in motion. The subject we’re paying attention to is in motion. Ever lined up with a car on the highway going eighty five and you’re both just sitting still staring at one another and your stomach even sinks, settles, like it does only when the car is stopped. That, but on an elemental level, creates the weird quirks and magical powers we keep giving to electrons that are really just deficits in line of sight. The truth is we live in a perfect, flawless, as in, no other way it could be accomplished, creation. Try not to let your imagination undermine simple, unobservable truth. 

We don’t understand time yet. Its relationship to distance. And the clear obviousness that it is not a uniform progression. But like a runner who starts slow and speeds to the stop with several hundred breathers and water-breaks in-between, time chugs, like a fire starved steam train, we have good days where we feed it steady, and bad years, when the universe drinks too much, let’s her beard grow long and doesn’t wake up until she loses some animals. This whole shebang probably began when God went to start digging our grave. There’s the garden you plan. And then the one the land craves. And the farmer is a slice of deli meat squeezed hard between two pieces of bread: the living and the dead. And the purpose of life, I don’t know, be delicious. What is the purpose of sandwich meat, Beverly?

So many Disney movies

I am a corpse already. Still possessed by the courtesy to carry myself around. You’re welcome.
I am a democrat. Of course I’ve never affiliated with the party.
I am conservative. I’d rather not explain. You see?
I am an animal rights activist. But I also eat breakfast.
I am Christmas decorations and Thanksgiving mishistories and so many Disney movies it’s dizzying. My eyes. Two things I own that still regularly possess me. My only ways to see are not all that concerned with me. Aimed out the other way.

Vision isn’t for the beholder. Unlike eyes, that gets clearer as we get older.

Some More Time

Wood knocking frogs and gnats scream in exorcism clouds performed by late spring. Good water is not clear water. Not even clean water. That’s not what makes water good. The desert does that. A drought-set standard dictates the goodness of any water. Timing, and temperature, turns the world halloween make believe dress up right as wrong and decent as any tepid thing in between. The face is pure manipulation, a mask just simplifies the equation. I can see who you really are more clearly in who you’d rather be than I could in any other amplified, magnified thing. You are me. If I were you. And that scares me, and that scared feeling whispers to me it must be true. Frightening. How good things always do. Good water can drown easy as summer drains your sound. Timing and temperature again. I see you in where you end up on the pier. The hat you wear. What you prepared. The sunscreen on your nose. Your plans for later. And when they change, you confess, you were waiting. And waiting is a big give-away.

Roosters crow when they see the sun in the morning, but woodpeckers pound trees up and down and flirt with one another loudly. Black squirrels still get chased by gray ones and a tall sand throwing hare runs so hard I look for the fox behind it who never comes. I pulled a fish with a hook in its lips up from brown water, green in my hands and banded like a raccoon and perched cradled in my palm so his sharp back fins laid down cool in my palm. Aged men wearing rags lost in ships at sea have hugged the legs of men in the same tender fondness my son wrapped his arms around my knee in the crooked pregnant belly of a canoe dragging her stern. And when he fell off the dock and bobbed back up onto his back, such a frozen peeled back look of fright on his face, I felt so needed, so perfectly positioned, like so many of my setbacks in life finally made sense in the instant I leapt in after him. 

I think sometimes the feeling of being a man is like a soldier prepared for a war that never comes. Instead, you get these little moments to prove yourself, to kick your legs at endless water and lift your terrified kid over your head into his mothers hands. He says you saved me daddy, but you know that can’t be true. Between parents and their children, there’s no telling who is saving who. 

The quiet. Not even highway sounds. No stray gunshots announcing sunset. The stretchiness of eastern Carolina, to be so drawn out endlessly in round sand and sticky pines. They frame this little lake for murder and keep it dead and clean and as still as they can for time unseen. And I am, my little family, are its solemn accomplices. We are skeletons offering ourselves to all the middle of nowhere’s closets. Campers of the vast evergreen wastes and swimmers of the dimpled cheeks of ancient craters. Baptized by the filthy hands of June and let loose ripe only for some more time.

Does being good mean being uncompromising?

Is part of Jesus’s “goodness” the idea that he was in a position to refuse the tropes and expectations and standards of his times, of the career he was attempting? Saying you’re the ‘Son of God’. Performative, highly selective healing and even further-fetched miraculous stories beyond the reproach of anything resembling proof. Not lies, necessarily, more like exceptions, compromise. Does being good mean being uncompromising?

Thinking about this, what if Jesus’s philosophy, his rebellion, was not so much the widespread army of the poor at his back, spiritually content and eternity filling their heads, which did in fact prove to be the most difficult culture for a Roman to tax. What if his ministry was a Trojan Horse of sorts? Does that not explain Christianity’s impact on society ever since its inspiration’s life and times? How it successfully and nearly single handedly toppled an empire, a couple actually, fractured Europe, all while being simultaneously a prized tool and the eventual downfall of every government organization that ever adopted it. 

Christianity may not be a belief system, a religion, it could be a curse. The final act of an innocent man murdered in the public eye, declaring he will now be the ghostly conscience haunting us all the rest of our lives. Why a rich person would bring the curse of Christianity down onto their house, willingly, I do not know. Even Jesus warned against it. Time and half recorded history has shown whatever bait Christ provides is thoroughly fishhooked. 

Designed to ensnare and incapacitate the Roman.

My Garden

So many things. Looking out across a haze and realizing it is me. My garden. The dust off the disc I’m pulling. And so many things. The only reason I can see is that I’m directly beneath giant crackling power lines drooped between towers every tenth of a mile. A direct channel cut the way a river dug, shaved the way a razor does. At one time, both creating and destroying this view. 

I think my grandpa felt brilliant when he decided to garden here. Four acres under a power company easement he’ll never get out from under. A sort of real-estate-recycling. Not normal power lines, mind, these are cables connecting two plants together. It’s nuclear and coal combined above my head, where papaw said a light bulb would light up if I held it up high enough. Got paid for the easement, can’t plant trees on it, but shoulder high corn and mound-sprawling peanuts and the juicy expectoration of squash plants up from the ground. Ground he can’t build on or develop. But a collaboration with sunlight eating, root-based life forms in a surface level nutrient mining endeavor, also known as, gardening, it is the perfect spot. Gentle south facing slope.

Four acre field, he called it, the sixty year old question mark shaped man who farmed it. And if he had worked any other part of the land, then we would not have this commanding view from the grinding bucket throne of a geriatric tractor seat. I can see a mile. I can see my great uncle’s old place a hill or two over. I can see a truck with evening piercing spotlights floating like an earth-satellite splitting a wide green field’s black night. But mostly, I see all this taupe dust in the late May, late day, dying light. 

It’s my father’s land, his father’s and his mother’s, and his grandfather’s father before him, floating, off, and we will never see it again. Only the most fertile stuff takes off on a whim like that. The best of the best will always be less beholden to the rest, that’s what we do to people when we tell them they’re the best. We take them off their team. Remove the heat, kill the steam. If I did this enough, I’d lose my garden’s bite, I’d dull its teeth, but once, in a time crunch, on the unguarded border of late spring, North Carolina drought, I could get away with it, and have to, if I want to get it planted by Sunday. Before the rain comes. If all my neighbors, and every farmer for miles did this, we’d create a sizable cloud, enough to squint the eyes of people in town, and if we did it enough, for months, for years, we’d fill up that old dusty bowl full with so many years ago, and the ground would shake from so many old heads shaking in their graves. 

So many things. So much to see. When the power company came through and cut the trees they buried them in long, not so shallow graves along the way. Since they have rotted and collapsed and take up not even a tenth of the space they did in life, there are just massive rectangular divots every acre or so along this regularly mowed river of hovering, frightening, electricity. Like graves who spat out their guests sit gaped, the dirt that once filled them long washed away. A half mile of haze. Churned up by rolling discs that sat for twenty years in the expanse between a grandparent and a grandchild.

If I could have done it any other day, if there was a way I could have waited for the rain, I would have. But there are so many things. So much to think. And then again, there really isn’t. 

To think my grandpa is somewhere buried beneath the same stuff in these clouds of dust, that his old set of garden discs has risen.

Biological Alarm Clock

It’s not the human mind, but the stomach that threatens the species most.
That control emotion boasts. The part of you that can’t be left off Buddha’s boat.
The way chemicals grip the gut. Defies all the tricks logic tries.
All the grounding adult responsible ideas. Nullified. Cut and dry.

No one is thinking clearly when they’re clinging dearly to this sinking ship called life.
And the sooner that’s recognized, we’ll devote more school to stomachs than lunch.
A course for the body. Three courses for the mind.
A better answer to the question what to do with my time.
How to take it in stride. How to listen to emotions.
How that is different than blind obedience.

Think about an alarm clock.
Think about the awful feeling it inspires.

If you let it let you, you would crush it into oblivion every time it spoke to you.
Its purpose is entirely unpleasant. But to bring a conscience back to present.
It’s jolting. Hateful. Awful. But essential. Jarringly. Helpful.

This is the nature of negative feelings. Awareness, not action.
To listen. By design, never to obey. Don’t smash it
the way you feel you should. Just match it
in desire to turn bad feelings into good.
Wake up arms. Not take up arms.
Wash sleep off and start your day.

An alarm, not a torture device, buried in your gut.
Could not care less what you do with today.
Just wants to wake you up.

The same damned thing

The eyes wear a mask. As does the mouth.
Many a closing flap. To keep in and let out.
A mask for the mask of lips.
A mask to hide the shapes of hips.
A mask with laces and rubber soles and leather
to cover the leather we swing like levers
to power this whole mess on.

The worry isn’t the ask to mask,
it’s how they told you to.
To do it. Breathe through it. Lose hope.
Renew it. Take it in stride,
how much there is to hide,
if you want to be accepted.
But do you?

Human not humane. Can a mask be worn on a name?
Is it a guilty face that’s to blame, is that why we wear our shame?
Though the hands do the deeds of love,
they call their masks gloves,
and it hides from whatever you touch,
and no one ever called one tyranny.

But a mask to filter your breath,
shouting give me liberty or death,
like they’re not the same damned thing.

Writing Advice: Play Pirates

Thoughts that come to mind: we listen to finished songs. Not sure anyone would show up to see a concert being written. And if they did, they would not enjoy it. There is a stark, and I mean deeply entrenched divide between finished product and resource. As different as a meal is from the oven that burnt it. The privacy of the laboratory. The invisibility of the tremendous roots of trees. Not the brain or the heart or the fingernails but the bowels of the body. Where the real ugly radioactive work gets done.

I don’t know your substance, subject matter, agenda, your poetry. But I believe I can aid you in the pursuit of entertainingly recording ideas and stories. I’ll start by reiterating cliché writing advice you’ve already heard. Write first. Edit after.

But let me clarify.

The little kid who turns a playset in the backyard into a pirate ship more detailed and bombastic than a movie set, is doing absolutely no editing in the real time of this imaginary event. I know they worked it out of you, school, work, all authoritative structures do, but try to remember the exhilaration of being a kid and believing the bullshit you made up in your backyard to pass the time, pass the setting, past every portal others hold the keys for, and playing.

Play first. Make yourself giggle. Over-write. Cry for your characters. Write the wrong. Write corny jokes out and take a flat head screwdriver and pry the backspace key clean off the keyboard. You cut and paste that stuff at the bottom of the page. You delete nothing. Not while the game is on. Not with the continental navy at your stern and a belly full of stolen gold in your hull.

Edit after. You’ll sit down to edit the way you show up to work. Cup of coffee. Cynicism in check. Emails to check. This is how you edit. You won’t ever have editor’s block. School prepped us for it. All your jobs demanded it. Every position you’ve ever held is some form of customer service for some form of company, and it required you constantly to edit yourself. Please don’t argue me on this. They paid you to bite your tongue clean through. To show up to work and remember to bring everything except the real real you. Editing is not the problem. It never was.

The problem is you stopped playing make-believe.
You let the continental navy sink the pirate ship in your backyard.

Fortune-Teller School

Life is frightening or boring. Seldom in between. 

We grow up educated into fortune telling. 

Preparation, expectation, share the quiet part 

both are predicated on prediction. 

Gambling, just, the pessimistic edition. 

Track all the ways shit goes sideways 

and put money down. Preempted. Ensured.

Guaranteed duck nine times out of ten 

just not the one time God calls Goose. 

Ten bucks says today. That’s all it takes. 

Today is the price tag on tomorrow. 

To Breathe

Trees like still-frames of fireworks. Palm leaves off golden white.
Pink pom-poms on ends of sulfurous smelling stems.
Lone doves on frowning powerlines.
Trucks with cracked windshields in teacher’s parking lots.
Surgical masks rotting in the gutter. Rocks and robins
and cracked orange clay in places grass won’t grow.

We were six weeks in outside for a mask-break and I could not recognize them.
They all had different faces than I ever could have imagined. It’s the damnedest thing.
I’d known them for weeks. Yet I had never seen their smile.

We loitered on green grass until the birds grew bored of us.
I didn’t like it. I wanted to tell them they had their faces wrong.
Before I could, thank God, they’d stuffed them back under masks
sighing to their self. Smelling their own breath. Confidential grin.

Spied on by the birds and the trees
who have waited a long time
patiently eagerly
for all of us
to take a mask-break
and step out
to breathe.