An Arguable Truth

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.

Empty plates in place of thanks

Salmon patty pinto beans cornbread salt like sand against teeth
green beans boiled potato quarters day old macaroni with calluses for cheese
short cakes topped by strawberries and whipped cream and powdered sugar
the dull metallic taste of a spoon that has known a hundred tongues
last night’s dinners dried in groins between forks
butter knife clean as a salad plate.

Fruit flies by bananas on the counter food-stained tower by the sink
tea that has sugar in it and was cooked on the stove
half moon watermelon runes and cans the salmon came in
on the back step for a one-eyed cat to lick clean.

The bathroom smells like a whole can of hair spray and half a cigarette.
Chase me the child screams. Got you, he types in an email.
Compliments are the pallbearers of criticism.
Empty plates in place of thanks.
Something to sit and sip in front of fire
and nurse our old winter desire until we retire
and our bowels sing us to sleep
melodies we were never meant to keep
raise us like lazarus in the morning
to roll the stone away
or so they say.

Catch me daddy, catch me.

First Humans

First light. First coffee. First music. Is something reset overnight while we sleep. When did eight hours later suddenly become tomorrow. First rain in three weeks. The wetted lips of clover speak, the beaded blades of grass are weak, they curtsy with tear drops on point. First gardens. As if winter was asleep. The world wakes spring. Wishy-washy. Watch birds to tell the weather and soak every last drip of cold. Summer is coming. Like never seen before. First summer. All other summers were sleep. This summer will wake, break, make, remake, spade, spate and stake us up like tomato vines. Next fall, we won’t be the same. We’ll be new ones.

First humans.

while you are alive, no matter how many answers you find, there will always be at least one more – Left to Write.

Writer Actor Farmer

Have you ever seen the world go purple through the window? Or clouds break back against gold birthed black traced like little goat kids diving hoof first out from within their mothers? Have you ever truly questioned the definition of every word steaming up in piles from the dinner plate?

Have you ever quit, truly just given up, stopped, done, dead, and then picked up your pack and kept walking because you actually had no other option? Measured just how much effort goes into something as reductive as quitting. Or quit, and been better off for it.

There is no single answer.
There are no rhetorical questions.

We, our species, humanity, not one of us, or two, or a group of people, or a nation, or a few, invented language. It is our one real magic. And without our belief and understanding, there is no such thing as tragic.

Have…

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John expresses doubts on the first day of his hike…

What I wouldn’t give to drop down and hike on all fours like a dog. Or push off each step like that young woman ahead of me. I’m trying not to look at her backside. But she is young, and strong, and bold, to be out here almost all alone. A girl and her dog. Disappear into a fog. And I follow. A fire to sit beside and dry my socks and blur my mind in a sip of whiskey and a cup of wine and speak for a few minutes with company of like-mind and listen to problems like mine and sleep as if no morning will ever come again. Wrapped tight like a mummy, no plan for resurrection. Not only is tomorrow going to be a new day, it is going to require a new John.

This old one isn’t cutting it.