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.

Annotation – The Poem You Asked For by Larry Levis

This is a more prosaic toned poem, but chopped up in stocky, poetic lines. The work functions for me as a hybridized experience, an offspring of the overlap between fiction and poems. Ascribing a poem a personality, giving it action, physical description, played out brilliantly in this piece. “…I offered it all my money, my clothes, my car with a full tank. But the poem stared at the floor.” Not just ‘my car’ but a full tank. One can’t entice a poem out from hiding with a vehicle empty of the fuel that makes it move. The poem is a journey. It gets hungry. Tired. And then inspired, and fat and full. Greedy.

We don’t get rhyme. We don’t get flowery language. The poem really lacks in most archetypal elements of poetry except for having that exact subject as its theme. Which is in and of itself a very poetic thematic twist. A literary contrast, examining lofty, often put up on a pedestal subjects with pedantic tone of voice. The reader sits somewhere in the middle pulled in two separate directions by the same detail. “…beat me and took my money, tore the faded clothes off my back, said Shit-” This really is a poet’s poem. Haven’t we all been beat up by a piece or two of our own writing? Not that we had much to begin with anyhow, but it takes what we do have, the abusive poem likes our faded clothes and running cars and greasy hair. Prefers it, because it was needed once, worn. The shine has almost always worn off the preferred. And the poem of Larry Levis is coming for all faded things.

Almost everyone who pursues this craft can relate in one way or another to this poem. I would also feel comfortable stating that anyone who pursues intentionally creative endeavors of any kind on a daily basis can relate to the all too often overly familiar, needy, and abusive habits of the muse. Being a poet is like keeping a pet bird. It’s like sliding a sleek silver bit in the crotch of a horse’s jaw. It’s a lover you struggle to shake. In spite of both your sakes.

All of that to say what poetry is not: a thing connected to a remote control, mindless or incapable of revolution and resistance, a thing to do to pass the time. Not an object. Not a skill. Not a subject. “And the poem…Said it was going over to your place.” The ultimate mystery and power of inspiration is that it has a will of its own. And it will leave you when it wants to. And it will refuse to leave you when it wants to.

from Fathers and Sons – Springer Mountain

We told ourselves if he put his name on that list then there was a part of him that wanted us to come. To be found. Not disappear. At least not entirely. We agreed if his name was there, I’d take up this pack I had prepared and go after him. Well there it was. Here I am. Cursing every single decision in existence that led me here. I was not prepared. Not ready. The very bread and water of this adventure is footsteps, and my appetite can’t handle the most pallid aspects of my calling. I can’t stomach the bread. Haven’t touched my water. I believe at least one of my pinky toes has a blister on it already. My pack is overweight. I am overweight. This stupid walking stick my dad made. My original Boy Scouts of America external frame hiking pack. What the hell was I thinking. No. No. This is on Jeremiah. That ridiculous, rebellious, nothing whatsoever in the world can be easy, son of mine. That spry little asshole is probably jogging downhill fifty miles ahead of me where it is somehow actually cool yet sunny and the whole trail lies resting like a well-fed snake in the shade of so many humpback mountains. Sliding where the water on the trail has frozen, he is somewhere it is so comfortably cold he can see his breath. Two thousand feet. Eight point eight. Springer Mountain Shelter. Uphill. Stairmaster. His adventure. My disaster. Dry sleeping bag. Hot noodles. Sodium choked broth. Two thousand miles of mountains on the other side of one. More days than I care to count that will come up to me early and introduce themselves all the same. Tomorrow. Will never truly meet today. But the razor thin line between the two actually lies physically in existence in a spot or two. One of them is called Appalachia. It knits the whole east coast of America together like it was a spinal column, statewide vertebrae along the way, marked up scarred places where each regional disc herniates against the next.

I predict at the end of this whatever I imagined separated time from distance will be utterly ruined in me.

Hyperbole

I am a teacher. One part courtroom jester. One part dunce. One part dad and one part mom. I am the voice of books, and the ears of reason. I love it when they confess, what I am about to say might be wrong. And I get to tell them. There’s no such thing. Not here. Not in this classroom, in this group of peers. The most important part of recognizing right is the memory of being proudly, loudly, defiantly wrong. My most important lesson. Make a mess. Make mistakes. Fumble my words. Forget the definition of hyperbole. ‘How can you be our teacher and you don’t know what hyperbole means?” he says. I’m no saint. On the inside, I’m eighteen years old again and I want to embarrass him into the ground for having done so to me. But, on the outside, I’m thirty three, on the clock, first year in a new job, honesty is maybe an incentive they add one to two years before retirement, but for new hires like me it’s improv. I laugh at myself and agree. I tell him the most important thing you learn in school are directions to the nearest library. No one, no matter what they tell you, remembers everything. Every time hyperbole comes up in discussion from then on I sound it out slowly and ask them what it means. We laugh. Adults mess up. Forget. Lose track. First and foremost, we’re teaching them how to handle that.

I am a teacher because I was hired and presented to them as a teacher but I never earned them calling me Mr. Homesley, it’s required. Even in lectures I often use my life as my example and I keep wanting to call myself Jeremy. I am a teacher so I am Mr. Homesley and I had never met that man before and I still don’t always recognize him as me. Like hyperbole. Some great exaggeration of my maturity and capacity. One of those teachers who likes to say I am learning just as much as you are. And I am. But that’s a secondary lesson. Secondary to the next six to eight years of sure to be harder than we ever imagined life. I’ll get an email one day. Just shy of a decade. One of these kids will reach out and tell me they heard that great deafening click I spoke of hearing right around when I turned twenty six. It’s eerie, and inescapable, and undeniable. I called my dad, my mom, I apologized to them. I felt my weight, finally, my age, my height, my mortality, everything, all the sudden like that. Hit me.

You don’t grow up. You don’t graduate. You don’t stop learning and gain some wisdom and maturity because you hit a hand-drawn checkmark on a coffee-stained desk calendar. Speaking hyperbolically now, just kidding, that isn’t a word, oh wait, it is? Well anyway. I am a teacher. And as a teacher, the greatest piece of information I really have to offer, is directions to the nearest library.

Life may as well be called school. And while we’re here, all of us, on equal terms, students.

Stalking #oldpoems

Mountain dandelions are different than ones back home.
They make fluffy yellow flowers look like housecats. Not lions at all.
Yellow fringed and orange centered with green eyelashes all around.
Roar pollen in the wind. Dig in the leftovers of a billion years.
Root like pigs. Deep into hard gray lichen coated ground.
Creep throughout a lawn and launch on eyes like prey
where they mindlessly graze

across the hazy dome that crowns sleepy towns.

Grow low, stooped heads.
Warn us off, and keep us walking.
There are lions in the tall grass.
And just like dandelions.

They’re stalking.

North Carolina

December thirteenth. North Carolina. I hear a tree frog click. Fire crack.
The same dog over and over. A layered silhouette of trees against tees
misled me into thinking I can glimpse the shape of the gully in front of me.
Hard wooded. Known to house turkeys. One fat cornfed squirrel.

I blame the calendar for most problems.
They make it too easy to wait.
The calendar always made me late.
Mark one a holy day.
People sacrifice hundreds of others preparing for it.
Marking them off as they get in their way.
Weak days.

With seasons, on the other hand, we are ahead of the game.
Like tonight. It isn’t even winter yet. And already, it’s spring.

God calls Goose

Life is frightening or boring. Seldom in between.
We grow up educated into fortune telling.
Preparation, and expectation, share the quiet part
that both of them are predicated on prediction.
Gambling, just, the pessimistic edition.
Track all the ways shit goes sideways
and put money on it. Preempt. Ensure.

Guaranteed duck nine times out of ten
just not the one time God calls Goose.
Ten bucks says today. That’s all it takes.
The pricetag on tomorrow.

Priced it and called it freedom in the same breath. No one blinked.
At the irony. All you end up studying in fortune-teller school. Is history.

Doorways in Windows

The cold descended so low last night it touched the grass and turned it white. In some places, soil has spat up phlegmy streams of ice like tiny fireworks frozen in place. If you’ve ever stepped on a bed of broken glass you know the feeling of walking on frozen ground. Only pines cling summer green, and it has turned the horizon eerily into prison bars, the nakedness of hardwood trees. I absolutely know someone dressed up in all the colors of mother nature’s vomit is sitting somewhere they’re not supposed to with a gun staring through their foggy breath and only hearing squirrels. Camouflage fools intelligence, but blares out loud to wisdom bright as blazon orange. More men and women than one could ever imagine have been sentenced to hell by a jury of furry woodland critters. Laid belly up guts exposed in the dead center of a hot country road paved with the asphalt of all your worst decisions. I look out across the early morning, late December scene, ice poised on the precipice of muck, and see many things where others say they don’t see much. Wooden towers untouched by carpenters taller than any of the two stories downtown. A man I don’t recognize weighed the cold against a lit cigarette unworthy. Two cats, three kittens. One solid vein of sunlight spiderweb woven between all the eastern trees. I don’t know who you have to be to look out at such scenes and read the story of eternity. I know you can’t stop once you do. I know something of the nature of truth. 

I know it always sets doorways in windows.

Disagreeable Animals

Every now and then I’ll get sort of mesmerized reading old posts like this one, when I let myself be longwinded and preachy. But it needs to be said. Of all the things to suffer through a lecture on, removing imperatives from all social constructs being the daily labor of freedom, well, it can’t be said enough.

Writer Actor Farmer

It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy, to mean it isn’t an accident. This country is not broken. We are. Because that’s what the men who wrote our constitution were dealing with. A divided population desperately being translated into a divided constituency. England left slavery alone in America, because that is all America was to the British Empire. Slave labor. Pillaged resources. Raw goods, for industrial ends. The idea that under Britain, we would never own our farms, but if we were culpable only to Americans, we would. Talk about a powerful campaign promise. That’s all freedom really was to our founders. It is not a conspiracy, but was not an accident, that they did not address the liberty of all the people living within their country. How a leader can preserve the self esteem of thousands on the oppression of hundreds. Someone to look down on. The rejects, and…

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