The Good Stuff

How to describe that two tone throat singing lawnmowers do in the distance. But with extra meaning like mayonnaise making bread more sliced pudding. Depth. Sodium. Electrolytes, and heart. The thick simmering fat that feeds muscle. The doorholders. The gatekeepers. Who wedge a toe against aluminum and glass and let nutrients pass into cells. Without which, we starve, no matter how much we’ve eaten. How to describe a kid cutting grass down the road like that. I’m not writing the protein of it, it’s implicit. The meat can be heard for miles, and sound is as physical as burning gas against steel pistons smudged black, the poet isn’t concerned with that. But where is the fat. The salt. The gatekeeper. A skyscraper of sensory experience. Only no front door key. No poetry.

A young man in a backwards flat billed ball cap and shorts rested in a zero degree turning thrown leaned a little forward with his hands up like he was holding the rope, standing on water skis. The sound of it is textured bouncing between a direct arrow shot and a tree muddled echo. Never seen him before. Normally an old man in a clean red hat does that job with the absolute best riding mower money could buy in the eighties. Someone’s getting older. And everybody needs money, but not everybody has a zero point mower. The clouds are a heavy cotton backwards hat pulled low with the sun embroidered on the forehead like the logo of a sports team. The low, steady sound of the machine mirrors the buzz of bodily function and blood movement going on inside all the time. Until he clacks against quartz rock like a helicopter flying into a giant plate glass window. The day is dented. Chipped. Returns the engine, and blood starts flowing again.

How do you describe common experiences in ways that allude to their interconnection with the whole of the universe, along with some music, some fat, and salt, the good stuff, that carries the okay stuff into the cellular stuff, unblocked rotating doors and up on the forty seventh floor of the otherwise bolted closed skyscraper inside every single cellular structure. Over the blackened hearth of the microscopic fireplace that singes and smolders and captures the heat off burning calories and disseminates it throughout the house. And you don’t. You don’t describe what you hear and see with any lilt or goal or intent. You recognize. You translate. You interpret. Because the connections are already there, as real as the sources of sounds that are never seen. Air is a physical thing. Sounds are tangible as layered ripples in otherwise flat water. You’re not a poet for recognizing it. You’re honest. You’re like me. You want the rarer world.

With the fat still on it.

Robin Neighborhood (The Knowns – Part 4 – Final)

A thousand wrongs would be thwarted if food were a right. If we had some kind of great American dinner every night, everyone invited, working with food producers and land owners and each area making their own particular regional flavors. Doesn’t matter what is served, just that it is for everyone. An invitation into the slower moving, brick and mortar economy of agriculture, which, if we paid people not to buy combines, could employ all of us endlessly, even if base pay was just a roof and food for the next foreseeable forever. Two hundred years, maybe they’ll cure cancer. In two hundred years, maybe they’ll make that better battery. I think even a goal as simple as this could occupy a nation as great and far reaching as America: buying time.

Let’s make our goal getting our country to the end of that next two hundred with a stabilized economy, with basic necessities and vital products and services like healthcare and potable water not only treated as rights, but organized with concrete, regional, local infrastructure with manageable figures, so homelessness and unemployment are jokes in two hundred years. If we plant trees we’ll never sit in the shade of. If we take this money obsession of ours and buy our kids and their kids some time, that would be something. That’s my angle. Stop letting what I don’t know get in the way of what I do. As long as I, and everyone I know, is alive, we are going to need food, water, and shelter. Those are forever-needs. It’s listed at least three times invisibly on every block of every calendar.

Agriculture is real estate. Agriculture is neighborhoods. Downtown. Agriculture lines highways and fills otherwise empty ditches. Agriculture is Revolution. The Revolution must be an economic shadow. Funded by nature, housed in sprawling farms all across the countryside. It is no longer enough to steal from the rich to supplement the poor.

We must now steal the poor from the rich,
and give them back their selves.

American Farmer (The Knowns – Part 3)

Look at our way of life the way a farmer would. Pretend America is just an American farmer. It grows Americans. Maybe we lay freedom eggs or something. You don’t start selling eggs until you build enough capital to feed and house your flock of Americans regularly. You don’t demand an egg for several days and only afterward deposit fourteen days worth of pellets.

You build your coop, put a little feeder and waterer inside, and constantly clean and expand and improve, and you sustain that, often for months, before you ever see an egg.

We are paying government not to be business.

To make long term investments in us. Like feeding us, housing and guaranteeing sustenance on some kind of measured out, calendar-marked timeline. That’s not even close to socialism. That’s the short math of survival. You’ve guaranteed no one’s freedom if you have not guaranteed the resources of life. No one exists in a vacuum. A human is a complex equation, solved daily by something we call a habitat. When that habitat isn’t guaranteed, it creates a condition in the Americans in your America coop I call ‘crippled self esteem’.

Constant, low-level, background anxiety, knowing your whole way of life could go away because your boss had a bad week, or a simple, unavoidable accident, or a decision you regret. No job. Means no food. No steady housing. No free clean running creek within a hundred miles you could drink from. No sir, we made life outside the dollar impossible. You can scream socialism if that makes you feel better. But it won’t change facts.

The Knowns (part 2)

Couldn’t we, right now, look at our populations, look at our nation, and where we border with neighbors, and without talking about religious affiliations, races, political opinions or ideas about when life begins or the role community should play in how it ends, just talk about the food, water and shelter these people will require, accommodating for population growth and migration, endlessly and replenishably for the next eternally, but for the sake of manageable figures, let’s say millennia, couldn’t we exclusively argue food sources, water distributions, shelter options, for the next thousand years? And in doing so, still enable and propagate the inventions and progressions and superficial tributaries society is currently fixated on, like designers arguing over what color to paint walls in a house whose foundation is crumbling.

The cart is so far ahead of the horse in America, we’ve forgotten this thing was originally intended to move, not left or right, mind you, but forward, and fast. A vehicle for the rights of poor people. The thunder you feel is a thousand galloping horses. Coming to take it back.

The Knowns (part 1)

All concentration of power is corrupt. Like how you can’t take a footstep without crushing something. So all footsteps are corrupt, says the ant. Intentions be damned. When deciding whether or not to trust someone, don’t take their promises for proof. Do they have the right to say sorry to you. Do you trust them to fail, knowing their failure is the progenitor of more than a thousand successes. We all make mistakes. Kings. Governments. Corporations. Gods have apologized before. The more power you give a person, an office, a title, only increases the consequences of their carelessness.

Who knows if we’ll cure cancer, or learn how to postpone old age, or master nuclear energy or muster a flying car in our lifetime, we’re still struggling to build better batteries but the propaganda of our society would have us believe we’re on the precipice of answering the mystery of the universe like it was a multiple choice question. See. Progress. I don’t know. Some things aren’t happening because they just plain won’t. Cancer is harmful mutation, life is what, positive mutation? How do you cure your source?

I say we put it on hold, because we are like children in the knife drawer, we aren’t ready, as a people, for the technology we’ve begun to explore. I say we focus on the knowns. In two hundred years we’ll be as hungry for fresh air as we are now for food. Clean water will entail a chemical equation. We’ll exclusively have picnics on rainy days. The sun will eventually become the bright cloud looming over all our nightmares. There will be no new magical source of food. It will be the same as it ever was. Alongside iron, steel, plastic zip ties, sustenance will be reshaped into shackles.

Deadwood Sermon

I cringe-watch this HBO show, Deadwood, no kidding I’ve probably fast forwarded through a third of the entire series.

But there is a really great moment when a character who is a drunken, racist horror-show finishes up a rant expressing his illogical judgment and condescension toward an entire group of people. And a man at the bar questions him for his own genetic history, making a suggestion his ‘nose looks a little broad’.

You’re not going to teach someone twenty years or older to start branching out beyond hate and judgment to search for an alternative source of self esteem. For a lot of these people, being White is the only thing they ever won outright. They hang their skin color on the wall like a diploma or a college degree, beside the flags and relics of an even longer heritage of losing.

You can hate someone, and still consider that any path to their subjugation or denial of their rights will never be exclusive. Any denial of any citizen’s rights is untenable, because down the line you will not be the right kind of White. If you accept a racial class system, then the burden is on each and every one of us to trace our own and impossibly produce documentation of our ‘purity’ and evidence of its lack of any corruption. Which you can’t. It will come down to DNA, and guess what, our ancestors were just as dumb, anxious and horny as us.

Hate. Hate everything. Hate your neighbor. Hate snakes in the grass. Hate love, hate hate especially. Not allowing your government and society to condone, propagate and operate under the principles of racism has nothing to do with who or what you hate.

Any path to taking away a citizen’s right to life is a path to taking it away from all of us.

On a long enough timeline, you won’t be the right kind of White, because White never meant race, it has always meant money.

And honey, if you’re still flying the Stars and Bars, you may as well be red and blue, because White isn’t you.

Where did the sun go when it rained

It’s not too hot until strangers in parking lots feel comfortable saying it. Summer happened a long time ago when all the kids were let out of school this Spring. In just about a week, we can all shake our heads at the checkout counter while we admonish the weather, until then, hold your breath like you were underwater to keep from clearing your throat in public. Wearing a mask makes cleavage of the eyes. Can’t help but tantalize. Icebergs only peek. Powder blue cream filled and witch hazel green, little black curled up spider legs trace a soft pink veined lemon wedge squinting sourly. Is it redundant, to ornately describe the look of eyes? 

Sweat beads down the sides. Long bang cuts across one like a scythe slicing hay for strangers who respond hello. Deep brown like chocolate pudding with a semisweet pupil dotting the center. Do I want to eat these people’s eyes? A superhero. A test answer. A victim in a crime report. When you lack the guts to ask, you mask. You leave it to eyes. What do your silent, light absorbent orbs say about you? Of all the colors of the world, which do they offer back above the mask confessing your true feelings about the view you’re facing. How long has it been since you really smelled the words you were saying. We’re not as sure of what you said as you are of what you had for lunch with onions on it. Without the nose, with buried cheeks and hidden chin, our eyes take over for the entire face and apologize to the world they waste as they search only for their favorite colors. Gray lumps of unwashed wool. Teal waves off southern oceans spill tears down peachy lids of grainy sand. And black. The favorite color of anyone who can’t pick one. They’re all there huddled around a smoky fire in that deep and penetrating night. And wood fire red brown. And pauper pupils wearing corneas like golden crowns. Dull silver throwing sparks growing sharp. Furrowed down. 

So we’re all supposed to be superheroes now. Secret identities. Private public lives and public private ones we post online. Can’t shake hands, but can roll eyes. Can’t bitch about the weather, except that the sun has his mask off and he’s breathing all over all of us. We want to ask where’s the rain, but we don’t know who we’re talking to, they did get a thunderstorm two towns over. Can’t even suffer drought the same any more. Can’t stand the taste of my own words. And without the rest of the face in the way, my eyes keep giving away my secrets. All I see anymore is people’s true colors. All I hear is what eyes have to say, and buddy, it puts mouths to shame. 

Who is that behind that mask.
Where did the sun go when it rained.

‘What is a page for?’

The one that happens after you’ve filled three others but haven’t quite reached the ending yet. I suppose a page four is a good sign, at least a couple miles behind you, you’ve gained some traction, moving along. A page is for boot prints to dent and backsides to rest on and when you’re finally ready to stick around, plant some seeds in, you’ve been turning it over all these years, may as well withdrawal a little from the soil before you pay it back everything.

What is page four, except for a bridge between a mountain and a bigger mountain. A hook set in the lip of the cockeyed metal strong fish. Page four is the maturation of an opening, it’s Braxton Hicks contractions, the precursor to some heavier cursing soon to come. A page is for eyes to do what feet are for and explore a place tethered only to the limits of their own imagination. A series of pages got me through some dreary nights where I’d do sad things like light a candle and let the wax spill and cool onto the table, a dab or two on the wrist, for validation. I can see the oily residue off the wax on pages of my childhood journal, and I know exactly where I began to become a teenager. I have pages recycled from the backs of church bulletins, like monopoly money pastel blue and yellow and ruffled meaninglessly as they are. Fragmented what some would call poetry and sermon critiques, only the most scathing and adolescently conniving would be shared with my dad, the pastor. For him a page was for emptying out a Saturday night that might fulfill the expectations of hundreds for a solid Sunday morning, more dependent on timing, but still, an audience is an audience, and a stage is a stage. The model for the pulpit, and certainly the source of the choir. What is a page for, except for actors to wage wars they’ve never witnessed and fall in loves they’ve never felt.

What page four and the pages before are is the shaft of an arrow laid against the knuckle of the archer, prepared to spring forward, regardless of the destination, what happens on page four is blind force. The thwang. The slap against the archer’s wrist. May as well be page twenty four, for how time bounds once a half decent piece of writing has dug it’s hook in, bridged that difference between big and little mountains, between clean pages and ones with muddy foot prints all over them.

A page is for contamination. Perhaps the one place still safe to betray the tenants of socially imposed distance. Page four is where the wheels lift off, and the wings sit their full weight down on the airy substance of imagination. The tremor before the birth. A ring around the moon. Page four of a story is like a superstition, fed more on fear than by belief.

That’s what a page is for. For getting to page four.

The Wolf and the Earthworm

Evolution doesn’t mean progress. A species is as likely to evolve toward their own demise as they are to avoid it, and history might argue, more likely. So, if all our ‘advancements’ in technology, medicine, food production, hastens our ultimate extinction, well then, humans aren’t the most intelligent creature, are we? Common grass would probably outlive us. Trees almost certainly will. Nuisances like field rats and house mice and insects will benefit from the same circumstances that bury us. Worms for sure, licking their little imaginary lips at this moment. So fixated on the top of the food-chain we’ve entirely overlooked its bottom. Where decomposers make a buffet of predator and prey alike. Of course, we are all on course to be a course for bacteria, fungus, a trillion other pesky neighbors we’ve always put beneath us.

Language, considering how often it harms us, is not a positive advancement, it is a thick silence stuffed courtroom where the jury is still out and the judges are in their office pretending we can’t smell the cigar smoke. If the weapons invented last century end up annihilating us, we won’t be around to concede, but we will have lost this great argument that we are some divine, hyper intelligent transplant in this place, and common things, like houseplants, and inbred purebred dogs, and dung-beetles and dust mites, well, let’s just say they didn’t commit species wide suicide. So, the irradiated, zombie faced jury returns to their seats and the last one of them who can really stand straight enough declares the verdict.

Our kind is currently dumber than the very least of these.

Evolution does not stop with mutation, with innovation, or invention, or vagabond species escaping their nursery environs. Evolution is mutation plus time. Longevity. Sustainability. Evolution can only be determined on a timeline, and ours is frayed and wavering. We are so smart, so capable, right up until we threaten making our only world uninhabitable, and then we are so fucking stupid it hurts my stomach and makes it hard to sleep at night. We are a species plagued by emotions about which we were never given an education. Anxiety. Depression. Happiness. Fulfillment. Chemical cocktails that reduce truth to the bottleneck of our one particular, highly limited vision of ourselves. The idea that we would drop a nuclear bomb on another nation to save our own, as if that would not set a thousand wars into motion, as if our country is not floating on the same molten ocean, as if killing is not the seed of a gigantic, deep rooted, immortal killing tree.

I would sacrifice all of it, all the gadgets, the languages, the governments, the societies, for a good night’s sleep. I would turn off the lights on this moment. So that we could all see how much brighter and healthier our timeline could be. Two steps forward and one step back is still progress. And when compared to sprinting forward and never looking back, it is better evolution.

Our ancestors tried to explain this to us the best way they knew, with reductive, anthropomorphic stories, you know, our people’s preferred vehicle for deep instinctive truth. A tortoise and a hare racing toward a finish line. Spoiler alert: only one of them gets there.

I Wander

Hiking changes real estate. I remember house hunting with my family when my siblings and I were kids. No. Under a metal spiral stair case. Trapped between two thick yellow paint strips slicing the road in half. No in the yard. No that doesn’t fit in the yard. In the closet of a bedroom big enough for two, no, no more kids sharing bedrooms. 

I would describe it as exactly the opposite on a hike. I spent innumerable miles studying, imagining, dreaming of how I could make little flat patches on the sides of mountains, bareheaded bald spots on top of them, chilly Laurel stuffed hollows between them, into cozy fireside home for the night. No was in my little book of miles, my stack of shelter names and water sources and spectacles along the way. No was circling bare plastic in water bottles or a food sack stuffed with crushed Ramen wrappers and crinkly, metallic skin still plastered with bits of authentic peanut butter. I swear I could make anywhere home. Is that a superpower? An antithesis to the performing escape artist. My ability, my talent, the special skill I am about to demonstrate, I’m really good at home. 

Which isn’t a tent, a nice high firepit, a picnic table someone slid up underneath the shelter overhang, which is against the rules, and an answer to the prayer of every hiker in the rain passing through. It isn’t safety or security, there is none, save the insomniac canine stretched out on the leaves, ears sharp and crisp and up as early corn. It isn’t the view, though I’ve woken up by some doozies. I’ve slept sideways on slanted ground. Bent my body crooked as a snake in the shade to lie between the rocks. I’ve packed up my entire camp at nine at night because a strange man who had asked for food started staring at my dog, Eggs, like she was finally living up to her goofy namesake, hiked over a mile in the dark, shining no lights so he couldn’t see which direction we went, and set up camp in the pitch black not three feet off trail. Woke up to find out I’d slept beside an overview, woke up to carrot colored sunlight tickling hundreds of miles of central Virginia up out of a tough and too short sleep. I stayed one night down in this sopping wet valley dug by a wide shallow tongue of water called Dismal Creek. I know. I read the sign. The opposite of warm. The closest to freezing I’ve ever come when the temperature wasn’t freezing. It’s not a rule, it’s not even advice, so much as it is an observation, that one should always have trepidation about staying in a place where even the water is running. 

I could make anywhere home. Often, I think of campsites I scratched out myself, circled rocks and crushed my snow angel tent shape flat in the leaves. I wonder if anyone else has stayed there. I wonder if a ranger found it first and scattered the rocks and ruffled up the forest floor to cover the tracks. I wonder if perhaps there’s some territory in the afterlife where one has to go back through the world and revisit every place we ever left DNA. Gather it up like autumn leaves to lay down bedding in the latchless stalls of heaven. I wonder. 

Every night, I’d get my set up established, my shelter that packed down to the size of a loaf of bread, and expanded enough to hold me, my gear, my dog, room to spare. I almost always built a fire. Water boiling. Pour some wine if I had it. Slipping the dog slices of warm cheddar as if I hadn’t asked permission. I’d get out my notebook, wipe the excess ink pooled at the ballpoint of my pen, and wander. Pages. As my dinner grew cold. I’d shove all my dishes and food into a compression sack and send it up a tree on a rope, and I’d climb into my tent with my notebook and my pen, a bright white light emanating from the center of my forehead, and I’d write. 

And that’s my superpower. That’s how I stay anywhere I go. 

I am real estate.
I am home.