Trespassers in the woods. Trespassers in my head. My whole life I’ve been muttering how I should forgive the other ones for trespassing against me. But what does that look like in reality? Is it doormat Christianity? I am putting up bright orange sentences that start with No. I am spraying purple bands on trees. None of it is capable of keeping someone from trespassing, but the trees are sticking, and here’s hoping prosecutions do too. I was as far out on the land as can be without dabbling in a touch of trespassing myself, and there it was. The stranger. Now I’m building fence-line in my mind and setting cellular security cameras beside imaginary property lines and taking personal days to paint the pines. I don’t know why it bothers me so much. It seems to me, if you’re not using it, and someone else isn’t damaging it, what’s wrong with cutting through a backyard or two? But that isn’t how I feel. I feel more like a pill of lead and a shot of steel. I feel like cracking a walking stick I’ve carried for twenty years. I feel like taking the mental muzzle off my bite-happy dog.
I feel like my whole life there were two ways to hear the Lord’s Prayer, and like a fool, I grew up only recognizing one.
I have to forgive.
But, I must also be forgiven.
No mention of circumstances, of regrets or repentances. Just a sin and its charge. Sinner left at large.
I don’t want to ask them to leave. Or put up more No signs. Or purple up trees. I desire to trespass against the one who trespasses against me. I’m not saying it’s a good thing. Just a feeling. I don’t want to forgive them, I want to reach them and teach them the reality of their ways. Some things can not be explained. But no. No is not the purpose of the prayer. The reality is, there are others who would witness me on this property and call me a trespasser. I may disagree, as I’m sure does anyone I catch trespassing, but that particular criteria isn’t mentioned in the prayer. Just that the only way to be forgiven for straying is to let go the nearby straying’s of others.
And I can’t. I am not strong enough, yet.
I’m finding it very hard right now to love the strayer.
I think we all need to be cautious greeting new experiences with anger.
Yes, they trespassed, but the prayer says forgive that, because if you don’t,
you won’t ask them where they are going.
Who are you warning, this misty morning?
A day in rough labor attempting to birth its sun.
We asked the rooster. The hen said he abused her.
He’ll call us all to dinner a little sooner than he thought.
Tree frogs croak like night. Daylight whispers,
you should see the other guy. Slow start to say the least,
a strength where I was always weakest.
Last night we passed through tempests.
This morning is distilled by fog.
Where is the horn that was blowing,
where has the horse gone, the rider, the rooster crowing?
How were they louder before my eyes had opened.
Mute morning leaves eyes deaf to noisy warning.
Silent as the trees plunk leaves in twice fallen rain.
Tree frogs explain their stubborn rubber song.
And why it lingers so long. The chicken growls.
The hoot owls. And an ambulance sounds
in the distance and all the neighborhood dogs
start to howl. We are up, the sun is too.
Unfortunately. So are the clouds.
When you go West across North Carolina, you don’t leave the ocean behind
it climbs into the sky and weather misbehaves like a roily child.
On the outer bangs of wisdom there lives a hermit who uncovered the secret to enlightenment.
The lights turn off for a reason.
We’d rather call them seasons.
Than admit we belong to a slapped sideways birth.
The ombre of approaching storms. The tangerine sheen after a rough one.
Languid, pale yellow, bruised banana, soaked bandana summer days
no one remembers anyways. Something about the weather today
wipes away the warning off yesterday’s. Don’t claim to understand it.
North Carolina has tried and some here you’ll find look just under deep fried
but for the time clouds keep cropping up and our limping, lopsided farmer
with a sloshing watering can. Our ocean in the sky has high and low tides
and waves crash and wash out a summer garden easy as beach sand.
Five hours from the coast.
Same salt stinging in our eyes.
Plants will hold up cups above their heads to catch bees in but bury their roots beneath the soil so that half the rain runs off before it soaks in. Trees will grow up tall and huge and heavy and spread out thick green sails from their oaken masts and dare the wind the topple them: perhaps they push the continent, perhaps it is why we still sail across the Atlantic, why California continues to be nibbled by the Pacific. If a human were a tree it would grow wide and flat close to the earth where no wind could tickle it. If a human were a plant, they’d put their bright colors beneath the ground in fear for anyone finding them. Lift their roots up to the elements so they can feed freely and never learn why their seeds bear no germ.
A book slams shut. The door is too abrupt. A window closes loudly. In the hallway, someone drops their stuff. They don’t teach it in gym, but there’s a way to jump within your skin. To be shaken and never shake. To crack up but never break. The human body has always been fear’s favorite hiding place.
Two tall black boys race one another down the hall. Gender segregated groups take it easy outside the restroom. A teacher with his clean arms crossed tries not to do the same in his eyes. Three girls swoosh arm in arm heckling a single girl with her head down in front of them. It’s not cool for a teacher to say hey to you if you don’t say it to them first. All the cool teachers know this. But the nervous ones shout a student’s name like it’s the phrase on Wheel of Fortune. Then tell you take your hood down. Hide your phone now. Better not frown. Or that same teacher is going to make a show of asking how do you do.
The feeling of pulling up to work and seeing a cop car with its blue lights wheeling. An innocent traffic stop starts the mind off reeling. The look in the eyes of adolescents as you tell them to huddle on the floor in a corner while you turn the lights off and block the doorway windows. Don’t worry, just a drill. Said the carpenter to the board. Said the miner to the earth. Said the dentist to a rotten tooth.
The bottom, the basement, the hidden dank disgusting earthworks foundation of the human gut can only be struck by the sonar sound of workers screwing flag pole mounts into concrete in a classroom down the hall.
There is no eye in the room off of me. I hold them all. They help me see.
Farm stuff. Alarm hush. Like getting dumped. You wake up when it goes off.
Takes the truck. Take your stuff. All that’s left is chores. Yours. You are a prison guard.
You run a farm. Animals in cages that would kill them if you didn’t come around to all the
empty buckets to refill them. Take the egg. Leave the grain. Milk the goat. Her pleasure’s your pain. Hands hurt. Back’s worse. Hip we still we ignore. Not to mention the tooth. And the glue-stapled boots. Bubble poots. Coffee with two scoops. Pantries to loot. So dark out the owls still hoot. The roosters start at four twenty five reminding the neighbors they’re still alive. Goats go up pasture as soon as they see their feet more so than eyes will lead them to feed and when they grow tired they’ll lie down in breakfast basking in ten thirty sunshine and moaning cud across their tongues. The autumn leaves will make love to the soil and infect it with worms. The grass is already whispering where they once screamed green. The chorus has changed masks, the trees are dressed in tragedy.
And the sky has layers like spoiled milk.
All that farm stuff. Telling yourself, if you run it well enough, the prisoners will forget what you are. And you too, hopefully. How hopelessly alone you are. When the alarm clock you’re married to gets up the nerve to go off.