From the Minds of Children

I imagine the very first writers as scavengers. Hikers. Walking village to village, collecting what noises each individual, isolated collection of humans have thrown at rocks, hills, rivers, trees, seeing what sticks, forgiving what doesn’t as nothing more than babble. The idea that one great thinker sat down to put down language is absurd. That is not the way the human mind works. It is far more likely language was discovered by children. Babies even. Probably the first of us to erupt into laughter, and then, call it a giggle just after. I’d be amazed if an adult ever invented a single good word. Grown ups just name things after what they heard, the sound they make. Bark. I give that to an old person. Scrape. Cough. But not grass, not oak, not maple or throw. Little children safely insulated inside their villages gave title its title. And the rarest of humankind, the poet, made a career out of restlessness. Searching out the particular phenotype of a phrase as it evolved up and down the Euphrates. Moving on and contaminating the next group with how their neighbors call after their dogs, how they describe the blood red hearted logs that stink like shit. Red oak and red cedar and straight as an arrow Tulip poplar.

Poplar, staring into startling coals, dodging embers as they explode. Poplar. I’m sure that was popular. Right off the bat. Bat. A simple mind came up with that. But it took a genius to collect it and put it beside strings of others and carry it just as if it were as important as hard crusted bread or zucchini seeds or dried meat. Lion. Easy. Giraffe, not so much. Cat. Lizard. Leopard. Sherpa. Sauna. Stain the plate orange lasagna.

Every word is a moving target. A symptom of evolution, a flower off a creeping vine. A changing thing. Which explains all of relativity. A cold hand in less cold water does not equal the word warm. Because cold, and water, and warm, are just words. Just noises. Sounds that bubbled up from our throats and just so happened to get stuck against some unwitting, innocent object, also evolving, moving, changing.

All the quirks in existence can be explained by the little sentence printed along the base of side view mirrors on cars. Objects will appear larger in the construct of language than they ever are in the construct of reality. Because they were made that way. Like a microscope. What does it show. Truth. Indelibly. Definitely. Yes. But no. Not at all. In no way whatsoever, also. Does that make sense? That some truth can only be made clear via distortion, manipulation. The world around us must be twisted like a sopping dishrag in order to find out what it’s made of, emptied, when articulated fully. Through a little bent glass a microcosm of bacteria, cellular structure, viral culture materializes. The invisible can be made visible if you close one eye and squint the other one just right with the right amount of light aimed up through an empty space below a downturned, concentrated, scrunched up face. Point that same bulb of clear melted sand up at the stars and you’ll reach a far different conclusion. Darkness. Blankness. The dankness of empty, far off, lonely and desperate outer space. Is that true? Of course it isn’t. To see what isn’t out there more clearly a distortion of a totally different type is required, perhaps a couple bulbous lenses and a linear tube and no light at all whatsoever, and you’ll actually begin to peer into the past. Planets zoom past. Stars already dead and gone still filtering into wide open curious minds. And is that the truth, through a telescope, the other worlds that can be seen with one eye pressed into a cylinder, stared into well placed mirrors, seeing almost every single thing to forsake one’s self. Yes. And no. It is a trick and a truth. And yet, if we discounted the view, how much of our universe would we lose. The galactic framework of our marvelous blue green white marbled planet.

Language. Literature. Words. How much they have in common with low light, bent glass and mirrors. More than we would ever be comfortable with. Which is how we got ourselves into this mess. Trusting the noises that erupt up out of us more than the cavernous realms that gobble up and regurgitate them back at us.

If the words do not exist to articulate, or describe any section of this, it’s not there, it doesn’t exist. We haven’t really figured out the methods or status of the divine, so it isn’t there, we’re all atheists. Believers are worse about it than outright disbelievers. The word belief says it all. By not being the word known. Why would we not back up and readjust the microscope. How could a self respecting scientist peer down, give the knob a little twist, and not resist the conclusion they desire. The easy one. Nothing. It seems pessimistic, but nothing is the thing people hope for more than any other gift of life.

We don’t go back to the drawing board, pack the hiking pack, travel the world, asking children how they call the air we breathe, how they articulate the depth of the sea, or the fullness of space. We call it invisible. We invent words like empty. Void. Lonely. Where children paint pirate ships and abandoned train cars and alien worlds.

I like to imagine those first poets wandering the countryside, scavenging for noises, grunts, moans, taps and clicks and pounding fists and the futile, barbaric yawp of men and women and non-binary minds alike. I like to hear them unifying a thousand different sounds all around the same little bent growing trees, itchy vines, purple flowers. The same exact thing. With an entire spectrum of half names and partial titles and God’s honest gut impulsed recitals. Wheat. Corn. Cabbage. Turtles. Titans. Continents. Mountains. Clouds. Ponds. Wells. Swells. Sand dunes and rock slides and full on white death avalanches chasing what they hope to carry and are soon to bury. The strong survive to sing about it. Track down a poet, and share with them umph for umph the story of it.

Oh, to be a writer in those days prior to words. An author of sounds and noises and explosive bodily functions and the shushing of waves and how the wind sounds like rain and the scream of a bee sting and the gentle sugary buzz off honey. To have lived and walked and traveled before there were enough maps for there to be a thing called lost. Life its self was purely a prize before the invention of the word cost. Surely made up by a grown up. The word responsibility. Probably ripped off from some child running full speed and leaping across their sleeping parents screaming the word ability. Life, dripping from the lips of babes like honey, stingers still in the tips of their fingers, and an old person coming up from behind and to chastise them by putting the word be in front of it. Shape up. Be life. Belief. In endless things we ought to know.

What I wouldn’t give to be a poet back before poets. Before farmers. Before politicians. Before lawyers, and office managers, and kings. When no one had anything. What choice was there but to grow. To scavenge. To walk the countryside and listen to water babble, worse than children about making up words and schemes. Back when sleep was the same as dreams. Birds flew in clouds and stars were dancing bears and shifting soldiers and long handled cups with cracks in the bottom leaking rain. When poets wandered like water the path of least resistance, and filled their bellies every night by telling stories and filling minds. When a single word held in it an epic tale. Chasing after dogs and cats, their epic tails. Recounting every noise of every tribe as they try to describe the exact same blade of auburn colored cattail headed grass. Talk about an epic tell. The boom off the tree that fell. The infinity of a field and how that feels when it has blistered your heel and decides to hold on to your foot print, and let everyone know the way you went.

I like to think how we didn’t start telling stories until long after the world decided to keep us in its story. Story. How many blades of grass, how many different species of trees, how many you’s and me’s, are in that word, alone. How many poets did it take to settle on that word, story. And to this very day, no matter where you are, you’ll find a different definition. We’re still fast at work on a new edition, every single writer ever, wants a crack at a new expression.

But they haven’t heard. They haven’t listened. Too obsessed with ancient religion.
To remember, the best words have always been born from the minds of children.

Want – A poem mistitled Love.

I want love the way a single breeze makes all of summer bearable. Dryly washes warm from minds. Heat off shoulders. Tickled sunlight into nibbling instead of gnawing. I want love. Outward. Give. The way I want to live. Kind of already caught up in it and maintaining a status quo before I even know what it really is I really have to live for. Three. Two. One way I love is by biting my tongue. Quetitude. Silace. I brood. Like I just bit a lemon. Clearly thinking all about how I feel about it. But it isn’t citrus, is it? Love. Four letters. Three forms. Two directions. And one great big excuse to crowd out all other excuses. You’re never let off over-easy again. Hard time. Still not hard. Like boiled eggs. Soft as hell. Still stiffer than calcium cradled saliva clear and sunlight yellow centered. Hard time. Beneath a salt shaker. For bites. Three’s the leftovers. Too left over. One rotten stomach. I want to love the way Pepto-Bismol coats the throat and pink lines the gut like in those commercials. I want to be sick. Just so I can take medicine for it.

Labeled love.

Left to Write

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 you ever been on top of a mountain in a lightning storm, and not been able to wipe the smile from your face? It is exhilarating, being debilitated, and forced to accept the humble stature you maintain as your soul’s sole weapon against giants.

There really are purple mountains draped in footprints like majesty.
All the stories we read about who we have been as people, did not feel like a story while it was happening to those individuals.

The definitions of all words fall terribly short of that one. Love. How could you.
Why would you. What is truth. What is that thing on the other side of it.

These are not unanswerable questions.
But they keep getting asked by people who never sought out these lessons.
They ask them for the simple sake of making others believe they are fake.

They’re not.
Nothing is.

I have seen things you would not believe, I know, because you already don’t.
Nobody seems to believe that what I am doing here in my journal is far more than a hobby, or habit, or skill, or desire.

I’ve spent my entire life conjuring up answers to questions like what is love, is there a God, why is life the way it is, what is the purpose of all of this, and more so, saying them clearly, simply, in common vernacular with mildly artistic embroidery. So ask me. So that I can finally answer my big question. Who am I. And I will tell you.

That while you are alive, no matter how many answers you find,
there will always be at least one more left to write.

Clutching the Pen – Morning Poems

Peach fuzz on top of water.
First morning light bombarding silhouetted leaves colored lime.
Hummingbird moves little branches flitting up and down around shrubs.
Squeaky unbeautiful bird voices. Coffee breath and easy choices.
Waking reminders. Sleep is the greater portion of every day.

Affirmation of our solid universal unquestioned belief there will be tomorrow.
A pile of boots in the porch corner. Says the same thing. With silence.
Cedars beside dogwoods growing straight in the crook off sun-starved
summers spent in the shade of giants. Unilateral lines of red ants.
Wasps hover effortlessly for a few seconds and are gone for good.
Like fuzzy water. Still thick in the shade, dissipates around eight. Also gone.
And though there are a thousand better things we should all be doing. We’re not.
Like all life decided to sacrifice morning chores and collaborate
on one big monumental morning poem. While the night air still loiters coolly.
Before the summer sun has walked by with his big gun strapped to his hip
to tell us all we need to be moving along.

A good poem.

Is not written by a poet alone.
But a world on the cusp of clocking in.
And a person on a front porch sipping piping hot coffee.
Clutching their pen.

A Blade with Two Edges #OldPoems

The mind, consciousness itself, a blade with two edges,
sharp on both sides, forged in the mind. We all bear scars.
Marks. Places we were harmed, injured, cut deeply by thoughts, words.
Invisible weapons first learned turned inward, toward, threatening the self.
How many missing flesh, comforts, throw the burden off from hands, their swords,
tools trashed, forgotten and lost, because strength comes with cost, a price, hefty, sure.

But full with worth.

Bravery.
Courage.
Carrying heavy weapons.
Sore-handed. Tired. One trapped in the mind.
Invisible to any eye. It can not be seen seeing.
Slicing both directions, out and in, and we feel mostly in, it is all we have.

Ourselves.
And consciousness carves us up like a roast,
a sacrifice, dinner, like a fat gluttonous ego.
This sword makes it thinner. Drops weight.
Extrapolate hate in a lengthy, long, red
dissections of selfishness, greed, bad
and its wavering boundary against good,
not to be attacked.
But understood.

The mind brandished this weapon, pounded in imperfection until it is gone,
buried too deep to be seen, felt, still in notches, chips in steel, iron, handles wrapped
in palms and fingers gripped. Consciousness. Awakeness. Aware. Staring. Keen.

Our own heads lend us this sword.
The world knows the shape.
So the world supplies a sheath.
Help against the pain of lugging sharp brains,
a place to shush it in and let go,
a shape fit for the great idiotic weapon of ego.
So we can carry it. Keep walking. Moving. Growing.

Even if it’s slowly.

No More than a Dream

What if it was more than an accent.
What if southern meant different color.
Dark brown bourbon skin.
Patch of red on the back of the head somewhere low about the neck.

Living up north like a sore thumb blends into a hand.
People can’t stand anything that reminds them of an experience they lack.
Prideful ignorance. Whole islands of sand to bury your head.

We call it rural America.

Main Street U.S.A.
See some places are places you go.
But a small town town is somewhere you stayed.

If my skin were different, not just my legato accent.
Not just my laid back, get to it tomorrow disposition.
But a different pigmentation in my skin.
Not even a totally different color.
Even just a slightly darker tinge.

What if?

What a question that is. How many people in this country
have not traveled enough to at some point in time been the minority.
For any reason at all. Big or small. Voice or opinion or skin color or sexual preference.
Or me. A southerner. Up north. Learning what all those boys
killing each other during the civil war
learned once they got up close. We’re not so different
as our representatives would like us to be.

The greatest unspoken fear of every political career
is that all us people ever get on the same team.

Which happens the moment our eyes really open.

Otherwise, America will live and die
no more than a dream.

 

English Major

How we order dinner. How we tell our problems to doctors. And illustrate our final wishes. And record our innermost anxieties. We write letters to loved ones full with so many words claimed by neverending definition. How we know to call each other. How we declare things like war, and love, and all the salty sandwich meat in between. Looking at the world through eyes is one thing. But words, vastly another.

Literature is the microscope we hold up against the world to perceive details needed to articulate our needs. A microscope provides a distortion. A biased perspective. In your favor. Objects appear larger than they actually are.

If you fail to study the manipulations of your tools, you will never build a trustworthy conclusion.

And language, literature, we use words to orchestrate lives how bees use wax to shape hives. Not so much high art and the great smoking literary canon, but traffic signs, and menus, birth certificates and credit card contracts. They never taught this in school, because the system is full of people taught never to question the bias in their equipment. But all words are literature. How you tell your friends how you feel. Express intimacy and desire safely and respectfully out loud. The level of grace with which you handle power. How well you translate to paper.

English is not your least favorite class from high school.

It is the medium I am implementing at this very moment to testament the unfixed, transient flights of conscious thought going on in my mind. It is our cheapest and most prevalent form of time travel. As well as immortality. Playdough for plastic brains to squeeze in fists and get sick eating it. Which we know we aren’t supposed to do. It says so, printed in a dull black warning on a label, the word. No.

We didn’t have to. But words are how we decided to witness to and participate with the world. From the ground up. Whenever I encounter a doubt, or a negative thought about possibility or lack of potential, or hope, I’m always asked to look through a narrow little window of a word that I broke open a long time ago into a door. And more. I built a bridge out of it. And you’re right. That word. That choice. That night. If it is the destination, then this is dark as hell. And your doubts, they may be right. But if that word is one toe on a foot, or one step in a twenty mile day, or one day out of a two month journey, or two months of the best, most fulfilled, busiest and blessed years of my life, that’s different.

Depending on the lens you use, your microscopic problem might only appear to be huge. When in reality, it’s invisible to everyone but you. This is why we discovered language. To catch a glimpse of ourselves in it like a fun-house mirror, distorted into extremes.
It had very little to do with the pursuit of truth. Like any other tool.

Literature was not intended to serve the world.
We designed these words to magnify you.

The New One


Change is hard. To me, it seems rooted in unhappiness. The discontent desire to reshape their continents. And happy people draw maps. Of course, it isn’t as simple as that. Philosophically speaking, it’s a hammer. Or a wrench. If you look at the equipment to get an idea of the ideas they have built, it will always seem too simple. But it’s two different natures. Separate goals and agendas, distinct skeletal structures between the ideals that shape our tools and the things they can build. A hammer moves two ways. Hard and inconsiderate buried into wood, or sharp flat bunny ears that pull shy iron up out of its rabbit hole. If you’re a mover and a shaker, a builder, a creator, a social changer, an adventurer, an artist. You’re probably not the happiest. Dissatisfied. Discontent. You can argue me against it, but I’ll probably disregard all your words and take your passionate need to prove me wrong as its own kind of evidence. Sorry. I stopped stopping at people’s words a long time ago. Around the same time I admitted to myself just how much I will lie to control the idea people have of me. I did this amazing thing. I assumed everyone else was just as smart as me. And doing it as well. So I listen to chest swells, and deep breaths, and that thing where people look down and chuckle a couple times before they talk. Think of all the times you did that yourself. What true answers were you bypassing in those seconds before you landed on the placid, clean, decent one.

So whether you want to admit it or not, you’re not building a new house because you were happy with the one you had. You’re not plowing new fields if your grass was already green enough. Tree roots and boulders buried like land mines. Change is hard work. So are new worlds. America is defined by attracting all of the earth’s least satisfied residents. Argue with me if you want, but people who are truly content, do not get on that boat. They never left Europe. You did not travel then, and you really shouldn’t now, with any reassurance of how soon you’ll be back again. Along with luggage, you are taking your life up into your own hands. Seeking out new lands. Because the one you’re leaving behind did not fill you up. It wasn’t enough. Some of us are hammers. And some of us are nails buried so deep we’ll never be pried up. And a good enlightenededish person will have learned over time to be a bit of both. To seek balance. And let change do what it has always done. This planet is changing all on its own. The revolution, is how to live here and still leave it alone.  

It’s an oversimplification, I know. But if hammers and nails were as complicated as houses, I’m not sure we’d ever get one off the ground. If you’re an artist. A revolutionary, which is simple nowadays. The revolutionary is a good mom, and a patient man, an understanding boss, a forgiving friend. If you’re trying. If you have a dream. Or wishes. If other people are small talking and I catch you staring off into the distance. I know you’re like me. You’re a little bit unhappy. Just enough. To know this way of life isn’t enough.

The same hands that put down the new novels and poetry and short-storied scriptures of tomorrow will have cut the boards and set the nails of the new shelves in the libraries that will be needed to hold all of them. A hammer. The pen. The beauty of this rusty little literary invention. Language is like an old house our ancestors built for us. A decrepit mansion we all inherited equally just by being born human. Maybe a room or two have been kept clean and livable by the devoted satin robe wearing monks of academia, but none of us could keep termites out of the joist in the basement. Mold buried deep with moisture in real hard oak. Floor sagging in places and roof given out altogether in others. No one lives here full time anymore. And how we approach this condemned inheritance sort of sets us into two distinct categories of personality.

And I know I don’t need to write it again. But it is the discontent who want to tear it down and start over. Happy people are scrubbing floors and dusting mantles. But the ones who have glimpsed the future walk the halls with hammers. Prying up nails and taking out hardwood and stained glass and musty furniture while we still can.
We may yet need them.
For the new one.  

Words were once wet ink

Memorized movement.
Choreographed choices.
Spat out sentences like life, or death.
To do, or not to, no matter how much you want to. Don’t.

Use your mouth for a pencil and an audience like paper.
Fill them. Move them. Ruined. Stained. Like ink on a page.
And better be. For the money they paid.
Hardback wood seats embedded engraved copper
with the names of other patrons. Burgundy curtain.
Beige carpet. Used to be a movie theater.
Now a playground for the grown followers of Peter Pan.
A medicine cabinet to those who still take sugar by the spoonful.
By the roomful. Mouths all held agape and waiting.
Debating, could I do that if I wanted to?

Wear an ashy old hat and hum into a warped kazoo.
Sing a line of comfort, out loud, and acquire a choir
of voices who fear making no such choices.
Already out in the light waiting to be spotted.
Nervous wiggling swords in the wings.
Say a few words, then she sings.
And in just a few minutes,
all hell breaks loose.
Literally.

Fire and demons and love-lust forgiveness.
Chased by heaven and angels
and everything else guilt invented.

Memorized moments.
Choreographed to look like chaos.
Words once wet ink spat out like cold coffee.
Like watermelon seeds. Like blood.

A reminder that more goes on inside each instant than any of us would care to admit.
That memory is mostly magic. And reality, despite being neither a game or a toy,
can still be an appropriate thing to play around with.

That good cholesterol

I have a soft yellow heart like a hard-boiled egg.
I have arrived at terms with death. It is only pain
still testing the cracks in my shell,
finding me in the safe places I dwell,
and itching me there. Tangling my hair,
stubbing stumpy toes and talking with a tone
I would not hand out to a child. All the while
the wild laughs at my labor, which was not an intentional joke.
Life’s rapid, aggressive, responsive regrowth,
strikes me more like revenge. Not passionate,
desperate, hurt and hurtful, blood for hungry vengeance,
but a more quiet, natural, insinuated, obligatory sort.
The sort a parent strikes out on their progeny in old age.
Cage for cage. Trapped in prisons built like guilt, and responsibility.
There is no joy in plants to witness the worker pant,
tear flesh encircling wrists, planting the seed of that awful itch,
right through calcium walls, the smooth soft almost not
quite off white jiggly unbroken membrane,
into my fertile, flakey, as close to orange as a color can go
and still remain yellow, heart.
Like the buried center of a hard-boiled egg.
Art has led me to establish acceptable terms with death.
But pain. Slipping fingernails beneath broken skin
peeling me hungrily to pieces. I’m still working
on a rapport with pain. With a sensitive blood-mover
like mine, I am sure to suffer in life. Just not in vain.