Only after dinner

About once a day I sit down to write a post about how we could work together and across friendships and neighborhoods and families create our own food systems to potentially feed, house, and employ us all endlessly when the moment inevitably comes that we need.

I’ve farmed long enough to know we could dent the grocery bills of hundreds just making use of our backyards and right of ways and waste space. Hell, we’re already burning gas to keep down the grass. Crops or ruminants may actually be cheaper maintenance.

If we had that sort of back-pocket resource, we’d all be so much more free to pursue our dreams and personal agendas. If we knew we were fed, employed by a few hours of chores and housed, kept, even if no one wanted to take a chance on hiring us or God forbid the economy does what it always does, by design, every decade, recedes. (Considering America has never reached full employment, even at its best, hasn’t our economy been in prolonged depression from initiation?)

I want to write this post, but I know the reply, I know almost no one hears farm and thinks freedom. But I’m telling you, rice and milk was the great epiphany of Buddha, and Christ filled his career with food production and economic analogies and culminated it gathered around a dinner table, where equality is implied, reflexive, no longer good or right, where loving your neighbor is as simple as passing the plate. Equal share. You ever notice this? If you ever make it to the dinner table with a person, how the inequalities and social divides and economic distinctions disappear. No one divvys out portions based on anyone’s net worth.

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe the answer waits at the end of all these earmarked budgets and policy debates and legalese liturgy. But I don’t feel crazy. And I’ve heard society sputtering ever since I came of age out of it into the world we left out of it. The real world. Universal, base need. Hunger. Thirst. Need for shelter. Starving for the culture that surrounds these things.

So, to sum up, every day I want to write this post that ends in dinner. That dinner becomes our primary goal. Food, the greater movement. All conversations, talks, arguments over divides and distinctions, only after dinner.

That Germ

When you plant a seed, nothing happens. When it comes time for that end of the year test, one of the questions is what happens when you plant a seed, nothing is the correct answer.

Except, it isn’t. Every farmer knows what work patience does that they can’t. Now if only we followed farmers as often as political science majors. We’d think on timelines, we’d question our initial bias, we’d work with systems far more powerful than we will ever be, more powerful than any machine. Still, nothing like a seed.

You want to talk about life after death? You want to talk about transfiguration, or transubstantiation. Don’t talk to me. Talk to a tomato seed. Barely a little flaky kernel to the naked eye. Unending possibility, fruit, food, and life to the earth. But if you sat in a classroom and studied it, you’d think nothing of it. If you had never planted one in a well-destroyed field, and come back to it, for no reason other than sheer, titanic, monumental faith, you would pass the test. You would select the option ‘nothing’. And you would fit in so fine with humankind, and live in constant conflict with the planet.

What is truth? Better question. What is truth without patience?
If only I knew. I’d do just one thing with that germ.

I’d share it.
With you.

Gone

And suddenly

the whole world

rested on the nape of my neck.

Hung down below my throat.

On top of my belly like a tie.

Shirt tucked into pants and belt pulled

just tight enough to cut off a bit of circulation.

Hair pulled back. Laces knotted. Hot coffee.

In the hallway almost stained khaki pants

creamy black. A woman leg out in the bed.

Dog saw me stir. Feel her hot breath.

Baby up on all fours in the crib.

Say goodbye.

Squeeze her hand.

I’m gone.

And I am gone.

The Almighty Dollar

Modern money is idolatry. Its very existence is a social contrivance. Like a lot of human institutions, it is representative, more so than authentic. For our ancestors, one of the stupidest, and most dangerous form of savings, was money. The wealthiest derived that status through land possession, crop stores, timber, chattel. Money was a placeholder, a tool for conversion. Lots of things have been money. Metal. Salt. Beads. And now, green pieces of paper and your hard fought credit score.

It is a relatively recent development. Even just a couple hundred years ago, money didn’t mean nearly what all it means to us now. You could have no money to speak of whatsoever, and live on your land, and eat from it. This idea that taxes just take a percentage of something that already exists is false. Taxation requires any land owner or laborer to convert some of their time or assets into the almighty dollar. And considering one of those trade goods is priceless, invaluable, and rare, and the other is as cheap as you need it to be, we always end up losing out on the conversion. We’re taxed. Even people who can only work a little, and are on food assistance programs, they get taxed. The goal is for all of the economy to pass through this government sanctioned, printed, malleable tender. Even if it is being spat right back up on people left in unsustainable economic conditions. Our government has become a glorified middle man. Our ancestors wouldn’t understand this.

I just wonder, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, why can’t we, as a community, simply take stock of our needs, and the ability of the lands within our regions to produce and meet that need. Instead of taxing our food producers and forcing them to convert their labor intensive products into money, why couldn’t some of those required taxes be rendered in providing food to the community, jobs, housing, even arts, culture and entertainment. I don’t know if you’ve read at all about what farms used to mean for people, but the idea of running a monotonous, one crop operation was almost unheard of. Very rare. Once, farms were cultural and economic institutions. Seasonal jobs to offer, cheap or even free housing for workers, hosting community events and celebrations. Fairs and concerts and markets.

Why would our government not want to send hungry people to this sort of place to get food, and possibly short term employment, or housing? They’re already taxing the farm, why not give a call, and ask, instead of these tens of thousands of dollars we were going to force you to render at peril of keeping your assets and freedom, there are three thousand people in your area on government assistance, what could you do for them?

That’s a good question, why exactly would our government not simply operate as a big picture, national seamstress quilting all the various agricultural regions together to form one solid, cohesive food system that could actually outlast the almighty, yet highly mortal US dollar. Don’t they care about us? Haven’t our leaders seen how currency is prone to inflate, and shrink back. I mean, by design, capitalism, our current form of economy, creates a recession or even a depression every decade. Don’t people lose all their savings even in mild recessions? Could we research what happens to the suicide rate during a recession, or god forbid, depression? People literally, and in more than a million ways, die with the dollar.

So this seems to me an insufficient vehicle to distribute basic resources we all require to maintain the little things, like breath, and open eyes, and a body that works, and a reasonable mind.

I don’t have some inscrutable authority to determine the rightness or wrongness of any issue, but same as you, I do have the ability to say there are some issues that truly effect all of us equally. Such as access to food, water, shelter, healthcare. Products we expire without. And knowing how many of those requirements exist naturally, easily on a farm, I wonder why our government talks about agriculture systems so infrequently.

Not really. I don’t wonder. I’m being ironic. It is because farms are true government. The first government. And that group of men who gathered up on the east coast and claimed to be this country’s new government, were mostly farmers. Problem was, they didn’t want to be any longer. So they became judges and congressmen and senators, and established a system that would allow their children to not to have to be farmers also.

If a farm is run right, and smart, a person could disappear into one like a black hole, and never be seen again, except for at a produce stand, strand of grass hung out from their mouth, while they turn a little bit of their best corn into petty cash, just to have some pocket money.

The base of our economy should be a barter based, agrarian community of farms, connected by foot trails and train tracks and highways like ivy vines all leading back to that rooted base. A productively laid back home place. People should be able to wade into it like a kiddy pool beside the high dive and sixteen foot deep end of the rest of the economy. Mark ups and tax rates are disrespectful and dangerous when they stand between someone and their survival.

Food, water, and shelter are not appropriate commodities for purely monetary economies.

Which, ironically, was the way it always was, even back when America was established. Everybody had a back-home and family farm they could retreat to when their city endeavors were taxed too high, or like we have now, a government that refuses to operate outside of its own self preservation. We literally have a system of government where our leaders can never make an unpopular decision, because they have to be elected again next season. Most of our workers are paid by the hour, so the harder and faster they work, the less they take home.

Why have I never read these ideas before? It’s like every other person who has this realization thinks forward, launches into new systems buried in the ideals of socialism, or the standardization and equality of communism. But I look back, just a few hundred years, and this is exactly the agricultural world our ancestors lived in.

Money was a trifling, mostly seasonal object for them, a vessel for trade, and security, so one could sit back and feel safe, and manifest their own autonomy while they lived off the food, water and shelter almost every piece of land on earth can provide.

But now money is being worshiped. This is beyond the borderline of idolatry.
The whole economy has become its sanctuary. And I really don’t believe in irony.

It’s just that survival is scary.

And money, the almighty dollar,
makes for a great place to hide.

Every portal closed, except for eyes

I get to work in this beautiful world today. White stuff spray painted on top of green stuff. Black asphalt with white in the cracks like ice cream breaking through chocolate. A crunch to each step. Soggy leather toes. So many outspoken crows, decorating up and down trees pin dots of dark on bare bouncing branches. I will let my eyes loose like dogs freed from leashes, to run around the yard and pick up what they find. I will feed my mind soggy milk sunrises on little blue black centered spoons. Smell cold. Taste the weather. Feel it creep into my clothes and dig claws into my skin. Keeps me moving. This insistent world we’re using for a blank palette, even though it’s covered clear over in more layers of paint than one can count, brushed over like no account. But not by me. I move menial amounts of earth, and dirt, and filth on a daily basis. Many mini mountains that could not have stayed where they are without consequences. Gathering up waste because one day we’ll like the taste. One day we’ll all be that much stronger for all the shit we’ve gone through. But today, we go to work. In a beautiful world. Clouds like frozen ocean. Grass like it has seen a ghost. Cars lined in white. Every door, every window, almost every portal closed tight. Except for eyes.

I walk into the cold light of this beautiful morning with eyes open wide.

Farm. Or be Farmed

The farmer kills chickens when he is hungry, and Japanese beetles,
when they are too, clipping his corn. The farmer still does it.
Crushing shiny bodies between finger and thumb. Red guts.
Wiped on long wagging green tongues. But the beetles keep on.
Out around twelve, more toward dusk. Man has a husk. Armor.
Which can be pierced, eaten into, through.
And chickens, beetles, they do too.

I suppose the farmer feels bitten. Harmed.
And this is why he ends them all. Big or small.

Farm or be farmed.

The Freest Labor

Start building your farm in your brain. Don’t wait for land or lumber. When each nail is set, it damages the wood. Change is not the nature of nails. They’re not meant to walk back. So hold off on the expensive heavy stuff until you’ve done the brain work. Bricks lighter than light and concrete clouds that flash up and move on like summer storms. Learn. Slide up eyelids like barn doors wipe across wide short open mouths, spitting out horses and cows, and goats in molecular droves. Listen. To the names of creeks.
Legends recorded in no legends.
Word of mouth myths. Tell one story to every twenty. Farmers will give away their life’s works secrets for ten minutes of real committed roadside conversation. Don’t waste it.
Don’t wait to taste it. Don’t make them regret it.

Start your garden in your brain. Till it.
Invite the stories and criticisms of other farms in to disc it.
Commit to learn. And to listen.

Dream. Not the kind that find you asleep.
But ones that wake before the sun is up.
Dreams that wait at the bottom of a coffee cup.
Build it. Write it. In the cheapest journal ever sold.
Brain paper. Mind stuff. The freest labor. Human thought.

I like to say, if you lack perspective, you require imagination.
One or the other.

That’s one of the primary problems with human imagination.
It makes it hard finding a good excuse to wait to start anything.

Animals

Back of the throat, out through a double barrel twelve gauge nose.
Hoof smacks hard earth. And drags. Once. Twice. Three times.
Then open eyes, contact and hold. Horses. Undulation always.

Curious little tickle of a sound. Cracked opened mouth.
Pupils flat lining. Sweet feed pining.
Unhelpless hapless little mammals.
Goats. Have you heard, a herd?

Pushed around light as a plaything by one.
Whipped hard like a little boy’s baby doll.
Like you were one of them?

Another reason I love animals. No rhetorical questions.
Rhetorical anything. No rhetoric alone. Flat teeth
stained mustard roots. Bow brown. Wet chin.
Ankle thin. And thick headed.

Where there are a lot, you call them livestock.
When there are a few, you call them ‘hey you’.
Old goat. Old horsey coarse. Ye sheep.
Not something you own, but something you keep.
Live stock. Mute slave. Sit high up on a saddle
like steak stacked up on a dinner plate.

But need is need.
Regardless the animal.
Never mind the breed.

And we do, so much, and so money.
For what is a farmer now, except for fences?
And that is the ticket, isn’t it?
To answering rhetoricals.

The fallacy of believing you can own a living thing.
Simply because you keep it in a pen.

There is no freedom on either side of the fence.

The Billionaire

Have you ever had a billion anything? Let alone dollars with unquestionable, government-insured value. Once you get enough money to feed a single generation of your family, you start squirreling away nest eggs for your grand kids to make omelets with later on, and their kids, and so on. No one has a billion dollars. Not even the humans in the world who do. You see, there’s this funny thing about money. It actually all exists in a state of perpetual gambling.

It’s an investment, you see, because if there were to be some hiccup in society, I’m not sure how far paper money will take you. It requires a lot of institutions to be in place to funnel all of us to be so dependent on one form of trivial, flighty currency. Never before has it been like this. Never.

Salt used to be money. Grass. People even. Never flimsy green printed paper. There are shepherding policies all throughout our government that keep us herded onto this singular commercial token. First off, taxes. Can only be paid in dollars. Though value has infinite forms. No matter your trade, your content, your product, your crop, before you pay the debt you owe to society you will have to convert it all through greasy means into our economic system’s sole currency. And you will lose out in the translation. You always do. In fact. You’ll be taxed for the sales transactions you were forced to commit in order to exchange that little morsel of prized value you wrought from life and effort. My time is money. Why am I not invited to offer two weeks of labor to pay any tax debt I owe. Why can I not grow food, are there not welfare programs in place to provide food to people in need? I have land. You know. You’ll see where we’ve paid taxes on it as long as it’s been in my family. I could grow you some food, or build some housing you could offer, or I could show up with a shovel and give two weeks of labor.
A couple grand worth by my own math.

The things we don’t question. It’s not on accident.

My dream is a different form of economic thinking for the rural areas of America, and the world as a whole. An agrarian, barter based system where we are only bound by our mutual need as a community. You have to know the creeks that part your land don’t end where your property line is. You’re not being a good person, or a good neighbor, by considering having a formal relationship with the people living and farming in the area around you. That’s called common sense. We could do half the work we are putting on our government if we intentionally built communal and agricultural infrastructure in our local areas.

National, global issues, they’re like advanced courses you only take once you’re near the end of your major. They’re not for everyone. Most people only want a basic, general understanding of what it takes to be alive, to sustain any substantial, generally happy life over time. The prime focus of any person should not extend further than fifty or so miles out from where they live. Where they’re rooted. Water systems. Growing seasons. Sustainable agriculture. Barter-based local businesses. Education. Recreation.

Then, when our lists are marked off, the chores are done, we can sit on our porches and fail to imagine a thing left to do. We light our pipes. Cross our legs.

Rock back, and ask, so what’s been going on with Kanye West?

Voiceless

Their eyes speak volumes.
Eyelashes turned up way too loud.
Milky white bleeds over onto the pupil.
That is how you know he can’t see you.
That. And the way his ears follow you across the room.
Which. When there’s animals in it. Is called a barn.

Little ones three to a stall.
No matter how small.
One of them
has to be
biggest.

What a perk. They let you eat first. She leaves two other pails just for us.
An orange and white tabby tearing at a frozen bird some other thing tried to eat yesterday. Reindeers wore their antlers bare. And I didn’t know, they don’t need so much water.
Because reindeer eat snow. And geese hiss like snakes. And donkeys crow.
The music mules make makes me believe this animal understands sympathy. And guilt.

The low. The rising raspy bellow. The arched head bowed down.
Salt peppered hay speckled crown. Makes me want to feed him again.

He knows this.

You know, it really isn’t voiceless.
Just because I don’t speak the language.

But when we listen through our eyes
we always strike some understanding.