Little Empty Houses

Birdhouses and mailboxes and bedframes and double doors. Heavy wooden portal stoppers leaned up against racks of plywood. Medium density fiberboard with a watch-face sized hole drilled in front, a short cylindrical nose pegged under that gaping cycloptic opening. Sixteen slats glued together, screwed to two belts of black metal bent in gentle bows. Hypothetically, everything in a workshop is hypothetical. Growing dust. Doors off hinges. Overflown housing. Mailboxes with no fixed address. Potential piles up. Scullery doors in the corner. Solid oak end tables crushing castor wheels.

Space. Who builds space. Not the carpenter. Not the writer. The politician. The doctor. Not the builder. Emptiness. Pure, layered, reinforced racking potential. Who prints blank books. Fills pens instead of emptying them. Who makes the makings. Doesn’t care whether or not birds ever come. Who builds little boxes that resemble houses. Who makes doors who isn’t trapped by door frames. Leaned in aisleways, stacked in back of showrooms with cardboard sandwiched between. Custom doors stacked, piled, pre-divorced from their future portals.

There are so many ways to pray, but none come close to creating space. Full pens. Empty books. Empty frames. Doors with no deadbolts drilled in them. Miniature houses, no birds. The rigid rectangles that clutch the soft shapes we sleep on. We don’t know.

We don’t know where birds will nest.
We don’t know what we’re building.
We don’t need to. It’s better that way.

Let the birds decide.
Until then, build little empty boxes.

Chickeninity

I forgot how much this work likes to graffiti your hands and wrists, and, even in the off season, we all started getting poison ivy again. I figured it out. It’s coming in with the firewood. I’ve spent hours at a time just working and lingering in my pasture, one among the herd of eleven goats, and I discovered hoof issues, an abscess, and two, at my best estimate, a week from giving birth. Five more to kid after them, fingers crossed.

I built a new chicken coop in that time. Spent eight hours cutting midsized White Oaks and tracing them with a draw-blade until they were nude and pink. Night before last, around eight fifteen, Roan was in bed, my wife and I went out and carried every one of twenty five chickens to the new coop. After having helped me with this chore, she no longer eats chicken. For now. It is an ever-intimate experience holding a helpless animal in your arms that fully believes you are about to end it. I’ve been in this game a while though. I tuck one like a football between my belly and elbow and grab the other one by its feet dangling upside down so that I can carry two at a time. I care for the animals, I do, enough to separate my humanity from their chickeninity. It’s an awkward situation. I believe until that terrible day comes, the birds really just want their basic needs met and enough space to be left alone to chicken. I built that for them. It’s the best coop I’ve ever made.

Every chore was a domino in succession. Knocking that one out freed up the next old, disgusting, decade worth of shit filled domino to fall. A half an old tractor shed sequestered off a decade ago to put chickens in. It was hard, I’m still coughing up dust that probably has particles of my grandfather in it, but at the end of the day, the goats essentially lost a disgusting neighbor, annexed and upgraded their condominium and now have a whole building to themselves, to hopefully fill it up with healthy babies.

Having land is one thing, but going out and spending time there is the only way to keep it.

The Ipe Tree

I’ve written more numbers on lumber this past week
than words into any story or poem.

I am a confused sort of man.

Walked up on where two paths diverge into the woods
and chose neither one. I’m losing skin from shins
and will be itching for weeks from high stepping
all the wild unwalked life-choked spaces in between.

Footsteps scar the earth. The earth grows thorns
and marks chalk on me. An alphabet of illegible lettering.
One over sixteen with two petite dashes tilted like military berets.

The word heavy.
The word slider.
And runner.

Rip it longways to five and a quarter and give it another run on the router.
Wipe glossy white wax on each end after you cut them. Born brown faces
squint into the sun off the pool they’re building. Burnt brown faces
have measuring tape like loaded handguns on their hips
clutching little notebooks and a teeth marked pens.

They’re poets too. In their way.

Calling grown men who don’t speak English too stupid to their face
and keep sawing blue stone tiles with circular saws and no masks on.
White dust and the smell of burnt glue fill the air.

Clouds. Clock out. And head on to the home place long before any of us.
Short. Long sleeved men. And knit polo tucked into crisp clean khaki foremen.

Trying to read my scratched black handwriting in this hard dark stubborn Ipe wood.
A man from Brazil told me it was from Brazil. “It is amazing to have such long boards,”
he said, “the Ipe tree, you see, it grows very crooked.” As he read a scrap of it
with more intention than anyone has ever looked at one of my poems.

The past few days

The things I have done have climbed inside my hands.
Used engine oil. Black grease spiraled out an iron jack.
Dad swears it once held up the entire house.
A touch of rash off a three leaved brat like a bracelet
decorating my wrist. Inch long scar from a bowsaw
when I was too young to have had one. White lightning
sunk into my right pointer knuckle from a kitchen knife
I’d forgotten I’d put in the sink. Green veins
peek through stretched thin red window panes
from so much sun the past few days.

The dent. Where the pen sinks in. Black fingernails
half step between pink ivory keys on a self playing piano.

Calluses.
Where there once were blisters.
And scars.
As if I wasn’t going to remember.

It isn’t always hammer time.

Having an opinion, and being invested in an outcome, are different. The people who study guns, the gun perspective I trust, is not someone who supports, or promotes, or defends owning a gun. No one can trust the opinion of anyone who participates in those endeavors when it comes to the use, regulation and education surrounding firearms. I’m sorry, but your desire to have a thing you like actually means you are biased, and far less likely to consider all sides of an issue.

Guns are tools, like hammers and nails. I don’t care if you worship them. If I see them in your hands, I’m going to ask you what you’re building. And if you’re not building anything worthwhile to anyone, you should not have a hammer, or nails.

If you’re not building, or fixing, you’re just scared, and you looked around the room for the most powerful form of defense, and holding it, and having it, puts you at peace, assuages your fear, and let’s you sleep at night, that’s okay. But I will not trust your opinion about your own security blanket.

I’ll take the opinions of carpenters. And anyone who talks about a gun for what it is, a tool. And a tool is inexorably linked to purpose. And without purpose, some tools are inappropriate for some environments. Because of the potential of collateral damage these tools introduce.

Not only is this an acceptable conversation, but it’s one we have about every other tool in existence. So the question is, what is a gun to you? A tool for hunting, for security, a form of entertainment? All of those are totally and completely acceptable to me. No one who implements this tool for these purposes desires it to be in the hands of individuals who would harm children, unsuspecting people going to church or at restaurants or concerts.

You can love guns, and not throw your hands up to this heavy, necessary conversation.
However, your loving guns should in no way inhibit, or direct, or alter it.
All it does is taint, and even nullify your opinions and observations on the subject.

Hammers, knives, power tools, saws, explosives, cars. All only appropriate in certain environments, and even then, with restrictions, required education, licensing, and often with warning labels printed directly on them.

Thank God for people who look at objects passionlessly.

Someone is spending a lot of time and money to make us argue
whether or not firearms solidly belong in this sort of grouping.
With everything else.
That explodes.
And rapidly projects metal up to a mile or more.
At deadly speed.

If your opinion isn’t that this sort of technology necessitates restriction,
that’s not an opinion.

That’s bias.

Minutes and Money

Time clock.
How is that for redundant.
In more ways than twelve.
Which is actually twenty four.
Which is truly, speaking truthfully now,
innumerable.

Sore wrist. Right hand dominant.
Upper extremities bilaterally powerful.
That time teller. Like in line at the bank.
Looking directly into my face.
‘I can help whoever is next.’
Eyes locked tight like that safe.
Beholding all of someone else’s equity. Pity.
The numbers don’t trail like I do. Hiking boots.

Mountains behind me like the mountains in front of me.
Many.

Turns my stomach wrung like a dishrag in the hands of time.
The imbalanced arms on the whiskered face of a clock.
Tell me how much time I’ve got.
Assure me I’ve used up all my credit.
And now it is time to go to work.
Trading minutes for money.

How is that for redundant?

No Soft-Handed Storytellers

As somebody with trust issues, I interview very well.
I even think it’s a little cute. How much people believe in words.
Strung neat together to form corded little stories. Anecdotes.
That will never be corroborated. This is unexplored territory.
The realm between true and false is trust.
Questions we’ll never ask. Answers we don’t want.

Trust is the bias that binds quilts together.
Lighter than a pound of feathers.
Laid just right, set tight, it will be like two pieces of fabric
from two entirely separate things had never ever been apart.

Rewoven into one. Just a little later on. Stories are like that.

Threads in themes zig zag about seams.
Knitting all these separate scenes into strings
and then blocks
then a thousand strips of cloth.
And you’ve got a story.

Part shirt scraps. Part dish towel and bed sheets sewed on.
Until you have this Frankenstein of information
from so many separate sources somehow
all spliced beautifully, tragically, cohesively,
functionally into a single body. One form.

And you can always tell a good story.
Because people will come after it
with lit torches and pitchforks.

Or you could do a great interview.
And have someone pay you to write.
Sow stories like seeds into garden rows
and cleared out animal stalls
and the very smiles on people’s faces.
With a pencil that also erases.

Storytellers. Trust issues. Minimum wage job interviews.
Scraps to pick and choose through. Just remember.
The quilts that wrap us up in warmth and trust.
The stories we have grown to love.
Were someone else’s trash.
Before they ever came to us.

Land Poor #oldjournals

You work dirt soft
and form rocks
out of the palms
of your hands.

The skin flakes off and leaves you.

To bruise blue and callous fingers.
Wrinkle knuckles.
Vein-traced paths twist above bony
wrists bent and flexing always. Stalling.
Avoidance in abundance.
Blisters too.
Fast friends to you.

And you are their inspiration.
They depend on you for friction.
For handwritten diction
dated phrases of speech
strangers looking stranger
than if southern meant
alien off another world.

Cut grass. Wave passed.
Smile miles down the road.
Flush commodes into septic tanks
emptied in cracked quartz rock clay.
Hot sun. Burnt red necks brown.

The skin flakes off and leaves you.

To bruise blue.
Same tan trembling finger. Only you linger.
Only what was planted at the core.
Only what was unafraid to be called poor.
And you are.
You stay.

Sore.

Broken

Sunday morning is my Sabbath.
Kept.
Maintained.
Closed in like chickens in the pen.
Close together.
Loud calling.
Reminding.
Lowing like goats on curled leaders winding wrapped around trees.

Sunday morning is my sabbath.
And when I wake, it is to thoughts of breaking.
Destroying.
Tilling today so that it is not the same as others.

By the time I am through the earth is all the way turned over.
From flexing dented shovels.
Cranking loud stinky machines to oppressive-grind hard dry clay
and moist black dirt into dust risen in plumes fast-ascended.

After all, it is sunday.
And morning, still.
My own little
sabbath to offend,
even hurt.
A holy day,
laced by grace,
buried, hidden,
secret seeded revelation.

Broken.
Disrespected.
Thoroughly.
Like dirt.
Like dirt in a garden.

From the sore-hand bow-saw days #oldjournals

Up until a few months ago I had no chainsaw.
I still cut wood though. Sawed posts
and beams split into rails
with a rusted, red-painted bow saw
and small arsenal of ax heads on cracked handles.

I even cut down a couple trees that were huge to me.
Literally towering.
Others might call them midsize, or small.

No heavy machinery whatsoever.
Usually alone.

I sought out shorter, easier obstacles to level.
Seeking trees growing right on top of one another
trunks wilting bark with huge gaping rotted out spots
to cut first.
I like to think these trees needed it.
Destined in short time all ready to fall.
But that thinking is flawed.

Every living-dying is fated demise
not being drug from its forest
nailed into your structure
cut to length and piled for your fire
to break apart
disappear
in a location of your desire
not the forest floor
upright where it dug
and drank
in every day of its existence
and I have to be okay with taking it.
Though I am.