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.

I’m not a plumber

If you kind of clench the back of your throat and blow air out slow, almost growling, you can imitate this sound. If you can snip your tongue to the edge of your gums and lips, you can crackle just as the fire did. Rumble, down in your stomach. Without much effort, you can imagine what we were doing here. Smiling. Pat on the backing. Happily projecting.
Like everybody does.

Projectors.

We have a language full of dirty words like a tool box. Screwdriver. Phillip’s head. Good for you Phillip. Nails. Screws. Socket. Stud-finder. Okay. Daddy doesn’t want help with his tools anymore.

Let me do this for you. I’m not a plumber, or an electrician, or a roofer, or a carpenter.

I’m a writer.

Let me set you straight. If you’re reading this, you’re currently caught up in a process we call life. No matter what you have been told, there is no assurance you will ever have another one. You’re not alive on accident, and you’re not alive without stipulation. You, or someone close to you, has been doing a lot of work to maintain you in this state. Alive. For just the one time.

You’re saying things you heard on TV. We know. We heard it too. You’re saying them to people who are speaking about things they did not see on TV, things they lived through, decisions they have made.

Brace yourself.

Television has been lying to you.

The Definition of Simple

Flat winds rattle doors and whistle hum outside the window. In fact, about ten or so windows. These Carolina room layouts. Traced along ridge lines just across the river. Bought for the view. Built for it too. The grass crunched like summertime this afternoon. The air only cooled around four o’clock and even then, not much. High of seventy five. What a time to be alive.

There are not enough words to describe the universe.
There aren’t even enough to describe us.

I want to be a writer.
And I am telling you to be wary of words.
Not of any one in particular.
But just feeling like there are already enough.

And that if words fail to describe something, it isn’t in existence.
Which is an irrational and divisive and intentionally manipulative position.

This whole mess is clay, right up until we cook it.

And it will become anything we make. So long as we keep cooking.

It has been raining for just about a billion years. But dirt still behaves as if it never saw it coming. Now that is love. Or at the very least. That’s something. Mud sliding down mountainsides and rocks choking valleys and water swallowing high school gymnasiums.

How has it all not settled down by now?
After all of this time, how is the definition of simple
still changing?

The Algebra of Human Emotion

Language is not reality. No more than one plus one equals two. I used to always argue this back when I was in school. To the truly left brained minds, it was a lot of fun. But one. Does not exist. One. Is a living, breathing, intangible reference. Always. To something else.

The point is, one what? What is a one without a what? An object. One flock of thirty geese plus one flock of fifty five geese and one confused pigeon, does not equal two flocks. One plus one is a highly inadequate equation to measure these, and most of life’s sordid, overlapping, seemingly never ending botherations.

Even for humans. One plus one is far more likely to equal a Brian than it is to add up to two. And then the question changes from what to who. Until so many stories entangle and we need to use a different sort of math to sort them out.

Storytelling. Literature. Language.
Is not reality.
So much as it is
the algebra of human emotion.

If you also own a shovel

If you fell out of it, it wasn’t love.

If you lost it, it wasn’t love.

If it waited for your sight, if you had to use your eyes, it wasn’t love, at least not at first.

There is no such thing as puppy love. There are no lovebirds.

Let’s say something poetically asinine, like love is a flower. I ask, what is a flower?

Do roses not have thorns? Do plants not feed on decay? Are there not many completely crucial elements required for flowers that you would not call beautiful, that you would not recognize, or think of as desirable?

Love. My mother has it. But not all mothers. Love. The same farm that produces milk also creates a lot of filth. And who wants that? Who wants to know the true, putrid cost of all the things we really like a lot? I can tell this with confidence, there aren’t many of us.

It is not love if you refuse to recognize the cost. I love my child, but he will not remain a child. He is not just his wonderfully sly side smile. There are smells that come out of him that would earn the respect of a skunk. I love him, as a child, all the while, I dream of the man he will be. A man who, by all means, may not want to be like me.

Love is different from comfort, or happiness, or joy, or appreciation. Love has a dishrag in its hand already, ready to clean up after all those things.

Do you understand what I’m trying to say? Is it clear just how rare true love really is?

It is hard work.

How many people have you met who say they love hard work?

That is how many people you have met who have loved.

By the Quiver

Dangerous language. What else is there?

Bad words. Try one on me.
Hello. To any enemy.
Goodbye. To the precious few who love you.
Alive. Really. A bad word. When you think about it too much.

A live what?

Emotions are objects that live in the earth.
On the ground. All around.
Straight arms off oaks and hard yet carvable stone.
Taxes off turkeys and twine made out of your mother’s hair.

But language is a spear.
Arrows dissecting the air.
Touching some poor soul. Far off. Over there.
Nothing they can do about it.
Vocabulary owes much of its origin to weaponry.
Warfare and posturing.

When discourse on discussions leads disagreements
to breed dissent against the didactic despondent diatribe
of how we describe our very overly literary lives.

Dis. A latin prefix. Means apart. Away.
Dangerous language. Bad words.

You there awkwardly outholding a vibrating bow.
Same as you. Once you release the string.

Standing there holding on to what you really mean.

But not the part of you sent off flying into the unknown.
That is what you call an arrow. Vocabulary. By the quiver.
With good enough aim, language is incredibly dangerous.

You get good enough with words.

No one may ever come too close to you again.

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.  

Real, mysterious, legally binding and recordable magic – Old Journals

Some absurdities are witnessed, so twisted, offensive, perverted,
they must be laughed at. If not, if stared at stone face unmoved,
steel, taken serious, you’d turn ill, go mad. So laugh, smile,
express vulnerability in staccato breath chuckles.

Absolve the absurd. To fixate on the word is to live in a title. How idle.
No definition. Argument. Language travels unravels long storied mystery,
romance, and some talk so long about the song they forget to dance along.
Create. Define. It is necessary for there to be words that cause people to cringe. Emboldened, condescending letters indicative of sins. We live everyday. Make decisions. Avoiding feeling fear over words, short bits of code humanity accumulated over time,
able to reach far inside a gut and tear it up. And that is power.
Real, mysterious, legally binding and recordable magic.
And humans own it. It is ours. Offenses rain down in showers.
Baptizing, exercising, digging ditches and gullies
after how much the sacrament has stolen.
But between me and you, these empty spaces
are not to be feared, but filled in.

Artistic Mission Statement – Section 1

My life goal is to organize and express an artistic method for pulling words like democracy, equality and art down out of the clouds. Through writing, public speaking and activism, I want to help people learn to distrust the bias of their initial gut conclusions, and seek a word’s truest most quantifiable meaning before using it. I aim to cut the distance that separates words from definitions, and expand the divide between categorizing something and understanding it. We should blame language long before we blame our neighbors, or facts. Before settling on platitudes concerning the spiritual status of the universe, we need to learn more about the tool we’re using to measure it.