The Good Stuff

How to describe that two tone throat singing lawnmowers do in the distance. But with extra meaning like mayonnaise making bread more sliced pudding. Depth. Sodium. Electrolytes, and heart. The thick simmering fat that feeds muscle. The doorholders. The gatekeepers. Who wedge a toe against aluminum and glass and let nutrients pass into cells. Without which, we starve, no matter how much we’ve eaten. How to describe a kid cutting grass down the road like that. I’m not writing the protein of it, it’s implicit. The meat can be heard for miles, and sound is as physical as burning gas against steel pistons smudged black, the poet isn’t concerned with that. But where is the fat. The salt. The gatekeeper. A skyscraper of sensory experience. Only no front door key. No poetry.

A young man in a backwards flat billed ball cap and shorts rested in a zero degree turning thrown leaned a little forward with his hands up like he was holding the rope, standing on water skis. The sound of it is textured bouncing between a direct arrow shot and a tree muddled echo. Never seen him before. Normally an old man in a clean red hat does that job with the absolute best riding mower money could buy in the eighties. Someone’s getting older. And everybody needs money, but not everybody has a zero point mower. The clouds are a heavy cotton backwards hat pulled low with the sun embroidered on the forehead like the logo of a sports team. The low, steady sound of the machine mirrors the buzz of bodily function and blood movement going on inside all the time. Until he clacks against quartz rock like a helicopter flying into a giant plate glass window. The day is dented. Chipped. Returns the engine, and blood starts flowing again.

How do you describe common experiences in ways that allude to their interconnection with the whole of the universe, along with some music, some fat, and salt, the good stuff, that carries the okay stuff into the cellular stuff, unblocked rotating doors and up on the forty seventh floor of the otherwise bolted closed skyscraper inside every single cellular structure. Over the blackened hearth of the microscopic fireplace that singes and smolders and captures the heat off burning calories and disseminates it throughout the house. And you don’t. You don’t describe what you hear and see with any lilt or goal or intent. You recognize. You translate. You interpret. Because the connections are already there, as real as the sources of sounds that are never seen. Air is a physical thing. Sounds are tangible as layered ripples in otherwise flat water. You’re not a poet for recognizing it. You’re honest. You’re like me. You want the rarer world.

With the fat still on it.

The Key

Do you type your poems. Tapping like a red headed woodpecker up and down a dying dogwood. Big bold bluejay looking your way. Do you keep your cat indoors. Fat squirrels upside down on red oaks that smell rotten on the inside say you do. The field rats digging tunnels into the chicken coop do too. Do you use the backspace key the way you wish you could. Do you delete lines from your poems. Do you highlight some words and hold down Ctrl and B to embolden them. Do you cut and paste your memory the way you would a page? 

A lot of moss. A lot of mushrooms as soon as it turns warm. A lot of rebel-headed, nonconforming grass: a mosh-pit sort of lawn. Been having these insatiably royal dawns: a bright, military blue, a misty, someone paid dearly for this hue. It’s death stew. One day the main course will be you. So eat up. 

Bricks that didn’t make the cut line the sidewalk, terrace the beds, raise the gardens. Block rats from eating chicken dinner. Prop up pallets and weighed down tarps and sometimes just sat, piled, and waited, freed up and unfixed in a way house bricks will never be again. Susceptible. Changeable. Ever stalked by that flashing cursor, and living feral and terrified beneath the eternally unforgivable backspace key. Locked in placelessness. 

Amphibians croak up out of the mud. Crack the earth’s crust like the eggshells they all broke. Can’t rake the leaves for the salamanders curled up underneath. Do you type poems. Do you step lightly in nature, and stomp hard on city streets. Do you rake your yard like you’re supposed to. Save your mistakes. Keep a place to keep alive all the poems you wrote you hate.

What is memory, to you. Do you still pretend it’s up to you?

The Same Thing

I write a word. You think two or three that define it for you. I’ve written another word by that time. You’ve got at least six in mind to make those two mean anything. It’s a really simply chemical equation: language. Just tedious. Time consuming, yet always under the scrutinizing expectation of punctuality. Let’s work through this. What language is. What it does. 

Have you ever crossed your ears, and let someone’s words blur, and listened to the sound of language. Not translating in a hurry. Not hearing. Like baby’s babbling, or dog’s yapping, or cliche cicadas winging sonnets in doomed early spring. We’ve all worked and been worked so hard to never do the thing I’m asking if you’ve done. We want to understand. We’re bark-moaning when we speak. Manipulating our vocal cords and using our tongues like corks to close what one day we plan to open. That’s the first point I need to make. Language is only as flimsy as the vessel it travels in, and at the end of the day, these are sounds. Even what I’m currently typing down, of course I am saying it to myself, trying to imagine how you will hear it. Every message is coded, by nature. It’s just when we really get to know the code, we stop hearing it the way it sounds when we didn’t comprehend. Which can be of equal importance. Neverending excuses exist for sound distortions. So first off, language is dependent on performance, even more so than syntax or the speaker’s intentions. You can, and will, and have, communicated ideas to others you yourself have never known. Mishearing. Misspeaking. Misunderstanding. You could go on forever with these misshaped words. Mistake. Mistook. 

Now here’s the rub. 

If you cash out early on the free chips you were given and you never buy in, not to the awards, the costumes, the trophies and decorations society is chomping at the bit to place against you, essentially, if you don’t mind from time to time sounding stupid, you can manipulate language, words, sounds turned stringed cheese cylinders of high sodium meaning, basically, if you give up on being right, you can be a poet. And a poet, to the academic, is a willing participant in a doomed to be endless experiment. An idiot, to not mince words. 

But more than what you say, people will hear you pause, your questions will reverberate their memories like you held a microphone up to your mouth for those. They’ll feel validated, graduated, because you asked. You showed interest. Your mistakes, your misgivings, will grace their chemical laden insides like compliments, they’ll be delighted you’re not one of those pretentious, know it all, get it rights. I’m describing language as a form of heavy, dentable but unbreakable armor. Clunky. Burdensome. But next to flesh, there’s no comparison. 

Language. Language is the arrow we launched at the target.
But the target. The target was communication.

And I’ll leave you with a question, a key to help unlock the universe of what people really mean. How often are language and communication the same thing?

The Keffer Oak

I think the letter L in the word world is one of its most essential uses in the history of literature. It distinguishes two things most responsible for the heady, desperate plight of the human. Our kind’s fundamental confusion. Between an indisputable reality and the far more complicated one of our own inventions. Words are magic. Words are misleading. These strings of letters contain histories, feelings, memories, and worst of all, expectation. Language comes by its good-bad, right-wrong, off and on dichotomy honestly. Mostly, a symptom of two dimensionality.

A great light casts a greater shadow. The mere presence of the word hero will inspire hundreds to consider thousands of what if’s and then who am I’s and redefine themselves in the oppressive gravity of that bright, radioactive word. Hero is almost synonymous with conflict, is it not? What would true world peace do to the hero complex? What’s the use in preparing for the worst if we never get to see the parachute in action? It’s fire, not water department. That’s four kinds of weapon on any police officer’s belt. A miniature version of the shield that might serve them better decorating their bulletproof vest. We don’t come equipped for peace. People don’t really seem to seriously believe in it even as possibility. Same with God. More comfortable with words like belief, and faith, than opening our eyes outright and declaring if God desired to be known, it is more than capable, and the world as we know and experience is its only testament. Everything, without exception, written in human language, is a secondary source, at best.

Words are fun. And easy. Manipulated. Like a walking stick, shaped for grip, for control, for thrust and use. But too often we trust them to tell us everything we know about the oak they were cut from. That letter that intercedes on all our words and with an absolute absence of subtlety, shakes us loose from them. Shatters that old bent dried up walking stick we’ve leaned on so heavily we’ve stunted ourselves through the pursuit of support we did not need. We’ve imagined our bones breaking and it has frightened us so we’ve decided to go ahead and precast everything about ourselves in language. And in saving, sanitizing our lives, we forfeited every grimy, heavy, clunky idea that made it worthwhile.

We’re handing over twigs and telling kids it’s a white oak. I’ve seen the second largest white oak tree in America, the Keffer Oak, in Virginia. No part of the massive three hundred year old, sixty foot tall entity was meant to be mine, was made for me. I could cut it up and split it and stack and burn a hundred thousand words from it, piece by piece, as a sort of revenge sentence against all the cold nights that ever nibbled at my ancestors. Bitterly, with sore hands and crooked back, like all conquerors, looking over my neat pile of firewood. But it isn’t Truth. It’s perception. A side effect of an intense, microscopic projection of our sense of self onto the things we create, we so desperately pretend we make up, like words. Like houses. And cars. The most recent gossip you’ve heard.

But that is not the same as the world. Thank God.
There is an insignificant barrier between our reality and our schemes.
That wonderful little letter separating words from worlds.

That Punching Bag

Love is a dented orb.
Incontinent continents speak consonants
into a molten canon of iron core. Of course.
Trees in corps and rocky coarse
the skin off purply soft things.

Flowers grown in the soil of hell. On earth.
Do not bloom in heaven. So close the sun.
The son. That sum of all now ready to go.
That punching bag. That beaten heart.
That lost art.

Love. Is a muscle torn to shreds.
Love. Is the strength of torn up things.

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.

Big Words

Love: A line of credit you’ve given very few people access to that has no spending limit, that despite your current situation, one way or a thousand installments after, you will eventually pay the balance.

God: A monosyllabic reminder that Mankind invented language, and when language fails to name something, the fallibility is in the vocabulary, not the universe.

Death: A superpower life discovered early on that allowed us to not just learn from our failures, but eat them up for supper also.

Cruelty: Doing to others, solely without second thought as you have had done to yourself. Severe lack of story. Caught up in some moment. A tangent. The overfermentation of desire. The flex of weakness.

Trust is a sail.

Faith is a paddle.

Hate is what anger becomes when it matures. Be careful not to make an enemy of hate.
The word enemy is a doorway for the hateful. Make them fuss at you through a window,
a good word for that is called a neighbor. Hate is a season. Hate is a debit account.
Once it’s spent it’s done and gone. The overdraft fee on hate is criminal.

Hope: long list of chores and an early start.

Concrete Poetry

We are taught, first, desire. After that. We are free.
To bend all facts into confirmation with our conclusions.
Desire plus history multiplied by tradition equals expectation.
Which is the bane of contentment.

What if we were taught, first, anything except desire.
Perception, born of reception, as simple as keeping eyes open.
Especially when everybody elses are closed.
We would see. Maybe. Desire is nonuniform. Flighty.

Expectations are founded on desire like blueprints are paper.
We end up putting poems down in concrete.
Currently reading a canon of popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue.
It’s not an accident. It isn’t coincidence. It’s birthdays.
It’s Christmas. Allowance for doing the dishes.
All hopes and wishes.

Everything parents ever wanted but never received.

And so, we were taught, first, the desire to be deceived.

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.