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?

Between Seasons

Gentle wind rocks the front porch swing. Metal clinks.
Ghosts chained to the roof grow restless in powder-coated bonds.
Water in three forms squat between here and the moon.
Stars laugh at how close we are to too far away.

Sounds like summer. Not yet spring. Disappointed toads.
Crawled out of the muck too soon. Can relate.
Darker than a dry dark. A sopping wet and soggy dark.
Deeply stained. Saturated. Saturday. Night.

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.

For Now

All the creeks I’ve known are running now same as the last time I saw them. That water. I saw then. It is somewhere still too. Or more likely, moving. Eddying the belly of the ocean. The one that touches all of them.

I was never good with names.

I knew a Killet’s Creek once. And a Rocky, but it wasn’t rocky, it was full of water. They used to call the one up on our land after cottonmouth snakes or something like that, and no wonder the corn mill went under. The twenty foot high mounds of dirt are still there. Covered over in scruffy trees. Smiling gap toothed across Cottonmouth Mill creek.

If you look closely in the water and partial buried in the sand, the giant pine beams they laid for foundation to dam up the water are still there too.

For now.

School

What is a flood to a fish. Fast running earth softening apocalypse.
White water parted around park benches. Is there a little low cabin
of stiller cold current stable along the stirred up muck lined basin.
Does the flood happen far above the heads of fish. Wait it out
weighted out way deep down. Beneath high water. New real estate.
New adventure. Was the fish’s world expanded by a natural disaster.
Thick rich one percent water heavy with death and nutrients.

Button eyes glued on and bulged out, flake of shiny black sequin set in a droplet of water
and loose to roll around while each slippery scaly arrowheaded wing throated muscle
patiently packed with tin cans rolling across the bottom of so many drowned rivers.
Horny heads hidden in creeks. Bass buried bellies brushing the bottom
of every many layered lake. Is that it, to fish, a flood. More traffic delay than catastrophe.
Bringing off the beaten path shortcuts into possibility. Honey get off at the bridge.
What bridge? I never saw a bridge here before. How could that be.
Well it never was underwater before.

I see. Said a blind fish. Lost in filth laden busybody highly agitated medium. Fast falling.
Dirty. Rich. Maybe floods are the opposite. For fish. When the weather is rough.
People hide inside and wonder how high the creek might rise,
how much more the lake can swallow before it is finally full.
But for fish, maybe a flood, means time to go to school.

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.

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.

Apes with big brains and too much time on their hands.

We’re sticking out sideways on a salty rock with dry patches shifting like rashes from so much tectonic scratching. Everyday we move menial amounts of dirt, and waste, and value, and paperwork, and then we go home tired, pretending there’s no tomorrow until tomorrow is honking beside the bed at six in the morning. It’s not nothing. And yet, it’s also not the something we imagined it would be.

It’s just apes with big brains and too much time on their hands, with a highly developed imitative faculty, building termite mounds and anthills, while failing to cite their sources.

We’ve invented nothing. We’ve failed at conquering our own backyards, let alone any frontiers. We are infants, evolutionarily speaking. We’re bees. Who forgot all the scavenging we’ve been doing for fifteen thousand years. We believe we’re actually shitting out honey.

We’re surprised.
Every time.
We remember why
we’re the only apes
that live in hives.

Bitter Fruit

The smell of cold. Dry. Sharp. A little sour white wine.
Whereas, usually, white wine is sweet. This winter is bitter.
Ice like bulletproof glass like stemware cupping all this snow
like a lightning slick bowl. Buried beneath flimsy bubbly
porous wine kept at the top of the refrigerator
too close to the freezer.

Chunky and slushy and heavy on the bottom with dirty foam on top.
Smell it. When you open the door. First thing.
The fuzzy insides of your nostrils stiffen.
Lungs have frosty fingers playing them like accordions.

Eyes sting.
Ears ring.
Cheeks are numb and lips become brittle.

Cold.
A season all on its own.
Icey disposition head buried in snow.

It is bitter weather.
It climbs into the fruit.
And it changes the flavor of the wine.

At another time, it could have been sweet.
But not this season. Too dry.
Just a thick sniff of it,
will freeze a tear to your eye.

Broken Water

Little fish bump and kiss loose skin around the edge of abused feet.
They feed, and tickle toes lips sweetly parted where a blister used to be.
Frightening. But gently.
Only little ones come that close.
Big fish became big fish by being fish who know
bodies seldom stop at the toes.
Movement is movement in sunlit clear fluid
and distance is a bent and twisted point of view.
I raise my hands sharp and flattened. Like a band director.
Little notes with speckled fins and silver bellies
leap at the chance to play a melody.
Whole schools of music maneuver at the flash of my hand.
Under the twitch of a pen.
Breaking water with only eyes.
Playing with fish
with my feet dry.