The Final Frontier

The future we imagine for ourselves in science fiction and culture in general, is probably two thousand years away. Our final frontier is still right here in front of us. Would you like to know how many times I’ve explained how chickens lay an egg every day to fully grown people who have eaten them their entire lives. Or the necessity of pollination to people more comfortable believing their plants aren’t producing because they read their Farmer’s Almanac the wrong way and not the product called insecticide they and their neighbors dumped all over their gardens. All vegetables and fruits are byproducts of a kinky inter-species three-way that’s been going down for the last one hundred and thirty million years. Our planet is a whole other sort of billionaire. We aren’t descended from monkeys. But we are clearly mammals. There’s no arguing that, we’re already trading milk with one another, dabbling in raising one another’s children. Clearly human beings are a part of a massive extended family. We’re all bound by the same rules and needs.

We’ve exhaustively answered the question of how a creature can know it all and understand nothing. We can’t do that another two thousand years. We’ll extinct ourselves long before that.

We don’t understand the earth we stand on. For example, you’re not sitting upright right now. Think about where you are on a globe. You’re jutted out sideways slightly down or some other absurd direction, depending on where you are. And you’re spinning and flying through space. And if you dig deep enough, you’re actually floating on a giant terraform raft bobbing up and down on the fat Santa belly of lava that gives our planet its rosy cheeks and cheery disposition, also our mind-boggling magnetic force-field that shields us from a constant bombardment of solar radiation that surrounds us, so much so one could describe a Solar System in terms of planets that exist within the outer atmosphere of their sun. Think about this, we’re being pulled and held by a gravity that extends outward from a central point within the earth. It pulls us, as it radiates out, and pulls and holds the moon, while still going out to tickle comets and asteroids into buzzing close by us. How the hell does gravity reach with a force that only attracts.

How does gravity extend outward while pulling inward, how long can intelligent life forms live on a planet before they committedly seek to understand it, before they break the hypnotic lifeless species-wide stare into the dingy fun-house mirror of our own incestual, violent, derisive and divisive cultural memory, our naval gazing religions, our self-obsessed youth worshiping. I’m fine with all of it as long as we understand, really know the story behind where chickens come from, how eggs are formed, long before we develop species-wide nutritional dependency on them. Water tables and topsoil. Constellations and art. Anyone who has really known a single acre of land has dabbled in this pursuit we call the future.

The final frontier. Only it isn’t out there. It’s the next two thousand years.
We need to learn how to really live here.
We need to understand our current way of life was shaped out of fear.
We need the sort of breakaway only a quiet life in the country can afford.
Go back to the very first drawing board.
The wilderness you’re at war with otherwise called your backyard.
I’m here to tell you, what you’re really fighting is a farm.

Someone Elses Atmosphere

We’ve sat on the porch and watched and listened to many summer thunderstorms roll our western horizon like a horde, like a million soldier army with only two feet, stepping heavy cannonade in between neighborhoods. Not last night. The cell was right over us. Shaking the house. Lighting up the bedroom like paparazzi peeking through our windows. Thunder seeming to ooze out from under us like worms out of the mud. Never would have believed it came from above. The house and farm was pounded by rain, and warned by lightning, we had our foundations tested for cracks of weakness. And we passed. We have too many, and they’ve all started working together to coincide like roots, and we held, broken as can be, more flexible for it. The baby that passes for a little boy didn’t lose a minute of sleep. Counted three corn stalks down. This calm, powder navy blue morning keeps last night’s weather like a secret. If you didn’t wake up from your dreams, watch daylight flash through sealed shut eyes, feel the monster knock up from under the bed hello, you would never know it had happened. That pleasant sounding, captured in a bottle, fun little Southern Summer thunder had stepped clean over our heads last night. Sparing us, but not before scaring us. We woke up this morning talking about last night like we both had the same nightmare.

And somewhere across the countryside, someone sat on their back deck grinning.
Our nightmare was their atmosphere for the evening.

Changeling

Times are bad.
Worse is coming.
The Petri dish warming.
Now hot.
We cooked the clock.

Now we learn what winters were holding back.
How seasons attack. When oceans rise up.
When microbial protesters crawl out from deep underwater
caves once graves and feel the blood of the world is warmer.
Life will slice like a scythe through the rest of life.

And just like before.
Scavengers re-inherit their world.

Learn to be like a servant to this planet. Its fireside scribe and storyteller.
Use language like music to tuck little locusts and stringed vipers in at night.
Group the cousins accordingly: elephants and ants, blue whales and Labrador retrievers.
Humankind curled up beside our closest living relative, a caterpillar in a cocoon.
Changelings. The earthworm and the fruit bat. The ostrich and the river trout.

Time starts slowest when we are growing. Then we develop a misplaced sense
this experience keeps forever. That’s when time speeds up a little bit every year,
every hit, every avoidable inevitable circumstance we suffer along the way.
Time reels us so quick we lose the fish off the hook and past, presence and priorities
blur and spawn and take over into one, one instance. One school of thought.

So we snap. Out. Of reality. Totally up to speed.
A pace the body can’t keep. We are out of time.
For the first time. Like a fish above the water.
Choking. On too much air to breathe.

I’m Sorry #oldjournals

Dear God, where did all the questions go.
Was eight hundred miles, two months outside, enough.
Couldn’t be. I still feel small. Proud. I argue. Too loud.
Some part of me must still be in darkness.
I thought enlightenment was different than this.

I need the confidence of my own conclusions.
I need to stop saying I’m sorry so much.
When I’m not.

I have been on the mountaintop.
And you suffer there. I tore my hair.
Broke shoe laces and cracked my own walking stick
against my own temple intentionally. God is not human.
Human value systems do not apply to God.

This is joy wrought from suffering. The pie in the sky.
Nothing to it. I took a bite out of life. Could barely chew it.

I climbed a mountain and broke a crown.
I glimpsed enlightenment.
And turned around.

The Brightest Nights

Crackling polka dotted puddles beneath droopy pale underbellied leaves.
A true mess of mixed greens. Next time we’ll label the rows. Oh well.
Sharp and lacy and either rape seed, turnip, mustard or kale.
Cat ate some the other day. Elbow tap. Look at that. A fresh kale.

It is raining again. The dogs are up. Birds are silent.
Earthworms being suffocated up out of the mud.
Flat mirrors unwink unending misshapen silver dollars.
Money doesn’t grow from trees. The older I get, the more it grows on me.

Spring leak licks down upturned leaves like the cat uses its tongue to clean
every fuzzy inch of gargantuan body. Roots exposed. Line draped in clothes.
We never got to them in time. Always fresh out.
Gray cap set snug arresting a rat’s nest of tangled green.

Time is measured by line of sight.
Rainy days are the brightest nights.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

A creekbed drops ten feet and I can see bright green tops of adolescent trees, shaking. I just fenced a solid quarter acre of late April and let eighteen goats on it. Soaking wet morning after full rain, they’re up first thing realizing the boundaries have changed. They seem so predatory, considering they’re plant-eaters. I suppose if something can’t scream we don’t attribute it to the same value system. These bony, thick bodied and thin legged vultures rip and bark-strip their immobilized, submissive prey. Fleshy unfurled ferns and green razor wire and so much poison ivy my eyes itched. 

My heart now light and airy as jack-in-the-pulpit down low in a morning breeze. 

I feel vindication for the work I’ve done over the last two days. 

I’m looking twice everywhere I scratch and watching new life devoured incrementally by many goats. And if I stretch my awareness a touch, I think how I’m going to drink that treeline in my coffee tomorrow morning. I feel like if the world were a perfect circle, it would have ended where it began. It didn’t. And though the earth is round, I feel nature is spiral like a sprig of DNA. It does come back around but not to the same place,
or ever the same way. 

A herd of goats annihilates a creekbed
and old notions of predator and prey.

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.