Some More Time

Wood knocking frogs and gnats scream in exorcism clouds performed by late spring. Good water is not clear water. Not even clean water. That’s not what makes water good. The desert does that. A drought-set standard dictates the goodness of any water. Timing, and temperature, turns the world halloween make believe dress up right as wrong and decent as any tepid thing in between. The face is pure manipulation, a mask just simplifies the equation. I can see who you really are more clearly in who you’d rather be than I could in any other amplified, magnified thing. You are me. If I were you. And that scares me, and that scared feeling whispers to me it must be true. Frightening. How good things always do. Good water can drown easy as summer drains your sound. Timing and temperature again. I see you in where you end up on the pier. The hat you wear. What you prepared. The sunscreen on your nose. Your plans for later. And when they change, you confess, you were waiting. And waiting is a big give-away.

Roosters crow when they see the sun in the morning, but woodpeckers pound trees up and down and flirt with one another loudly. Black squirrels still get chased by gray ones and a tall sand throwing hare runs so hard I look for the fox behind it who never comes. I pulled a fish with a hook in its lips up from brown water, green in my hands and banded like a raccoon and perched cradled in my palm so his sharp back fins laid down cool in my palm. Aged men wearing rags lost in ships at sea have hugged the legs of men in the same tender fondness my son wrapped his arms around my knee in the crooked pregnant belly of a canoe dragging her stern. And when he fell off the dock and bobbed back up onto his back, such a frozen peeled back look of fright on his face, I felt so needed, so perfectly positioned, like so many of my setbacks in life finally made sense in the instant I leapt in after him. 

I think sometimes the feeling of being a man is like a soldier prepared for a war that never comes. Instead, you get these little moments to prove yourself, to kick your legs at endless water and lift your terrified kid over your head into his mothers hands. He says you saved me daddy, but you know that can’t be true. Between parents and their children, there’s no telling who is saving who. 

The quiet. Not even highway sounds. No stray gunshots announcing sunset. The stretchiness of eastern Carolina, to be so drawn out endlessly in round sand and sticky pines. They frame this little lake for murder and keep it dead and clean and as still as they can for time unseen. And I am, my little family, are its solemn accomplices. We are skeletons offering ourselves to all the middle of nowhere’s closets. Campers of the vast evergreen wastes and swimmers of the dimpled cheeks of ancient craters. Baptized by the filthy hands of June and let loose ripe only for some more time.

My Garden

So many things. Looking out across a haze and realizing it is me. My garden. The dust off the disc I’m pulling. And so many things. The only reason I can see is that I’m directly beneath giant crackling power lines drooped between towers every tenth of a mile. A direct channel cut the way a river dug, shaved the way a razor does. At one time, both creating and destroying this view. 

I think my grandpa felt brilliant when he decided to garden here. Four acres under a power company easement he’ll never get out from under. A sort of real-estate-recycling. Not normal power lines, mind, these are cables connecting two plants together. It’s nuclear and coal combined above my head, where papaw said a light bulb would light up if I held it up high enough. Got paid for the easement, can’t plant trees on it, but shoulder high corn and mound-sprawling peanuts and the juicy expectoration of squash plants up from the ground. Ground he can’t build on or develop. But a collaboration with sunlight eating, root-based life forms in a surface level nutrient mining endeavor, also known as, gardening, it is the perfect spot. Gentle south facing slope.

Four acre field, he called it, the sixty year old question mark shaped man who farmed it. And if he had worked any other part of the land, then we would not have this commanding view from the grinding bucket throne of a geriatric tractor seat. I can see a mile. I can see my great uncle’s old place a hill or two over. I can see a truck with evening piercing spotlights floating like an earth-satellite splitting a wide green field’s black night. But mostly, I see all this taupe dust in the late May, late day, dying light. 

It’s my father’s land, his father’s and his mother’s, and his grandfather’s father before him, floating, off, and we will never see it again. Only the most fertile stuff takes off on a whim like that. The best of the best will always be less beholden to the rest, that’s what we do to people when we tell them they’re the best. We take them off their team. Remove the heat, kill the steam. If I did this enough, I’d lose my garden’s bite, I’d dull its teeth, but once, in a time crunch, on the unguarded border of late spring, North Carolina drought, I could get away with it, and have to, if I want to get it planted by Sunday. Before the rain comes. If all my neighbors, and every farmer for miles did this, we’d create a sizable cloud, enough to squint the eyes of people in town, and if we did it enough, for months, for years, we’d fill up that old dusty bowl full with so many years ago, and the ground would shake from so many old heads shaking in their graves. 

So many things. So much to see. When the power company came through and cut the trees they buried them in long, not so shallow graves along the way. Since they have rotted and collapsed and take up not even a tenth of the space they did in life, there are just massive rectangular divots every acre or so along this regularly mowed river of hovering, frightening, electricity. Like graves who spat out their guests sit gaped, the dirt that once filled them long washed away. A half mile of haze. Churned up by rolling discs that sat for twenty years in the expanse between a grandparent and a grandchild.

If I could have done it any other day, if there was a way I could have waited for the rain, I would have. But there are so many things. So much to think. And then again, there really isn’t. 

To think my grandpa is somewhere buried beneath the same stuff in these clouds of dust, that his old set of garden discs has risen.

North Carolina

December thirteenth. North Carolina. I hear a tree frog click. Fire crack.
The same dog over and over. A layered silhouette of trees against tees
misled me into thinking I can glimpse the shape of the gully in front of me.
Hard wooded. Known to house turkeys. One fat cornfed squirrel.

I blame the calendar for most problems.
They make it too easy to wait.
The calendar always made me late.
Mark one a holy day.
People sacrifice hundreds of others preparing for it.
Marking them off as they get in their way.
Weak days.

With seasons, on the other hand, we are ahead of the game.
Like tonight. It isn’t even winter yet. And already, it’s spring.

Doorways in Windows

The cold descended so low last night it touched the grass and turned it white. In some places, soil has spat up phlegmy streams of ice like tiny fireworks frozen in place. If you’ve ever stepped on a bed of broken glass you know the feeling of walking on frozen ground. Only pines cling summer green, and it has turned the horizon eerily into prison bars, the nakedness of hardwood trees. I absolutely know someone dressed up in all the colors of mother nature’s vomit is sitting somewhere they’re not supposed to with a gun staring through their foggy breath and only hearing squirrels. Camouflage fools intelligence, but blares out loud to wisdom bright as blazon orange. More men and women than one could ever imagine have been sentenced to hell by a jury of furry woodland critters. Laid belly up guts exposed in the dead center of a hot country road paved with the asphalt of all your worst decisions. I look out across the early morning, late December scene, ice poised on the precipice of muck, and see many things where others say they don’t see much. Wooden towers untouched by carpenters taller than any of the two stories downtown. A man I don’t recognize weighed the cold against a lit cigarette unworthy. Two cats, three kittens. One solid vein of sunlight spiderweb woven between all the eastern trees. I don’t know who you have to be to look out at such scenes and read the story of eternity. I know you can’t stop once you do. I know something of the nature of truth. 

I know it always sets doorways in windows.

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.

North Carolina Conservatives and the Bathroom of Secrets

We have an economic system that has, since its inception, maintained a wavering level of poverty, unemployment and homelessness. It’s called capitalism, and accordingly, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We have a large movement within the scientific community that, with or without any validity or backing or proof, believes the industries of Mankind are changing the climate patterns of this planet in exceedingly detrimental ways. The bees who seed the pollen into every fruit or vegetable we eat are disappearing. The scientists we don’t believe about the impact we have on our environment are injecting bacterial DNA into our food so that it can eat poison and multiply.

Why are we tax-funding a conversation about bathroom policies?

I know this could easily be read as a rhetorical question, but in seriousness. Why? It is completely, one hundred percent, legal to report any suspicious persons or activity in or around a restroom. Essentially, these big strong proud fellows whose daughters would wither on the vine without them around are, in the most costly and publicized manner, expressing a distrust in their own progeny’s ability to detect a threat and act on it. Because seeing a man in a woman’s restroom, whether illegal or legal, is threatening, and therefore completely within the realm of reporting to the administrators of a facility, the local police department, or even eventually local, regional and state government officials. But this is not the case. These complaints and reports are not rolling in. They are hypothetical. Imagined up by vapid, sexist fathers who are not confident enough in their own masculinity to have any faith whatsoever in a woman’s ability to perceive a threat. And that is all good and well, but we should not pay for their anxiety.

And that is what we are doing. Every discussion in the state legislature, every salaried position taking calls, hired lawyers, political ads, public announcements, social media managers and image consultants. I don’t want that. I want what little money we have running through state government to go to the procurement and security of three things. Food, water, and shelter. Apart from that, I have just enough faith in Mankind and its many daughters, to entrust each facility, building, each location, every single person who uses a restroom wherever they are, to save us some money and keep determining for themselves what is safe or not.

And seriously, what does the word freedom mean to our government, if not that. It is not a matter of winning arguments or proving points. This is not an expectation we should have of any government. Help us propagate food. Secure our water and instill plans for promised drought. Preserve our land, our right to shelter, and to defend what is ours. Apart from that, freedom means leaving cosmetic social issues completely out of expensive, politicized, tax-funded conversations. Especially ones that hurt our image, diminish our tourism, and further socially ostracize people who already felt out of place in their own bodies.

I don’t support a call-center republic. I don’t support holding signs and standing outside office buildings and eating cold McDonald’s while googling the rates of single rooms at the Red Roof. I don’t support marches, lining up to increase police budgets and the gadgets they get awarded to keep our movements thwarted. I say ignore this law. This ban. Any woman or man or institution who expresses supporting it, ignore them also. Pay attention to government when and where it supports us in the things we all need in order to be free.

Food. Water. Shelter.

There was a bill we paid to create this bill. There is a bill we are paying to have it repealed. And there was no fire, no damage, no outcry for help against an active threat. Ignore any human being who claims to be a leader, yet wastes even a moment discussing funding such asinine, clearly social, partisan, political agendas. Ignore anyone who, this day and age, with the issues staring us in the face, thinks we have time to waste checking birth certificates outside every ladies room.

It is a harmful distraction. And worse, expensive.