These Three Together

Knowledge is a sword in a scabbard.
Intelligence tells you when to draw.
Wisdom wishes you’d left the heavy thing at home.
Wisdom would lie down for worms if their bed was soft enough.
Like kindling, like spark and like air, life is these three together.
There will never be a trustworthy and easy answer.
We are the offspring of what life and death
started doing to each other a long time ago.
The solutions to all the great riddles are at the tip of your pen.
You will never find them in anyone else’s handwriting.
Swords are for fighting.
But pens win.
Knowledge, intelligence, wisdom.
Make the head spin.

Knowledge self-locked in analysis paralysis.
Mental rust bound the blade to its cage. Intelligence
pulls the lever on the trap door it constructed months before
when it first imagined this situation could turn down the path of problem.
And wisdom, beat its sword into a plowshare already
and paid off the enemy in onions and invented
the alchemy of transforming words like enemy into another word.

Neighbor.

Invented by horses. Wisdom picked up on it back in the dark ages.
‘Neigh’ in horse, an all-encompassing super-word that depending
on tonal quality and inflection, can mean absolutely anything.
Though it is loosely understood as an introspective question
related to the topic of sweet feed.
‘Bor’ is derived from the root-word burr which is an irritating prickly
often stuck in a horse’s coat and is quite uncomfortable but ends up tolerated respectfully albeit under clenched jaw and ground teeth.
Forms ‘Neighbor’, a perfectly acceptable translation for words like villain,
monster, stranger, and many more. All thanks to the horse.

At the end of the day, if we somehow survive our scrap,
it’s wisdom who tends our wounds, and loosens the swordbelt,
lets down our hair and surprises us with warm bread.
Knowledge and intelligence are in your head.
I’ll write this and you’ll know, you’ll feel, it is true.

Wisdom lives in your stomach.

You don’t teach it.
You feed it.
Experiences only.

At night, while we sleep, worn out from lugging a heavy sword
we’ve never rightly used, wisdom weaves story tapestries
from experiences we’ve given it. Without a thought,
absolutely without effort, our minds expand the only way they can.
Subconsciously. When we’re asleep. Free
from the sword-wielding I, My, Me.

Like goldfish, we are, with our personalities
we expand or shrink to fit our container
like water takes the shape of a glass.

The Holy Grail that cradles the bitter wine of humankind is the stomach.
In a way, it’s kind of neat, that it turns out to be exactly true
we are in fact what we eat and drink.

Section from Fathers and Sons: An Appalachian Adventure

“Jeremiah can. He believes the church is keeping people from going after God. We’re ruining Jesus’ philosophy by presenting him as untouchable, unrealistic, embodied in sacred language, with you, pastors, up on a pulpit preaching and us, sheep, facing forward. These long diatribes about sanctuary design. Mobile benches and picnic tables. Every service a different array. Giant stone fireplaces with rocking chairs in front, and the pastor walks around serving food and refilling cups. More than doors, he wants open windows, giant tents, walls that roll up and fire-pits in fields and secondary sermons, conversations and getting lost in the woods. He wants church equal parts daycare, assisted living, community rehabilitation, mixed with everything national parks and campgrounds already are. He says there will be gardens and goats and chickens and the church, an immortal food source for community.

He says we got it wrong. Jesus worshiped us. He died to feed us, to strengthen us, called himself our lamb. Jeremiah says Jesus was communicating to him specifically, for him to hear these ideas. He says every true Christian feels like that, like Christ specifically lived and died to transmit a powerful, revolutionary message direct to their heart. To shake us awake, not to worship, but to be the new Jesus in the world.

John, he says this enough that I remember it all. He says there aren’t enough crosses. If we all walk toward love with determination, knowing we will likely be persecuted in the process, there aren’t enough crosses, aren’t enough Romans, for all of us. As long as good people are afraid to suffer for goodness, good people will be props for bad people. He says all this to our therapist. And the man just nods. Nods and doesn’t respond.

John, I know I’ve said too much, but your son told me God put a shroud over him, and he doesn’t know what people hear and see when they look at him, the truth is masked, they don’t actually hear his words, or see his face. He calls it his veil. He calls himself the loneliest man in existence. He says, with full confidence, he’s never been happy. Not once. He knows happiness exists, he’s seen it in our faces. But believes he’s never felt it himself.

How can someone say that, and think it’s true?”

It isn’t thyme.

That’s the thing about journals and wine, they’re nothing but juice without time. Your grocery lists and garden designs will be worth at least a sideways smile in four or five years. But in ten to twenty, or thirty, to eyes still reading long after yours have entered the book, your handwriting, not just that one of a kind chicken scratch, but an undeniable image of your hand, alive, writhing, a little list that led you on your way out into town, strangers who stared you down, held the door for you, nodded hello. It takes fifty years to even know the value of what we’re losing when we exclusively hunt and peck every thought under threat of the launched arrow of a backspace key. You can type a cocktail, squeeze words, add liquor, pour out every sort of juice. But you have to hand-write wine, and more than that, be patient for it. One virtue that has been entirely and purposefully written out of education. Society. Culture in general. Patient people make poor consumers. Patient. Stubborn. Frugal with money, but always giving away food. Journals, and handwritten things, and stubborn, patient people who like to work with animals every day, who like four chores and sixteen memories and three bruises on every dinner plate. Who get a bit of therapeutic benefit from shedding tears over a thirty year old grocery list that somehow grew into a treasure of incalculable value with nothing else added to it but time.

Journals.
Wine.
Seeds.
Friendships.
Faith.
Family.
Life. All have same secret ingredient.

If you don’t know, don’t worry, it comes for you too.
Be patient. It isn’t thyme.

The Dishes

We are all too dependent on vision.

The house is a wreck but we’re still doing dishes. A warm dishrag smile wipes fresh tears off all our faces. When we trust our eyes too much, they show, they reveals us. Superficial. I know what you thought when you read that word. I know its most common usage. As insult. Negative. Self defense. That’s not even half of its definition though. Mostly because, there’s barely half a definition there to start with. Surface. Visible. In its truest meaning, there’s not one of us who isn’t superficial. It isn’t a choice. It’s biology. Evolution. Our anatomy. What’s crazy is, our eyes aren’t even that spectacular. But that never stopped us trusting them completely. 

Which makes us an easy trick, cheap, corporations are like abstract painters studying what certain colors opiate or infuriate or inspire us to work. What shapes set us at ease, what wall-patterns put us on the edge of our seats, grind our teeth. Look at our faces. We look like hoot owls and chimpanzees mated. We’ve made the entire surface of our skin one huge sex organ, with nothing more than time and boredom to work with. When they talk about enlightenment, about piercing some form of illusory perception and seeing true, pessimistic, hard pill to swallow, reality, this is what they mean. 

Just do the dishes. Not to get a good feeling or delight or ease or feel all put together for once. Anyone can put a suit on. You’re not the devil because you’re dirty and live out on the street. Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if all the important flaws we carry around could be seen. Well, that superficial dream has led us by the hand through the absolute worst chapters of the ongoing novel that is humankind. 

If skin color was a poker-tell, if skin color was a political persuasion, if skin color was a criminal confession, hot damn, wouldn’t that be easy. Wouldn’t that just please these predator eyes we feverishly and catastrophically feed. If the deepest, truest nature of a person could, just for once, be as superficial as an earring in one ear, or tattoo above the rear, or otherwise respectable young man too lazy to cut off his long hair. What if it was as simple as a pigment in someone’s skin? What if the dishes weren’t white? Would they be harder to clean, would you get the same peace of mind from warmly and tenderly washing them. The cleanest dishes in existence, it’s just, you can’t easily see that from a distance. Inside we find a simple, universal, colorful frustration, we find the tiny innocuous seed that grows into such destructive things, the worst of which has always been the thin permeating invasive vine of systemic racism. 

Maybe there’s hope in this, I don’t know, I don’t think there is, but it feels good to them, hate, they do it like a drug-user during the years they refuse to admit it’s a problem, back when they still call it medicine, being hateful, racist, alleviates some stressful condition we are in. Hate is not fire the way they would have it seem.
Believe me when I say, hate is a balm to the hateful. 

It sets their guilt at ease. 

I’m not saying it’s better, or that you should, I’m stating for fact that if you fully think it through, you’ll eventually feel what I feel when I think about myself, and people who were in truly hateful places in their lives while I knew them. Sympathy. I just see pain. Planted in the most fertile soil that exists. The misplaced human conscience. I kind of see them perpetually trying to scrub black dishes white, eternally, in some place that is so almost heaven. Eyeballs are for earth. This is the place of their birth. Their original intention. Heaven might not appear on the surface so pleasing to them. So try, strive, to glimpse something while you’re here without using your eyes. Practice.

That elusive deep down buried in the chest heart smile happiness.
No one got that from doing the dishes.

I have nothing new to say.
Eyes were never the only way.

There’s always been more than one definition for vision.

#LookItUp

A Millimeter, or Two

Expectation. That’s it. That’s the secret to happiness. Fix your expectations. For example, the question, what is the meaning of life, is full of expectations. It’s like asking, what was the meaning of your trip to Disney when you’ve been on the road two hours and haven’t even made it South of the Border, South Carolina. You say life, like it’s a status, or a destination, when life is a series of complex, critical processes that require huge amounts of space, resources, and most of all, time. You’re kind of asking, what is the meaning of running really fast. We’re asking about the means as if it were the end. If we started at the beginning, we wouldn’t ask, because it’s quite clear life has no real meaning or purpose outside of addition. To see tomorrow. More, I guess, is the answer to that question. Your heart will keep pumping, legs moving, guts churning, carrying you over a cliff or into a thicket of thorns for all you care.

If you dig deep, into the pressurized ore of real honestly, you’re not asking about meaning or life. You’re complaining. You’re making a declarative statement about meaninglessness. You’re calling it hard, admitting the deficit between what we put in versus get out. To me, asking that question, you’re confessing to being somewhat recently touched by life, frightened by it, moved all those rumbling gut level meditations about the futility of your daily grind up into your mind, and it’s put pressure on your perception to do a little moral mathematics and determine all this sacrifice was in the pursuit of good. Well, it wasn’t. Because good is a one sided, half of the story, incomplete expectation, like the side of a quarter, it may win you the toss, but it will never not be just a millimeter or two away from loss. Good has cost. What pain have you had to go through before you recognized a good that was also true. A phrase like good food. Are you willing to see outside of time, and call hunger good too.

Expectations. That’s it. They’re the secret. To stop calling heads or tails in the air. And instead, figure out who is tossing the coin. And take their job.

While We Sleep

An uneasy hen barks beside the bedroom window first thing. I forget who, but someone left the coop door wide last night. Sitting on the front porch while the coffee pot works magic in the laboratory. Cures Covid19. Cures cancer. Cures Tuberculosis of the spleen. Black earth bean. Bitter, dark chocolate, permeating, lingering. Sweating while piping warm liquid tumbles down bony rimmed, ringed and blind esophageal lining and those tightly pursed lips between pink acid coated cheeks. You don’t have a name on the inside of you. You’re not even someone to your organs. A level of cognitive distance where there is none physically will make it easier to make decisions to alter, or damage, or end the external you, for the sake of the squishy equipment kept inside.

Gentle early morning air is a goody two shoes gossip, telling on a smoker down the street, front stoop arguments, dog happiness turned vicious over distance. Quiet morning minutes are some of the quickest in existence. If our whole lives were pure mornings we’d get eighty eight years knocked out in fewer than twenty two. In the morning, I would never forget to close the coop. That’s something that only happens in last night poems. Last night there’s little orange flickering yellow hearted tongues licking up and down limbs that fell in the recent storms, tickling stone faced fleeting trees. Battleships could loom up in the shallow darkness that devours night time distance and no one would know but cicadas, all hands on deck after about seventeen years below, driving nails into wood to keep the ocean out. Last night poems almost never get written in the moment. So damn hard to see the page, I feel like a kid with a coloring book, one crayon hung out from my mouth like a cigar, purple spirals on the outline of a hollow pirate ship. 

First thing though, I’m van Gogh, giving an ear to my art, I hear every part, even the seventh chair flute at the top of the road shrilling intermittent up to a coda. I can see everything except for firelight. Trees are giant elephant’s feet. The fleet of battleships found their feet and out they slipped, to the deeper waters of the deeper woods, lobbing depth charges overboard that explode in unseen roots and turn submarines belly up like bloated fish. Last night, the yard was wrapped up in dark like a Christmas present, and this morning came in shorning and all that nighttime is balled up paper trash framing a new puppy. Today. Now. Right now, to be exact. Everyday starts this way. Five minutes of pure joy breathing stifling hot nighttime in a mug, followed by a lifetime of chasing, cleaning up after, mourning morning. And first thing becomes last night same as dreams. 

While we sleep.

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.

Comfort Squash

The mask is off the sun and that hot damp breath summertime is full of wickedness and germs. Dainty powdery white moths sew caterpillar seeds all over tomato plants hairy as spider legs. Tiny tinny metallic beetles have snipped the tassels off corn like old men plucking hair from their ears. So they can hear. The raspy phlegm crackling off powerlines. The pop pop pop of someone’s hair triggered insecurity across the countryside. The silent stuffiness hooked like fish on a trotline of trees. Clouds look like milk poured in water. Milk looks like clouds squeezed into stainless steel. The grass is dying. Trees are thriving. 

It takes over eight minutes for the sun to close the distance between us. That breakneck pace, that lonely brimming emptiness, for eight whole minutes, like a bullet from a gun in a vacuum with nothing like air to impede it. Strikes skin and stops still hot. A planetary tanning bed basked in the affordable glow off nuclear fusion. 

Earth. Where infinity finally meets its Zucchini.

Someone You Call You

I often tell myself, they see the world through their own eyes. They lay themselves down at night. We judge how a window views solely through a filter: distance. But when it comes to ourselves, there is none. We can not without consequence deem ourselves unworthy, as if we’re in the center of an ocean in a sinking boat with a spare one to climb into handy. For lack of the existence of a better word, you’re stuck. With you. I’m not. Love your enemy, as you love yourself. Thank you Professor Jesus. Let’s say this another way. The people who are good at chess play both sides of the table. Enemy is a storytelling device, a two dimensional rendering of a far more dangerous four dimensional threat. You are someone’s enemy. Often, more importantly, your enemy, is someone else’s you. Thinking. 

Emotions, empathy, if this isn’t a human generated wireless exchange of energy, I don’t know what could be. But just because you look at someone and feel something does not mean that feeling has anything to do with that someone. It’s you. Your brain looks out at a larger world it can not control and paints in the blank, dimly lit spaces with you, your worst fears, hidden desires. Other people are fun-house mirrors, they shrink the mountains in our eyes into scarce specks of dust inside their own. And through that window, distance, you glimpse you in the face of someone you call you.

You sentence them to death. 

Because deepest, within each tiny heart cell that beats same as your heart,
you sentence yourself. 

Revenge just feels right in way justice never does.

Because revenge has distance in it. 

And justice only exists inside of us.

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.