Fortune-Teller School

Life is frightening or boring. Seldom in between. 

We grow up educated into fortune telling. 

Preparation, expectation, share the quiet part 

both are predicated on prediction. 

Gambling, just, the pessimistic edition. 

Track all the ways shit goes sideways 

and put money down. Preempted. Ensured.

Guaranteed duck nine times out of ten 

just not the one time God calls Goose. 

Ten bucks says today. That’s all it takes. 

Today is the price tag on tomorrow. 

Empty plates in place of thanks

Salmon patty pinto beans cornbread salt like sand against teeth
green beans boiled potato quarters day old macaroni with calluses for cheese
short cakes topped by strawberries and whipped cream and powdered sugar
the dull metallic taste of a spoon that has known a hundred tongues
last night’s dinners dried in groins between forks
butter knife clean as a salad plate.

Fruit flies by bananas on the counter food-stained tower by the sink
tea that has sugar in it and was cooked on the stove
half moon watermelon runes and cans the salmon came in
on the back step for a one-eyed cat to lick clean.

The bathroom smells like a whole can of hair spray and half a cigarette.
Chase me the child screams. Got you, he types in an email.
Compliments are the pallbearers of criticism.
Empty plates in place of thanks.
Something to sit and sip in front of fire
and nurse our old winter desire until we retire
and our bowels sing us to sleep
melodies we were never meant to keep
raise us like lazarus in the morning
to roll the stone away
or so they say.

Catch me daddy, catch me.

Hyperbole

I am a teacher. One part courtroom jester. One part dunce. One part dad and one part mom. I am the voice of books, and the ears of reason. I love it when they confess, what I am about to say might be wrong. And I get to tell them. There’s no such thing. Not here. Not in this classroom, in this group of peers. The most important part of recognizing right is the memory of being proudly, loudly, defiantly wrong. My most important lesson. Make a mess. Make mistakes. Fumble my words. Forget the definition of hyperbole. ‘How can you be our teacher and you don’t know what hyperbole means?” he says. I’m no saint. On the inside, I’m eighteen years old again and I want to embarrass him into the ground for having done so to me. But, on the outside, I’m thirty three, on the clock, first year in a new job, honesty is maybe an incentive they add one to two years before retirement, but for new hires like me it’s improv. I laugh at myself and agree. I tell him the most important thing you learn in school are directions to the nearest library. No one, no matter what they tell you, remembers everything. Every time hyperbole comes up in discussion from then on I sound it out slowly and ask them what it means. We laugh. Adults mess up. Forget. Lose track. First and foremost, we’re teaching them how to handle that.

I am a teacher because I was hired and presented to them as a teacher but I never earned them calling me Mr. Homesley, it’s required. Even in lectures I often use my life as my example and I keep wanting to call myself Jeremy. I am a teacher so I am Mr. Homesley and I had never met that man before and I still don’t always recognize him as me. Like hyperbole. Some great exaggeration of my maturity and capacity. One of those teachers who likes to say I am learning just as much as you are. And I am. But that’s a secondary lesson. Secondary to the next six to eight years of sure to be harder than we ever imagined life. I’ll get an email one day. Just shy of a decade. One of these kids will reach out and tell me they heard that great deafening click I spoke of hearing right around when I turned twenty six. It’s eerie, and inescapable, and undeniable. I called my dad, my mom, I apologized to them. I felt my weight, finally, my age, my height, my mortality, everything, all the sudden like that. Hit me.

You don’t grow up. You don’t graduate. You don’t stop learning and gain some wisdom and maturity because you hit a hand-drawn checkmark on a coffee-stained desk calendar. Speaking hyperbolically now, just kidding, that isn’t a word, oh wait, it is? Well anyway. I am a teacher. And as a teacher, the greatest piece of information I really have to offer, is directions to the nearest library.

Life may as well be called school. And while we’re here, all of us, on equal terms, students.

Stalking #oldpoems

Mountain dandelions are different than ones back home.
They make fluffy yellow flowers look like housecats. Not lions at all.
Yellow fringed and orange centered with green eyelashes all around.
Roar pollen in the wind. Dig in the leftovers of a billion years.
Root like pigs. Deep into hard gray lichen coated ground.
Creep throughout a lawn and launch on eyes like prey
where they mindlessly graze

across the hazy dome that crowns sleepy towns.

Grow low, stooped heads.
Warn us off, and keep us walking.
There are lions in the tall grass.
And just like dandelions.

They’re stalking.

God calls Goose

Life is frightening or boring. Seldom in between.
We grow up educated into fortune telling.
Preparation, and expectation, share the quiet part
that both of them are predicated on prediction.
Gambling, just, the pessimistic edition.
Track all the ways shit goes sideways
and put money on it. Preempt. Ensure.

Guaranteed duck nine times out of ten
just not the one time God calls Goose.
Ten bucks says today. That’s all it takes.
The pricetag on tomorrow.

Priced it and called it freedom in the same breath. No one blinked.
At the irony. All you end up studying in fortune-teller school. Is history.

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.

Something pities you

Shake your head. Shake it out. Shudder. The best way to unshutter. Open up why don’t you. Talking to yourself again. Out loud. On “paper”. Jesus Christ I have changed quickly. Same as it has ever been. I keep waking up while I’m already awake and realizing how many years I slept through fully conscious with eyes open. Dead-eyed asleep and ceaseless dreaming. What do I want out of life? What do I want out of a deer my brother killed. Everything I can get but I’m not ready for yet. I feel like the animals I’ve ended surely sit patiently waiting on the jury that judges me into whatever hereafter. I want them to look at the work, and feel maybe less hate and resentment than I would. We’re always counting on other people to be better than we are. Why does anyone ever ask why did everyone pile onto the short cut and traffic jam it into engine-idling oblivion. The long way is the short way again, because the numbers have shifted, and the only way to think nature isn’t on top is to bury your head in her. We will, all of us, die, and in doing the things we describe as life, learn to live again. You’ll shake your head. Shake out the you. The me. I. Whatever ridiculous code name you’ve been called your whole life. For me. I’m shaking out a Jeremy. I’m waking up all Jeremiah and feisty. A hammer in the hand of the carpenter was once a tree with roots cupped in the palm of the earth, and metal nestled deeper than that. If you want to know the creator, you have got to start thinking elemental.

You’ve got to start thinking. Now.

I have no clue about what the afterlife will look or feel like. But. I have every clue imaginable regarding how I entered, and my full understanding, of this one. And I can dream, without much difficulty, that being reborn into the next world will generally be similar to our entrance into this one. You had zero control. Absolutely no say in how you survived the first years of life. The most you knew to do was cry, and another being, better or worse, sought to silence you. Protected you. Ushered you every step to your current high-priced ticket seat. How do you find your way in the afterlife? The same way you made it to this one.

You scream, and cry.
Then something pities you, and keeps you alive.

The Cake

If the universe is like me, no wonder. No wonder whatsoever
this place is such a mess. Try to tell heart cells
what the lungs are blown up to. Ask the liver
how it feels about its job in waste management.
Tell on your skeleton to all the soft senseless pink frosting.
Take the cake. Dump it in the milky substance of your consciousness.
Make it soggy. Like the rest of your body.
Destined to be parted by a blunt spoon and swallowed unchewed
by the great toothless mouth of our universe. Slurping like breakfast cereal.

The big bang hit like a mid-morning sixth cup of coffee beer shit.
Self-expression. Wipe it away. Flush it down.
Forget it drowned in the bowl no one eats from.

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?”