Do you have memory or does memory have you? How can we forget things we can’t afford to lose, and recall things we’ve begged our brains to forgo. How are interviews even possible? How is there a filing cabinet in the mind where memories sit stored and wait in silence single file. I can see the front entrance of my high school. I can see my grandmother’s face. I can see my grandfather’s casket on two by fours hovered above his grave. Not think of, or remember, or recall, I close my eyes so they open up inside and I’m wearing a Carolina blue robe with the summer sun in them. How is that possible? This question isn’t rhetorical. I’m going to attempt an answer for it before the end of this page. How can one forget something that comes back to them later on. It is almost like memory is orbital. Spinning. Cyclical. Circular, but dented, not perfect, it’s elliptical. All your thoughts are links in a chain crossed and in angles it jangles and the sound it creates can be captured in folds of fat and harnessed with complex carbon lightning rods and cabled wiring twisted throughout. What we call consciousness, the will of recall and of shaped perception into witnesses, are hand over hand what pulls this circular chain. Only one way. So that is why memories are sometimes inaccessible because you are past them in your internal kernel of mental orbit. And your only chance to get it back will be the next go round. All that lightning gets to ground. Life is like some kind of slow motion electricity. And we too bounce between clouds until a ladder arises for us to climb down and the earth takes our fire and our power and disseminates it across many miles. Memory is not a thing. It is a routine. Like us. A process. That we can fix. And can fail.
Chores to do. More to move. Horse to shoe. Oh wait. Horsefly and shoo. Sure. I’m up. Not firing on all fronts. It’s early. There is energy. But here I sit. Front porch writing. Trading grips between a pen and a ceramic lip. Trading discomfort hip to hip on a hard wood rocker. Seat of power seems oxymoronic. Though I am sure that it isn’t. If more people with power sat on it, there would be less obstacles to the simple, family-centric lifestyle poor folk have fought for far too many manly centuries.
It is crazy people pretend we don’t know the purpose of life. Yet so many live identical expressions of it for the same motivations. If life had a purpose, why would it be distant and hard to grasp? No. It comes bubbling up out of us. Grumbling deep inside of us when we do not feed it enough. These chores. That bill. This meal. And its cost. No one can give freedom. In that sense, freedom does not exist.
Freedom is the only sanctioned slavery. It is ownership of the self.
We will peel apart the atom like an apple and discover a seed in its center that is carved somehow with the chicken-scratch autograph of what can only be called God. Though that moment will ruin the word, it will rescue the world, and religion will mean story again.
Every action you commit to in this place creates the brightest light. Burned, pulled into the electrons that energize and power you on. And you will remember, lest ye be remembered, by the lives of all you have eaten, the lives you ran down in the road, the lives you put your hands on without permission. There is life, and consciousness, inside the atom, and therefore memory, and the ability to make decisions.
The spotlight is not on. The switch has been flipped and it turned on. But it clicked off before it was hot, and now it is not. Someone please turn the spotlight back on. The tricks and switch-flips that turn things on. Theater. A play. The one kind adults can do respectfully. Sit in a seat and stare at a stage and give eyes a feast of only the things that eyes like to eat. The tongue is the eyes, the teeth are the ears, slurp down every sight, chew up every word you hear.
There’s a dance in how an actor walks and a song in how they talk and if an actor knows their place they’ll look the audience in the face they’ll pull them up on stage they’ll give them up their rage and clone their tears in you.
That’s the only way you’ll smile later. For the joy that is tied to sacrifice, some happiness conceives in pain. The baby born is gut-busting laughter, oh wait, it’s twins, we’re in stitches.
The switches flip on and this time they stay. Two actors eyes locked backstage tighter than a lock. More like a chestnut. No key quite like a hard object. They crush it. And uphold buried treasure in the palms of their hands before frozen styrofoam mannequin face-spaces on the fronts of hollow heads. Fill them up with likenesses of whatever frightens them and reminding them of events hard to live through but delightful to behold through the refracted lens of other people’s problems. It helps to spotlight the drama. We cork and ferment our trauma. That is why it is opening night.
And after all these years, I find the theater a place I can play with my pain and raise a toast to all my fears.
Cut a foot into a century tree and find a maggot who beat me there. Like a shook soda, black ants pour a fountain out of another cut. Cut the whole tree down and a twig of a limb throws off my chain. It’s not a dogwood, but the bark has a bite. We’re both bleeding from the wrists. I knew the risks. The tree, I’m not so sure. A white oak cherry poplar surprise. Sourwood, sweetgum, sassafras, sick of more. Maple a muscle. Cedar I’m sore.
I burned gas, and dripped oil, and filed down metal teeth to see where that insect was. I murdered many burglars when I tore down the house we were robbing. And I saved a tree by killing it. Given it an eternal death in preservation its hundred year form could not afford. I went to school with a beetle in its larval stage and we each learned how to lap our tongues clean through the limber heart of timber.
The infant who wrote a dissertation in his crib. I cut mine to inch and quarter floorboards. For a house that will outlive me. But me and my classmates, we’ll forever be the only ones who knew the sound it made when a hundred years of red oak tree smacked the ground and made it shake.
Sand flats and scrub oaks and Spanish moss you pinch because it is so real it looks fake. As the pictures you take. The sunset through trees. Not out over open breeze. Loblolly candelabras coned allover tips ablaze in the AM sun. The trees stand on singed feet and wherever you are going there are signs of omens where fire has been where water is.
Hot pink. Cold blue. Lukewarm brown. Tepid canary. Vacation-ocean turquoise. Pine taupe. Cedar flesh. Red oak rose. The green that shows in paint but never nature. I don’t know the nomenclature. But I know what you mean when you say poop brown. City-gray. Brick orange. Charcoal roads that lead the way to white hot home.
On a clear cold now, with a coat of snow on the shimmering hillsides, the train in town sounds like a truck coming up the road. The moon is bright and round buried behind clouds. But a minute ago it was naked in the woods. Shivering in the snow. Like daylight on a different world, ghastly, ghostly, opaque. Like the moon glimpsed its reflection in the snowshine for the first time and realized it wasn’t beautiful the way it thought it was. But pale, a sickly light no good can come by. A gossipy glow whispering what’s going on in town. The train is. Hear.
Eyes go through windows easier than rocks do. Vision. A cold trickle of steady err. For the eyes are blind to cold. Skin sees cold a mile away. But a clear cold window hoods the body’s hood and skin is blinded by wood stoves.
There are more coyotes in a farmer’s imagination than were ever born in the world. Tonight they circle these woods injured in yipping droves. The instinct to play prey. Mm. Compliments to the chef of camouflage. God overblesses a worthy enemy.
Moonlight is like the water that escapes the body with the blood. It’s the thick semi-translucent plasma that gets called empty space even though it’s heavy and sticky and gelatinous. Moonlight is a ridiculous phrase for the very same sunlight bouncing off a nearby rock that is very likely actually a broken off part of earth. Taking two hundred words to describe how it looks bouncing off snow that is actually regular old rain it just happens to be cold. The way moonlight is in existence, but you can still look through it, ignore it, like it isn’t.
Moonlight is the color of memory. Staring through a window at three am. It just occurred to me.